BFHG, Part 4

The experience of Joseph and Oliver at their baptism, months before they would receive priesthood with authority to lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, requires you to ask yourself:
-Can this experience be regarded as a form of “baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost?”
-If so, then what are the essential elements of the experience?
-If not, then what more is required?

We want to have absolute events; for the light to be either on or off. However, the scriptures use the experiences in the lives of disciples following the Lord to illustrate and teach the doctrines. Nephi in particular, is a gifted composer of experience-based doctrinal teaching. He focuses his narrative entirely on doctrine, but uses his personal experience to draw from to teach the doctrine. 

Christ declared the Lamanites experienced “baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost” (3 Ne. 9: 20). This week we have compared that event with the Nephites’ experience in 3 Nephi. The following is a list of what was similar between the two:

-A voice speaks to them telling them to repent. (Hel. 5: 29; compare with 3 Ne. 11: 3.)
-The voice is not thunderous, but nevertheless pierced them to their core. (Hel. 5: 30; compare with 3 Ne. 11: 3.)
-The voice repeats a second time. (Hel. 5: 32; compare with 3 Ne. 11: 4.)
-The voice repeats a third time. (Hel. 5: 33; compare with 3 Ne. 11: 5-7.)
-The communication includes such marvelous information man is unable to communicate it. (Hel. 5: 33; compare with 3 Ne. 17: 16-17.)
-The Lamanite observers saw Lehi and Nephi in a pillar of fire, with angels ministering to them. (Hel. 5: 36-37; compare with 3 Ne. 17: 23-25.)

As the account continued, they repented, were wrapped in fire and were able to speak inspired words. (Hel. 5: 44-45.) These are additional events, so you must decide:
-Do all these things need to occur before there has been “fire and the Holy Ghost?’
-Are they things that will unfold as a result of receiving “fire and the Holy Ghost?”
-Can you receive “fire” and have your sins purged without all of this accompanying the event?
-Can you receive the “gift of the Holy Ghost” as your companion without a visible pillar of fire?

Joseph received an audience with the Father and the Son, stood in a pillar of fire, and was commissioned to do a great work. BUT this happened before he was baptized, before any priestly authority was conferred by John the Baptist, before a church existed, temple rites were restored, before marriage, sealing, etc. If you reflect on that for a moment you will see the order of events does not control. There is an order, and it is generally followed, but it is the fullness of this endowment that is important and not the order it is given. 

In Nephi’s explanation of this gift, he refers to another, much shorter list. It includes:
-Repenting of your sins.
-Witnessing your repentance by baptism in water.
-Receiving the power to “speak with the tongue of angels.” (See 2 Ne. 31: 13-14.)

Joseph and Oliver did these things. And, as they experienced it, “No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, 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.” (JS-H 1: 73.)

The Lamanite experience in Helaman 5 does not include baptism by water before this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, but it did require repentance. We can know from subsequent missionary work they performed that they preached, and undoubtedly did receive baptism (or rebaptism). But the order is changed. A change in order, however, is not a change in requirement. To fully repent, they needed to witness it by baptism. Therefore, the ordinance may have followed, but it was a necessary part of the process.

The most consistent and the minimum description of this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost includes these elements:
-repentance,
-baptism by water,
-baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost,
-evidenced by speaking with the tongue of angels.

One proof of baptism of fire is the gift of prophecy. Both Joseph and Oliver experienced the gift. So did the Lamanites, which they used to preach and declare repentance. I also experienced it after baptism in water. The gift follows as a sign to confirm baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. (D&C 63: 9.)

This “gift,” like other signs, is designed to confirm in the one who receives it a witness to them, from God, that this baptism has occurred. It is one of the essential elements, and is present in all the accounts. It appears on Nephi’s list also.

Beyond this minimum list, however, there are these other events that the Nephites and the Lamanites also experienced. There are many facets to understanding the Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost, and there is a host of things which can be associated with baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. There is a continuum.

It is in this sense that Nephi’s and Joseph Smith’s experiences provide us the best blueprint. The Book of Mormon accounts (with the exception of Nephi) are often sudden and compressed. Both Nephi’s and Joseph’s were unfolding, growing and spreading to include ultimately comprehending both God and the eternities.

Mosiah 3: 7, continued

The suffering of Christ in atoning for mankind was not limited to spiritual torment, but was physical as well. The angel explained He would suffer “pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue” as part of His great ordeal. (Mosiah 3: 7.)

Alma explained this would include “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind.” It would extend into “the sicknesses of his people.”  (Alma 7: 11.) All disease, even death were overcome by Him.

This was so the Lord could rise again, and with healing in His wings (2 Ne. 25: 13; Malachi 4: 2) be able to succor all our ills. (Alma 7: 12.) Because He has felt all of our “infirmities,” whether they are spiritual or physical, there is no limit to His ability to understand our plight and give to us His compassionate aid. (Alma 7: 12.)

This does not remove our own cup of suffering. Even the Lord’s most favored servants endure suffering, sometimes in perplexing magnitude that seems beyond our ability to endure. (D&C 121: 3-4.) Sometimes the way He consoles the suffering servant is to remind them the Master has endured more. (D&C 121: 8.)

He knows our limits, even if we do not. He protects us by limiting what the faithful endure to only that which we can handle. (1 Cor. 10: 13.)

The angel was sent to inform King Benjamin of this (and in turn his people and those who read the Book of Mormon) so we may understand the Lord’s purchase of us from death, hell, and torment. He wants us all to understand this so we can take advantage of it by repenting.

If we look upon His suffering and remain unrepentant, then we are left to endure the just punishment for our unrepented sins. According to Christ, who suffered those pains of sin, this is beyond our comprehension.

In pleading for us to repent and turn from our sins, the Lord could only inform us: “how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit–and would that I might not drink of the bitter cup, and shrink–” (D&C 19: 16-18.) Any who have looked upon the suffering of our Lord are moved beyond words at what He endured.

In Come, Let Us Adore Him there is a chapter on Gethsemene. The Lord’s sufferings came in waves, and included all that mankind has done to one another, all mankind did to Him. This suffering gave Him the right to claim each of us through His victory. It was a hard won victory. It means nothing if we do not repent. How foolish it is to believe you can escape the claim of justice on your own failings. You cannot. The only way to escape is through the mercy provided by Christ through the price He paid. (Alma 34: 15.) As explained by Alma, the redemption which comes from faith in Christ empowers our repentance, so we can take advantage of His atonement by forsaking our sins. (Id.) This is a difficult process, involving constant attention to His mercy which redeems you. (Alma 34: 18-27.)

The angel who visisted King Benjamin taught the same truths about our Lord as Isaiah: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa. 53: 5.)

So why would we reject the invitation to repent? Why in our pride would we talk of God’s great favor and blessing of us all? Why would we claim to be chosen, royal and better than others around us? Why would we ever trust for one moment that all is well and we are Zion? Why would we refuse the mercy offered to us by Christ? Why do we prefer pride and self-sufficiency? Why would we claim some man with “keys” can relieve us of our suffering for sins when the Lord has taught us otherwise? What difference does any ordinance, or ordination, or blessing or promise make if we fail to satisfy the demands of repentance in order to lay claim upon them? The realization of all blessings depends upon your faithfulness. It is only if you are true and faithful that you may later be called up and given more than an invitation through a man. Why do you also harden your hearts so that you also cannot enter into God’s presence? (D&C 84: 23-24.)

The sermon from the angel to King Benjamin encompasses the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it seeks to teach us how to be redeemed from our sins and enter into the rest of the Lord.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 8

Jacob uses Isaiah Chapter 50 to establish the reality of a coming Messiah, in addition the centrality of Israel to the Lord’s plans. Israel is forever backsliding and wayward. Yet the decision to “divorce” Israel is the Lord’s and He refuses to do so. (2 Ne. 7: 1.) It was always in His mind to preserve a remnant of Israel as His “fruit” or the product of His mission and ministry. Jacob will return to this theme in his own book. We will look at that later. Here we are just becoming acquainted with Jacob as a teacher.

Even at the end of days, the Lord will continue to focus on redeeming Israel. The “rock” from which they were hewn was Abraham and Sarah, the father of the righteous and his beloved wife. (2 Ne. 8: 1-2.) The problem with Israel is the slumber that keeps them from awakening to their awful situation and repenting of their sins. Jacob sees the end of time, and Israel still slumbers and cannot establish Zion because of their deep sleep. They must awake, put on the strength of salvation or priesthood, shed their filth for beautiful garments, and cease association with the unclean and uncircumcised. (2 Ne. 8: 24.) Zion will not otherwise come to pass.

Zion will never emerge from those who slumber in the dust, whose necks are bound with iron. (2 Ne. 8: 25.)

Zion evades those who desire it because they are too ill-educated, thinking their scholarship has merit and the Holy Spirit does not. (2 Ne. 9: 29.) They are rich, and think it a good thing rather than a hindrance. (2 Ne. 9: 30.) They will not hear, and therefore are as good as deaf. This form of deafness prevents them from hearing the warning and so they will perish in their ignorance of the truth. (2 Ne. 9: 31.) They are also deliberately blind, refusing to see the truth when it is presented to them. (2 Ne. 9: 32.) They are uncircumcised, liars, whoring after other gods, and worshiping idols. (2 Ne. 9: 33-37.)

It is Jacob who testifies the “keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel” and “he employeth no servant there.” (2 Ne. 9: 41.) Jacob entered through that gate and met the Gatekeeper. He reminds us that He “cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” (Id.)

Jacob then reminds us of his role – the prophet’s role: “Would I harrow up your souls if your minds were pure? Would I be plain unto you according to the plainness of the truth if you were free from sin?” (2 Ne. 47.) The prophet’s role is always to cry repentance. Priests may preside, and kings may rule, but the prophet’s voice is always crying repentance. Prophets have almost never presided over a congregation (other than occasionally a small inner-circle). They always speak from the sidelines crying for a return to God’s ways. Even when there were cities who repented in response to the message of repentance, the prophets who gathered them taught repentance and left it to the assembly to govern themselves. So it was with Enoch, and Melchizedek, and similarly Joseph attempted to teach repentance to his people. Enoch and Melchizedek were able to teach the people who wanted so desperately to repent (and did so) that they had angels and the Lord come dwell among them. Joseph sought to accomplish the same, but the Lord never dwelt among the Saints of this dispensation. Jacob bids his brethren and us to repent, hoping his teaching will eventually lead to a latter-day Zion. Apparently there will be a small group who will eventually repent and qualify for the Lord to come dwell among them. It remains a distant possibility, without any concrete progress underway as yet.

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: 31-32

3 Nephi 11: 31-32:

“Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine. And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.”
When the Lord proclaims there is a “doctrine” belonging to Him, it is important to take note. As He begins His doctrinal statement, He first reminds us again of the unity between Himself, His Father and the Holy Ghost. This reminder of unity has followed the admonition to avoid contention and anger – things which prevent our becoming one with each other.
To understand His doctrine you must first know and understand that the doctrine originates with the Father. Christ has completely accepted and advocates the doctrine. Moreover He embodies it.

The Father’s doctrine is that “all men, everywhere, [must] repent and believe in [Christ].” This is what the whole of creation hangs on: the atonement of the Son. It is through the Son’s sacrifice that the Father’s plan became operational. Now, to return to the Father all must do so in reliance upon the merits of the Son. (John 3: 16.)

The Son preaches the doctrine of, and bears witness of the Father. The Father bears witness of the Son.  The Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and Son.
When did the Father bear record of the Son?  Did you notice that? The FATHER bears record of the Son! I’m not talking about Matthew or Luke’s testimony that the Father bore record of the Son, because that is Matthew’s and Luke’s testimony. I’m not talking about Joseph Smith’s record of the Father’s testimony of the Son. I’m talking about the Father’s testimony. When did you hear the Father bear record of the Son?

The Father does bear record of the Son. But you must go through the Son to get to the Father. When you do, acting in faith according to the conditions established for your salvation, then you will receive the Father’s testimony or record of the Son for yourself. But implicit in this statement is the fact that access to the Father is possible by the means provided through the Son. That is a ratification of the fullness of the Gospel. It is an invitation to return to heaven and obtain from the Father a confirmation of your salvation.

The Father’s testimony is that our salvation comes through Christ. For us the Father has provided a Savior. If we repent, we can come back into the presence of God and enter into our salvation and exaltation. But it is through the means provided for us: A Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
We are commanded to:
1.  Repent.
2.  Believe in Christ.
To repent is to turn again to Him. To follow Him and leave behind your sinful ways. To abandon the world and worldliness and to choose to always remember Him, that you may have His spirit to be with you always.

To believe in Him is to accept, study, contemplate and ponder His teachings. It is not to just go along with a herd, but to rise up from your position and awaken from your slumber. It is to grow into knowledge about Him. Belief leads to faith and faith to knowledge. But the process is initiated by your belief (correct understanding) of His teachings.

The doctrine continues…

3 Nephi 20: 16

“Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.”

The descendants of Christ’s audience remaining after the holocaust of gentile destruction (i.e., the “remnant of the house of Jacob”) would be used by God to deliver judgment upon the gentiles. First the descendants are to be reduced to a remnant by the gentiles, but then the fortunes would be reversed. Initially the gentiles would be the very embodiment of the “wrath of God” to “scatter” and “smite” the descendants. (1 Ne. 13: 14.)  Following that, the gentiles are favored of God and “prosper.” This land becomes the temporary land of inheritance for the gentiles, as well. (1 Ne. 13: 15.)

But the gentiles would occupy the land on condition. They would need to serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ. (Ether 2: 12.)  
Ultimately, they will need to repent, or they will fill the measure of their own cup of wrath by rejecting the fullness of the Gospel. The gentiles would not continue in their humility, but would be offered the fullness of the Gospel, reject it, then turn to their own pride, even more proud of themselves than any comparable people upon the earth. As Christ describes the latter-day gentiles, they will be full of mischief, lyings, deceits, hypocrisy and priestcrafts. Indeed, they will be full of all this and will also reject the fullness of the Gospel offered them by the Lord. (3 Nephi 16: 10.)

When they do, Christ will “bring the fullness of my Gospel from among them.” (3 Nephi 16: 10.) Upon removing the fullness, and the gentiles being filled with their pride, priestcrafts, deceits and hypocrisy, the Lord will use the remnant who remain to return judgment upon the gentiles in the same manner the gentiles had earlier returned judgment upon the remnant. (3 Nephi 16: 15.)

As Christ states above, using the words of Isaiah, “a remnant of the house of Jacob” will “go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.”
We’ve discussed the “beasts of the forest” and the “flocks of sheep” before. Both categories of gentiles will be swept away. None can deliver them from this coming judgment. The remnant will be the Lord’s instrument of judgment upon the gentiles, and the gentile pride, priestcrafts, lyings, deceits will all come crashing down upon them in judgment. Their idols will be trodden down and torn in pieces, for they are their own idols imagining in their own hearts themselves to be greater than any other people. Their image of themselves as high and lifted up will be brought down low, into the dust. (Compare Isaiah 14: 12-17.) How like their master Mahon these gentiles have become. But then rejecting the fullness of the Gospel when it has been offered to a people always carries a heavy price.
The remnant will be doing the work of the Father in that day. For the judgment is the Lord’s and not the remnant’s. The remnant are only the means by which the judgment is delivered.
Cleansing precedes the blessing. And this blessed land will be Zion. But not while occupied by filthy people who idolize themselves, reject the fullness, support priestcrafts, lyings, deceit and hypocrisy calling it righteousness, truth and beauty. They cannot see their own condition, and will not trust the Lord to reveal it to them. They will say the Lord does not speak any more, and we have enough of the revelations of God. (2 Nephi 28: 27-29.) They will say God has finished His work of restoring truth, given His power to men, and now we must follow men to be saved. (2 Nephi 28: 5.)

But the Lord will prove that He had more to say when the gentiles learn, too late, they trusted in the arm of flesh rather than in the Spirit which saves. (2 Nephi 28: 31.) At that day, despite all the gentile petitions for relief from that God whose fullness they rejected, none will deliver.

The interplay between the gentiles and the remnant is a fascinating subject, with prophetic details given so as to allow us to appreciate the peril we find ourselves as gentiles in these last days. It is good we Latter-day Saints know we are safe and are part of a great, saved and favored community to be preserved against the coming judgments, isn’t it? It is good we do not need to repent much if at all to be saved, because as we hear so very often: All is well. All is well.
“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.  Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” (Isa. 6: 9-10.)

2 Nephi 31: 10-11

2 Nephi 31: 10-11:

“And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.”

Notice the “prophetic-perfect” tense, where Nephi speaks of the Lord’s future conduct as if it were in the past. This is what happens when a prophet speaks in prophecy. To the prophet, the events are in the past because he was shown it before writing it.  Although the event has not occurred yet, the prophet remembers it in his mind and to him it is a past event.


This “remembering” the future makes the mind of the prophet akin to the mind of God.


Nephi again addresses his “beloved brethren” in this plea. Can we “follow Jesus” and not keep commandments? Is “be willing to keep the commandments” the same as “keeping the commandments?” Are all commandments to be kept? What about those that create conflict?  How did Christ resolve the conflict between the commandment to do good and honor God on the Sabbath, with the commandment to do no work on the Sabbath? Are some commandments objective and without conflict (like baptism) while others may conflict with each other? Can you keep them all? Do you think you even know them all? How do you resolve conflicts? How do you make up for the wrongs you do in ignorance? (Mosiah 3: 11.)

Notice the quote Nephi reports from “the Father.” Again, Nephi is telling us something about his associations. He says the Father has stated: “Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.” You can search all the scriptures and you will find this quote appears in this one place. Nephi is quoting the Father. Where did Nephi get the quote from if it does not otherwise appear in scripture?


What does that tell you about Nephi? What does it tell you about the Father’s view of baptism? What does it tell you about the actions of Christ and the will of the Father? Why does the Father refer to Christ as “my Beloved Son” while speaking of baptism?


With what emotion does the Father express Himself about Christ?  Does that emotion attach to any of those who do as Christ did?  Does it please the Father when we are baptized? Why?


What is God’s work? (Moses 1: 39.) How does baptism relate to this work? How do we “follow Christ” without seeking to do everything He did? Can we do all He did? Why did Joseph say we must go from one exaltation to another? What does Joseph refer to when he explained: “you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.”  (King Follett Discourse.) This was long after Joseph received the Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory found in Section 76. Section 76 was received February 16, 1832 while the King Follett Discourse was given April 7, 1844. Remember that all of what was seen in the vision was not recorded by Joseph: “But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;  Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful forman to utter.” (D&C 76: 114-115.) Why would some things be known to a prophet but “not lawful” for him to reveal to others?

What does the idea of “following Christ” imply, if it were taken to its fullest extent? Why would that require someone to go “from one small degree to another?” What would be involved for someone to pass “from exaltation to exaltation,” as Joseph mentions in this discourse in April, 1844? How fully must we follow Christ?


If it is God’s work to bring to pass immortality and eternal life for His children, then must God work out salvation for His children to confer upon them immortality and eternal life? If another becomes “like God” will they undertake the same work?  Will it require the same price to be paid? Is there another way?

2 Nephi 31: 2

“Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying.”
Nephi has been pondering for over four decades about the great revelations given to him in the Arabian Peninsula. (2 Nephi 4: 16 and 2 Nephi 5: 34.) His creation of, and inscription on the plates were after these long deliberations and reflections.

When he says “the things which I have written sufficeth me,” he is putting a punctuation mark on his plates. He is saying he has finished his ministry, finished his prophecy. He has refined and set out his message in a deliberate, careful way. These books of Nephi are not internet blogs undertaken daily. They are not rapid-fire responses, nor stream-of-consciousness statements. They were planned for the ages. Born from pondering, inspired by revelation, described as prophecy by the author, and filled with light and truth if considered with care by any reader. Nephi’s pronouncement that they “sufficeth me” is a powerful statement by an aging prophet.

Years of preparation and reflection allow him to “speak plainly” to us. There’s no need to be vague. No reason to hide our plight from us. He wants us to understand. When he attempts to “speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying,” we read into it the wrong definitions, associate his words with others who will never read the book, and consider ourselves blessed and vindicated instead of condemned, and called to repentance. We do that a lot. What good is it to read things which tell you to be proud?  Why follow a religion that tells you you’ve no reason to repent? Everyone but you is going to hell, right? (Alma 31: 17-18.) Because so long as you remain affiliated with the broad mainstream of your church, God will save you. And if there’s any hint of error, He will beat you with a few stripes and all will be well. Nephi has already condemned that as an error, hasn’t he? (2 Nephi 28: 8.)

If his words were plain and intended to be taken at face value, why read into them justification for yourself and your sins? Why think they condemn everyone but you?  Why are they speaking in disparaging terms about those who will never have the book? Why did Nephi write a book condemning only those who will never read it? Surely, if he was in fact “plain” in his meaning, then we ought not read anything into it other than what it says and how it says it. It must be a message to us.
If it is addressed to us, then we have more than one “wo” pronounced upon us by Nephi. We have been warned. We need to change what we are doing. The gentiles with whom we are identified (D&C 109: 60) are collectively condemned. We need to separate ourselves by our behavior from theirs. We need to repent.

Now, just in case you think, as a recent comment has asserted, that the Lord has sent another message vindicating us as a collective gentile body/church in D&C 1: 30, I would remind you that revelation came from the Lord in 1831. In the following year the Lord gave another revelation that put the church under condemnation. (D&C 84: 54-58.) We know that condemnation was not lifted, because of President Benson and Elder Oaks. 

More troubling still is the Lord’s threat to reject the gentile church altogether in January of 1841 if the church did not follow His strict appointment and complete building a temple in the time He provided. (D&C 124: 31-32.) The warning was given that even if the temple were built, we would still be condemned if we failed to do what He said. (D&C 124: 47-48.)
Did we keep the appointment given us? The Nauvoo Temple was not completed before Joseph Smith died. The endowment was not completed by Joseph, but Brigham Young was told he had to finish it. (See this post dated June 30 titled 1 Nephi 13: 33-34.) Did we keep the appointment? Have we been able to avoid being rejected as a church? Have our covenants been fulfilled?

Why do we repeat endlessly the praise from 1831 but ignore the threatened rejection that came in 1841? From January of 1841, until Joseph’s death in June of 1844, we had three and a half years to complete the Nauvoo Temple. Was that “sufficient time” to do what was required of us? If so, we did not complete it. Why was Joseph taken?  Was that any indication about when the “sufficient time” expired? If so, what then?  Where would that leave us?

Is our best hope to be found in the messages and warnings of the Book of Mormon? Can there be gentiles found who will believe its message? How carefully ought we study it?

Did you know the church had almost no use for the Book of Mormon until Hugh Nibley’s efforts? (You know that if you’ve read Eighteen Verses.) Hugh Nibley, by his efforts beginning in the 1950’s, practically discovered the Book of Mormon for the church. He’s gone now.

Even though Moses was taken from ancient Israel, and with him the authority of the priesthood, (see D&C 84: 25-26) the ancient Israelites remained the Lord’s people. He still worked through them and sent them messengers from time to time. These messengers were rarely the High Priest. Although in Samuel’s case he displaced the High Priest.  (1 Samuel 3: 1-21.) They were sent from time to time. Their qualifications were private, as the Lord told Moses they would be. (Numbers 12: 6.) I have no doubt Hugh Nibley was sent to us. If you’ve paid close attention, his departure has created an intellectual collapse at the center of the faith, with various egos contending to be noticed. They aspire to put upon them Hugh Nibley’s mantle. They are not made of the same stuff, called with the same calling, nor endowed with the same capacities.

I doubt we’ll see someone like him again. Perhaps we may someday see someone with an equally important message, but among those born in this dispensation, there is none to compare to Brother Nibley.

Well, now we’re off-point again. So back to Nephi…

Come and be saved

In the preceding verses Nephi has changed from giving his own advice and counsel to quoting the Lord. He began in verse 30 with the words: “behold, thus saith the Lord” and continues quoting Him through the end of that chapter and into the next.

The third “wo” was pronounced by Nephi as a quote from the Lord. The “cursing of the gentiles” was pronounced by Nephi as a quote from the Lord.

Now I didn’t point that out as we went through the materials. It is significant enough that it requires additional attention.

Christ has divided judgment up into two separate functions. For those who will be blessed, He will delegate the honor of blessing to others, including His twelve at Jerusalem, (Matt. 19: 28, 1 Ne. 12: 9) and twelve Nephite disciples (3 Ne. 27: 27). Their judgment is honorary, however, because they are given no discretion in the matter. The Lord will decide the judgment. It is His alone, so as to insure it will be the right decision. (3 Ne. 27: 27.) For those who are to be cursed, however, Christ will be the one who pronounces the judgment. (D&C 29: 27-29.)

It is of terrible significance that these statements come from the Lord who alone holds the right to judge.  He sacrificed His life for all, and is the Savior and Redeemer, seeking to save all who will come to Him.  This is the same Lord who pronounces the words through Nephi: Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts!” (2 Ne. 28: 31-32.)

The message is delivered by Nephi. The words are the Lord’s. The merciful and loving Christ who suffered for all that they might not suffer if they would repent (D&C 19: 16), is announcing His pessimism about the latter-day gentile effort to obtain repentance. Why do we seem destined to fail? Why is repentance so difficult for us? What terrible “precepts of men” hold us bound in chains that we cannot break free.

Several have made comments on the question of how we are to repent and come to Christ.  There is a fundamental first step to be taken which the Lord has explained repeatedly in His teachings. I have written about this often, including in my first and last books.

In the chapter on the Atonement in Come, Let Us Adore Him there is an explanation given of what Christ suffered and what obligations are devolving on us as a result. We must do as He did, suffer in like manner, and forgive all offenses. His infinite suffering cannot be replicated in one sense, but in our own sphere and time we do suffer offenses and abuses. We are required to forgive as He forgave. It is our own forgiveness of others that qualifies us to receive forgiveness from Him. When we harbor grudges and resentments, we cut ourselves off from His Atonement. IF we are to be forgiven we must in turn FORGIVE others.  In The Second Comforter it is shown how we must make intercession on behalf of others, even our enemies, if we are to have a hope in Christ. We must lay down the burden of sin to enter into His presence. Much of that “sin” in each of our lives has been the offenses against us, and the resentment and anger we hold from these abuses. There are people who have done you wrong. There are some who did so intentionally. When you forgive them, and plead on their behalf for the Lord to also forgive them in sincerity and love, you are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Your Lord did this. You must do as He did to be like Him. It is the only way to understand your Lord. In this, you must suffer as He did, choosing to forgive offenses rather than to seek justice. When you show mercy, you merit mercy. The beginning of repentance is found in forgiving others.

Your just claims for retribution must be surrendered. Your worthy desire to have vindication must be abandoned. Your right to have judgment against the ones who abused you must be forfeited. And you must go on to pray for their forgiveness.

If you have read all I have written you already know this. I am disappointed to have those who have not read what I’ve written trying to make sense of this blog. It will make absolutely no sense if it is not seen as an extension of what I’ve already covered. Even this brief statement about the relationship between your own salvation and redemption through following Christ is a brief note, a cryptic signal, and altogether inadequate to explain the matter. The careful, patient and fulsome explanation has been laid out elsewhere in what I’ve written. You must go there to see why, along with the many places in scripture where the Lord has made the matter clear.

Nephi takes no delight in pronouncing these wo’s and writing the “cursing” the latter-day gentiles face. The Lord takes even less. He suffered and died to make salvation possible for these very same latter-day gentiles. He would save them all. But to do so it is absolutely necessary to bluntly warn those whom He loves. Enos recorded his own ministry and how it was affected by the audience he addressed: “And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.” (Enos 1: 23.)

Why would a joyful Lord, who delights in our own happiness, speak in terms of “wo’s” and “cursing” to us? What is it about us as His audience that compels Him to rebuke us? Have you thought of the standard in Section 121 (“reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost”) as part of this rebuke?

He so completely loves us that John equated Him with love. (1 John 4: 8.) Can you imagine the frustration it causes our Lord to have to speak in these terms to us?

Why do we not repent? Why do we harbor and protect our sins? Why do we worship men rather than God? Why do we cleave to the precepts of men rather than the Holy Ghost? Why do we resist the truth when it is declared to us. Why do we demand that the truth be conformed to our understanding of the precepts of men? Why do we measure the things of God against our own traditions? Why do we not abandon instantly our false notions, and stop arguing against the truth which is in Christ? Why do we think any institution, fellowship, association or man can lead us to salvation instead of Christ alone who can save? (2 Ne. 31: 19.)

How long will you harden your heart against your Lord, whose pleas are aimed only at saving your soul? Why turn away and say that you prefer membership in a great and spacious building, pointing an accusing finger at those who would lead you to eternal life? (1 Ne. 8: 26-31.) Your awards and honors are nothing.  Your recognition and praise is corrosion. Everything here is doomed to decay, rot and fail. (Matt. 6: 19-20.) This is the Telestial Kingdom. Everything here, every institution, organization and order is Telestial. None of it will survive death. (D&C 132: 7.) Even the one association intended to endure (the family) will not endure unless it is through the Holy Spirit of Promise.

If you are going to be rescued from this Telestial Kingdom, it will be Christ who rescues you. His arm has been stretched out to you as long as you have been here, and it will remain stretched out until you depart here.  If you are not saved, it will be because of your rejection of Him, not His rejection of you. He has done all He could. He has sent stern warnings, warm invitations, cheerful messengers, the dignified and the undignified, to show in all things He is willing to meet you more than half way. Those who reject these widely different invitations are accountable for their failure. (Matt. 11: 7-24.)

The Lord continually asks: “What more could I have done?” (Jacob 5: 41, 47, 49, 75; 2 Ne. 15: 4.)

Apparently we will only accept the “precepts of men” and trust the “arm of flesh” and therefore merit the coming disappointments.

Come unto Christ and be saved.

2 Nephi 28: 7-8

2 Nephi 28: 7-8:

“Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.  And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.”
This notion that religion should always encourage merriment and feasting has so taken hold that it becomes impossible to cry repentance. Anything that challenges a happy outlook is thought to be negative and of the devil. It creates the misunderstanding that the right to feel good about one’s self is a higher obligation than the duty to teach repentance and forsaking sin.
If you are laden with sin (Isa. 1: 4), it is of no consequence, for God intends that you be happy. It is of little matter that happiness cannot be found in sin (Alma 41: 10), the gospel of positive attitude and flattery will triumph with the ungodly every time when it competes with a warning to repent and return to Christ.

The whole system has been worked out for us. The odds are you’re going to be exalted. Deseret Book has taken a firm stand on that very subject. We have it from God, you see. Because Deseret Book is owned by the church, the church has been headed by a prophet, the prophet can’t lead you astray, and therefore the odds are you’re going to be exalted–  Or so the reasoning goes.

If Nephi’s warning is urged against the tide of permissiveness, supported by this false gospel of positive attitude and false hope, then the message must surely be meant by Nephi for someone other than us. We cannot possibly be among those who incorrectly believe the Lord will justify us in committing a little sin. We do not believe in the utility of a little lie, do we? We do not use words to take advantage of others do we?

What pits have we dug for our neighbors?

By what measure do we advocate to live life pleasantly and not fear death or judgment? How could we be taken with the notion that a little guilt will result in merely a “few stripes” from an irritated, but ultimately tolerant, and permissive God?  What doctrine is it we advance that suggests all of us will, at last, be saved in the kingdom of God?
Assuming this was meant to be a warning to US, the readers of the Book of Mormon, and not to another audience who will never read the book because the aren’t converted to it, then how do we fit into this warning? Do we have a mistaken view of God’s plan? What do we say, preach or believe that would provoke this warning from Nephi? Have you scrutinized the recent manuals from the Correlation Department to see if there is any basis for concern? Have you read the General Conference talks for hints of these teachings? Do you find them there?
How many articles do you find in the LDS Church News, Ensign and New Era which are positive, flattering and reassuring? How many articles confront you, call you to repent, warn you of the judgment and the duration of eternity? (Enos 1: 23.)

Why is the Book of Mormon constantly calling upon us to repent? Why are we not called relentlessly to repentance by our current leaders? Is there a disconnection between the message of the Book of Mormon and our modern messages? Has the Lord changed His mind? Was Nephi just a crank? Is the Book of Mormon a negative book not relevant to an enlightened people who are specially chosen by God for endless happiness and promised they will never be led astray? Why would the Book of Mormon be a message for us? Why do we have a book so negative in tone, pessimistic in its view of us, while we sit atop the promises of never again having to face an apostasy?

What accounts for this disparity?
An interlude by:
Bobby McFerrin:
“Hmmmmmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmmmm, hmmmm, hm-hum-hm-hm…. Don’t worry.
Be happy.”
He’s Mormon now, isn’t he? I heard someone’s friend’s boyfriend baptized him when serving a mission in Southern California….
Poets and artists have been proclaiming the coming apocalypse in songs, art and movies for several decades. Nephi gives us the same message. But we spin happily out of control, loosed from the moorings and tossed by the approaching hurricane, all the while promising one another that it will all turn out right. We are special. We are chosen by God. Surely He will not judge us, nor hold us to account for what we believe. If we’re mistaken, He owes it to us to give us a warning, and an opportunity to repent. Other than that sad account of the prior occupants of this land, He hasn’t done that….
Oh. The Book of Mormon is important, isn’t it?
The foolishness of the doctrines that Nephi is denouncing provokes such dismay that our own foolishness needs to be paraded out in all its stupidity. We just don’t seem to get it. We’re reading Nephi’s warnings to us and pretending they were meant for everyone other than us. They aren’t – they are aiming at us. Read the verse again and try to see our own teachings being laid bare. We are his target. We are his audience. We are being warned.

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