Category: restoration

Miraculous New Scriptures

I have copies and have begun to review the three volumes of new scriptures: Vol. 1: Old Covenants, Vol. 2: New Covenants and Vol. 3: Teachings & Commandments. They are better than any other scriptures I’ve ever possessed and mark such an historic advancement of Christ’s teachings that it is miraculous.

In the first letter from Liberty Jail (T&C 138) it is written that the voice of the Spirit confirms it will be utterly futile to “hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from Heaven upon the heads of the latter-day saints.” (Paragraph 22) Since the restoration began there has never been such a down-pouring of knowledge in a single event as in the publication of these new scriptures.

In a newly added section Joseph Smith explains what he means by “keys of the priesthood” in a way that clears away much confusion. Referring to Noah, who learned from God beforehand about the coming flood, Joseph explained: “the keys of this Priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah, that he talked with him in a familiar and friendly manner, that he continued to him the keys, the covenants, the power, and the glory with which he blessed Adam at the beginning, and the offering of sacrifice which also shall be continued at the last time.” (T&C 140:16, emphasis added.)

Most often the “voice of Jehovah” comes through the words of scripture. We now have more of Jehovah’s words in these new volumes of scripture than at any other time in the history of the Restoration.

More than a year before any formal corporate “church” was organized under New York law, Christ identified what He meant by using the term “church.” Christ explained: “Whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me. Therefore he is not of my church.” (T&C 1, Part I: 21.) Christ’s church consists exclusively of those who repent and return to Him. All other denominational definitions of Christ’s “church” are opposed to Him.

The Joseph Smith History has been greatly expanded. The Lectures on Faith have been added. Joseph Smith’s revelations have been returned to their original content, with edit changes by unknown hands removed. The Book of Mormon has been recovered to the form Joseph Smith authorized. The Old and New Testaments have been published in the form Joseph Smith intended as “the fullness of the scriptures”.

In these three volumes a flood of missing material has been recovered, and new words from “the voice of Jehovah” are now available to confirm our hope and urge us onward.

This project could not have been accomplished any earlier. The means, materials, and technology required have only recently become available. It is clear that the Lord is moving in His power and majesty to bring about His great design. The promises made to the fathers are moving toward fulfillment. All of this is being done in plain sight, and only those with eyes to see know what great things are now underway. While ignorance expands, confusion reigns, and darkness envelopes the minds of almost all mankind, the Great Jehovah performs a marvelous work and a wonder before the eyes of the world… and only few take note.

Christ’s words are being vindicated, and few there are who will find it.

I am grateful to all those who have labored for the last years to bring this project about. In another year there will be leather-bound, fine paper versions printed to make them more portable than the current paperback version. But for the present they are available free on-line and inexpensively in paperback. It is cause for rejoicing.

Reformation Sunday

As this Reformation Sunday draws to a close I wanted to honor those who went before: Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Wesley, John Wycliffe, and the Pilgrims who were inspired by their cause to come to American to establish a New Jerusalem, a land of faith, a place of peace and freedom.

We went to the services of the Presbyterian Church on South Temple in Salt Lake City this morning to celebrate the occasion. The bagpipes and drums stir the heart of even the casual believer. That building’s great stained glass windows testify in the west of Christ’s birth and in the east of His resurrection. The sun was rising in the east during the early morning service, and lit the image of the angel in announcing His resurrection. The lower stained glass windows in the west testify of the many events in His life and ministry. What a wonderful setting it was to remember the Reformation.

The Reformation set the stage for God’s final work. A Restoration began in Joseph Smith. It will continue. That New Jerusalem sought by the reformers will yet be established.

How odd it seems that in this dreary last chapter where rampant impurity, gross immorality, the love of man growing cold against one another–how odd it is that in this day the Lord would again stir us to remember His promise of Zion. Yet it was always foretold to be so, for the Lord said both wheat and tares would grow together until ready for harvest. (Matt. 13:24-30; D&C 86:7.) Tares are ripening. What is God to make of His wheat?

A Great Whole

It is impossible to re-establish the earliest form of the Gospel of Christ with its associated teachings, rites, ordinances, covenants and organization if we insist it fit into our current prejudices. We think so many things are necessary that are not, and we think many necessary things cannot possibly be required.

In the beginning, the Gospel was disseminated through a family. A church was added later. The church was an imitation of the family of Abraham. Abraham-Isaac-Jacob imitated by First Presidency. Twelve sons of Jacob imitated by the Twelve Apostles. Family of Israel entering Egypt (Exo. 1:5) imitated by the Seventy. Church is an imitation, not the real thing.

We think the “priesthood” must be organized into quorums and groups with presiding authorities, presidencies and then integrated into the church. But in the beginning there was a family, and the family had a father who was set at the head by covenant. (Moses 6:3-27; D&C 107:40-55.) The covenant required the father to teach and serve, with God’s approval and authority, in ways to bless his family and have it accepted by God. He taught as a father, mirroring the Father above, filled with the Spirit of His Son, as it was in the beginning. The order of the family is heavenly. God rules through a family structure in eternity. He established a family on earth through Adam. For the first ten generations, it remained intact as a family organization. It eventually ended in apostasy. Then Abraham sought to reconnect to that original priesthood belonging to the fathers, and succeeded in reuniting with the original family line despite generations of apostasy. (Abr. 1:2.) Abraham’s restoration lasted five generations before it was compromised. Moses was not able to bring any other than himself into the family. (D&C 84:19-25.) Moses was able to connect to himself Joshua, Caleb and his immediate family, but Israel did not benefit.

We think ordinances are required and everyone can receive them ad hoc and be saved. Heaven does not have unorganized crowds milling about, arriving fresh from receiving and accepting vicarious ordinances and claiming the right to be rewarded by entering Celestial glory. IF anyone enters the kingdom of God, she will be there as part of God’s family, not as a freelance believer. Those faithful who received the assurance before death that they would one day enjoy a glorious resurrection (D&C 138:14) were unable to leave the spirit world with Christ, but remained behind to minister to others there (D&C 138:30.)

We think the temples are primarily a place for work for the dead. It is required mainly to organize the living into a family. The organization cannot happen outside a temple. That is the only place God will allow the restoration, rites, ordinances, and covenant to be ministered. Heaven and earth will reunite and angels will attend to many of the required things when an acceptable temple is built. We think a temple can be built following a pattern based on current ordinances. There is no understanding of the ordinances necessary to organize the family of God again.

Trying to fit the original Gospel plan into our incomplete and corrupt model, and make it conform to our expectations will not work. There is not enough information to understand this Gospel, but that does not stop people from complaining and jarring one another with foolish reactions.

Hopefully people will realize there is something now moving forward which will become God’s family on earth. Something far greater than the apostate, fallen and corrupt systems of this world. But ambitious men and women want to mirror the corruption and power of earthly organizations with which they are familiar. Or they fear what is coming will be likewise corrupt and degrading of those who participate. Our fears and experiences become obstacles to what God offers.

We know almost nothing at this point. Even all that came through Joseph is but a glimpse. We are not worthy of the full view. (3 Ne. 26:9-11; Ether 4:4-7.) The question is whether we will become meek and humble enough to endure giving it a hearing before we corrupt it with a flood of errors based on unbelief.

Recall Joseph Smith predicted that although a return to the law of Moses would never happen, the Gospel as practiced before Moses (among the fathers) would return:

Thus we behold the keys of this Priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah that He talked with him [Noah] in a familiar and friendly manner, that He continued to him the keys, the covenants, the power and the glory, with which He blessed Adam at the beginning; and the offering of sacrifice, which also shall be continued at the last time; for all the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the Priesthood, under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation, therefore all things had under the authority of the Priesthood at any former period, shall be had again, bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets; then shall the sons of Levi offer an acceptable offering to the Lord….

It will be necessary here to make a few observations on the doctrine set forth in the above quotation, and it is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e.,] the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in future; but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the Priesthood, or with the Prophets.

The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the Priesthood. It began with the Priesthood, and will be continued until after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation. We frequently have mention made of the offering of sacrifice by the servants of the Most High in ancient days, prior to the law of Moses; which ordinances will be continued when the Priesthood is restored with all its authority, power and blessings…

These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass? It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued.
It may be asked by some, what necessity for sacrifice, since the Great Sacrifice was offered? In answer to which, if repentance, baptism, and faith existed prior to the days of Christ, what necessity for them since that time? The Priesthood has descended in a regular line from father to son, through their succeeding generations.  (October 5, 1840.) DHC 4:207-212; TPJS pp. 172-173.

Joseph only hinted at some of the remaining doctrines of the restoration that will be required to walk back to the beginning. We hardly yet comprehend the Lord’s plans. But to fulfill all that has been foretold, we or some future generation will need to build a temple acceptable to God in the boundary of the everlasting mountains, which will tremble at their presence, where all scattered Israel can return to receive an inheritance at the hands of Ephraim. (D&C 133:31-32.) The promised inheritance can only be received in a temple. It will include uses, layout, design and elements which will themselves testify of God and His Gospel in a way we do not presently have here on earth.

You can choose how much to receive or reject. You can walk away from the gathering by Christ – a hen gathering her chicks. This is not the first generation that has done that. But God has promised that some generation will receive what He offers, allow themselves to be gathered, and receive an inheritance as a part of His Covenant with the Fathers.

You may think this can be done in isolation as a faithful individual, but Zion will not be built by solitary souls. Nor will the required covenant be offered to an isolated individual. This is about God’s FAMILY.

This is why the jarring and contention, envying and strife of Joseph’s time was so toxic. Heaven weeps at us when it might instead rejoice over us.

New Book

Work on a new book is taking a great deal of my time. It is the most labor intensive book I’ve written. Below is a draft of the Preface to the book (which is likely to be changed before it is finalized), but which explains why so much time is being required. The “footnotes” appear as endnotes below:

_____________o0o________________

 Preface:

In 1832 the Lord posed this question: “For what doeth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given him, neither in him who is the giver of the gift.”[1] From the moment Joseph Smith died those who believed he was a prophet began to lose memory of what God revealed through him. Recently the pace of forgetting is accelerating.

This book begins discussing Joseph Smith’s 1838 history, followed by the topics of faith, repentance, covenants, priesthood, Zion, Christ, King Benjamin’s example, prayer, coming to Christ, marriage, family, the cultural and legal forces that have eroded the institutional church, and concludes with a discussion of how to preserve the religion. Our obligation to respect Joseph’s revelations is very clear from the Lord’s declaration, “no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.”[2] Upon his death, the church wanted a replacement strong figure. When Joseph was unavailable, an imitation served.

In the initial decision made August 8, 1844 the quorum of the twelve were voted to lead. By December 1847 Brigham Young no longer wanted to share power with eleven others, and against Wilford Woodruff’s recommendation and the active opposition of John Taylor and Parley Pratt, Young successfully won a vote at Winter Quarters making him the church’s second president.[3] From Young till David O. McKay in the 1950’s, when the word-title “the Prophet” was used it still meant only Joseph Smith. But rhetoric matters, and the word-title began to be used to first secure acquiescence, then to compel compliance by LDS Church leaders.

Elevating the church’s presidents to claim they too, could communicate “commandments and revelations… even as Moses” began the process of accelerating forgetfulness[4] of Joseph’s words. He became less important as successors claimed equality. Who cannot see the logic in preferring a “living” prophet to a deceased one? Ignoring Joseph means forgetting. Through forgetfulness we have refused the gift God offered. Our first obligation now is to remember. Until we remember what was given before, there is no reason for God to give more.

The primary repository of Joseph Smith’s work has been The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are others, of course, who retained valuable parts of Joseph’s work. Emma Smith kept the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, something Joseph explained was necessary for the church to have or it “would yet fall.”[5] The translation became the property of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was not until the 1980 edition of the LDS Bible that the Joseph Smith Translation was first used by the LDS Church, but only in footnotes and an appendix.

As soon as Joseph Smith died, a spirited competition developed to control both documents and access to information. As one writer described the conflict:

“The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[6] was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that ‘no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed’ is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations, these seven volumes are not always reliable. …The nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary: ‘I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Navuoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was ‘doctored’ to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.” The Quorum of the Twelve, under Brigham Young’s leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith’s death. Contrary to the introduction’s claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church. At the time of his 1844 death, the narrative had been written up to 5 August 1838.'”[7]

Today the challenge is two-fold: First, finding the truth through the deliberate efforts to conceal and modify the record. Second, once found, whether we will accept in gratitude what God offered by repenting and returning to His path. We fail these tests when we ignore, oppose, dismiss, reject and allow our fear to control us. As Christ put it on the day of His resurrection: “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”[8] Nothing has changed. Our challenge is identical to that faced by all believers since Adam.[9]

As a public act of remembrance I spent a year, beginning September 10, 2013 giving a series of ten lectures reiterating the faith’s foundation. These lectures ended 365 days later on September 9, 2014. The lectures marked 40 years as a faithful, believing Mormon.[10] At the conclusion of 40 years of faithful membership in the LDS Church, I was sent by the Lord[11] to preach the restoration so others would also remember.

This book was written using transcriptions of those lectures as a starting point to prepare this reference work on the restoration. This book is a separate project. The lectures were given entirely within the Mormon Corridor, and addressed only to the residents there. This is written for a different audience living outside the Mormon Corridor as a reference work on the foundation God provided through Joseph Smith.

The lecture transcripts are insufficient, both as a reference work and as something intended for a different audience. The talks were not written in advance, but given spontaneously using only a scripture citation outline. Therefore many redundancies and asides in the lectures needed to be eliminated to focus on the essential content in a readable book. Editorial refinement and many additional footnotes have been added to support and clarify core content. The recordings and transcriptions will always remain available and can stand on their own. This book is not a repetition of the lectures in a third format. It is more, and addresses all who are interested in the restoration through Joseph Smith. The lecture material has been expanded to include more about the various topics, while eliminating unimportant personal information. Time constraints for lectures do not exist for a book. Therefore additional explanations have been added. Asides, humorous recollections, and personal stories distract more than they contribute for this format. Therefore they have been eliminated to focus only on the restoration.

The order of the discussion has been changed where appropriate. Subject matter has been consolidated, moving some of the material originally delivered in one lecture into a chapter based on another lecture.

During the same year I wrote a series of blog posts about King Benjamin’s sermon between the 4th lecture in Orem, Utah (Priesthood) and the 5th in Grand Junction, Colorado (Zion). Those posts have been added as the 5th chapter in this book.

Finally, a paper delivered at the 2014 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium after the 9th lecture in St. George, Utah (Marriage) has also been edited and added as a chapter. With the addition of the King Benjamin and Sunstone materials, there are 12 chapters.

The restoration is not the property of an institution. Although dozens of churches claim the role of succeeding to Joseph Smith’s ‘true and living’ church, the restoration belongs to us all. Whether you belong to some denomination claiming Joseph as a founder, or you are a traditional Christian, the things restored through Joseph Smith came from God as a gift to us all. Because of this, we all have the responsibility to remember and respect the inspired work of Joseph Smith.

The restoration is God’s call to action and offer to renew His direct contact with mankind. The response during Joseph’s day was less than adequate. The restoration was founded on revelation, but when Joseph and Hyrum were martyred no one suggested revelation could solve the succession crisis. Instead the crowd in Nauvoo voted, the quorum of the twelve received the majority of the votes, and the most successful version of the restoration, LDS Mormonism,[12] has perpetuated itself by voting to install leadership continuously ever since.

LDS Mormonism leadership have increasingly ignored and replaced the commandments and revelations given through Joseph with a new model in which church leaders claim the right to issue commandments and direction, followers fall in line, and the various denominations morph into increasingly altered forms varying from the original. Gordon B. Hinckley institutionalized a public relations oriented management style for LDS Mormonism. The opinion polling and focus group testing for decisions and campaigns has increasingly taken hold until now, LDS Mormonism is changing at a stunning pace reflecting the shifting opinions of the society around it. The LDS Mormon tradition now repudiates its history, curtails its curriculum, and discards essential elements of its earlier belief system to be more acceptable to others.

If the restoration is to have any chance to be remembered, then the time to do so has come. If we do not soon awaken and arise there will be far less chance to keep ahold of the restoration with each passing decade. The potential of Mormonism has never been realized. Until the restoration is remembered, it cannot continue to its completion.

This work is more than a tribute to the Mormon faith. It is an effort to restate the religion and recover its original potential. The destiny of the Mormon religion has become imperiled by neglect, deliberate alteration, and increasing forgetfulness. Mormonism was never intended to merely be another Christian denomination. Instead it is destined to reunite the all mankind into one great whole. Truth is Mormonism. All truth, wherever located and in whatever form it is presently practiced, belongs to the Mormon religion.[13]

Mormonism requires study and contemplation. Social change, educational disintegration, and the lack of critical thinking have made modern Mormonism a shallow relic unworthy of the original. Across the board, society has surrendered to the “sound-bite mentality” in which quick and quotable phrases substitute for deep understanding. The restoration cannot be understood that way. It requires contemplation, thought and study.

I was converted to the Mormon faith through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For forty years I belonged to that church and served in it faithfully. The day I drove to Boise, Idaho to give the first lecture in the Forty Years in Mormonism series, I learned I was excommunicated. My stake president called as my wife and I were driving to Boise and we heard the sad news together.

I hold no animosity toward the LDS Church. Instead I am grateful to it for introducing me to Joseph Smith and Mormonism, which remains my religion, though now I practice it independent of institutional control.

There are many churches claiming Joseph Smith as their founder. None of them adequately practice the original faith. This book is written to persuade all to believe in the restoration, and remind all who already believe Joseph Smith was a prophet and accept the Book of Mormon as scripture, of the original greatness this revolutionary religion. Mormonism should once again become revolutionary.

It is time for the Mormon faith to begin a new phase. One in which all are equal before God, and believers are free once again to worship Him according to the dictates of their own conscience. Priesthood should not rule over any man, but should serve. “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood.” In the LDS version of Mormonism, that limitation has been reversed. LDS Mormonism today has been reduced to nothing other than “priesthood”[14] dominion and control through the “correlation” process. It is unscriptural, indeed anti-scriptural.

Mormonism in its purest form can only attempt to persuade you, gently, to believe its precepts. This book will attempt to persuade you to believe once again in a dynamic, truth-filled, confident and powerful religion. Mormonism should free your soul, and reunite you with heaven itself.

In this book, unlike all those I previously wrote, there are many scriptures only cited in footnotes, and the full text is not included. This deliberate departure from my earlier books is because the LDS church has deemphasized the scriptures in their curriculum.[15] I feel compelled to invite readers to use their scriptures to check scripture references in this book. Hopefully the footnotes will inspire you to review all of the verses cited.

Mormonism must become alive again. It belongs to all of us. We should all believe in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s status as a prophet sent by God, and become willing to approach God directly. In the final analysis, the entire restoration is nothing more than a modern affirmation of the New Testament promise found in James 1:5.

[1] D&C 88:33.

[2] D&C 28:2. The revelation allows for the possibility for someone else to be later appointed “in his stead.” (28:7.) It would be through Joseph, however, the power was given “to appoint another in his stead.” (D&C 43:4.) That appointment came in January 1841 when Hyrum Smith was appointed. (D&C 124:91-96.) Hyrum, however, was slain moments before Joseph, and therefore no one else has been appointed to amend, supplement, disregard, alter or reject commandments and revelations given through Joseph Smith.

[3] Technically he was the third, but no one counts Hyrum Smith despite his actual appointment and service.

[4] Forgetting includes re-interpreting the language by divorcing it from context, supplying new meaning not originally intended, and improperly using Joseph to vindicate later improper innovations.

[5] The minutes of a conference on October 25, 1831 meeting tell of Joseph Smith’s need for assistance while he worked on “the fulness of the Scriptures.” This reference to scriptures is defined by the LDS Church Historian as “JS’s Bible revision.” (JS Papers , Documents Vol. 2: July 1831-January 1833, p. 85, footnote 76. The minutes include this statement by Joseph Smith: “God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church. Said the Lord would cut his work short in righteousness and except the church receive the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fall.” Id., p. 85, as in original.

[6] Often referred to as the “Documentary History of the Church” or the “DHC.”

[7] Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, Signature Books (Salt Lake City, 1994), p. 322.

[8] Luke 24:25.

[9] Satan’s original and continuing urging remains the same: “Believe it not.” (Moses 5:13.)

[10] I learned I had been excommunicated from the LDS church because of a book I had written about Mormon history as I was driving with my wife to Boise to give the first lecture. The excommunication and lecture were exactly 40 years to the day of my baptism.

[11] The yearlong ministry was not my idea, nor the locations, or the subjects. I was sent by the Lord and told what to discuss. The talks were the first step addressed to the first audience.

[12] Meaning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquartered in Salt Lake City. They are referred to throughout this book as “LDS Mormonism.”

[13] “One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” Discourses of Joseph Smith, p. 199, Kindle Book, (Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2009).

[14] I put the word “priesthood” in quotes because it is the LDS Church’s claim, and therefore I use their word. However, as this book will clarify, the claim is not the reality.

[15] See, Peggy Fletcher Stack, New Mormon Curriculum Divides Scholars, Salt Lake Tribune, October 28, 2014.

Themes from Jacob 5; Part 2

Here are five more themes:

6. The work of the last labor will not be abandoned. The Lord did not establish the restoration of the Gospel only to abandon it. Though it will take some time before it produces natural fruit, the Lord intends to stay with the grafts, labor with them, and trim away as necessary. Joseph Smith suggested the church needed to stay together, and the Lord’s hand would continue to watch over the church. As they have left, the splinter groups have all fallen into neglect, and ultimately abandonment. Whether it was Sidney Rigdon, the William Marks/Emma Smith “reorganization”, the William McLellin departure, or the various “fundamentalist” movements, the temporary prosperity or success has ultimately ended in collapse and failure. The Lord intends to work within the church until the natural fruit reappears. Though the church may not be synonymous with the “Gospel,” it is the means by which the Lord preserves the Gospel. To see the Lord’s hand, all you need to do is be near to the laboring full-time missionaries. The Lord does bear testimony to the investigators that the Book of Mormon is true, and Joseph Smith was His prophet, and the revelations are trustworthy, and the sincere soul should receive baptism at the hands of the elders of the church. I received this testimony when I investigated, and have received also the blessings associated with fellowship among others who accept and believe in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, the restoration scriptures, and all the associated practices we have inherited. Though we have departed somewhat from the roots that came from Joseph’s ministry, at this moment, for the first time, the church has begun publishing The Joseph Smith Papers. We are the chosen generation who can see the records for ourselves. The ability to take nourishment from the roots has become more of an opportunity for us living today than any of the prior saints, from Joseph’s day till ours. Thanks be to the church for opening this valuable library that has remained unavailable to the common church member for these last three or four generations. It is as if the Lord has finally moved, despite all we have done to forget our beginnings, to make important change possible and return to His foundation by giving us the original records.

7. The natural fruit involves more than just the regrafting. The establishment of the church was the necessary first step, but the prophecies do not mention The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the target church. The revelations speak of another name for the Lord’s church. (See D&C 76: 54; 78: 21; 88: 5; 107: 19; Hebrews 12: 23; among many others.) The temporal church is essential to produce another group within it. They are not going to reappear as a group disconnected from the temporal church, but instead from within it. The Gospel net will gather all manner of fish, but the angels will gather the good and cast away the bad. (Matt. 13: 47-49.) Being gathered into the net is not the sign of being good and worthy of gathering by the angels. It is only the first step. There is another step beyond that which requires the virgins to have oil in their lamps in order to be with the Bridegroom.

8. The history of the tree is told from the most ancient of our preserved history until the distant end of a millennium of peace. There is no other history that will take off in a different direction. The tree is fully accounted for in the allegory. You needn’t look for another, separated, surprising or unaccounted for sequence of events or long interruption of the Lord’s labors. He is working NOW and it is currently underway. The story is complete. Although the reappearance of the natural fruit is not immediate, it is going to reappear. When it does it will be in the young, tender growth. The high minded and lofty which are barren and tend to grow in their own self-interests, but do not seek the welfare of Zion itself will be trimmed away. The Lord’s hand will be most apparent inside the church, not outside of it. But likely in a young, tender place where nourishment from the roots has taken hold. Watch, therefore, and you will not be mistaken when it begins. This is, after all, the Lord’s work, and it is marvelous in the eyes of those who can see it. (Mormon 9: 16.)

9. Although there are many different groups of people, the Lord’s work has always focused on the House of Jacob and the potential for it to return to covenant status as the House of Israel. This is the “natural fruit” that the Lord seeks to have return to His vineyard. Although having some religious connection to God is desirable, the “harvest” is looking for this particular kind of “natural fruit” to preserve against the season. This kind of fruit requires the very same thing Joseph was so excited about in his last few talks in Nauvoo. The Elijah Talk followed on the history retold in Passing the Heavenly Gift, and goes to the heart of this need to reconnect with “the fathers in heaven,” or the original Patriarchial Fathers who were chosen by God as His. It requires us to track back, reconnect to the roots of the restoration, and return to belief in doctrines long neglected if we want to participate in the Lord’s work. The Lord invites all to know Him, to come to Him and to form this connection with Him. However, if you are waiting for the process to be unfolded in a weekly Gospel Doctrine class, you will first need a new manual. Nothing of these topics remains in our formal curriculum, though the information is still available if you will search for it.

10. The Lord has actually considered burning the entire vineyard before, and fully intends to burn all but the natural fruit in the future. The risk of the entire earth being cursed at His coming is not just an idle notion designed to make us luke-warm in our church affiliation. It is intended to cause us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philip. 2: 12; Mormon 9: 27.) When we think our simple affiliation with our church is enough, we are deceived and show disrespect to the requirements of the Lord’s plan. The best scriptural passage to put the problem into context is Mormon’s description:

“. . . 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.)

That day will come; now, if you prepare for it, but it will come. If that day “burns you up,” then you were not natural fruit. (Mal 4: 1.) Therefore, it makes sense to do what is needed now, repent, call on His name, and live by every word which He imparts so you may see His face and “know that [He is.]” (D&C 93: 1.)

Cycles of Truth

The ordinances have been the same since Adam, according to Joseph Smith.  He explained that “[Jesus] set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever.” (TPJS p. 168.) Also, “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundations of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed.” (Id., p. 308.) This is why Joseph “restored” the Gospel, but did not bring anything new. It was a return to the earlier, forgotten truths.

Christ was careful to explain what was “fulfilled” in Him and what remained still intact from His earlier dealings with mankind. He “fulfilled” and brought to an end the Law of Moses. It ended. It was fulfilled. But everything else remained and was still in effect. Part of His explanation was as follows:

And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.

 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.
 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.
 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.
 And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come.
 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me. (3 Nephi, 15.)
Was Abraham a prophet? Did he live before Moses? Was the covenant with him fulfilled in Christ’s fulfillment of the Law of Moses? If Abraham preceded Moses by more than three centuries, how is the later Law of Moses related to the earlier covenant?
Here is part of the covenant between Abraham and God, to endure throughout all generations of those who claim part of Abraham’s covenant:
 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
 ¶And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
Since the covenants between God and man were established in the heavens before the foundations of the world, as Joseph explained, I suspect the covenant of circumcision did not originate with Abraham. I suspect it was restored through him, but came down from the beginning. I believe if we had a full record we would find that originally the covenant was established through Adam. That it was originally intended to be performed by the male in contemplation of marriage. That the covenant of marriage, like all covenants, required the shedding of blood to be in effect. For the man, circumcision sealed with the shedding of blood his covenant to marry. For the wife, the virgin sacrificed blood at the marriage. But those things are now long forgotten, lost to time, and could only be known today by revelation.
If Joseph’s statement is correct, and Adam had the fullness of the Gospel, then every prophet from the beginning has only “restored” lost truth. It has been a search to return to the original truth. After all, Christ came to Adam three years previous to his death and comforted him. (D&C 107: 53-57.) Such an event strongly indicates Adam had the fullness. The Gospel is, therefore, in all likelihood a search into the ancient order of things, not a leap forward into something new. In order to go forward, we will need to go back.
It is an interesting question to contemplate whether the Lord was serious about the token becoming a memorial of His “covenant [which] shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” Also, although the New Testament debates over “those of the circumcision” determined not to require circumcision of adult converts, they did not have 3 Nephi, Chapter 15 to inform their debate. (For New Testament references, see, e.g., Romans chapters 2 & 4, Galatians chapter 5, among many other places.)
I would doubt there will be any uncircumcised males included in the latter-day Zion. It is, at least for me, an interesting question to contemplate.

Bloom’s Article

Harold Bloom is a serious student of religion. He one time admired Mormonism. The article I linked to earlier today is a reflection of his disillusionment because of the changes which the faith has undergone since the 1990’s. What he once thought would be a revolutionary religion, with vitality that would revolutionize the world, is now gone.

Mormonism was designed to change the world, not to be changed by it.

Mormonism was intended to alter how people understood and relate to God; not to become an Americanized version of Roman Catholicism with a magisterial hierarchy viewed as God’s “Vicars” holding keys to heaven through which sycophants could obtain Divine favor.

Bloom laments the transition and, because of it, has let the tarnishing recent changes to Mormonism alter his earlier, much more positive assessment of Joseph and the faith founded through him.

Bloom’s conclusion that Mormonism is now just another Protestant religion is a conclusion he was disappointed to reach. But, having reached it, he does not hold back on his disappointment.

When it began, Mormonism denounced the idea of following men. It captured in rapid prose the idea that following men, even inspired men who were authentic prophets who spoke with God, merited damnation to hell alongside the wicked: “For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; But received not the gospel… will not be gathered with the saints, to be caught up unto the church of the Firstborn, and received into the cloud. These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth. These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.” (D&C 76: 99-105.) Joseph Smith elaborated on this idea in a sermon to the Relief Society in Nauvoo, telling them: “the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church — that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls — applied it to the present state [1842] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall — that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 238.) Today we have inverted that idea. Now if you do not “depend on the Prophet” you are considered to have a darkened mind.

It is a fundamental principle of fourth phase Mormonism that all anyone needs to do is “Follow the Prophet” (meaning the President of the church) and everything else will take care of itself. There is little else required. Tithing and some dietary restrictions, and a few meetings are needed.

Today if there is the slightest hint by someone that “Following the Prophet” as your primary faith will merit only “the wrath of God on earth” and “the vengeance of eternal fire” because we must not say we follow any man— well that is taken as weakness of faith, or worse. It can be regarded as a substantial error in doctrine or understanding. Or, worse still, as evidence that you don’t believe God at all. You are, therefore, damned.

Well, Bloom’s criticism is biting, to be sure. But it is borne from his disappointment in what we’ve become in only a few short years of transition. The pace of the changes are accelerating, too. In another two decades it will be even more difficult to recognize Mormonism as the faith restored through Joseph. The caretakers now point to change as evidence of inspiration; instead of worrying change may be provoking ire. (See, e.g., Isa. 24: 5; also Malachi 3: 7.) Fortunately, for us, there is no need to really consider the ideas which arise from anywhere other than the recognized authorities. We can always trust that God will protect us with a mighty hand. Our freedom to err has literally been circumscribed by His power and commitment to save us. We are not free to apostatize from His ways, but are instead guaranteed we cannot fall away as was the case with every earlier dispensation of God’s Gospel. Any idea we can do the same thing as every earlier era of man’s interaction with God belittles God’s power. It challenges His overriding hand which has restored the truth for the last time to the earth, and nothing can ever change His determination to keep it here. Even our neglect, rebellion, sins and stupidity is nothing compared to God’s commitment to letting us keep the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We got it. We’ve got keys that cannot tarnish. And, all of this is to the envy of every other Christian denomination; because there’s just nothing anyone can do to change that. Not even us. Right?

Book of Abraham

The last lesson I taught the Priests in my ward I went over the history of the Book of Abraham. There are a host of arguments made against Joseph Smith, his translation and the authenticity of the Book of Abraham which rely upon ignorance to persuade.
 
The Book of Abraham is one of the strongest proofs of Joseph Smith’s credibility as a prophet who restored ancient knowledge and did so using the power of God.  But only if you have read enough to know the lay of the terrain.
 
I brought the following books with me to the class:
Abraham in Egypt (Nibley)
The Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment (Nibley)
Astronomy, Papyrus and Covenant (Hauglid)
An Approach to the Book of Abraham (Nibley)
One Eternal Round (Nibley)
The Blessings of Abraham (Clark)
Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham (Tvedtnes, Gee)
The Hor Book of Breathings (Rhodes)
A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Gee)
Vol. 2 of The History of the Church (Joseph Smith)
 
Critics of Joseph have provoked a tremendous effort to account for the Book of Abraham.  If you are interested in the topic, the results of that effort are worth reading. I find that all topics related to the restoration are interesting to me.
 
I’ve spent a few days with scholars with backgrounds in Egyptology. There is a great deal to learn about the earliest days of Egypt and the Egyptian influence on ancient Israel.  Many of our Psalms are taken directly from Egypt.  Abraham sojourned there, Joseph served there, the twelve tribes resided there, Moses was raised there in the royal courts, Jeremiah fled there, and Christ lived several years there.  Egypt was a repository of arcane knowledge which remains interesting to Latter-day Saints.

Restoration and Apostasy

There really is no static position in nature.  The full moon of two nights ago is now replaced by the waning gibbous immediately as the light begins to be lost.  Nor does the half-moon last longer than a single night, followed by the waning crescent. When the moon’s light is altogether stricken, the new moon phase begins with the waxing crescent which is, at first, only a sliver. But it follows nightly through the waxing crescent, to the half moon, to the waxing gibbous, to the full moon.  Always in motion.  Always either growing or receding in light.

So also with the sun.  From solstice to equinox, to solstice to equinox, it grows, then dims.  Never static.  It is impossible to freeze the light.  It will grow or it will fade.

All things in nature testify of the truth.  This includes things in the “heavens” or sky above, as well as things on, in and under the earth. (Moses 6: 63.)

It is not possible for an individual, nor a collection of individuals, to remain static.  They are either involved with restoring truth or in apostasy from it; never merely “preserving” it.  Those who claim to merely preserve the truth given them are concealing the fact of their apostasy.  They are soothing their conscience.  Caretakers simply cannot exist.

All great truths are simple, and they are testified of in nature as well as in scripture.

Peoplehood

One of the very substantial differences in the way we are currently evolving is almost unnoticed.  I’ve tried to capture the difference in what I’ve written by using the terms “movement” in contrast to “institution.”  Those terms help to explain the notion, but it is really something more than that.  I’m going to use a different way to explain it in this post, and see if I can get a little closer to the real underlying process which is now underway.

The original development under Joseph Smith was something quite distinct from all existing faiths.  It was not just a new religion.  It was a wholesale resurrection of an ancient concept of “Peoplehood.”  It was radical.  Its purpose was to change diverse assortments of people, from every culture and faith, with every kind of ethnic and racial composition, into a new kind of People.  They were to be united under the banner of a New and Everlasting Covenant, resurrecting the ancient Hebraic notion of nationhood and Peoplehood.  No matter what their former culture was, they were adopted inside a new family, a covenant family.  Status was defined not be virtue of what you believed or confessed, but instead by what covenants you have assumed.

What returned through Joseph Smith was not a religion, nor an institution, nor merely a faith.  It was instead the radical notion that an ancient covenant family was being regathered into a separate People.  This return to ancient roots brought with it, as the hallmark of its source of power, the idea of renewed covenants that brought each individual into direct contract with God.  It did not matter what they believed.  It only mattered that they accepted and took upon them the covenant.

Once inside the new People, there was a new culture where ancient ties returned to bind the hearts together.  There was a dietary regimen where the People were reminded at every meal that they were distinct and apart from the world.  There was the gift of sacred clothing, in which they were reminded of their separateness by the things put upon their skin.  There were financial sacrifice of tithes, gathered from the People to help the People.  The fortunes of all were intertwined with each other by the gathering of tithes and offerings into the Bishop’s storehouse to help the poor and needy among the People.  It was NOT a religion.  It was a People.  It was to become The People.  And The People were required to extend to all others the same equal opportunity to become also part of the covenant.

This is different from a religion.  It was cultural, personal, and as distinct as a Jew views himself to be from a Christian.  To a Jew, religion is a part of the equation.  They share blood with other Jews, and therefore even if a Jew is not attending weekly synagogue meetings, they retain their status as one of the Jews.

Religion on the other hand is merely a brand name for a sentiment.  One can be a Presbyterian or a Lutheran and still belong to the same Elks Lodge.  There is nothing really distinct between the two, other than where they meet for an hour or two on Sundays.  Apart from that, they identify culturally as “Protestants” and brothers.  There is no great distinction, and the theological differences which separate them are so trivial that a doctrinal disagreement between them is unlikely.

Mormonism has taken a direct course-change where the original elements of separate Peoplehood are now viewed as an impediment to wider acceptance.  The distinctions are being minimized in order to undo the conflicts that marred the relationship between Mormonism and the larger American society.  The lessons learned from those conflicts have led to the idea that we must become more actively engaged in public relations.  Our commitment to the public relations process has informed us that we have to become less distinct to get along with others.  We need to drop our misunderstood and offensive claims to distinctions that claim superiority, and urge instead the things that we share with the Presbyterians and Lutherans.  The ultimate end of that process is to make it just as meaningless and controversial a thing for a Mormon to belong to and fellowship with the Elks Lodge as it is for the Presbyterian and Lutheran.  This is one of the great goals of the Correlation process and the public relations effort of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The outreach at present is merely an attempt to get people to accept the church as another form of Historic Christianity, claiming equality among peers, without any desire to confront or cause conflict.  The notion of Peoplehood is being suppressed.  Any claims of superiority of the faith are suppressed.

Enthusiastic scholarship is working alongside the larger public relations effort.  The work of Robinson at BYU, for example, in his reconciliatory book, (co-authored with a member of the Evangelical-based Denver Theological Seminary faculty) “How Wide the Divide,” made an attempt to discuss Evangelical Protestant notions alongside Mormon notions and to minimize any differences.  The underlying presumption is that we are both merely religions.  As fellow religions we share an attempt to come to God through teachings we believe in and scriptural texts we share.

Reconciliation between what Joseph Smith restored and other religions should never have been a goal.  Joseph’s restoration was not a church.  It was not a religion.  It was not a bundle of beliefs.  By trying to reach a common footing among other mainstream Christian faiths we have to first abandon the very different footing upon which Joseph established the Restoration.

The original Restoration could never be like any of “them.”  They were churches.  Joseph restored Peoplehood.  To go from what Joseph restored to a common footing requires us to first abandon the concept that we are neither a new form of Christianity, nor a return to Jewish antecedents.  We are something quite different from either.  We are an Hebraic resurrection of God’s People, clothed with a covenant, and engaged in a direct relationship with God that makes us distinct from all other people.

When we view ourselves as a Christian faith, we deconstruct the very foundation upon which we began.  We aren’t that.  We can never be part of Historic Christianity.  And yet that has been our front-and-center effort through the focus on public relations and the scientific study of what words we should use to advance our acceptance in the world.

Read the earliest of Mormon materials and you will be shocked by how differently they viewed themselves from how we now view ourselves.  They were building a separate People.  They invited all to come and partake of the covenant, renounce their prior errors, and return to living as one of God’s New and Everlasting Covenant holders.


To rid ourselves of that tradition, we need to assume the elements of a typical religion.  Rather than defining ourselves as a separate People, we turn to defining a set of beliefs.  Establishing an orthodoxy and then insisting upon uniformity of belief to belong to the orthodox religion is the way of the Catholics and Protestants.  They are bound together NOT by their peoplehood but instead by their confessions of faith.  So as you de-emphasize our Peoplehood, you must then begin to emphasize and control an orthodox statement or confession of faith.

These dynamics are worth very careful thought.  There is an actual consensus among church leaders that this is the right way to proceed.  A discussion about it among Latter-day Saints has not even begun at the rank and file level.  The transition takes place over decades, and unless someone first creates a vocabulary for the problem, we don’t even have the capacity to discuss or notice what is happening and why.

This post has gone on too long.  Not really a blog post subject.  It’s a book-length subject.  I make fleeting comments about something that would take pages to develop.  But I doubt I’ll write the needed book.  Instead I will try to bring the idea into the consciousness of you good people and let it percolate about.  Surely some of you can do something about it.