Churches Built By Men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mosiah 3: 9

In Mosiah 3:9 the angel foretells how Christ will “come unto His own” because it will be His own people who were promised He would come. (Gen. 49: 10.) Therefore, to perform on the promise, the Lord must be sent, but it will be His own who reject Him. Indeed, only His own people would consider rejecting and killing Him, because no other people would be hard-hearted enough to kill their God. (2 Ne. 10: 3.) Only those who are given the truth, and harden their hearts against it, can be blinded enough by the devil to pervert the truth. It takes exposure to and rejection of the light for men to sink into rejecting the Lord.

This is the pattern throughout God’s dealing with His own. Whenever He sent a true messenger, the established order was offended at them. They always behave in this manner. (Matt. 5: 10-12.)

This is how salvation comes. There is always authentic tension between good and evil, between the true and the false. The stage is always set with conflict between established tradition that has strayed and inspired messages to clarify. We always see the temporary defeat of truth followed by persistent success of error so the Lord can try the souls of men. Truth returns, within a sea of error, and the humble followers of Christ recognize it. Therefore, through this means “salvation comes unto the children of men” (Mosiah 3: 9).

This stage is where the participants must choose between the two “through faith.” Tradition and community error will not bring you to Christ. In every generation we are required recognize Him, and accept “His name” or, more correctly, His names; for they are many. The angel has been giving some of them. Isaiah gave others. Joseph Smith gave yet more. Those who come to know Him come to know His names, for they are know by His friends.

Even after all the truth represented by our Lord, men will say about Him that He is “a man, and say that he hath a devil.” (Mosiah 3: 9.) They call what is good, bad. They insist that what has been sent from heaven is in fact of the devil. By calling God’s offering something of the devil, they clarify whose side they are on, and become the servant of the one who leads them. As servants and children of the devil, they earn their condemnation by condemning the things of God. Hence the condemnation of suffering described in D&C 76: 99-105, because they have followed the devil while claiming to have followed prophets and apostles. They worship men, and traditions of men, but have not received a testimony of Jesus.

To establish the truth and the authority of His commission, the Lord left His suffering as a mark of His authenticity. It would be required for Him to endure both verbal and physical persecution for the sake of His ministry. That will operate as a seal upon His testimony, because only through enduring the opposition of this world can we know for certain the message is not from this world. Only by this world’s rejection can we have the certification that the message came from above.

Ultimately, as the angel foretells, the Lord will be “crucified.” This clarifies that the Lord in His death would be ceremonially cursed and unclean. (Deut. 21: 22.) King Benjamin knew the Lord God omnipotent would condescend not only to come and live here among men, but to become cursed and slain for their sake.

What manner of love does our Lord have that He should suffer so? How long suffering and patient is He that He would live a life in this manner? How great a God is it who will forsake this world’s success, endure this world’s curses in order to remain true and faithful to His great commission?

It would have been interesting to observe the angel as He explained, and King Benjamin as he heard this promise of the Lord’s future life and ministry. Who would believe such a report, even though given by an angel? (Isa. 53: 1.) Even today, who can believe the Lord’s dealings with men?

Joseph Smith History, Part 3

Joseph Smith’s entire ministry was connected to scripture. It began with an encounter between him and God which he was only able to describe using the language of scripture. It extended to an encounter with Moroni which he again described using a host of scripture to convey the meaning of what the angel impressed into his mind.
It turned to translating a volume of scripture. This required him to take every thought of the ancient prophets and translate them from one language into another. The language of the Book of Mormon repeatedly adopts phrases from the King James version of the Bible to weave together the ancient narrative. Given the circumstances, and what we have been told of that process, Joseph’s mind was embedded with phrases that would have seemed familiar to him as he struggled to capture in his own tongue the ideas of the long dead authors. It would not have been derivative from the King James’ Bible, but would have sidled alongside it in phrasing, structure and concept.
Just like Nephi’s vision of the fullness of God’s works, Joseph Smith likewise saw God’s unfolding plan. Nephi was forbidden from disclosing what he beheld. To bear testimony, however, Nephi adopted the language of Isaiah to explain his own (Nephi’s) testimony. It is important for us to recognize that when Nephi was writing Isaiah, and then expounding on the material he’d etched into the plates, he was acting the role of a prophet. Isaiah’s words WERE Nephi’s testimony. They allowed him to tell us what the Lord wanted us to know, and to do it using the words of scripture composed by Isaiah.
Jacob accomplished the very same thing. Jacob adopted the words of Zenos, and the allegory we’ve been reviewing, to testify of the things he had seen and heard from the Lord. I went over how Jacob had, like his brother Nephi, been visited by the Lord. Jacob was also looking for the language to express his own vision. He invited his people to the temple where he was going to deliver to them his own prophecy. When they arrived, he read them the allegory, Zenos’ prophecy, the story of the olive tree. When he completed that retelling, Jacob announced the following: “as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.” (Jacob 6: 1.) Jacob, who behleld the Lord and was ministered to by Him, bore his testimony and established his prophecy by retelling Zenos’ olive tree story.
Christ’s great Sermon on the Mount was based on the Law of Moses. The law of retaliation (lex talonis) set out in the prior law was contrasted with what the Lord now established as the underlying meaning for that law. Instead of striking back, bear the blow and forgive. Instead of refraining from adultery, remove lust from your heart. Instead of rebuking, harbor no ill will toward your brother.
Christ’s entire ministry was based on expounding the scriptures. Interestingly, He forbid us from calling one another “fools” in His great sermon. (Matt. 5: 22.) Then He called men “fools” for their blind misapplication of scripture. (Matt. 23: 16-19.) The same scriptures which, in the hands of the Lord will save a man, are the tools for deceiving men and leading them into destruction when used by the Pharisees and Scribes.
For Nephi, using Isaiah was the perfect means to preach salvation. For Jacob, using Zenos was the perfect means to preach and prophesy about his people and us. For Joseph Smith, using the words of scripture to translate into English the words of earlier prophets was a master work of a man who received a dispensation of the Gospel. For Christ, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He was able to show how necessary His own sacrifice and offering was to fulfill all righteousness.
However, for the blind guides, the use of scripture to develop as commandments the doctrines of men, the Lord only had the term “fools” to describe their wickedness. They would not enter into heaven, and would instead hinder others who followed them from entering.
Joseph was commanded to “translate” the Bible. His Inspired Version was a work which led in turn to some of the greatest revelations of our day. Reading about “heaven” in John 5: 29 led to an inquiry which provided Section 76 to us all. The Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory was given because of an inquiry about scripture. Earlier John the Baptist came because of an inquiry about baptism as a result of translating scripture. The work of the Prophet Joseph Smith was intimately linked and could not be separated from the words of scripture.
At one point a calm Lord told His critics to search the scriptures, because His detractors claimed they would have eternal life from what was contained in them. But, He added, they testify of Him. (John 5: 39.) So it is not merely claiming the scriptures support a proposition that deserves respect, but instead whether the matter taught has underlying it the truth. Joseph’s history shows what an adept prophet can do when employing scripture to inform the reader of God’s will. In that respect, Joseph Smith does not take a back seat to Nephi or Jacob. It is a marvelous thing to behold; assuming you recognize it as one of the signs that testifies Joseph was indeed a prophet.

Joseph The Prophet

Although Joseph Smith revealed many, previously unknown things, his ministry was devoted primarily to bringing others into fellowship with God. The ordinances, scriptures, revelations, and teachings restored through him were not intended to titillate, but to instruct on how to reconnect with God.

From his emphasis on the promise in James 1: 5 (“if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God …and it shall be given him”) leading to the First Vision, to the promise of Moroni 10: 4 (“I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and … he will manifest the truth of it unto you”), to D&C 93: 1 (“It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandmetns, shall see my face and know that I am”), and in numerous other places throughout his ministry, Joseph reiterated both the possibility and imortance of each soul coming directly to God.

This is the role of a true messenger. It is to bring others into harmony with God. Not to titillate them with new information, leaving them without knowledge of God. When someone delivers a new message that does not include knowledge about how the audience may come to God themselves, then the primary intent is always to make others dependent on the messenger. It is vanity. It is prideful. It is to call attention to themselves in an effort to place themselves above their fellow man, and interject themselves between the person and God. It is priestcraft.

The “welfare of Zion” consists of teaching others how to come to God themselves, and receive the heavenly promises directly from God. (See 2 Ne. 26: 29)  Zion will be composed exclusively of those who can endure the presence of God. Therefore, it is necessary for everyone to come up to the heavenly mount by their own repentance and remembrance of the Lord.

It is foolishness to separate information about the Lord’s doings from instruction on how to become redeemed. It is vanity to spread new, and personal revelation about the afterlife, God, man, prophecy, visionary encounters, and spiritual experiences if the primary reason does not focus on instructing how the audience can come to God themselves. It is also dangerous to trust teachings which fail to give you guidance on how you can find God for yourself. If all that is delievered is a message about some great experience, the experience was not intended for you. It isn’t important. It is the way to find God that will save you. Not someone else’s new, and exciting spiritual manifestation.

I’ve shared almost nothing of the things I have learned. But I’ve tried to share everything about how you can “come and see” (John 1: 46). Still, however, there are very few who can detect the difference. Still there remain those who are tossed to and fro by the sleight of men. (Eph. 4: 14.)

Here’s how things really work:  New revelation for the church comes from the top. It is not binding upon anyone unless it comes through the correct channel, and then is sustained as binding upon the church. Whether you like that system or not, that is the system. HOWEVER, every church member is obligated to teach one another the doctrines of the kingdom. Expounding, exhorting, teaching, and instructing is a common obligation imposed upon us all. Therefore, everything I have written, all I have taught, and the things I have testified about are confined to elaborating upon the established doctrines of the church, the revelations in the Book of Mormon, the other standard works, and Joseph Smith’s teachings. I’ve said almost nothing about my personal revelations because they were intended for me. They will not help you. They equip me to be able to preach, teach, exhort and expound, but just publishing what I know to the world will not aid any other person in their individual journey. 

Salvation for you is a journey exactly like the journey undertaken by Joseph Smith. Which is also identical to the journey undertaken by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Which was modeled upon the pattern coming down through Noah. Who was a contemporary with Enoch, both of whom undertook the same journey. Which originated with Adam, who came back into God’s presence three years previous to his death, and received “comfort” from the Lord (D&C 107: 53-55). The Lord is the promised Comforter who will come to all of us on the same conditions (John 14: 23, D&C 130: 3). I was asked, and wrote a manual on that process in the first book, The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil. The purpose of the book has nothing to do with my own recognition or importance. Throughout the book my many failings are discussed. The book is about the reader, and how the reader can come to know God.

Still people will go to great trouble, and spare no effort to find someone who will only give a titillating peek behind the veil, but who will do nothing to instruct you on how you can meet God here, be redeemed from the fall of man, and come back into God’s presence. This is the purpose of the Gospel, and the definition of redemption. (Ether 3: 13.) Telling about personal experience cannot help another. Testifying to the process, however, is the burden of all true teaching.

I am a fool, and anyone who thinks otherwise is misled. My only relevance is the common obligation imposed upon us all to preach, teach, exhort and expound. I confine all I do to that obligation. The only thing I can offer anyone is to point them to the One who is filled with truth and light, which is intelligence. (D&C 93: 36.)  And still there are those who cannot discern between what and how I teach, and how others who are practicing only priestcraft do so. I am saddened, not particulary surprised, but saddened. These are the times we live in. (Isa. 29: 9-10.)

What more could have been done than the Lord has already done?  Is it not us, not He, upon whom the blame must be lain?

The Latter-day famine continues unabated still. Not because there isn’t something worth consuming, but because we crave only the weakest of gruel, which cannot sustain life. Therefore, let us all feast away and still become famished until at last we perish without hope, having wasted the days of our probation. We didn’t care much for Joseph’s message in his day, and we fail to even notice it in ours.

3 Nephi 12: 30

“For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.”
Each person’s cross is individual. Carrying “your cross” is not the same as carrying mine. Therefore, when you “deny yourself of these things” what you surrender and what you take up will be “your cross” and never mine.
It is odd how we are able to spot from a distance the weaknesses of others. We have highly acute sensitivities about others’ flaws. But we rarely appreciate the crosses they bear.
How hard a burden a man carries when he disciplines himself to rise daily, and work to sacrifice for his family, is not at all the same across the economic scale. Nor, for that matter, is the daily service carried on by mothers who have deprived themselves of other pursuits to raise sometimes ungrateful children.
But “hell” is where we are cast when we are pained by the regrets of having lived without discipline, having lived selfishly. (Mormon 9: 4-5.)  We will stand “naked” before God. All of what we want hidden will be before us, revealed and exposed to view.
The “hell” of it all will be our regret, for we are our own tormentor. The torment of a disappointed mind will be like fire and brimstone to the regretful. (TPJS p. 357.)
Christ is advising us in a kindly way how to prevent that moment of fear, regret and torment. He is telling us how to escape it. These teachings are not a threat addressed at us, but a caution about the future moment when these teachings apply to us all.
It is as if the Lord wants us to know clearly beforehand what we are going to wish we had done instead. Now, in mortality, while we can still change how things will turn out, He is telling us how to accomplish that. In an understatement, He advises: “it is better to deny yourself” than it will be to indulge. You may find it a “cross” as you do, but if you deny yourself now it will let you escape “hell” in the future. It is kindly advice, without a threat. It is a warning about the road you have taken, and guidance on how you can avoid the collision that is coming.
Whatever the “cross” is you take up in your daily effort to live inside the bounds prescribed by the Lord, it will be worth it. By heeding His counsel, you will become someone better and avoid becoming devilish.
The temptations each of us face are unique to the individual. What is universal, however, is the limit placed upon temptations. They are never too great to resist. There is always an escape provided by the Lord. (1 Cor. 10: 13.) Nor are you given any commandment you cannot obey. (1 Nephi 3: 7.) However, that is not to say temptation is easily overcome. Weakness is our lot. (Ether 12: 27.)
What then are you to make of your cross? If you’ve tried to deny yourself and failed, does it mean you are hopeless? Is the persistent failure to lift the cross you have been called to bear proof that you are just unable to merit salvation? Does the relentless return to temptation mean you are lost? Are you necessarily doomed because you have not found the escape promised by Paul’s writing to the Corinthians?
Life is filled with cycles. When we battle and fail one day, then join the battle again, but fail again; then another, and another and another, what is the use? What do we make of such persistent failure, such continuing weakness? Is the lesson that we are lost? Or is it that we are weak? Weaker than we had ever imagined. Weaker than you could ever suppose man to be. (Moses 1: 10.) Is this evidence that you are doomed? Or is it merely a patient God proving to your utter satisfaction that you are indeed in need of saving grace to rescue you from where you find yourself? Is this the moment when, while filling your belly with husks along with the swine you’ve descended to accompany, you wake up? (Luke 15: 11-17.) If you will finally surrender your pride, come forward with a broken heart and real intent, returning to your Father, He will joyfully receive you still. (Luke 15: 18-24.) There is joy in heaven over you when you awaken.
Weakness is nothing, for all are weak. It is a gift, given to break your heart. Your broken heart will qualify you for His company. Whether a leper, an adulteress, a tax collector or a blind man, He can heal it all.  But what He cannot do, and you must alone bring to Him, is that broken heart required for salvation.
William Ernest Henley wrote Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Orson F. Whitney penned the response in The Soul’s Captain:

Art thou in truth? Then what of him

Who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood?
Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but him could bear. –
The God who died that man might live,
And endless glory share?
Of what avail thy vaunted strength,
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his Light may pierce the gloom,
That thou mayest see aright.
Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree.
Thou, captain of thy soul, forsooth
Who gave that place to thee?
Free will is thine — free agency
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.
Bend to the dust that head “unbowed,”
Small part of Life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.
_______________________________

We choose. We live with our choices. It is better to deny ourselves and take up our individual crosses.

3 Nephi 12: 27-29


“Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;  But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.  Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;”
 
Here it is again – the heart. It is the intent and not just the act. It is not enough that you stop short of doing the thing commanded in the Law of Moses. Christ is attacking the root cause, the internal trouble which causes the mistakes.
 
The Law of Moses is not being replaced with a new era of easy grace triggered by confession for salvation. The Head of the new Dispensation, Christ, is instead providing a much higher standard for mankind to adopt in place of  carnal commandments.
 
You must raise your thoughts to a higher level. Sexual appetites and passions must be kept within the bounds the Lord has prescribed. For this new, higher standard, it is not enough to just refrain from immoral acts, but you must purge thoughts. Neither lust of a woman, nor any of “these things” should “enter into your heart.” This uniform standard applies to all: male and female, married or single, without regard to who or what causes your lusts. It is universal.
The raging controversy going on at present over President Packer’s last General Conference address entirely misses the point. Whether your sexual attraction is male or female, it is to be confined in thought and deed to the bounds prescribed by the Lord, and the Lord has rather clearly identified the bounds in this sermon.
 
The heart is where sin begins. So it is the heart which Christ would have us cleanse. All else will follow.
No one knows how formidable an obstacle this is until they have confronted it themselves. Nor can a person who confronts this challenge succeed at the first attempt. C.S. Lewis made such a profound observation on this subject it is worth quoting here:
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 11.)
 
Those who would rather settle into a comfortable enjoyment of their sins find discomfort in being reminded they are wrong. So when President Packer reminds them of this, it is painful, and they want him to retract his words. It would be better to consider them, for whether he retracts them or not, it will not change the underlying problem of sin. Only by confronting and overcoming sins within us will we ever become people who will be preserved in the coming harvest.
 
Imagine, if you can, the idea of impurity being a compound which exists within you. A compound that could be identified by the Lord and burned away. Think of it like the fuller’s soap or the refiner’s fire, where impurity is removed and something pure and clean is left behind. (Mal. 3: 2-3.) To survive that burning purge there must be so little to burn away that the injury from the burn will not threaten life. It is a useful way to examine what is inside you. And a useful way to reconsider your thoughts.
 
This leads to the final question: What is the difference between the mind and the “heart?” This commandment addresses the “heart” in you. What is the “heart?”

3 Nephi 12: 14-16

 
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house; Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
 
Here, again, is a reference to Zion. Zion will be that city upon a hill which cannot be hidden. It will tower over the landscape, elevated both physically and spiritually. It will be the mountain of the Lord in the top of the mountains. (Isa. 2: 2-3.) He will dwell there. (2 Nephi 14: 5; D&C 76: 66; 84: 2.) I’ve already addressed this and won’t repeat it again here.
 
What is the “light” which you are to be to “this people?” Who are “this people?” What is to be a “light of this people?”
 
If you have light, how is it to be shared? Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the obligation to preach, teach, exhort and expound is imposed upon everyone having the office of Priest and above. (D&C 20: 46.)  Members of both sexes were commanded in 1832 to teach one another the doctrines of the Gospel. (D&C 88: 77.) If you have light and refuse to share it with others, are you putting a candle under a bushel?
 
How do you let the light you have shine through “good works?” That is how it is supposed to be shown. Christ’s teaching explains that people are to see your “good works” as the means for your light to shine. How would that be accomplished?
 
Most interesting of all is that upon seeing your good works, the glory is to be given “your Father who is in heaven.” How would your works reflect on Him rather than on yourself? What would you need to do in order for those benefited by your efforts to turn their thanks to God, rather than to you?
 
If you were interested in your good works reflecting credit to “your Father who is in heaven” how many monuments would you want built to your memory?  How many buildings would you want named after you? How many statutes would you want carved of your likeness and put on display for men to admire?
 
The light should point to the Lord, who can save. It is nevertheless the case that some have become subjects of adoration or veneration despite their inability to save anyone. Those who are distracted from following the Lord become Telestial and continue to suffer the deaths of false religion. (D&C 76: 99-101.) These are no better than the liars, adulterers and whoremongers.  (D&C 76: 103-104.) They became these vessels of God’s wrath because they worshiped men, rather than God. If, therefore, prophets such as Moses, Elias, John, Peter and Enoch have such followers despite preaching that salvation is in Christ alone, then how much worse is it for a man to intentionally cultivate adoration for himself? How much worse is it to deliberately invite this error? 
 
What steps should you take to make certain there are no thunderous celebrations broadcast on television on your birthdays? How quick would you be to reaffirm you are nothing and no-one, and salvation is through Christ and not a man? How clear would you be about your own weakness, foolishness and inability to save another? How often would you point to the Lord who alone can save?
 
It is not enough to be religious. Hell will be filled with the religious. It is not enough to proclaim you have light if you do not live according to its principles. The sermon we are looking at now is the Lord’s careful formulation of the principles which will save. He delivered it often during His mortal ministry. When He was resurrected and ministered to lost sheep, including the Nephites, He delivered the same address to them all.

Above all other sources of information about the path back to God, this is the greatest message of all. Within it are the very steps that are required for life and salvation, spoken by the author of salvation.

3 Nephi 11: 35

3 Nephi 11: 35:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”
Belief in Christ necessarily means belief in the Father. To believe Christ is to accept His message of the Father’s primacy and authority.
You see in these three members of the Godhead a full establishment of interconnected roles and responsibilities.

The Father ordains the plan. It is He who presides.

The Son implements the plan. It is He who makes the required sacrifice to save us.
The Holy Ghost activates the plan. It is the “fire” of the Holy Ghost which makes new, cleanses and perfects the man’s understanding.
These three are “one” and united. They provide mankind with the possibility for salvation and exaltation.

Christ “bears record of it from the Father.” This means that Christ is the Father’s messenger announcing the Father’s plan. What of the need for two witnesses? (Matt. 18: 16.) One of the criticisms of Christ’s message was the absence of additional witnesses. (John 8: 13-14.) Is Christ doing that same thing here with the Nephites? Does His announcement that He speaks for the Father constitute one, or two witnesses? The Father first bore witness of Christ (3 Nephi 11: 6-7.) Now Christ bears witness of Him.

The Father’s testimony always affirms the status of the Son as His Beloved, and of our need to “hear Him.” (See e.g., Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17; see also Matt. 3: 17.) The Father can, and does, acknowledge others as His. (Psalms 2: 7.) But, unlike the Son who has repeatedly visited this earth, walked upon it (Luke 24: 15-16), been handled by people (Luke 24: 36-39; 3 Nephi 11: 14-15), and eaten here (John 21: 13), the Father does not come into contact with this earth in its fallen state (Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17). The only time the Father had contact with this earth was before the Fall, in the Paradisiacal setting of Eden–which was a Temple at the time (Gen. 3: 8). Whenever there has been contact with the Father thereafter, He has been at a distance from this earth. (Moses 7: 24; 1 Nephi 1: 8; Alma 36: 22.)

There is a formality with the Father that does not exist with the Son. For example, the Son has eaten with mortal man while He was immortal, both before His ministry in the flesh (Exo. 24: 9-11) and after (Luke 24: 41-43). As our Redeemer, He is directly responsible for us and has contact with us to perform His redemptive service. The Father, on the other hand, is different in status, responsibility, glory and dominion. The Son can appear to mortal man without showing His glory or requiring any alteration of the mortal who beholds Him. (See, e.g., John 20: 15-17.) To behold the Father, to endure His presence, one must be transfigured. (Moses 1: 2.) Mortal man cannot behold the Father’s works while mortal, for if you comprehend them you cannot afterward remain mortal in the flesh. (Moses 1: 5.)

The primary means to learn of Christ for mortal man is the Holy Ghost. It is this means which brings all things to your remembrance (John 14: 26). Once the learning has culminated in preparation of the individual, then the Savior has a continuing ministry. (John 14: 21.) The Savior’s ministry is to bring the person redemption.

When this process is complete, then it is the responsibility of those who have been redeemed to cry repentance to their neighbors. (D&C 88: 74, 81.) Indeed, the desire to bring others to receive redemption becomes their primary concern. (Mosiah 28: 3.)

The process then produces those who bear testimony of the Son. If they are called of God, they will use scriptures to testify of Christ. This has always been the pattern ordained by God. (Jacob 7: 10-11.) They may understand the scriptures more clearly, because they have seen the same things as earlier prophets. (JS-H 1: 74.) But their testimonies will draw from the scriptures and the words of their brothers in Christ who went before as they testify of Him.

It is through such signs as these you know the Father and Son are one, and the Holy Ghost and the Son are one, and the messengers sent by them will testify of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. These three are the ones in whom faith must be focused for salvation. Though the heavens may include hosts of others, saving faith must be focused in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost alone. Whenever attention and worship moves from the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the result is invariably apostasy and false beliefs. (1 Cor. 8: 5-6; Deut. 16, 17, 18 & 19; 2 Kings 17: 13-16.)

The doctrine of Christ is to be strictly followed. It alone delivers from destruction. All other paths lead to error, foolishness and the dark, where you will perish. (Deut. 8: 19.)

From following this process we obtain the necessary “fire and the Holy Ghost” which redeems, purges, purifies and changes us into a new creature in Christ.

I have said very little of my personal experiences because of how quickly people turn from following Christ to following men whenever attention is drawn to a man. Mankind is inclined toward idolatry. The church has become a great idol. I do not intend to supplant the Lord, nor to call attention to myself, nor to offer myself as an idol for others. I cannot save anyone. If not for Christ and His atonement, I would have only dread for my eternal state. The doctrine of Christ is what the Father ordained as the means for salvation. Anyone who interferes with the process, or offers another means for salvation, cannot deliver. (Mosiah 3: 17.) Whether it is an institution or an individual, no one other than Christ can save. Hence His title as Savior. For some reason mankind is so prone to error, so quick to leave the path, and so vulnerable to being deceived, that focus must remain on the Son, as empowered and sent by the Father, through the witness of the Holy Ghost, or we go astray. Joseph cautioned: “How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.”  (TPJS p. 137.)

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…

2 Nephi 31: 17

2 Nephi 31: 17: 

“Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.” 

You must “do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do.” You must “follow Him.” There is no other way nor name given under heaven to obtain salvation. (Mosiah 5: 8.)

It was for this reason Nephi was “shown” these things. The Lord and His Father taught Nephi so he could in turn teach others, including us.  The message was intended to save many, not just Nephi. But we must give heed to the message when we hear it.

The “gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water.” You must repent first. Then, having repented, receive baptism by water. When this is done, “then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.”

Without the “fire” to purge the sacrifice upon the altar, it is not cleansed. It cannot become holy unless exposed to that fire.

But note – this is automatic. It is not by the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost is not required in this teaching. Nephi, with elaboration from the Father and the Son, is teaching that this is an event that follows the process of “repentance and baptism by water.”  That is, the ordinance of baptism, when accompanied by repentance and done right, is the reason for this event. 

Laying on of hands is for “the gift of the Holy Ghost” so there may be a companion and guide for a person. This is an ordinance. It is also the moment one is confirmed a member of the church. But it is not necessarily co-equal with receiving “fire and the Holy Ghost” as described here. There is nothing that excludes it from being coincidental in time, however. They may happen at the same moment. That is, after baptism, and while receiving the laying on of hands, one may receive both the gift of the Holy Ghost, and also fire and the Holy Ghost. As a result one is renewed in the manner described in this chapter. They are not co-equal.

Laying on of hands does not appear to be an ordinance in the Book of Mormon until the coming of Christ in 3 Nephi. The only potential exception is found in Alma 31: 36, where Alma “clapped his hands upon them who were with him” and they received the Holy Ghost. This is similar to the Lord “breathing” the Holy Ghost upon His disciples. (John 20: 22.) They were instructed to lay on hands, and would perform that act rather than breathing upon those who were to receive the Holy Ghost. The ordinance is different from “clapping” or from “breathing” and involves the process we follow in the church today. (D&C 33: 15.)

The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost promised here is given without man’s involvement, comes from heaven, is promised by both the Father and the Son. It is a signal of redemption, purification and holiness. It is included in the “gate” for entering into God’s presence.  For God is a “consuming fire” and those who enter into that presence must be able to endure that fire. (Heb. 12: 29; see also Deu. 4: 24.)  Without the capacity to do so, a person would be consumed by the flames. (Lev. 10: 1-2.) The fire and the Holy Ghost are also given as a sign to the recipient that they may know it is safe for them to enter into God’s presence and not be consumed. In earlier versions of the First Vision, Joseph described the “pillar of light” as a “pillar of fire” which gradually descended. He wondered if the trees would be consumed as it descended, but seeing they were not he thought it safe for him to be exposed to it as well. When it fell upon him, the vision opened up and he saw the Father and the Son.

Christ also entered into this glorious light on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matt. 17: 1-2.)

We are to do as Nephi instructs, “do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter.”

We live below the standard Christ set for us.  We needn’t. Have faith. Press forward feasting on His words. You can and will find Him there.

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