New Paper

I have prepared a new paper based on the talk I gave in St. George. The paper is on this site under the “downloads” section under the title:

Things to Keep us Awake at Night

It can be accessed by clicking on the title above.

In addition the scripture committee has posted another update document that can be linked by clicking on the title below:

Scripture Project UPDATES

Work on recovering a more accurate version of the scriptures restored through Joseph Smith is far more challenging that it may seem. Despite our best efforts to restore what came through Joseph, some of it will have been lost because of the indifference and neglect of our predecessors. But that is no excuse to leave the work undone.

The work is challenging, but rewarding. I am hopeful that the result will please the Lord.

Bibleolatry

Christians universally claim that the canon of scripture is closed. According to the tradition, God finished revealing things and the single means of knowing God’s will, gaining authority, and obtaining salvation is fully documented in the scriptures. This is the “sola scriptura” belief–i.e., the scriptures alone save.

This is not true. Even the scriptures do not make such a claim. All the Christian apologists who cite the various Old and New Testament verses to support the claim, rely on convoluted interpretation. They also ignore the promise of scripture that God will continue to speak (James 1:5-6; Joel 2:28-32) and will send prophets (Rev. 11:3; Zech. 4:14).

One of the principles of Biblical hermeneutics is that interpretation of scripture is best accomplished by using the newest to understand the oldest. The passages of the Old Testament quoted in the New Testament mean what the New Testament claims because the New Testament is more recent. If this principle were not used, then you could question many of the ways Old Testament meanings get assigned by New Testament writers because they are counter-intuitive, or even apparently contradictory to the original Old Testament text.

For example, the Isaiah text in 7:14, read apart from the New Testament claims, apparently means that a young virgin will not have time to conceive a child, and give birth (approximately 9 months) before the kings of both Damascus and Samaria are overthrown. (See Isa. 7:5-16.) BUT, according to the New Testament this is a Messianic passage foretelling the virgin birth of Christ. (Matt. 1:23.) Therefore, Christians universally claim the virgin birth of Christ was foretold by Isaiah 7:14.

If you take the rule to interpret the meaning of scripture by using the most recent revelation to assign meaning to all earlier scripture, then the meaning of the Bible ought to be reckoned by using the Book of Mormon and revelations to Joseph Smith. Christians are unwilling to do this, and when considering a new revelation, apply their rules of interpretation in the reverse. It is hypocritical. Moreover, if the same test were applied in like manner using the Old Testament, then Christianity would fail for lack of support.

Consider what the Book of Mormon has to say about this Bibliolatry:

many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles? O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people. Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever. Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written. For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it. And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews. And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever. (2 Ne. 29:3-14.)

Christians do not actually worship Christ. If they did they would be eager to hear any word that proceeds from His mouth. But instead, they mute Christ, insist they can employ the words of a book as their salvation, and render Christ silent. This is idolatry, and they would rather worship their idol, the book, than the God who died, rose again, and lives still.

If He lives, then He can speak. He does speak. Christians are just not listening.

Framework

The scriptures set both the framework to teach, and the standard for teaching content. The scriptures provoked the restoration through Joseph. (JS-H 1:11-12.) The resurrected Lord taught from the scriptures, both in Palestine (Luke 24:25-27) and in the new world (3 Ne. 23:5-6.) Christ pointed to the scriptures as the source to be searched for truth concerning Him. (John 5:39.)

When the apostate Sherem was confronted, and his error denounced, those who heard Jacob “searched the scriptures, and no longer hearkened to the words of this wicked man.” (Jacob 7:23.) When Alma and Amulek finished preaching, those who were converted “began to repent, and to search the scriptures.” (Alma 14:1.)

Once people who had been led astray repented, they looked more carefully at the scriptures to guide them, so they would not fall into error again. The scriptures fortified them against false teachings.

All scripture is given to us for our profit and guidance. They can correct our errors and teach us righteousness. (2 Tim. 3:16.)

Everything I do, teach and write is taken from the scriptures. They are the framework and the standard for the content of anything I teach.

Guarding the Pathway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust and Patience

Trusting God and being patient go together.

Knowledge enters our life incrementally, a little at a time, as we notice it and focus on it. Light grows brighter and brighter because we become more sensitive to it. Oddly, we choose how much light we have by how much we notice.

The entire “universe” was once thought to be nothing more than our Milky Way galaxy. But our ability to detect has been magnified by lenses, greatly expanding our ability to see more. The universe did not change, but our ability to see more of it did. We have only recently been able to see the same distant lights that have shone overhead for thousands of years.

The scriptures have been with us for thousands of years (in some cases) and over a hundred years in almost all cases. But our sensitivity to them is so dull we are unable to perceive the light they contain.

Incorporating light into our minds is not accomplished only by hearing, reading or watching, but grows as we act on it. The scriptures are a guide to allow us to have our own experiences walking the path God’s people have walked since Adam.

Accountability

All of us are accountable before God for our own sins. (D&C 101: 78.) No one can escape responsibility based on their willful ignorance. If you have the scriptures, you know you cannot be saved in ignorance. (D&C 131: 6.) You also have been warned that the scriptures have information which is able to teach you about salvation. (2 Tim. 3: 15.) You also have the Lord’s warning to search into the scriptures if you expect eternal life. (John 5: 39.) When this is before you, it is impossible to sin ignorantly, even if you are ignorant as a result of your own neglect. (3 Ne. 6: 18.)

BFHG, Part 3

There is a balance of light and darkness. There is an opposition necessary in all things. (2 Ne. 2: 11-12.) Moses was not able to encounter the Lord without also experiencing the adversary. (Moses 1: 12.) Joseph, likewise, felt the destructive power of our common enemy before understanding the Lord. (JS-H 1: 16.) Some days before baptism, and then about a week after, I encountered the murderous rage of the enemy who seeks to destroy us all. I do not speak or write about this, because fools are prone to give the wrong attention to such matters and thereby surrender unnecessary power to our enemies. Therefore, I leave it to others to confront this subject and only declare I know who and what my enemy is. I have rarely spoken in any detail, and do not recall providing any written account of these experiences.

I make mention of this because there are some critics who suggest I may be sincere, but I have been misled. I know the difference between the Lord and the Adversary. I’ve met both.

These two extremes aside, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, in both Helaman and 3 Nephi, include ministering by angels. The first time I beheld an angel I was caught up to an exceedingly high place. From that vantage point I could see the curvature of the earth below. It was above, high and lifted up. In an instant I understood Nephi’s description of an exceeding high mountain. (1 Ne. 11: 1.) When I wrote The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil, I included a description of this. I was told by those who reviewed it before publication that the explanation seemed arrogant; as if I were comparing myself to Nephi. Therefore, it was removed from the book. There is always tension between the obligation to declare the truth of a matter on the one hand, and the mis-perception of motives on the other. The truth can be opposed either by lies or by questioning the speaker’s intention or motive. Either will do, because people are so easily removed from the truth.

To explain this subject, however, the remainder of the account needs to be told. Therefore, I include here what was removed from the text of The Second Comforter.

As I stood before this angel I noted that he was old, as tall as I am, with a beard, a full head of hair. It was long, but not quite to his shoulders. He spoke with authority, accustomed to declaring messages with efficiency and clarity. His demeanor was somber, as if the weight of eternity rested upon him. Although there was nothing vocal, he spoke with the clarity of a voice which settled deep within me as he said: “On the first day of the third month in nine years, your ministry will begin. And so you must prepare.” Nearly 40 years separate me from that moment, but I can close my eyes and see it still. When an angel speaks to you, you never forget. Through all that has come and gone since that day, I am still transfixed by that moment.

After he spoke to me, he stood and gazed at me saying nothing further. Thinking that was all he had for me, I began to look about. I was impressed by the blue curvature of the earth below. I noticed there were walls, but they were transparent. I wondered why walls would be built if they were transparent, because if you can see beyond them then there was no purpose. I noticed a painting on the wall and wondered why it was there. It made me curious as to why there would be any effort made to paint a portrait here in this setting. Though I had no idea why I recognized him, the painting was of Moses. I also wondered at his baldness since the High Priest could have no blemish and serve before the Lord (Lev. 21: 16-23) I assumed he would have a full head of hair. He did not.

As I stood there reflecting on the scene, I asked nothing. Eventually I was compelled to depart and I left this scene behind. It was some time before I wondered “what ministry?” “How was I to prepare?” These questions could have been asked, but I was so distracted by the circumstances that I gave them no thought at the time. When I later inquired in prayer to know these things, I received no answer. As I persisted in asking for many months, at length I was asked why I hadn’t inquired of the angel at the time I was told of the ministry. It was a hard lesson, but perhaps the only way I would learn it.

It was many months later that I heard the instruction about keeping a journal. By that time I had no way of knowing the date of the visit, and therefore assumed it reckoned from the year I was baptized in 1973. I wrote it down.

I lost track of time as the years came and went. I’d finished serving in the military, had graduated from law school, and had a family. When I remembered and reconstructed the events, I renewed my anticipation early in 1982, waiting for March 1st. That day came and went and nothing happened.

I concluded I hadn’t prepared for the ministry, and therefore lost the opportunity. I felt rejected and mourned at my failure. I tried to renew my devotion, and wondered what would have been given if I’d met the standard I was supposed to meet. But then again, I also thought that if the Lord had been more clear, perhaps I could have met the standard. I wanted to blame the Lord for my failure. He hadn’t answered the questions about what it was I needed to do. At a minimum, I wanted the Lord to share in the blame for my failure. I also wanted to conceal it. I went to my journal and took out the pages dealing with this and destroyed them. This is why the journal now begins on page 14. But with the passage of time, I let it go and gave it no further thought. There was so much to do in life with family responsibilities that unpleasant thoughts of personal failure can be abandoned if you want.

On March 1st of the following year I was visited by President Tolman (the Sunday School President and at the time a Seminary Teacher in the Pleasant Grove High School Seminary program) and Bishop Harris. They called me to be the Gospel Doctrine teacher. It was not until after they left that I remembered the significance of “the first day of the third month” and rehearsed it all again in my mind. I realized that the visit must have happened in 1974 and not 1973. I had the chronology wrong.

It was many years later that I remembered destroying those pages from my journal. I had to explain all these errors in a re-creation of the events. From this I have learned to leave all the failures, all the mistakes, and any hard lessons which I have had to endure and suffer complete and recorded. There can be no attempt to shield myself from criticism in these journals. The truth of matters should be left, and my pride should be abandoned. No man elevates himself by pretensions to being more than they are.

Once called as Gospel Doctrine teacher, I remained in that position in Pleasant Grove, Alpine and Sandy, Utah for over two decades, only moving to teach Priesthood lessons when not in Gospel Doctrine. After decades of this, I was called as the Ward Mission Leader for two years, then onto the Stake High Council, then to teach the Priests’ Quorum. I now do Temple Preparation for those Priests who are awaiting their mission calls.

These many years of teaching required me to study the scriptures daily, to be able to give lessons that would edify. There was not a day that went by when I did not study the scriptures for these decades.

This background is required for you to understand how I have come to my understanding on this subject. Not that I matter at all, but the doctrine does. It is the doctrine that will save you, not man. But you may want to understand better the background of the man who is writing about this doctrine.

If the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is viewed as conferring revelation and opening the scriptures to your mind (as Joseph and Oliver recount in the JS-H), then I have received this endowment. If it is viewed as requiring ministering of angels, then I affirm I have received this endowment, also; not to make any personal claim, but to testify and affirm these things are not ancient, or distant. They are intended to continue in our own day. They are meant for all – including you.

Power in the Priesthood, Conclusion

All things are governed by God’s will. In general conference we are taught that we cannot have the Holy Ghost as our companion unless we are obedient and faithful. In a recent example, President Eyring explained how behavior such as looking at “images which incite lust” or inappropriate Internet or media access to pornography, or even immodesty or vulgarity will forfeit the companionship of the Holy Ghost. (God Helps the Faithful Priesthood Holder) This is describing how the Holy Ghost is a temporary visitor with most people, even in the church.

The power of priesthood, however, is speaking about a higher order of things. In that order the Holy Ghost is a “constant companion.” (D&C 121: 46.) These individuals are no longer wishing they had power in the priesthood, because they have obtained knowledge through the things they have done and the pattern they have followed. They have invoked the law ordained before the foundation of the world and have obtained the associated promised blessings.

The scriptures rarely speak about the instruments of power. In the context of priesthood, however, the Lord does use the image of “scepter”–an indication of wielding the power of God; as well as “dominion” –an image of acting with God’s appointment over a charge or stewardship or message given to you by Him. But in this revelation it is used as a symbol to show a connection of the individual to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. (Id.) The revelation ties “scepter” to “an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth” coming once “virtue” has “garnished thy thoughts unceasingly.” In other words, you have come to see the difference between “virtue” and positive, directed action undertaken on the Lord’s behalf and at His insistence through the Holy Ghost.

This is how priesthood power is acquired. It is how all prophets, from Adam to the present, have been called of God and then endowed with power by Him. It is a principle of action, requiring you obey the law under which this power is conferred. It connects you to Him. For He alone is the source of power.

Truth and righteousness go together, but truth requires you to see things as they really are (D&C 93: 24), not through a distorted lens that tells you all is well when it isn’t (2 Ne. 28: 24). No person can behold the truth unless they are willing to be righteous, and act on what they learn. If they are willing, they will have a scepter forged in the truth and righteousness, in which they see clearly, as if standing in bright daylight while all around them people wander in darkness. (D&C 50: 23-24.)

Such a process gives man dominion over lusts, ambitions, pride and desire to succeed in this world or to have its praise. They follow their Lord and do as He did. (Matt. 26: 39.) They know Him because they have offered sacrifice for Him in the same pattern as He did. Having obtained dominion over their own desires, they are given that dominion everlastingly, for “[their] dominion shall be an everlasting dominion” and they have overcome the flesh. (D&C 121: 46.) The Lord overcame the world. His followers must overcome the world. (D&C 63: 47.) When you subdue the desire to be something in this world and lay everything on the altar other than your love of God, you have won the victory. Then the “god of this world” has no claim upon you; for you belong to another.

When the followers of the Lord have gained dominion over their ambitions and lusts, thereby overcoming the world, they receive an everlasting dominion which will allow them to go no more out into the world. They have learned the principles by which all things are governed, and by their knowledge “and without compulsory means it shall flow unto [them] forever.” (D&C 121: 46.) It is not “compulsory” because they follow the Lord, act with constraint of the Spirit, and know they cannot compel men to come to salvation. They have been taught the three grand truths by which God governs. They can invite, testify, and teach, but they cannot use compulsion. Therefore, they have arrived at the point it is possible to understand the doctrine of the priesthood. They live it, therefore they understand it. They are it, and their understanding reaches into heaven itself.

Joseph knew this. It was revealed to him, and to us through him, but to understand it we must live it like Joseph lived it. For the doctrine is understood only in the doing. (John 7: 17.) To everyone else it remains only a matter of mystery, or of abuse when they pretend to things which are not given to them.

Everything is in the scriptures and before us all. So we are all accountable for knowledge we claim we possess. Therefore, since we claim to have “all truth” and to offer “salvation” to all the world, even the dead, we will be judged by the standard we claim to hold. It would be wise, therefore, to begin to give careful heed to the scriptures.

The Importance of Scriptures

As a sign of the Lord’s keen interest in the scriptures He pointed out to the Nephites they had neglected to include Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy in their records. He admonished them to “search the prophets” who had testified of Him. (3 Ne. 23: 5.) Samuel the Lamanite was an outsider, whose ethnic identity was with the largely apostate enemies of the Nephites. His genealogy was not kept among the Nephites. He did not live among them. Where he came from and where he went afterwards was apparently unknown to the Nephites. None of that mattered to the Lord, because the Lord sent him.

Samuel had no Nephite credentials. Everything necessary to assess his relevance is summed up by the Lord: “Verily, I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people[.]” (3 Ne. 23: 9.)

When he spoke, Samuel modestly stated his credential: “Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart[.]” (Hel. 13: 5.) And, “behold, an angel of the Lord hath declared it unto me[.]” (Hel. 13: 7.)

Samuel warned them they were condemned because of their love of riches. (Hel. 13: 20-22.) This love caused them to be filled with “great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities.” (Id. v. 22.) Samuel warned them they boast they would have accepted the true prophets and not persecuted them (Hel. 13: 25), but they were worse than their predecessors because “if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquites, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.” (Hel. 13: 26.) In contrast, when a man comes to declare the people are righteous, and do not need to repent, but all is well with them, such a man “ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.” (Hel. 13: 27-28.)

Though the Nephites rejected him, and he fled from among them, when the Lord came He acknowledged He had sent Samuel. He criticized the Nephite records for neglecting to include the full extent of Samuel’s prophecy, asking “How is it that ye have not written this thing[?]” (3 Ne. 23: 11.) The content of scriptures should always reflect the Lord’s words, no matter the source He elects to speak them.

This example from the Book of Mormon is a clear warning intended for our day. Christ’s admonition to “Search the prophets” is just as important an admonition now as it was then. So the challenge remains to keep ourselves ready, and listen to the words of the Prophets. It is our common misconception, however, that there will never be another Samuel the Lamanite who is an outsider and without credentials to be given a message for us by the Lord. We expect that if there is a message for our day it will come from the head of the church, not some obscure outsider, like Samuel. We imagine it is always safe to disregard such characters. It is curious, however, that the Book of Mormon, which is the “most correct book” includes this odd departure as an example. It is odd the Nephites never figured out our system. It is so much better than theirs was. We really are a royal generation, the most blessed of all who have ever lived! We never face such a test, because we imagine we have an authorized source of truth, an institutional charisma that can never fail, and through which we can never be led astray. The Lord has made it so much easier for us in our day. It somehow makes sense to us, but leaves me wondering if the Lord ought not apologize to the Nephites for making it so much harder for them. Then there is that unfortunate recent announcement by the church a few days ago about church leaders speaking “in the absence of revelation” which complicates these questions.

It makes me wonder if our eternal salvation depends on sorting out the truth from error. Or, alternatively, if it matters in the more immediate unfolding history preliminary to the Second Coming and the whole earth being cursed if we get it wrong.

2 Nephi 31: 8-9

2 Nephi 31: 8-9:

“Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.  And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.”
 
This is an interesting cause-and-effect. Once Christ was baptized, “the Holy Ghost descended upon Him” as a result of the baptism. Now, true enough an ordinance was instituted by which hands are laid upon a person, post-baptism, where the “gift of the Holy Ghost” is bestowed. This practice was instituted by Christ. (Acts 8: 14-17.) However, in the case of Christ’s own baptism, no hands were put upon Him. He was baptized. The Holy Ghost descended upon Him.

It is clear that baptism is a gate through which all must pass.  Immediately after the ordinance, the Holy Ghost must become the companion of those who are redeemed.

Christ set the example. We are obligated to follow the example.

Receiving baptism without also receiving the Spirit renders the event incomplete. Nephi will explain the essential nature of the Holy Ghost in the redemption process in a few more verses. It is clear that the Holy Ghost is the instrumentality by which redemption itself comes. The Spirit is the guide which will lead back to the Lord’s presence. Without the guide, the doctrine of Christ is incomplete.

The water is something that we must pass through to keep the law.  It is the companionship of the Spirit which makes you justified, by leading you to do what is right. It is the resulting application of Christ’s blood on your behalf that will sanctify you. (Moses 6: 60.) You cannot receive sanctification without first receiving baptism and then also the Holy Ghost.

 
 If there is no other way, and all must comply, then the way is both “strait” and “narrow.”

Christ’s example is the only one for us to follow to obtain hope for our own salvation. He is the “prototype of the saved man” (Lecture 7, Lectures on Faith, paragraph 9). If it was necessary for Him, it is the more necessary for us.

Baptism is one thing, accepting the Holy Ghost is another. The one is objective, and openly visible when the act happens. The other is internal, involving welcoming a member of the Godhead into your life.

I remember kneeling on an Atlantic beach in the cool sand at the setting of the sun on the day of my baptism. The Atlantic is cold in September, and I was chilled from the ordinance, still wet while kneeling, and shivering as the elders began the ordinance.  When, however, they said: “receive the Holy Ghost” I remember becoming warm, beginning at my scalp and flowing downward until my entire body was warm and calm. It was palpable. It was physical. To me the experience was no less dramatic than the descent of the Holy Ghost “in the form of a dove” on the day of Christ’s baptism. It was every bit as objective, as physical and as memorable as any other distinct event in my life.

More importantly, I began to experience the fruits of that event immediately. What followed for me, within the hour of my baptism, was akin to what Joseph and Oliver experienced. (JS-H 1: 73.)  Within days I found also that the scriptures began to have far more distinct and clear meaning than ever before, again just as Joseph and Oliver found. (JS-H 1: 74.)

It was clear to me that the Holy Ghost imparts something altogether more significant than what I alone could do, understand, or accomplish. It expanded capacity, enlightened and informed the mind, and led to understanding things which were unknown and unknowable before.

This process is not just mandatory. It is a far superior way to experience life than to live alone, without God in the world.  (Alma 41: 11.) It is a blessing, a gift. The “gift of the Holy Ghost” is, without question, the great “gift” coming from God to aid us in our return to Him.

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