The work of three women (volunteers) to provide a means for raising funds for a temple has taken many months. They have consulted with lawyers and accountants to advise them. Many dead-ends have been explored in their attempt to find the means to raise funds for a temple.
There are numerous laws, both state and federal, which regulate fund raising by an organization. But they do not want a regulated business or charitable entity, nor do they intend to invite legal supervision that may permit fund raising today, but regulate and control by force what is built tomorrow. This is intended as God’s house, and His authority alone is to be respected there.
After months of work, I met with the women this morning. Tomorrow an announcement will be available from them, and I will post it on this website.
Baptism for the dead first appears in scripture in Paul’s writings where he mentions the practice in passing. (1 Cor. 15:9.) Because it is only a lone-reference and not an explanation, it is not enough of a scripture-basis to build any clear understanding,
The idea of work by the living for the dead is not mentioned to include any ordinance in the promised return of Elijah. The prophecy of his return is vaguely described as “turning the hearts of the children to the fathers” and the father’s hearts in turn to the children. However vague this passage may be, it is clearly important because this prophecy is repeated in all volumes of scripture (Old T, New T, Bk of Mormon, D&C, PofGP). Joseph elaborated on the meaning of Elijah’s return and role as part of the justification for baptism for the dead and other temple rites.
There is a relationship between ascension in this life and the right to ascend in the afterlife which is mentioned, but not well explained, in scripture. It is undeniably present in one verse of the D&C. That verse states:
“All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, … by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed [meaning Christ], … are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.”
There are two ascents. One is temporary and happens when men are “caught up,” but then return to this world. It represents overcoming the world and returning the individual back to the presence of God. It is called “redemption from the fall” (Ether 3:13) because it brings the individual back into God’s presence. That form of temporary ascent is designed to establish a covenant or promise related to the other, more gradual ascent through development of the individual. The temporary mortal ascent secures a promise for the individual that they will be permitted to make the eternal ascent to where God and Christ dwell in the afterlife.
The second form is the actual ascent, involving redemption and securing eternal life. It is a methodical process over eons of time to bring those who ascend to reside where God and Christ dwell. (D&C 76:62, 112.) In the King Follett Discourse Joseph Smith said this:
“Thus you learn some of the first principles of the gospel, about which so much has been said. When you climb a ladder, you must begin at the bottom and go on until you learn the last principle; it will be a great while before you have learned the last. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it is a great thing to learn salvation beyond the grave.”
This is the growth, by degrees, which results in exaltation. “Here, then, is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God. And you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves–to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done–by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.” (Id.)
The second form of ascent cannot happen in mortality, but is accomplished over time. It requires attaining to the resurrection, meaning that death has no claim on you because you merit eternal life. This is what Christ gained in His life and through His sacrifice here. We are dependent upon His merits to overcome death. But we will have to attain the same thing before we finish the second form of ascent. Christ is the “prototype of the saved man” and we must “be precisely what he is and nothing else” or not be saved according to the Lectures on Faith. (Lecture Seventh, Paragraph 9.)
For mortals, the first form of ascent is possible. The scriptures, in particular the Book of Mormon, contain accounts of those who have ascended to God’s presence and overcome the fall of mankind. Many Old Testament prophets did likewise, but their accounts were redacted by the Deuteronomists because of hostility to the doctrine. The reality is that most people, even very good believing people whose lives are filled with Christian charity and love for their fellow man, are not going to ascend even temporarily while they live in this fallen world. The first ascent is covenant-filled. God brings us before Him to establish a covenant assuring the eternal ascent. Most people will ascend over eons, because that process is based on the determination and commitment people have to follow God and His Christ.
In this fallen world, the great challenge is to lay hold of the covenant right to ascend to God’s throne. (Rev. 3:20-21.) It is true that God is no respecter of persons and everyone CAN, but the truth is that very few will obtain the covenant while in the flesh.
In His mercy, God has made provisions for all people. He loves all mankind equally, has planned for allowing those good and believing people who will not qualify in their own right to ascend the “mountain of the Lord” into His presence to receive it through more ordinary means. God’s purposes cannot be defeated, even by man’s weakness. God has other means to qualify people to be His covenant family.
The purpose of a temple (meaning an actual temple commissioned, ordered, blessed, accepted and visited with His presence) is to substitute for the temporary ascent of a mortal into God’s presence. A real temple becomes “Holy Ground” and the means for making available to faithful people in every state of belief and hope the opportunity to receive, by authorized means, the same covenant, obligation, association, expectation and sealing through an authorized and binding arrangement in sacred space. This is the same thing they can receive from God directly if they enter into His presence while still in the flesh. In effect, the temple becomes an extension of heaven. God, angels and mankind are able to associate there as in Eden. It is a return to Eden, where “God walks in the cool of the day.” (Gen. 3:8.)
The ordinances or rites of the temple are presented in ritual form. This is required. God’s House is a House of Order because it is reoriented to point away from this world in order to reflect the order of heaven and the actual eternal ascent into His presence. The volume of information conveyed by God would be too vast to set out in non-ritual form. In ritual, it is possible to convey a great body of information with symbolism, metaphor, relationships, and types that work on the mind of man the same way that visionary experiences directly with God convey. The mind is expanded and the ritual allows something of God’s viewpoint to be transmitted into the mind of man.
The temple has only one real purpose: To convey God’s promise to exalt those who experience it; provided they abide the conditions for exaltation. It portrays the real, second eternal-form of ascent in a way that gives the initiate a promise that if they walk in the path shown them they will arrive at the Throne of God in the afterlife.
A real temple is required for Zion because it is the mechanism for reorienting society. Through it, the standard of conduct for ordering peaceful lives is established, and society becomes centered on the temple for law, education, social structure, government and coexistence. A real temple is a repository for knowledge and learning. It will include a library for study, teaching and learning. A real temple is indispensable for Zion because such a society is always built upon a heavenly pattern of cooperation and equality, making a city of peace or city of righteousness possible. It is the means to provide people with the information necessary to allow them “to govern themselves.”
Since the temple can easily become corrupted, and the things revealed there can cause greater wickedness if men knew of the great revelation of heaven, the times when an actual temple with all the attendant contracts, bonds, obligations, covenants, performances and expectations are set out plainly have been few indeed. The Lord visited a damaged temple in Bountiful to minister to the Nephites. The events at Bountiful mirror the highest ideals and instruction of the LDS Temple. In the Nephite record. the Lord conducted ceremonial revelation which extended beyond what men are allowed to openly reveal. The Book of Mormon does not contain a full record of what transpired. Recording it was forbidden.
The pattern of treating some things as off limits is not only set out in the visit of Christ to the Nephites, it is repeatedly the case in scripture. As Paul said, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9.)
There is also D&C 76:114-118:
“But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.”
I preach, teach, exhort and expound to encourage every soul to rise up in this life and make the first ascension to God while in the flesh. Some have done so. Others will. Perhaps a great many will. I hope so. But if there are believers who cannot or will not do so in this life, the temple is the means God will provide to allow the “least of the Saints” to likewise obtain a hope in Christ by an authorized covenant which will bind on earth and in heaven. Then they become likewise heirs of salvation and part of the great congregation to whom the Lord will proclaim: “Well done!” They will have a legitimate and authorized means for laying ahold of the promise of eternal life and continuing the long path of ascent to the Throne of God to dwell with Him and Christ.
The LDS version of temple rites is insufficient to allow anyone to obtain the right to ascend to God’s presence in eternity. The Lord will fix this, as He intends to establish an Ensign to which all nations (meaning scattered covenant Israel) will return in the last days and there receive their crowns at the hands of servants who will minister covenants for this purpose (D&C 133:31-34).
Mankind has generally failed to rise up to the place where God and mankind can meet. He has offered to do so repeatedly. His lament, “How oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks, but ye would not” (3 Ne. 10:5) is not just empty rhetoric. It is the actual, historical fact of how men have responded to God. God offers. We refuse. God withdraws. Generations come and go and God offers again. We refuse. God withdraws. Time passes. Again, He speaks and makes the offer.
You mustn’t confuse the fact I hear His voice and teach what He asks with any personal significance on my part. I have no value for others’ salvation – the second form of ascent. That role is confined to Christ alone. He is the “keeper of the gate” and “employs no servant there.” (2 Ne. 9:41.) But what I am teaching is true. What I am saying is not speculation or conjecture.
The people who went before, and are now beyond this veil are real. They still live, just in a different state. They still care about us. They were resurrected with Christ and are working as our fathers in heaven (D&C 132:37) to cause the fulfillment of covenants made long ago to them in their generation. God is behind the last-days effort to vindicate His word. Whether we like who He sends, or believe what He is doing, or even recognize His involvement, it is nevertheless the case that God is involved very directly in bringing about the accomplishment of His foretold latter-day work.
The “stone cut out of the mountain without hands” (Dan. 2:44-45) is not a corruptible institution but an incorruptible Gospel.
There is no organization currently ministering the “gift of the Holy Ghost” as a right conferred upon an individual to remain always with them. There is an admonishment directing people to: “receive the Holy Ghost.” That admonishment is directed to the individual as advice, counsel or an objective to seek for, not as a right conferred indelibly upon them. (See, David Bednar, Receive the Holy Ghost, April 2010 General Conference; That We May Always Have His Spirit To Be With Us, April 2006 General Conference.) As recently as the Sunday morning session of the last LDS conference, President Eyring explained the limits of the LDS connection to the Holy Ghost. “We desire it, yet we know from experience that it is not easy to maintain. We each think, say, and do things in our daily lives that can offend the Spirit.” (The Holy Ghost as Your Companion.) Anyone of any faith anywhere in the world can have the same experience as a transitory gift from God. (Moroni 10:4-5.) Remember God gives liberally to all; the wicked and the righteous. People of faith throughout the world have as much access to the Holy Ghost as a latter-day saint. If it were not so, the LDS missionaries could not advise an investigator to pray and ask God – pointing out Moroni 10:4. If it were not so, Joseph could not have asked God relying on the promise of James 1:5. There is nothing special about the LDS admonishment, but it is a good, worthy and correct principle which all mankind ought to follow. If they do, no matter what their faith traditions, they will harvest the same results as those spoken of by President Eyring in the last LDS general conference.
Christ, however, can give the permanent gift of the Holy Ghost by His touch. (3 Ne. 18:36; Moroni 2:1-3.)
There are no “sealing” keys used by any Mormons in their temple rites: “Brothers and sisters, if you are true and faithful the time will come when you will be called up and anointed kings and priests, queens and priestesses, whereas now you are only anointed to become such. The realization of these blessings depends on your faithfulness.” It, like the Holy Ghost, is conditioned on your faithfulness. This same promise is made to all mankind by the Lord. (See, e.g., D&C 14:7; D&C 96:6; Alma 11:40; Moroni 7:41.)
Christ can and does seal a man up to eternal life. (See, e.g., Mosiah 26: 14, 20; Enos 1:5-8; D&C 132:49; 1 John 2:25.)
Institutions who use fear to control the hopes and aspirations of mankind concerning eternal life are in the gall of bitterness. Fear is of the devil. When the final remnant is gathered, they will have shepherds who remove fear. (Jeremiah 23:2-5.) When we are prepared by Christ, and by His word alone, we will not fear. (D&C 38:30.)
If we are warned we should warn others. But the Lord has instructed: “And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness.” (D&C 38:41.)
Can LDS Temple ordinances have “power?”
It is an interesting question. The answer depends on each individual who participates. The ordinances can be either meaningless (or worse) or they can be beneficial.
Temple rites communicate information through symbols. If we look at the underlying meaning, and see more light and truth through them, then they can powerfully instruct and edify.
The rites warn us we need to be “true and faithful in all things” when we seek “further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil”–which is very good. Faithfulness to what light we’ve been given is a prerequisite for getting more light. Knowing that gaining further light and knowledge is possible, actually expected, is essential. Believing that God will converse with us is also foundational to salvation.
Perhaps the greatest idea is that we can converse with God through the veil preliminary to entering into His presence. In that idea is found the promise of communication with God, followed by Him allowing us to visit with Him through the veil. Every soul who has faith in that and acts consistent with their faith will obtain the most glorious assurances from God. They will not be barren or unfruitful in their knowledge.
If the rites are viewed as some authoritative guarantee of something in the afterlife, without regard to our need to search, they can be destructive. Instead of a humility and meekness before God, the false idea that the rites make you special, chosen or better than others can lead to pride and arrogance. That separates us from God. It increases the distance between ourselves and the light of truth. Such an approach makes the rites a tragic and negative misstep instead of a blessing.
I would encourage everyone to reflect on the message of the temple rites. In the right frame of mind, their symbols are useful. The form presently presented in LDS Temples is still a useful collection of symbolic teaching about the mortal quest to find God.
“[F]or ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Cor. 6: 16.)
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: 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 commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.” (D&C 93: 1.)
Nephi states straightforwardly why he uses the Isaiah material in his own prophecy. It is in Nephi’s record, but the statement comes from his brother Jacob. Nephi records what is apparently his brother’s first address.
The stage is set for the sermon in 2 Nephi Chapter 5. Here we learn of the construction of a temple by the Nephites. The temple dedication ceremonies are left out of the account. It is an interesting omission. By chapter 6 the temple is in service.
Jacob’s sermon could very well have been both the event marking the commissioning of the temple, and the first sermon delivered to the people in the structure. Nephi put this into his account because he obviously approved of the sermon and wanted it preserved for all time.
Jacob states this:
“the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel.” (2 Ne. 6: 5.)
-What does “likened unto you” mean?
-Is there a difference between something literal and being “likened?”
-Does that difference matter?
-What about the limitation Isaiah spoke about “all the house of Israel?”
-Does the Book of Mormon designation of the European bloodlines that would displace the Lamanites as “gentiles” disqualify the gentiles from “likening” the words to them?
-Does the Book of Mormon promise that the gentiles can be “numbered” with the house of Israel allow the same “likening” to apply to the converted gentiles? (2 Ne. 10: 18; 3 Ne. 16: 13; 3 Ne. 21: 6; 3 Ne. 30: 2.)
Assuming the words can be “likened” to you, then what does that mean? Are the words to be taken as an analogy to guide us or as a promise given to us?
Jacob explains the analogy he wants to draw to the Nephites beginning in 2 Nephi Chapter 9. It is instructive.
Nephi ‘went to school’ on his younger brother’s example. He fills 2 Nephi with Isaiah’s words. Then, in the closing chapters of his book, he provides his own commentary. He ends his record in this manner. With all he had seen, with all he knew, and with all he was told to withhold from us, he uses Isaiah as his basis to teach, preach, exhort and expound to us. Much of it is addressed directly to the “gentiles” of our day. He applies Isaiah to the gentiles.
A great key to understanding Nephi’s prophecy is that he used Isaiah’s words as a tool to deliver his (Nephi’s) message. Using Isaiah’s intent will not help you. It is irrelevant. You must use Nephi’s interpretive keys in his closing chapters to understand Nephi’s intent in “likening” the prophecy to his people and to the latter-day gentiles. This is why I wrote Nephi’s Isaiah. You will be disappointed if you think it is an interpretation of Isaiah. It is not. The book is about Nephi’s message, not the words he employed to “liken” unto us. If you accept this approach you don’t need my book. You only need Nephi’s words.
As a postscript about the Perpetual Education Fund:
When President Hinckley announced it in the April 2001 General Conference he said the following:
“they will return that which they have borrowed together with a small amount of interest designed as an incentive to repay the loan.”
This was the original intent.
I’ve received many emails explaining the way the original program was compromised and poorly administered. I acknowledge there may be problems with how it turned out. But that is the responsibility of the employees at the Church Office Building. Those problems do not reflect the purity of intent by the church members who donated. I think there are a lot of people in the bowels of the Church Office Building who have performed poorly for the church. Since these are funds given by faithful members, there is a responsibility which hasn’t been kept by some of these employees.
I’ve addressed the issue of “plural wives” elsewhere. I do not believe it is a requirement imposed on those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The greatest challenge is to produce a couple who, in the image of God, are one. If a couple manage to overcome the world and become so, they do not need additional women to join them to qualify for exaltation. And if a group insists upon complicating the process by the multiplicity of wives before they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, the challenge to become one may never be overcome.
I have no doubts about the Lord’s kindness and compassion for all men and women. Therefore, I have no doubt about the circumstances of the single, or the forsaken woman who is faithful to the Gospel. There will be none who are abandoned by the Lord who are faithful to His teachings.
The role of woman is more glorious than I can explain in the present circumstances. To discuss all I know would be to violate the present order, which I will not do. But I have no hesitation to say that the “many great and important things” which are “yet to be revealed” (Articles of Faith, Article 9) will include a great deal more than presently understood about women. I do not know if that will need to wait until after the Lord’s second coming, or if it will be known to the church before then. What I do know, however, is that the full picture of woman’s past and future glory is presently withheld from man’s view in the wisdom of the Lord.
Temple rites are not complete. I’ve said that before on a number of occasions. When they are, the role of women will be greatly clarified. But it is not my calling or my right to get ahead of the Lord on such matters. What I can do, however, is to testify that among the things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man” is included a sound understanding of the role of women. It is only withheld at present because of our wickedness. What we have is enough to test us, and we are being tested. Will we ever be enough to pass the test to warrant the Lord giving more?
When we have more before we are ready to receive it then it only condemns us. The Lord is merciful in witholding such things.
What I also know is that if He will reveal things to any man He will do so to all mankind. Therefore as I said at the beginning, these are legitimate and worthy questions. They deserve an answer. Ask the Lord and trust His answer.
No man has ever been elevated to a throne in eternity who was not placed upon it by his wife.
This comment was a question I received this week: “You are hinting that we have ‘strayed from mine ordinances’ and broken the covenant as a people. Does this encourage faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? I would argue that it does not. You appear conflicted. You appear to be trying to plant seeds of doubt because of changes to the temple ceremonies over the years.”
This is a question only an idolator could ask. The question presumes the object of faith should be an institution. That is idolatry.
To the extent that the church teaches faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is of value. To the extent it teaches faith in itself, it will damn you.
Those who inherit the Telestial Kingdom, or the lowest condition in the afterlife apart from outer darkness, will keep company with liars, thieves and adulterers. (D&C 76: 103.) These damned folks, who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, (D&C 76: 106) are the ones who worship the church, but not Christ. They prefer the institutional leaders (D&C 76: 99-100) rather than receiving the testimony of Christ (D&C 76: 101).
These people are those who “love and make a lie” because the truth is not in them. (D&C 76: 103.) They lie about the terms of salvation. They substitute the commandments of men for faith in Christ. This is the heart of lying – to deceive on matters affecting the souls of mankind.
Let me be as clear as I possibly can: I am not trying to “encourage faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” That would damn anyone who would listen to me. I have tried to encourage activity in the church; to encourage payment of tithes, support of leadership, serving in callings, and living its standards. But NOT faith in the church.
I am trying to encourage faith in Jesus Christ. The Articles of Faith clarify who we are to have faith in: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Article of Faith 4.)
It is incidental to that faith that we believe in a church organization. (Article of Faith 6.) Nowhere in the Articles of Faith, nor in the scriptures does it require anyone to have “faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” for salvation.
The person (or committee) who posed the question should repent. They suffer from a damning form of idolatry, denounced in scripture, which will condemn them to hell unless they repent– if the revelations from Jesus Christ can be trusted. If they teach this as doctrine to others, they are leading them astray.
As to the other part of the question – that the temple ordinances have been changed, let me be clear on that also. Yes, they have been changed. Your question admits it. We all know that is true. They have been substantially reworked, deleted, portions eliminated, whole characters removed from the presentation, and even the parts that are identified as “most sacred” have been altered. They certainly have been changed. I leave it for each person to decide the extent to which these alterations are or are not important to them.
I will add, however, that when a Dispensation of the Gospel is conferred on mankind through a Dispensation head (like Enoch, Moses, Joseph Smith) then those who live in that Dispensation are obligated to honor the ordinances laid down through the Dispensation head by the Lord. For so long as the ordinances remain unchanged, the ordinances are effective. When, however, the ordinances are changed without the Lord’s approval [THE critical question], they are broken. At that point, the cure is for the Lord to bestow a new Dispensation in which a new covenant is made available.
IF (and I leave it to you to answer that question) you decide the ordinances are now broken by the many changes, then you should look for the Lord to deliver them again. IF (and I leave it entirely to you to decide) the many changes were authorized by the Lord and approved by Him, then you have no concerns. The covenant was not broken. Everything continues intact. It would be curious to know why He changed them. Particularly when Joseph (the Dispensation head) said that couldn’t be done. But if your confidence is in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the instrument of salvation, then you should not trouble yourself with this question. If your faith is in Christ, then take the matter up with Him and let Him explain to you what your state and standing is before Him. I know what mine is. I have no fear of His judgements.
I don’t know if I could be any more clear. Maybe I should add that if I were a church leader, I would never have agreed to any change ever to any of the ordinances. But I was not a church leader, and when the great changes were made in 1990 no one asked me to even sustain them. Those in charge imposed them. As a member, I wasn’t even afforded the chance to give a sustaining vote on the question. I have never been required to take a position, either by the church or the leaders or common consent. The church just DID it. To the extent that anyone is accountable for this, it cannot be me. That leaves everyone the freedom to decide individually what these things mean to them.
I would also add that if I’d been asked to vote I would have voted against it. Today, if the church provided periodic sessions using the earlier form, I would make it a practice to always attend only those sessions. I wish I could provide those for my own ancestors as I attend sessions now. I attended so frequently before the changes that, even today, when attending I still recite in my own mind missing portions of the ceremonies. I cannot avoid it. They are embedded and remain, despite not being present in the temple ceremony any longer.
Have faith in Christ. He doesn’t change. (1 Ne. 10: 18; 2 Ne. 27: 23; Moroni 10: 7, among many others.) I concede that it’s weird an unchanging God has a predeliction in this Dispensation of changing His ordinances. He, at least, doesn’t change. If you lose your idolatry and anchor faith in Him, you will be fine.
So, where does that leave us with the issue of “seeds of doubt?” I doubt:
-the value of sincerity
-the commandments of men
-the present generation
-the popular solutions to most problems
-Chief Justice Roberts’ reasoning
-quantative easing as a long term solution
-quantative easing as a short term solution
-the assumptions contained in the question I have answered in this post.
But I do NOT doubt Christ.
When God begins work with people, the group becomes “chosen,” and therefore the focus of His continuing efforts to save mankind. Although “chosen people” do not always remain faithful to Him, they do remain the center of His work.
A good illustration of this was during the Second Temple period in ancient Israel. Throughout this time, the people were apostate. Margaret Barker’s work reconstructing the era is perhaps as good a job as any scholar has been able to accomplish to date. Israel was led by corrupt and uninspired priests. The nation descended generation by generation until, by the time the New Testament era opened, the nation’s “king” was appointed by Rome from a well-connected family having only quasi-Jewish lineage and no real devotion to their faith. The High Priest was also a political appointment, based on family patronage and bribery.
Into this corrupt society, the dawn of a new Dispensation conformed to the old patterns of the fallen, idolatrous religion. The angel Gabriel came to Zacharias in the place and time that honored the ceremonies established by Moses.
Zacharias was in the Holy Place, before the veil of the Temple, burning incense and offering the morning prayer. The prayer asked for the light of God’s presence to return to Israel. As the cloud of incense ascended from the altar upward, symbolizing the ascent of prayers to God, Gabriel appeared on the right side of the altar. (Luke 1: 11.) This is the exact spot a person would stand if they emerged from the Holy of Holies of the Temple, conforming to the then existing religious pattern. The angel announced to Zacharias that “thy prayer is heard” (Luke 1: 13), meaning that the set prayer for God’s presence to return to Israel was accepted. The religious pattern was vindicated.
Though Israel had endured hundreds of years of apostate decline, when the time to refresh and restore arrived, the work resumed inside the existing pattern. God honored the religion of His chosen people, even though the religion was at the time fallen, worldly and apostate.
Zacharias lived among this apostate people and yet was unhindered by it. His prayer was heard, the angel was sent, and God’s promise to return to Israel was not only vindicated, but Zacharias was told he would have a son who would “go before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elias.” (Luke 1: 13, 17.)
Similarly, the prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna lived among a fallen and apostate people, but honored the traditions, kept the faith, and saw beyond the evil of their day. Each received by revelation a promise they would live to see their Lord come into the flesh. (Luke 2: 25-38.) These faithful believers, both male and female, were not hindered by the apostasy then underway.
The Lord follows the same pattern throughout, because He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Moroni 10: 19.) Therefore, once the work recommenced through Joseph Smith, and there was a “chosen people,” the work will always continue, or if necessary begin anew among the same “chosen people.” Though the gentiles will fail, as Christ prophesied would eventually occur (3 Ne. 16: 10), the work will not be abandoned.
General apostasy, therefore, cannot prevent individual participation in the fullness of God’s promises. Though it may be interrupted for three or four generations when there is rebellion (Ex. 20: 5), when it resumes it will begin among the same people where it left off.
This is the pattern of the Lord. And mankind’s failure does nothing to prevent eventual fulfillment of the Lord’s promises. (D&C 1: 38.)