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Presiding Authority

When Joseph Smith died, the crisis in succession produced arguments from various contenders who claimed it their right to lead the Church.  Although no one argued that Section 107: 22-24 controlled the decision, ultimately the decision was that the Twelve Apostles held keys to lead the Church.  A few years later the verses in Section 107 just cited became the rationale for why the Twelve would lead.


This decision was further clarified by adoption of the rule that the senior (one who held office longest) Apostle would be the presiding authority and by virtue of that seniority would be the President.  Initially he was President of the Twelve.  Then when Brigham Young reformed the First Presidency after a few years, he became President of the Church.  Then in 1955 he became the living “prophet” as well.

Since the system has now reached a stable, orderly manner of choosing and recognizing whose right it is to preside over the church, what happens if another,  more senior Apostle happens along?  Whose right is it to preside if you are required to choose between direction that comes from the presiding authority of the church or direction that comes from John (who tarries in the flesh), (D&C 7: 1-4.) or Peter, James and John?  (D&C 27: 12)  Everyone presumes the messages from those who preside over the church on the earth and those who “tarry in the flesh” will be congruent, and that there is no conflict between the messages. But query what choice should be made if there is at least some inconsistency?  Upon whom does the seniority rest?  

A simpler question is what choice should be made between the Lord and those who preside in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I think all would agree that all church authorities are inferior to the Lord.  However, we also presume that there will be no conflict between the two.  What if there is at least some inconsistency?  

It is an interesting question to ponder.  Not that I have anything to add to your reflection on the matter.  Sometimes it is just interesting to consider a question.  Like I’ve said elsewhere, answers are less important than a good question to ponder from time to time.  In the pondering, new and important ideas can occur to you.

Debate is not necessary

I am not trying to make my mind up about Mormonism or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have long ago sorted out my views.  They are not going to change.

Although my views are explained in this blog, I do not debate them.  You are welcome to have contrary views, to disagree and to think I am altogether incorrect.  But you shouldn’t waste the effort to try and persuade me to change my own view.

My testimony of Christ is informed both by what I have studied and what I have witnessed.  It has taken decades of devotion in study and living to obtain a stable, firm view of the Lord and His role in my life.  No one should expect to acquire an unchanging view of the Lord without paying a significant price in their time and effort.  I can try to help, give advice and make suggestions.   I can explain my views.  But, in the end, every person must determine for themselves what Christ means and how they intend to relate to Him.

I believe the truth exists independent of your view or my view.  Just because someone believes a false notion does not make it so.  Eventually we will all come into agreement by the things which we experience.  For most of the world, that will be some time after they are dead.

Debate is not necessary.  And I am just a lay member of the Church, without any reason for you to consider what I have to say.  Therefore, you ought to measure my views against the scriptures and the Spirit, and let the truth be the single standard for deciding to accept something.
I quoted a few ideas from Mark Twain in a post a while back.  You ought to re-read them if you don’t remember them.  They were chosen with some care.  They summarize ideas which I believe to be important.

Debate is not necessary

I am not trying to make my mind up about Mormonism or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have long ago sorted out my views.  They are not going to change.

Although my views are explained in this blog, I do not debate them.  You are welcome to have contrary views, to disagree and to think I am altogether incorrect.  But you shouldn’t waste the effort to try and persuade me to change my own view.

My testimony of Christ is informed both by what I have studied and what I have witnessed.  It has taken decades of devotion in study and living to obtain a stable, firm view of the Lord and His role in my life.  No one should expect to acquire an unchanging view of the Lord without paying a significant price in their time and effort.  I can try to help, give advice and make suggestions.   I can explain my views.  But, in the end, every person must determine for themselves what Christ means and how they intend to relate to Him.

I believe the truth exists independent of your view or my view.  Just because someone believes a false notion does not make it so.  Eventually we will all come into agreement by the things which we experience.  For most of the world, that will be some time after they are dead.

Debate is not necessary.  And I am just a lay member of the Church, without any reason for you to consider what I have to say.  Therefore, you ought to measure my views against the scriptures and the Spirit, and let the truth be the single standard for deciding to accept something.
I quoted a few ideas from Mark Twain in a post a while back.  You ought to re-read them if you don’t remember them.  They were chosen with some care.  They summarize ideas which I believe to be important.

Most answers are in the scriptures

I’ve been reflecting upon a conversation I had with a  self-described “tax protester” who has not paid income taxes and is now facing legal issues as a result.  After a couple of days of reflection I had this considered response to this dilemma:
 
I use a particular method in determining what issues I need Divine direction to resolve and what issues I need no direction from the Lord to resolve.  If there is an answer in the scriptures, contained in the teachings of Christ, then I simply do not ask the question.  Instead I assume Christ’s teachings are intended to govern my conduct and I comply.  On the tax issue, for example, Christ did not resist paying taxes.  (Matt. 17: 24-27.)  Nor did Christ teach anything other than to pay taxes.  (Matt. 22: 15-22.)  Therefore, it would not occur to me to even ask the Lord about whether or not to pay taxes.
 
When it comes to asking the Lord about something on which His teachings are already clear, a person risks receiving permission to do what will ultimately instruct them by sad example that they ought to have followed His earlier teachings.  The best example of this is when Joseph requested he be allowed to let Martin Harris take the 116 pages and was told “no.”  He persisted, and despite having been told “no,” he asked again and was then told “yes.”  The “yes” was not because God had changed His mind, but because Joseph simply refused to learn by anything other than sad experience to respect God’s counsel.  (D&C 3; D&C 10: 1-30.)
 
Therefore, when there is already an instruction on point from the Lord, and we ignore it, the answer we receive may be for our benefit.  We may need to learn by sad experience what we might have learned instead by precept and wisdom from the Lord.
 
It is this kind of experience men repeat by failing to follow God’s counsel.  Then, when they might have avoided the sting which follows, they choose instead to suffer.  Oftentimes they will blame the Lord for the hardships they brought upon themselves, when, if they had hearkened to the Lord’s counsel in the first place, they would never have had to suffer.
 
This is why it is so important to study the scriptures.  If the answer is in there (and almost everything IS in there) and we do not choose to find it, but to inquire for a new revelation instead, we oftentimes doom ourselves to a sad experience.  His counsel should be heeded.  When we don’t heed, and ask instead for new or different guidance, we may be given permission to do what He has already told us to avoid.  This is one of the great lessons from the lost 116 pages.

Promise vs. Appearance

I was asked:
 
“I’ve wondered about this for a long time.  In the blog post about ‘Why wait?‘  there is a phrase that says ‘This appearance is not merely “in the heart,” but is an actual appearance or visit.’  The ‘in the heart’  is my question.   Once in a while this concept doesn’t contradict but at the moment it seems to. In D&C 88 it says:  ‘Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise.’ So how can it be a false sectarian notion about God the Father and Jesus dwelling in a man’s heart (D&C130:3) and yet a few sections later in the D&C when referring to the second comforter it says contrary.   [Also Eph. 3: 17  says: ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.’] I at one point saw how this worked — but can’t seem to at the moment.  How do those two seemingly contradictory things work?”
 
My response:
 
To have the promise “abide in your heart” is to keep inside your heart the knowledge there is a promise given by God, who cannot lie about such matters, that you have the promise of eternal life.  This is referring to the promise, and keeping it dear to you, or in your heart.  This, of course, is not the same thing as the appearance of the Son in the form of another Comforter, as promised by Christ in John, Chapter 14, verse 18, where Christ declares:  “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”  It is the promise that the Lord will come or appear or take up His abode with you which Joseph declared to be literal.  He is saying those who believe or teach this to be merely a feeling “in the heart” are teaching an “old sectarian notion” because they deny its literal possibility.  (D&C 130: 3.)
 
The culmination of the Lord’s ministry is the promise of eternal life, as I explained in an earlier post.  But the actuality of that ministry as an appearance to a person is not merely “in the heart.”  When His ministry does culminate in the promise, then the promise should “abide in the heart” of the person to whom the promise has been given.  They ought never let it pass from within their hearts that they have obtained a promise from the Lord assuring them of life eternal.
 
These are two different subjects.  But the question is quite a good one.  Thanks for asking it.  

Isaiah 53:12

 
“Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
 
Isaiah’s report ends with the Messiah’s triumph.  Hard won as it was to be, it will qualify Him to receive a “portion with the great.”  Although the Messiah may be greater than them all, He is only to receive “a portion.”  For the suffering He endures will be to redeem others and bring them back with Himself.  There is to be no hoarding.  There is to be no selfishness.  Though He may earn it all, He will take only “a portion” and leave a “division” with others who may share in His joy.  He abased Himself, and taught all others to do the same.  (Matt. 23: 10-12.)
 
This is nothing akin to the faithful son complaining about the Prodigal.  (Luke 15: 29-30.)  Christ will not only willingly share with His lesser brothers and sisters, but He will go further and “make intercession for the transgressors.”  He is neither jealous of their sharing in His triumph, nor resentful to “divide the spoil” of His great victory.
 
Here is a Messiah indeed!  Here is a Redeemer indeed!  “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!”  (Matt. 27: 54.)
 
Despise Him and His servants, He will still condescend to succor you so far as you permit Him to do.
 
Turn your face from Him and His servants, He will still plead for you to listen.
 
Forsake and abandon Him and His servants, they will still forgive and make intercession for your errors.
 
Those who follow Him will be misunderstood, reviled, persecuted.  It is in the nature of things for this world.  He anticipated that, and gave instructions to you when you encounter it.  (Matt. 5: 10-13.)  The entire prophecy in Isaiah 53 is a description not only of the Messiah, but also of the Messiah’s children.  They will not be welcome here, for the ruler of this world has nothing for either Him or His children.  (John 14: 30.)
 
Surely Isaiah knew His Lord.

Isaiah 53:11

Isaiah 53:11 states:

“He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

The One who shall see the travail is the Father.  The Father will be “satisfied” that the suffering of the Son, the payment made for mankind’s debt of errors, has been sufficient to then inform the Son about salvation.  Without descending below, the Son would have been unable to comprehend what mankind needs to overcome.  Therefore Christ’s suffering needed to be complete.
Upon receiving the full “wrath” of sin, Christ was then able to know how to overcome all that mankind must overcome to return to the presence of the Father.  It is “by His knowledge” that Christ is able to “justify many.” He possesses the knowledge, has the experience and suffered “for all” so that they might be instructed by Him. (D&C 19:16-17.) He knows. He comprehends. By the things He suffered, He gained all that is needed to redeem, comfort and succor any man or woman in their extremity. (Heb. 2:18.)
This great burden was, however, merely His preparation; and not His completion. (D&C 19:19.)  He now uses His “knowledge” to “succor” and tutor each soul who will permit Him to minister to them. (Alma 7:11-12.)  The most complete description of what He suffered and what He gained is set out in my testimony in Come, Let Us Adore Him.
Christ has gained “knowledge” which will save each of us, no matter what we are called to pass through, if we will come to Him, heed what He tells us, and follow His encouraging counsel. There is no depth we descend to which He does not already comprehend, having been there before us.  (D&C 122:7-8.)
To overcome all sin ourselves, we must accept His guidance and counsel.  His comfort alone will rid us of our guilt. He knows how to shed the pains of sin, because He has first shed them, and therefore knows what must be done. Only in this way can we relieve ourselves of the suffering which is felt when an unclean person is exposed to God’s presence. (Mormon 9: 4-5.) He can lead you to cleansing, because He has been made completely filthy and covered with the wrath of God. (D&C 19:15-18.)
His “preparations” are complete. He can “succor” you back to God’s presence. But you must choose to allow Him to use this hard won “knowledge to justify you” before the Father. He has borne your infirmities before you bear them.  He knows how to heal from them. There is nothing which you are called to pass through that He does not already comprehend. It is this great “knowledge” which renders Him the greatest, “most intelligent of them all.”  (Abraham 3:19.)  He now has no perplexity from sin.

Isaiah 53:9 – 10

“And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”

He died among two thieves, as a common criminal, along the road leading into Jerusalem.  He would have been regarded as a criminal, worthy of the death He suffered, by any passer-by.  His grave came as it would to any “wicked” and convicted criminal.

It was a rich man, member of the Sanhedrin, who begged for the body and buried it in a new tomb.  His death was common, terrible, and worthy of the lowest member of society, but His burial would be in an honorable tomb worthy of the rich.  His honorable burial was testament to the fact He had done no violence, nor had there been any deceit come from Him.  Those wishing for a sign to confirm His honor will find it in the juxtaposition of the death He suffered and the burial He was given.
Isaiah 53: 10 says:

“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”

God will be “pleased” at the Messiah’s suffering.  His grief will be joyful to the courts of heaven.  As odd as the comment may seem, it was nevertheless the case.  We have a witness who was there, and saw the rejoicing for Christ’s suffering.  Enoch reported:
“And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life?  And the Lord said: It shall be in the meridian of time, in the days of wickedness and vengeance. And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me. (Moses 7: 45-47.)
Christ’s death and suffering caused Enoch to “rejoice” at what He had accomplished.  It was joyful.  It was triumphant.  It was the victory that would make it possible for Zion and Enoch to be redeemed.  Therefore it did please God to bruise Christ, to put Him to grief.  And the pleasure of God was in the fruits of that suffering.  It was necessary to garner the victory over the fall of mankind.  It was holy.  It was cause for great joy.
His “seed” include all mankind.  For in His triumph all who die have part.  Victory over death means resurrection will come as the shared inheritance of all those who are descendants of Adam and Eve.  As in Adam all die, even so in Christ are all made alive again.

Isaiah 53:8

Isaiah 53: 8 states:
 
“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.”
 
The idea of our Messiah emerging from “prison and from judgment” was a bit shocking to his listeners.  There is little wonder at Isaiah’s original question about who would believe the report.  Should not the Messiah emerge from a palace?  From a university (center of learning)?  From a recognized hierarchy?  From a notable family?  From respectable circles?  We would think so, wouldn’t we?
 
Because of the presumptions, we do not look for Him as a prisoner, or one against whom judgment has been rendered.  Nor do we expect His messengers to come, as they have so often in scriptures, from obscure places, bearing obscure names and having no credentials.
 
When Isaiah adds that the Messiah will be “cut off from the land of the living” he made a startling point.  The Messiah will die!  The Redeemer will not avoid death and the grave.  He will lose His life.  What follows adds to the wonder of it all:  “For the transgression of my people” will the Messiah be cut off into death.
 
Now the focus has changed.  Isaiah’s message shifts from the suffering of the Messiah into the transgression of Israel.  It is Israel’s responsibility that their Messiah must suffer so.  They will need a Messiah who will undertake this suffering, for they will not abandon their transgressions and will need a sacrifice made for them.  They will need to confront love so great that it will die to redeem them.  The proof of the Messiah’s devotion to them will be shown by His humiliation, suffering and death.  This is His proof.  This is His credential.  This is the record which will show for all mankind what great lengths God will go to reclaim His beloved people.  They transgress, He atones.  They sin and wander off as lost sheep, He pays to re-gather them with His blood.
 
His suffering may surprise them, but their surprise should be astonishment at the great love He holds for them.