For the first time since Joseph and Hyrum died, there is actual progress now being made. Instead of the atrophy of three and four generations merely marking time, we now see new life begun. There are two important, interrelated challenges before us.
The first is remembering the restoration and reclaiming its truths, ordinances and vitality. This began in earnest with the final talk given in Phoenix on September 9, 2014. Since then, hundreds have gone through the simple but necessary process to reclaim authority and obtain the now required sustaining vote to exercise that authority with God’s approval.
Fellowship groups are collecting tithing and using it to assist the poor among them, and when their group’s needs are met they support others who are in need. I have received wonderful accounts of how local groups are organizing themselves.
One group has two boxes when they meet. In one they deposit tithing, all in cash to make it easy to distribute immediately. In the other, those with needs write down their need. Following sacrament, the needs are reviewed and prioritized based on the group’s agreement of greatest need requiring the most immediate attention, and then ranking second, third, and so on. After agreement is reached, the tithing money is counted and, if all needs can be met, the funds are given to those in need. If only part of the needs can be addressed, the money is distributed according to the agreed priority.
In some accounts sent to me, children of the fellowship see the gospel in action and are impressed with the power of faith to bless and care for one another’s needs. They see this immediately. They see people ministering to one another as the result of the faith they share in Christ and the effort to obey Him.
This renewal allows the great financial power of Christ’s teachings to be fully devoted to immediate needs. No one administers the tithes, nor does anyone control the resources. Common consent is used to accomplish good and address immediate needs. No one is paid to serve, and nothing is required to support an administrative or professional class.
In this new pattern the great evil of priestcraft condemned by the Book of Mormon is avoided. No one can profit, and no one can obtain money and earn their living through this system. The poor alone receive the benefit of the tithing collected.
This pattern mirrors the one commended by the Book of Mormon:
Alma 1:26: And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God, they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.
It avoids the practice of priestcraft condemned in that same chapter:
The man Nehor preached in favor of a professional and popular clergy.
Alma 1:3: he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.
Nehor was popular because he did not preach repentance. Quite the opposite, he reassured his audience that they would certainly be saved, appealing to their pride.
Alma 1:4: And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.
In competition with this false priestcraft, there was an unpaid clergy offering an unpopular message. These true priests warned people tot repent and follow God. The Book of Mormon shows in plain simplicity the religion Christ wants mankind to follow.
The simple but necessary steps have been declared again with God’s approval. In response hundreds now have authority and several thousand have returned to the root of the restoration. These will survive the Lord’s return, because their authorized and authoritative baptism is the sign now accepted by God as proof of faith by obedience.
This will continue to roll forward. Even in this cold weather, over the last two weeks there have been baptisms in the Boise River, northern Utah, and elsewhere. It is delicate and vulnerable, but I do not believe it will go backward. The season is upon us.
This vital new growth from a dead root is a sign heaven told us to watch for in the last days. It is fulfilling the prophecy of Zenos, and the promises given by Christ. This is a new beginning. With this beginning, I think there is every reason to rejoice and take heart.
The second challenge is to see Zion gathered from among the scattered into a single place in the mountains where an ensign will be built. There the Lord will gather some under His wings, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. However, Zion must wait for strength to develop in the first fellowships.
Like men in all generations, I too want to see the foundation of Zion built in my day. This desire sometimes leads me to have unreasonably high expectations for others. This is wrong of me, and leads to my disappointment. Disappointment is always a product of expectations. Because I expect more, when I should not, I am led to want more than is possible for others to give or do. That is wrong of me, and I acknowledge my misplaced expectations.
The Lord is patient, and He knows what will follow and how it all will unfold to fulfill His promises. I have seen the potential of some of you and want that to turn into more than perhaps it ever will or can. For the last few days I have reflected on Sidney Rigdon. He was so important, useful and valuable to Joseph’s work as it began. With time, Sidney became a hindrance. So much so that Joseph asked the church to vote him out as a counselor to Joseph–but instead, the church reelected Sidney. Like Sidney, many others of Joseph’s inner circle proved themselves incapable of rising up and realizing the opportunity presented to them. In the end, Sidney and others skewed the restoration, and in may ways opposed and hindered what the Lord might have accomplished with more obedient and humble people.
In the same January 1841 revelation reminding the church it had forfeited the “fulness of the priesthood” (D&C 124:28), the Lord confirmed upon Hyrum “the office of Priesthood and Patriarch” (D&C 124:91). In Hyrum, like the prophets of old, God gave us a “prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto [God’s] church” (D&C 124:94). Hyrum was a man who could “bind on earth, bind in heaven, loose on earth, and loose in heaven” (D&C 124:93). He was the means to preserve the restoration, had he lived. By June 1844, it appears to me only Joseph and Hyrum were equal to fulfilling the Lord’s requirements.
But Joseph and Hyrum were brothers, and therefore both “pure blooded Ephriamites” (JD 2:269; see also Ensign, January 1991, Of the House of Israel). The ancient covenants required this bloodline to bring forth the Book of Mormon and commence the restoration. However, they, and the priesthood line through them, needed to end before other covenants could be fulfilled. Zion will come through both Judah (king) and Joseph (priest), to fulfill the promises of our Lord (D&C 113:5-6; Isa. 11:10). Accordingly, both Joseph and Hyrum were taken, Hyrum the first to fall.
Hyrum’s line was to be kept “in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever” (D&C 124:96). Even after the Patriarch’s office, held by Hyrum’s descendants, was discontinued in 1979, the church still held some tenuous claims. In 1979 Eldred G. Smith was released and never replaced, but he lived on for decades. The office has now altogether ended according to church publications.
Upon his death in April 2013 at 104 years of age, the sign of the passing of the fourth generation was given. By April of the next year the Lord concluded His work through the LDS Church and set His hand to begin something new, now underway.
The first process of fellowshipping in local groups today is saving souls. It is a required first step, and therefore anyone who claims to have faith in Christ must now come and receive their baptism as a sign of faith in Christ through this required manner. Even if the recipient chooses to continue activity in the LDS Church, or any other church or group, all people of faith must receive the baptism now being offered.
But the second challenge, to have Zion return, is the true object of our Lord’s heart. For that to come, the challenge is an order of magnitude greater than fellowshipping, and will require much of us.
One word of caution: new things taught using the scriptures always give pretenders, ambitious and cunning men an opportunity to improve their deception. Information can be abused, and there are those who are eager to deceive to get power, popularity and financial gain. You must assume the burden of distinguishing light from darkness, truth from error, and pretenders from those sent by the Lord with counsel from Him. Trust no man. Go to God and ask Him about everyone who teaches and everything taught.