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Abraham’s Sons

Last night I was awakened by this:

Did not Ishmael and Isaac mourn together and bury their father Abraham? Was not their father’s blood precious unto them both?

Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Isaac and Ishmael? Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Esau and Jacob?

Let Ishmael today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious still. Let Isaac likewise today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious again. For Abraham’s sake, let all the brothers who descend from Abraham now mourn when Abraham’s blood is spilled by any of his descendants.

If Abraham’s sons do not find his blood to be precious still, there remains nothing between them but the shedding of Abraham’s blood. For all his sons who fail to find Abraham’s blood to be precious will be held to account by God, who will judge between the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael, the sons of Esau and the sons of Jacob for father Abraham’s sake, with whom God covenanted.

The sons of Abraham will not be permitted to continue this disregard of their common father’s blood without provoking God, who will soon judge between Abraham’s sons.

Elder Oaks’ General Conference Talk

I am trying to understand Elder Oaks’ talk. Taking everything he said at face value, here is what I think he said:

1. Women don’t hold the priesthood.

2. Those who hold “keys” can give assignments to others who then act under the authority of the priesthood of the key-holder.

3. In the temple sisters use the authority of the priesthood to perform washings and anointings, inasmuch as they were set apart by key-holders.

4. Therefore women use the authority of the priesthood.

From this it can be surmised: Sister missionaries will be able to baptize some day using the authority of the priesthood of a key-holder. This talk was designed to accomplish what the “Ordain Women” movement wants by approaching it in two steps rather than one. It is de facto ordination, incrementally adopted by careful measures.

A Covenant With the King

King Benjamin had an an objective. Better said, the angel of the Lord had an objective in mind when the king was told what to teach. The objective is more fully explained once the people had received the lesson.

“And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them. And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things. And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy. And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.” (Mosiah 5: 1-5.)

Here is the covenant-making King Benjamin had as his assignment. The Lord saves, but uses covenant-making as a part of His process. We don’t get to make covenants, but we do get to accept them if the Lord offers them to us. It must be the Lord’s offer and our acceptance for it to have effect. Here the words that were recited by the congregation were the words King Benjamin had asked them to accept: “And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them;” (Mosiah 5: 6.) Meaning they were exactly what they’d been asked to accept as the new covenant.

King Benjamin’s record continues: “and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5: 6-7.) This was the object. To extend the Family of God by adding sons and daughters. King Benjamin’s ministry was producing fruit suitable to be laid up against the harvest (as Jacob quoted Zenos to describe).

King Benjamin expounds on the central role Christ plays in our salvation. Only by connecting ourselves to Him will we be able to qualify for what He (as our Father) has to offer. “And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.” (Mosiah 5: 8.) Or, in other words, we always remember Him that we may always have His spirit to be with us.

He continues: “And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.” (Mosiah 5: 9-10.) Since Christ is the prototype of the saved man, all who would be saved must likewise be qualified to hold this same status or be called by this same name.

King Benjamin’s religion is like the one Joseph Smith was restoring. He offered his people an authorized covenant with the King, established by heaven through King Benjamin. It is remarkable how much of the deepest Gospel truths are found in the Book of Mormon.

Throw my hands up

Today is the last day of my last temple recommend. The church didn’t ask me to return it. I’m qualified to have it. But it will expire today. It can’t be renewed, of course.

I was asked by a young fellow about sustaining leaders in the upcoming general conference. I replied, “the Lorde recently said: “I’m kind of over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air, So there.

Grand Junction Lecture

Where:
Grand Vista Hotel Ballroom
2790 Crossroads Blvd.
Grand Junction, CO 81506

When: Saturday, April 12, 2014 @ 9:30 a.m.

Seating: 125

The Poor

King Benjamin does not concern himself with all the ways it is possible to get it wrong. (Mosiah 4: 29.) Mankind gets it wrong all the time. The great challenge is to finally get it right. His sermon is an attempt to lay out how a society may finally overcome the failures and draw close to God. Individual righteousness is a rare thing in this world, but it happens more frequently than societal righteousness. King Benjamin’s talk is about societal success, or social righteousness.

Once converted, the work begins. The work, as we have seen, involves eradicating poverty by helping the needy. We are forbidden from turning away the beggar. We are forbidden from judging them. We have but one duty toward them; that is to help them.

His sermon continues: “And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.” (Mosiah 4: 24.) Even the poor are required to have a charitable heart. They may lack the means, but they cannot lack the heart. All society must have a disposition to help one another.

Unless we are willing to render aid to one another, we cannot possibly become one. Until we view the circumstances of the least member of the community from their vantage point, we cannot become one. It isn’t possible to bear one another’s burdens when we are oblivious to the burdens they bear. Alma would preach this as a requirement to be baptized. (See Mosiah 18: 8-10.) Until we are like-minded we don’t even qualify for the ordinance offered by Alma.

The Book of Mormon speaks of  the ideals that condemn us because we do not even recognize them. Even if we pretend to share the religion of those of the Book of Mormon, our social order is far from what the book preaches.

King Benjamin continues: “And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.” (Mosiah 4: 25.) Here is a failure so significant it absolutely prevents Zion. Coveting is a vile personal failure, and so foreign to becoming “one” as a people, that it is condemned in the Ten Commandments. (See Ex. 20: 17.) It prevents us from being equal. Equality is required for Zion.

When the Restoration was led by Joseph Smith, the Lord cautioned the early believers that they were required to be equal in temporal things. Because they refused to do so, they forfeited the Spiritual manifestations which necessarily accompany Zion. “Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.” (D&C 70: 14.) They failed. We do not even attempt it. We probably shouldn’t attempt it until we first repent and receive the faith the Lord once attempted to restore through Joseph Smith.

When Joseph was still ministering, the Lord foretold of a great work to be done. This work was the Lord’s to do, but even the mention of it inspired eagerness by the early converts. When hints of Zion emerged in Joseph’s prophecies, the Saints thought it was their right to have it immediately, and without the necessary patience and diligence that must precede it. They hastened to the center spot, where, as a result of the Indian Relocation Act enforced by Andrew Jackson, all Native Americans had been relocated. The line between the Indians and whites was drawn on the western border of Missouri. All eastern Indians, from Maine to Florida, had been resettled in the Indian Territory. The center of their population was, at that moment, Independence, Missouri. If the Indians were going to be taught, there was one center spot available for access by white missionaries. It was in Independence, Missouri. When Mormons attempted to cross the line and preach inside the Indian Territory, they were threatened with arrest and transport to Fort Levenworth, Kansas. At that brief moment in time, the closest they could locate to the target audience was Independence, Missouri.

By June 1844, when Joseph Smith was leaving to seek out the Remnant, the Indians had long since left the former relocation area. They were then scattered westward. Hence Joseph’s plan to go to the Rocky Mountains to find the Remnant and build the New Jerusalem.

When the Mormon missionaries located the then-closest, center spot the eager Saints filed into the area. Even if they had the right location at that moment, they were unqualified to be there. Had they followed King Benjamin’s sermon, they would have had a better chance. Instead they were anything but converted in their hearts to the kind of principles which would allow people to live in harmony with one another.

Here is how the Lord characterized the 1830’s ruinous attempt to steal Zion: “Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.” (D&C 101: 6.) Once again, covetousness in the heart is prohibited in Zion. Though the Lord may have given them a potential inheritance, they squandered it.

King Benjamin’s sermon is about the ideal. It is what the heart should have within it for the man or woman to be able to live with others equally. We will fail, like all others have failed, if we are unable to first remove the impediments within our hearts. What good would be accomplished in any age to gather together people who are unwilling to be one, unable to live in harmony with one another. We have that society already. The mantra we recite to overcome the vast inequalities and dissimilarities among us in our fractured society is “tolerance” and “non-judgment.” These are as likely to invite evil as good.

Cease to be covetous and lustful. Have a disposition to no longer do evil, but to do good. Give to those in need and succor those who you are able to succor. Then you have some chance to avoid jarring one another, contending and envying one another. There is no reason for the Lord to gather anyone until everyone He would gather has the attributes taught by King Benjamin in their hearts. Once that is done, there will be time enough to gather. But if you gather together and there is but one among you with a covetous, lustful and envious heart, there can be no Zion.

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As Soon As Converted…

As soon as his people covenanted with God to receive their redemption through the atonement of Christ, King Benjamin’s attention turns to the needs of the poor. He taught those who were converted to think of the needs of others.

This is what James would call “pure religion” (see James 1: 27; see also James 2: 14-18) because it changes the world, here and now. Instead of suffering, the unfortunate are ministered to by others because their religion requires it of them. King Benjamin’s instruction to those who covenanted with God to apply the atonement on their behalf was: “ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of you succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.” (Mosiah 4: 16.)

There was no room for judging the needy. There was only the obligation to give. As he counseled: “Perhaps thou shalt say: the man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor  impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just–” (Mosiah 4: 17.) Maybe the beggars in your life deserve to suffer. Maybe it is their fault. Maybe they shouldn’t have used drugs, or behaved so poorly they lost their jobs, or run away from home and family who would have cared for them if they hadn’t strayed, or any number of other circumstances to conclude “their punishments are just.” Maybe they are all at fault. Maybe they do deserve your condemnation, not your help. Maybe you are facilitating their wickedness. Maybe you are enabling their irresponsibility. Yes, maybe you shouldn’t help, after all…

King Benjamin anticipates this and warns you: “But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this  the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perish forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 4: 18.) If you judge the beggar this way, even if you are right about their “punishments” being “just,” then you have need to repent. You have no right to do this. You will not be forgiven by God, and cannot enter His kingdom. You are to help the beggar. That is all.

“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4: 19.) You occupy the same relationship to God as the beggar occupies to you. If you have the ability to help, then you must. You only have what you possess in this life as a result of God’s mercy and kindness to you. Therefore, even if you think you “deserve” what you own because you worked hard for it, you are nevertheless a beggar whose very existence is drawing upon God’s power to live, and move and have your being. (Mosiah 2: 21.)

King Benjamin warned us: “if ye judge the man who putteth up his  petition to you… and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God. …I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him.” (Mosiah 4: 22-23.)

This has been in our Book of Mormon since 1830. But we hear the only way we are to help the poor should be through Fast Offerings, institutionalizing our charity. I doubt that would satisfy King Benjamin. I doubt there will be collective salvation. I’m certain there is no such thing as group-charity sufficient to qualify you to avoid individual condemnation for refusing the beggar who asks you individually to help.

Remember this is the subject addressed by King Benjamin to those who have entered into a covenant with God to obtain a remission of their sins.

The Gospel’s Effect

The people King Benjamin addressed were brought to repentance, but it is the record of their repentance that is so relevant to us today. Keep in mind that King Benjamin’s record was originally composed about a century and a quarter before Christ. At that time the Law of Moses was in effect. The version we have in the Book of Mormon was abridged by Mormon about four centuries after Christ. Therefore, we have a record which is both pre- and post- Christ. Mormon’s abridgment was intended, however, for a latter-day audience. He saw our day. Before finishing his father’s record, his son, Moroni, described us in detail and even foretold that those whose religion would be based on his record would not only pollute God’s holy church, but would use it as the means of “getting gain.” (Mormon 8: 33-38.) Mormon also knew his civilization was passing away as he made his abridgment. (Mormon 6: 1.) I conclude that the account of the repentance process was primarily intended as a message to the latter-day gentiles who would receive the record.

King Benjamin’s audience cried out in prayer this petition to God: “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.” (Mosiah 4: 2.) What strikes me about this prayer is that today we would identify this with the Evangelical/Born Again Christian approach to a religious experience. It is a confession of belief coupled with a request for forgiveness. Latter-day Saints belittle this approach. We claim that much more is needed, including certain authoritative rites and ordinances. Ultimately, that may be part of God’s plan, and certainly Christ’s own example informs us that baptism was required even of Him “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3: 13-15.) But the ordinances are signposts that provide an outward proof of inward change. Here, in the account of King Benjamin, we have the focus entirely upon the inward change. This is the “weighter” part of the process. Christ condemned those who observed the ordinances, but failed to exercise mercy and faith; the inward target of the outward observance. (See, e.g., Matt. 23: 23.) There is some considerable peril in being too proud of your ordinances. They have displaced the inward, weightier part of the Gospel in past dispensations, and certainly can do so again. Satan has no new tricks. The old ones seem to work so well, there is little reason to introduce some new road for apostasy. Pride in ordinances as the ticket for salvation works every time it is tried. It’s a little thing, but little things count when the measurement is taken against perfection.

The effect of this inward change of heart is also recorded in King Benjamin’s account. It is the universal evidence which comes from God to all those who find saving grace. “The Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which King Benjamin had spoken unto them.” (Mosiah 4: 3.) From this we learn:

-The Spirit of the Lord is the testifier and witness of salvation (witnessing to the saved)
-There is joy when you receive the Spirit
-Sins are remitted, because the Spirit cannot dwell in unclean vessels (the vessel is cleansed)
-Your conscience is clear because you no longer carry your sins
-All of this is the product of faith
-Faith comes as a consequence of being ministered to by one authorized by God, as was King Benjamin.

That last point was one which Joseph Smith also taught. Joseph said: “Whenever men can find out the will of God and find an administrator legally authorized from God, there is the kingdom of God, but where these are not, the kingdom of God is not. All the ordinances, systems, and administrations on the earth are of no use to the children of men, unless they are ordained and authorized of God; for nothing will save a man but a legal administrator; for none others will be acknowledged either by God or angels.” (TPJS, p. 274.) It is for this reason that King Benjamin and Mormon include the final ingredient in verse 3: “according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” They heard the truth from one sent by God, had faith in Christ as a consequence of that, believed, asked and experienced the fruit of conversion. This is how Christ’s Gospel works. (Romans 10: 17.)

The Gospel, when it makes its brief appearances upon the earth, comes in the same way as we find recorded in this record of King Benjamin. Those who receive the message, believing it to be from God, having faith to ask God for their part in Christ’s atonement, can likewise receive their own inward confirmation; their own experience akin to that described in Mosiah 4: 3.

An unchanging God has an unchanging Gospel. Rather than taking pride in your ordinances, view yourself in your lost and fallen state. Start there, and rebuild your faith through repentance. Once you’ve cleansed the inward part, there will be time to worry about the outward later.