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Scriptures, 3

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14: 18.)

“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14: 23.)

“John 14: 23 – The appearing of the Father and Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.” (D&C 130: 3.)

Scriptures, 2

“[T]hey 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.” (D&C 76: 116-117.)

“And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks.” (1 Ne. 14: 1.)

Scriptures

“[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.)

“I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God; wherefore, gird up your loins and I will suddenly come to my temple.” (D&C 36: 8; see also D&C 133: 2-3, 3 Ne. 24: 1.)

“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.)

Churches Built By Men, Conclusion

Nephi has a great deal more to say. You should look at the balance of what he foretells of our day.

Nephi pronounces “Wo” upon those in our day who “turn aside the just for a thing of naught, and say it is of no worth.” (2 Ne. 28: 16.) What does this mean?
-Who are “the just” about whom he writes?
-What does it mean to be “justified” before God?
-Does this status come with an office?
-Is being justified before God a position to be called to in an organization?
-Does God determine who is “just” before Him?
-How would you know if someone is “just” or not?
-If someone is “just” and you discard them, are you treating them as “a thing of naught?”
-What does it mean to treat the just as “naught?”
-Why is it wrong to say the “just” are “of no worth?”
-How would you change that and treat the just as having worth?

What Nephi says will ultimately provoke the Lord’s wrath. “For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish.” (2 Ne. 28: 16.) What is this referring to?
-What is the relationship between treating the “just” as “a thing of naught” and the Lord’s wrath?
-What is the relationship between treating the “just” as having “no worth” and becoming “ripe in iniquity?”
-Why are these associated in Nephi’s prophecy?
-Can I trust an organization to sort out the “just”, identify and uphold them?
-Can I ignore the Spirit when it comes to these issues?
-How can you become “fully ripe” in iniquity as a result of how you react to the “just?”

Nephi does write some very provocative prophecies about us, but they don’t seem to provoke us into thought or repentance. We seem content to eat, drink and be merry, trusting that the Lord will merely inflict a few stripes on us if we err; because after all, there is no hell. (2 Ne. 28: 8.) We have little interest in recognizing “the just” much less becoming justified before God. And being sanctified before Him is not discussed or understood any longer.

Nephi is among the most important voices for our day.

Churches Built By Men, Part 7

Nephi gives a list of destructive qualities. The list is qualified by what these traits do to men: It makes them prideful. They are “puffed up in the pride of their hearts.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) Therefore, as you read the list keep in mind this corrosive pride as part of Nephi’s warning.

The list includes:
-the wise
-the learned
-the rich. (2 Ne. 28: 15.)

It is possible to be all of these, and not be prideful. But if that is the case, then the wisdom, learning and riches of such an individual are used to elevate and serve others. They become advantages in helping the poor, the hungry, the naked and the infirm. In such cases the wisdom, learning and wealth do not become something that defines the individual. Instead, they become the tools of empathy and compassion.

In addition to the proud, Nephi adds another category, “all those who preach false doctrines.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) When it comes to corrupting the doctrine, pride is irrelevant. A person can be sincere, honest and devout, but if they preach false doctrine, Nephi condemns them. There is simply no excuse to justify preaching what is untrue or incomplete. Those doctrines will lead others to hell. Therefore, they are false ministers in the service of darkness.

There is a phrase that follows hard on preaching false doctrines. It is “all those who commit whoredoms.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) If read together, the result is this: “all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms.” This may be a single thought, or a single description. Because to leave the Lord and follow after another false source for salvation – a false god – is often described as “committing whoredoms.” If this is Nephi’s intent, then the preacher of false doctrine is condemned because they are leading others away from God.

Nephi is clear about the fate of the preachers who preach false or incomplete doctrine and lead others away from God, “wo, wo, wo be unto them.” A three-fold condemnation. They could not be saved because of their false teaching. This condemnation is not Nephi’s. He attributes it directly to God: “wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) This three-part name of God mirrors the three-fold condemnation, and it is the Lord who is speaking.

“For they shall be thrust down to hell!” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

Be careful what you preach. If you do not fully understand the Gospel of Christ, then you take a fearful responsibility upon yourself when you pretend to tell the truth. (See D&C 11: 21-22.)

Churches Built By Men, Part 6

Nephi makes a distinction between the institutions or churches of our day, and individuals. As to the institutions he declares: “They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray…” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

I think it is possible for an institution to be different from its members. I think it is possible for a “committee” to have a different mind, or intent, or constitution from the individuals who comprise the committee. In a graduate leadership course I teach in an MBA program, we examine the difference between individual behavior and group behavior. There are a lot of studies done on this topic. My view is that it is entirely possible for a group to make a decision that no single individual in the group would make on their own. It is the “group’s” decision, and does not comprise the individual thinking or mind of any of those who contributed to the outcome. Compromises, insecurities, give and take, fatigue, and conflict avoidance result in a lot of group decisions being far from what any of the participants want.

So when the institutions are condemned, I do not think that means Nephi is damning all those involved in leading. Despite this, Nephi continues: “they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ…” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

This remark makes it clear that the institutions contain humble followers of Christ. In other words, even if things are off track, people can remain on track. The challenge is always individual. It is up to each of us to focus on and be faithful to Christ. He is the Redeemer, and it is Him alone to whom we must look for our salvation.

That having been said, Nephi adds, “nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne. 28: 14.) Even humble followers of Christ  are “taught by the precepts of men” in our day. This causes them to “err” “in many instances.” Meaning that our doctrine is poorly and inadequately taught.

So what is the cure? The Book of Mormon, of course. (D&C 84: 54-57.) This is how the “humble followers of Christ” can take in pure doctrine, uncorrupted by “the precepts of men” and find their way back to repentance. It is a lifeline extended to us by prophets who wrote for our day. They wrote as solitary individuals, not as members of a committee. They held no institutional positions, office or connections pulling them in one direction or another. They wrote as the Spirit led them and as the Lord directed them. And they wrote for us.

Nephi was one of them. And he cared deeply about us to have provided this counsel and warning to us. I think it ought to be taken very seriously. Our eternity will be affected by how we apply his writings.

Churches Built By Men, Part 5

Nephi equates “robbing the poor” with misuse of wealth. Given the obligation to care for the poor, and the ultimate responsibility to have all things in common, misuse of wealth constitutes an abuse of the poor in Nephi’s warning.

I’ve considered the responsibility to build and maintain temples, and how the construction of temples has always meant the finest workmanship and materials as an offering to the Lord. It is His house after all. Therefore, I do not think the warning of Nephi has anything to do with construction of temples.

Nephi says we will “rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) If this has nothing to do with the temples, then to what is Nephi referring?

I have wondered about the City Creek project. Considering the retail portion alone, the funds used to develop the project could have funded approximately 90 temples (assuming an average cost of $30 million per temple). If you consider the office, condominium and remainder of the project, there could have been 150 temples built. The condominiums at City Creek include many priced in excess of $1 million. I “shopped” for a condo there. I found I could not afford one which would meet my needs, and if I bought what I could afford it would not be adequate. The development does indeed contain fine sanctuaries, and does bring an upscale venue to downtown Salt Lake.

Nephi does not confine his warning to us just to sanctuaries. He continues to condemn us because we “rob the poor because of their fine clothing.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) Meaning that if we cover ourselves with unnecessary expenses, we leave nothing to give to provide the poor with clothing. Our wealth is of value when we clothe the naked and feed the hungry, but of no value when we consume it for our own pleasure. (Jacob 2: 19.)

Nephi also draws the same conclusion from our attitudes and demeanor. We “persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) Our pride alone “persecutes” the meek. Instead of fellowshipping them in meekness, we “persecute” them by our arrogance.

This standard is designed to change society. It is designed to elevate us to another level in which we are closer to God. If we heeded Nephi’s warnings, we would become more unified and more equal in earthly things. If we did that, there would be abundant manifestations of the Spirit, which are presently withheld. (D&C 70: 14.)

I think Nephi understood the doctrine better than do we.

Churches Built By Men, Part 4

Nephi allows for no exception to the problems facing latter-day churches. He writes they have “all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.” (2 Ne. 28: 11.) This presents a dilemma for me. I believe the church I belong to was established by the Lord. I also believe:

-The Lord gave my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) a commission to baptize.
-Also a commission to lay on hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
-Also a commission to bless the sacrament.
-Also a commission to preach, teach, exhort, expound and spread the Gospel of Christ to all the world.

If what I believe is true (and I think it is), then how can Nephi’s all inclusive condemnation of “all” the latter-day churches be reconciled with Nephi’s criticism?

It seems to me that being “chosen” by the Lord has never, in any past dispensation among any past group of believers, had the effect of removing all errors from those who were “chosen.” Nor has it prevented them from falling into error. No matter the relationship between people and God, they have always remained free to choose. For the most part, that freedom has resulted in drifting from the truth, and the need to be reminded and called back. Or, in other words, the need for repentance.

Nephi’s message is his call to us to repent. It is his reminder of the errors which will or have crept into every church, including my own. Therefore, his message is as relevant to me, as a Latter-day Saint, as it is to any other person belonging to any other faith. Perhaps it is even more relevant to me because I actually believe in the Book of Mormon, whereas other faiths do not.

Look at Nephi’s explanation for why all churches have become corrupted: (And I would add, being “corrupted” is not the same thing as being utterly corrupt.)
-There is too much “pride.”
-There are “false teachers” who do not teach the truth.
-There are “false doctrines” which differ from what the Lord taught to save us.
-The churches are “lifted up” and “because of pride they are puffed up.” (2 Ne. 28: 12.)

Now Nephi can warn us all because he was shown us in vision and wrote scripture to caution and guide us. But I, on the other hand, can only take his instruction and examine myself. Am I caught up in these problems? Do I search for the doctrine of Christ? Can I detect false teachings? Am I willing to be stripped of pride? In other words, do I take Nephi seriously enough to examine my own beliefs and conduct?

The teachings of Nephi are challenging. But they have the power to rescue us if we will let them.

Logan Meeting

On Sunday, October 28th at 7:00 p.m. there will be a meeting in Logan, Utah at which Elder David S. Baxter, First Quorum of the Seventy and Elder Thomas M. Cherrington, Area Seventy will be speaking to the Youth and Youth Leaders.  It will be held at The Spectrum on the Utah State University campus.  I would encourage all those who are in these groups to attend this meeting.