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God’s Many Works, Part 3

This brings us to King Benjamin’s explanation of our relationship with God. He explained our utter dependence in these words:

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another— I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. (Mosiah 2: 20-21.)
Is God the one who “created you?” If He “created you” then what of mankind is co-eternal with God? (D&C 93: 29; see also TPJS p. 353: “The mind or intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself.”) But what is “intelligence” or the mind of man? Intelligence is co-equal with the Father because it flows from Him in His exalted state. It is His glory. “Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made” because it exists as a part of the Father’s existence. (D&C 93: 29.)

Intelligence is God’s glory or His power. “The glory of God is intelligence.” (D&C 93: 36.) This glory is also called “light and truth.” (Id.) Or, in other words, light and truth emanates from God the Father, and is co-extensive with Him. This light and truth is also called intelligence. This is what conscience is made from. This is the power by which man comes into existence. It is as eternal as the Father Himself because it exists as part of His glory.

According to King Benjamin, God the Father created you “from the beginning.” What does it mean to have created you “from the beginning?” Whose beginning? Ours? What does it mean that He has “kept and preserved you?” What does it mean that He has “granted that ye should live?” Without the Father’s power would we no longer live? 
What does it mean that God is “preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath?” Could we not breathe without borrowing the power to do so from God?
What does it mean that we are able to “live” because of God’s power? How dependent on God are we if we use His power to “live and move?” How utterly reliant are we on His power if it is Him who is “even supporting you from one moment to another?”
What is this relationship between God’s power, which proceeds forth from Him, and sustains not only planets, stars and our sun, but also us so that we live?
This power is:
-preserving us,
-comes from the Father, and
-causes everything to exist by its power.
Therefore, the “light of Christ,” which is in and through all things, is co-extensive with the Father’s “glory,” or “intelligence,” or in other words “light and truth.” (D&C 93: 36.)
This “light of Christ” or Holy Spirit, or intelligence, or glory of God, or power, or light and truth, or mechanism is important to recognize. But until you recognize it is the power by which you exist, that sustains you from moment to moment and lends you the power to live and breathe, you haven’t yet appreciated the concept you are trying to assign a word. It is only vocabulary. The underlying idea remains hidden even if you have a vocabulary for it.
Coming next is the other part of the equation.

God’s Many Works, Part 2

Section 88 continues the explanation with the following:

And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; (D&C 88: 11.)

This is not just environmental. This is now touching you. It is the “light of Christ” which “enlighteneth your eyes.” What does that mean? Could you see if this were withdrawn?

What does it mean that the “light of Christ” is what “quickeneth your understandings?” Without the light of Christ would you be able to understand anything? How intimately are you connected to the “light of Christ?” How dependent are you on His light?

It continues:

Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. (D&C 88: 12-13.)

We have been reading about Christ and the “light of Christ” which empowers all of this creation. But now the source from which it proceeds is being identified. This “proceedeth forth from the presence of God.” Who is this referring to? Is this Christ still?
Who “sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity?” Who “is in the midst of all things?” Is this still Christ? 
Steven saw Christ in heaven standing beside the Throne of the Father. (Acts 7: 56.) Joseph and Sidney saw Christ on the Father’s right hand. (D&C 76: 21.) John received the testimony of Jesus where Christ affirmed that all who overcome will be able to also sit on the Father’s Throne, just as He (Christ) had overcome and could sit on the Father’s Throne. (Rev. 3: 21.) If Christ had to first “overcome” and complete the descent and ascent, then whose throne (the Father’s or Christ’s) is referred to in D&C 88 verses 12-13 above?
Assuming it is the Father’s Throne, and the Father is the one who has been sitting on it from the beginning, then what harmony is there between Christ and the Father? How can the Father’s power proceed forth in all directions, but Christ be the one who is “the light and life of the world?” How complete is the harmony found in the relationship between Christ and the Father if the power originates from the Father, but is given to the Son to become “the light and life of the world?”
What does it mean that this light “giveth life to all things?” How dependent are you on this “light” for your own life? What does it mean that “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” (D&C 93: 29.) If “the light of truth” cannot be made or created, then what does it mean that the light “proceeds forth from the Throne of God?”
What source flows from God and proceeds throughout all creation? What is the “power” behind all creation?
If this power bestows “life” upon its recipients, then can it also bestow something else?

God’s Many Works

When trying to understand how God touches us, it is better to start with His many works instead of a vocabulary. In fact, we often are misled into believing that once we know a vocabulary term we then understand what the term means. Last week the “Holy Spirit” and the “Holy Ghost” were used both in selected scriptures and in my comments. Forget for a moment what term applies to what attribute, and focus on attributes first.

God’s many works are held together and organized by His power. A description of this is given in Section 88, which states the following about Christ:

He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.  As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;  As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand. (D&C 88: 6-10.)
This describes Christ. He both ascended and descended to enable Him to be “in all and through all things.” What does that mean? Why would He necessarily need to ascend above and then descend below in order to be “in all and through all things?” How is this related to being Christ? How does this activity stretching Him above and below relate to Him becoming “the light” to all?
How does this description relate to Christ’s introduction of Himself (containing His definition of who He is) to the Nephites, which states:
Behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. (3 Ne. 11: 11.) Is there a direct relationship between ascending, descending, and becoming “the light and the life of the world?” In other words, must Christ move into all the realms to bring the truth throughout in order to become the “light and life” throughout? 
Is there a connection between these requirements and Christ becoming “the power thereof by which it was made?” The things listed above in Section 88 are physical objects. The sun and its power, the moon and its power, the stars and their power and the earth upon which we stand are all physical things. These things rely on Christ’s “power” to have been “made.” If Christ’s stewardship required Him to be above and below, and throughout all in order to become “the light” unto all, then does Christ’s “power” extend beyond just redeeming them all? How does Christ’s ministry also relate to the “power” to bring these things into existence? How does Christ become “the light of Christ” which spreads throughout all creation? If His power extends to make the sun, moon, stars and the earth, how far does the “light of Christ” extend? Is it merely a moral force for good? Does it also include physical creation and power? What does the “light of Christ” have to do with “the power of the sun?” How dependent is all life, including plant, animal and human, upon the power of the sun? Without sunlight, what happens to this world?
How literally should we take “the light of the sun” to be a product of Christ’s light? What does it mean if Christ is “the power of the sun?” 
We tend to view “the light of Christ” as a moral source. That is, the “light of Christ” is most often spoken of as a moral conscience. From these verses, however, that view is too limited for this force or power. It is something much greater.

Clarification About Method

For new readers, I want to clarify the methods used in this blog. Comments are for me to read. If they raise a question needing a response, they provoke a response. They are not for dialogue.

New readers can go back to the beginning of the blog and read through the comments when they were posted and included. Whether critical or supportive, they were all put up. The results were distracting, and hindered my intentions. The debates and distractions ultimately proved to be too much, and comments were eliminated altogether.

We recently turned the comment feature back on, NOT to publish comments, but so readers could make comments that I would read. I do read all comments that come in, but they are never posted on the blog, and they won’t ever be posted on the blog. If you are anxious to comment, debate, criticize or offer your own opinions you are welcome to do so. Use the Internet and put whatever you want up for the world to read. This is not the entire universe of opportunity to discuss. It is a small, privately written, publicly viewable blog written to explain what I think important.

Some topics are impossible to explain in this medium. They require much more. As a result there are either books or essays that deal with those topics.

I am interested in doctrine. When I write about history, it is in the context of explaining doctrine. I do not attempt to give a complete history of the restoration. I focus only on those examples taken from our history which illustrate doctrine, or the transition from one understanding of a doctrinal matter early in the restoration  to how the understanding of the doctrine has changed. I provide a guideline or outline, and leave it for historians to work out the details. Almost everything I have written about history has been skeletal, and would require many more words to finish the picture. But once the outlines have been set, any historian can work to fill in the missing details. In my view, what is needed is a new outline. To me, this is for the sole purpose of understanding doctrine.

In Brigham Young’s Telestial Kingdom, as in Passing the Heavenly Gift, if you read it as an exposition about doctrine you will find it more helpful than if you read it merely as history. Nephi explained his method, which was to use examples from history to preserve the truth. (1 Ne. 19: 3-6.) I focus on the doctrine, or sacred teachings in an effort to preserve the memory of the Lord’s original dealings as they relate to the restoration. This will allow those who are interested in understanding the restoration to see again the missing elements.

It is not my desire to debate anyone. I’ve not been asked by the Lord to do that. I’m also not interested in obtaining a following, undermining the church authorities, or to create unease among faithful Latter-day Saints–which I consider myself. What I write is for the sole purpose of preserving what was restored. To do that, like Nephi, it is necessary to touch upon excerpts from our history.

There is no reason for you to read this blog if it upsets or offends you. There are many, many other blogs, books, entertainers, authors and resources where your views can be reinforced.

Next week will be spent dealing with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, and the different statements made by Joseph Smith on these topics. It was introduced in two posts last Thursday and Friday. That will continue next week. If it interests you, read it. If not, don’t. But there will be no debate. I am not interested in contention.

Finally, my purpose is very limited. I want to discharge an obligation, not entertain. When judged by my words and works, I wish the Lord to vindicate me for having said what needed to be said, rather than to be praised by others. I appreciate contrary views, but that is all. Criticism can help me understand someone’s confusion or opposition, and I read it with that in mind. But if the criticism is merely intended to say there is another way to understand our history and doctrine, then I readily concede much of what I write is different and out of sync with popular opinion in the church today. The mainstream is where I began. I have read and was persuaded by the doctrinal work of President Joseph Fielding Smith and his son-in-law Bruce R. McConkie’s. I was uber-orthodox in the beginning. I continue to read what is put into print by the Brethren. I am an admirer of Boyd K. Packer. I understand the mainstream arguments and teachings, and keep myself informed by them continually. I attend church every week, read the Ensign and Church News, and speak often with people in positions of authority as well as employees inside the Church Office Building. I am as “active” as any faithful Latter-day Saint. I am as informed as you are about any recent talks, issues or concerns propounded by the church. I have an obligation to keep and that is what I work to accomplish.

Finally, I am not concerned about reputation or praise. No one need defend me. If I cared about looking good in the eyes of others, I could never have been trusted by the Lord. Long ago I left that on the altar. Therefore, if I have no need to defend myself from criticism, you need not take up that cause.

Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit

Are the “Holy Ghost” and the “Holy Spirit” the same? When Nephi refers to the “Holy Ghost” in 2 Ne. 33: 1, but then uses “Holy Spirit” in the next verse (2 Ne. 33: 2), does he have two different things in mind?

Joseph Smith defined the “Holy Spirit” as the “mind of the Father and Son” in the Lectures on Faith. Here is an excerpt:

There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things–by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made, whether visible or invisible: whether in heaven, on earth, or in the earth, under the earth, or throughout the immensity of space–They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image;–he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father: possessing all the fulness of the Father, or, the same fulness with the Father; being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh–and descended in suffering below that which man can suffer, or, in other words, suffered greater sufferings, and was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be. But notwithstanding all this, he kept the law of God, and remained without sin: Showing thereby that it is in the power of man to keep the law and remain also without sin. And also, that by him a righteous judgment might come upon all flesh, and that all who walk not in the law of God, may justly be condemned by the law, and have no excuse for their sins. And he being the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fulness of the glory of the Father-possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son, and these three are one, or in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things: by whom all things were created and made, that were created and made: and these three constitute the Godhead, and are one: The Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power and fulness: Filling all in all–the Son being filled with the fulness of the Mind, glory and power, or, in other words, the Spirit, glory and power of the Father–possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom: sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father–a Mediator for man–being filled with the fulness of the Mind of the Father, or, in other words, the Spirit of the Father: which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. (Lecture 5, Paragraph 2.)

The forgoing was published in 1835.

In a lecture given in 1843, Joseph stated the following (which can be found in D&C 130: 22):

The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.

If the Holy Ghost is a “personage of Spirit” and it can “dwell in us,” and the Holy Spirit is “the mind of the Father and Son” then are they the same thing?

The scriptures have explained that the “Holy Ghost” which dwells in you – this personage of Spirit – has the following other descriptions, or attributes:
-the Comforter
-the record of heaven
-the truth of all things
-the peacable things of immortal glory
-that which quickeneth all things
-that which knoweth all things
-that which has all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice and judgment.
(Moses 6: 61.)
This is a description of the personage of Spirit which dwells inside you. This is the Holy Ghost. This is something that can be in contact with the Holy Spirit, or the “mind of the Father and Son.”

Perhaps you should look into this topic. Perhaps there is something to be found in this review.

There are many times when the term “Ghost” and the term “Spirit” are used interchangeably. The distinction is not appreciated by some translators. Therefore, if there is a difference between these two, you will need to be careful about trusting different translator’s use of the terms. They may not have any distinction in mind.

If there is a difference, then what does that say about revelation? What does that say about you? And, keeping in mind yesterday’s post, what does that say about 2 Ne. 33: 1-2?


Nephi on Holy Spirit

Nephi explained that many people harden themselves against the influence of the Holy Spirit, and consequently were unable to determine what was worth keeping and what should be cast away. He wrote:

“But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.” (2 Ne. 33: 2.)

What does it mean to “harden your heart?”
How does “hardening your heart” affect the influence of the Holy Spirit?
Why does the Holy Spirit equip you to decide whether something is to be valued or to be “cast away?”
Can you decide on your own what is of value?
Do you need to receive influence from the Holy Spirit in order to understand something is from God?
To understand something is of value?
What does it mean to “cast away” the things found in scripture?
Can you read them, even associate meaning with them, and still cast them away?
Can you support your own view using scripture and “cast them away” at the same time?
How do you turn scripture into “things of naught?”
Are distracting, inspirational stories that do not teach true doctrine capable of hardening your heart?
Are flattering words that do not call you to repent likely to harden your heart?
Can scriptures which were written under the influence of the Holy Ghost become a “thing of naught” when read by someone who has hardened their heart?
Can true doctrine become a “thing of naught” even if taught by the power of the Holy Ghost, if the listener hardens their heart?

The measure of the importance of this verse is found in a revelation given to Joseph Smith about the destruction of the wicked:

“For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.” (D&C 45: 57.)

What is the difference between “taking the Holy Spirit for your guide” and “hardening your heart against the Holy Spirit?”
How does the Holy Spirit guide so you cannot be deceived?
How does a person become “wise” and “receive the truth?”
What does it mean to be “hewn down and cast into the fire?”
What does it mean to “abide the day?”
How does the Holy Spirit figure into surviving the coming judgments of God?

Can you trust your own wisdom, intellect and abilities? Can any person, no matter what their IQ, be guided by the Holy Spirit? Does education, position, social status or qualifications equip you to know as much as the Holy Spirit?

Signs

Signs do not produce faith. (D&C 63: 9.) Signs follow faith. (Id.)

Those who “seek signs” are wicked, often adulterous. (Matt. 12: 39, Matt. 16: 4.) Those who want a sign before they will believe cannot develop faith. (Ether 12: 6.)

Signs which follow faith do not come as a result of what men seek, but come as a result of what God wills. (D&C 63: 10.)

Signs, given by God, according to His will, create mighty works by men. (D&C 63: 11.) However, God’s mighty works are often accomplished by small means. Events that are “mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Ne. 1: 20), can be accomplished by so little a means as God warning a family to flee. (1 Ne. 2: 2.)

God preserved His Son through “small means.” (Matt. 2: 13-14.)

The Lord preserved mankind through the destruction at the time of Noah using only a small family. (Gen. 7: 23.)

There will be “signs” and “small means” and “mighty works” still, but they will seem as nothing to those who do not believe. But to people of faith, they will be the power of God unto salvation.

Early Church Priorities

In 1836, Parley Pratt went to Toronto, Canada to continue his missionary work. He took a letter of introduction for John Taylor, who had been active in a religious reform movement. On May 9, 1836 Parley Pratt baptized John Taylor. That conversion was instrumental in bringing a number of others into the church who had respected John Taylor as a religious figure before his conversion.

By November, Parley Pratt was back in Kirtland and wrote a letter to his friend and recent convert. John Taylor was a new member when the letter was written, having been baptized only 6 months earlier. The content of the letter shows what was considered appropriate for even the newest of Latter-day Saints in 1836. Parley wrote:

For my part I never can rest until my eyes have seen my Redeemer. Until I have gazed like Nephi upon the glories of the Celestial world. Until I can come into full communion and familiar converse with the angels of glory and the spirits of just men made perfect through the blood of Christ. And I testify to all, both small and great, both male and female, that if they stop short of the full enjoyment of these things they stop short of the blessings freely offered to every creature in the Gospel. 

(Parley Pratt letter to John Taylor, November 27, 1836; spellings and punctuation corrected.)

This was once fundamental, even basic teaching offered even to new converts. It did no damage to John Taylor.

Charity

I’ve written about how uncharitable it is to offer truth before a person is ready for it. Choking them with information they are not ready to receive it is a technique used with some success by Mormon critics. It works. There is no need to resort to distorting things, only to tell truths before someone is prepared to receive them.

The opposite is also true. When someone needs to hear more, then to withhold it from them is equally uncharitable. We starve them, and leave them to wither and die in their faith when we tell them the longing they have to know more cannot be satisfied by the Gospel. It is unkind, uncharitable and an offense to the Lord to tell someone their endowment from God of natural curiosity should be suppressed. This longing to know more is righteous. We are supposed to hunger and thirst to know more. Some people have quenched this desire and killed the child-like attribute to search deeply and long for answers. This does not mean we all have.

No one should be left disappointed by the reply that “you don’t need to know that.” Joseph asserted the Gospel included “all truth.” Brigham Young did as well. Joseph said, “Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails…” (See Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, chap. 22.)

Brigham said, “‘Mormonism,’ so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. ‘Mormonism’ includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fullness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods.” (DBY, p. 3).

We have yet to figure out some of the things restored to us from Abraham. We have not plumbed the depths of the Doctrine and Covenants. To shut down inquiry because “we don’t need to know about that” is not only bad doctrine, it is a rejection of what the Restoration was intended to bestow on us.

Of all the people on earth, Latter-day Saints ought to be the most open, most inquisitive, and most interesting people of all. We should be creative, and filled with new ideas and thought. Our church meetings were once places where exciting and interesting gospel material was openly discussed.

When our time is spent discouraging inquiries, asserting we have no business knowing about our history, and shutting minds, we run open the door for a repeat of the Dark Ages. It will be locally confined to the dogmatic and intolerant believers in the most reactionary form of Mormonism; the brand utilized by the correlating of materials. Ideas are impossible to control, but the attempt will discourage and alienate the very best minds we have among us.

Differing views are not evil. Skepticism is not vile. An honest soul struggling with our faith deserves the compassion and kindness of being allowed to express themselves without feeling like something is wrong with them. All the useful questions raised should be considered, studied and answers should be sought. We need to have the confidence to believe there are answers. Even if we haven’t discovered them yet, there are still answers. And those answers can include information that requires us to rework our understanding.

Charity flows both ways: from telling too much without preparation, to hiding information from those who are ready to hear more truth. Charity also requires us to accept and fellowship with people who are scattered along a broad spectrum, from immature faith to mature understanding. How often could we benefit from hearing from others about issues which they have struggled to understand, but who remain silent because they fear our reaction?