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This button is a resource to link those desiring baptism with those having authority to baptize. More information can be found here.

 

Enabling Comments

We have enabled comments. We will NOT be posting them. It is a terrible distraction and destroys the spirit. We will (within reason) read them all. We will NOT be responding to them. If there is something contained in a comment that would be useful to address in a blog post, we will do that.

Hopefully, this gives you all (supporters and naysayers alike) somewhere constructive to address your concerns.

This is a plea from the CM – the disclaimer at the top of the blog asking that you read Denver’s books before you start getting your panties in a bunch (over whatever), that many of you find so arrogant or distasteful is actually neither. It is designed to let you know there are places to find out what Denver believes and why. The books he writes are annotated with scriptures and bibliographies. The information he puts in his books is available to all of you. You don’t need to read either his books or his blog to find the information. Go find it for yourselves. Truly, the stuff on this blog is all ancillary and supporting material. There are many things that won’t make sense to you. If you don’t wish to read his books, that’s fine, just don’t comment. The gospel is not made up of “sound-bites.”

Criticism of the Church

I do not believe it is at all useful for anyone to criticize the church. When I write, I try to explain what I believe, avoid any direct criticism and leave the rest alone. I also explain history. It is my effort to grapple with the inconsistencies and omissions that plague the understanding of anyone who looks carefully into doctrine and history. Since the traditional stories we hear repeated in the normal discussions cannot be reconciled with primary historical materials, I make the effort to come to grips with the challenges and then to explain my understanding. I know there are others who grapple with the same issues. They receive the benefit of my efforts which I hope proves to be faith promoting.

What I do not do is force my opinions on others. When I teach in church, I use the church’s materials and scriptures. I have written eight books. Seven of them are about the Book of Mormon, the Gospel of Christ, and the prophecies given to us. They are written to be faith promoting and bring people to Christ. If someone wants to read what I’ve written, they have to go to the trouble of finding it. They then have to purchase it and read it. As for the eighth book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, it is my attempt to explain the issues I have grappled with as I have read and studied the Gospel and our history. If people have gone to the trouble of finding and buying that book, they have already learned about some upsetting issues and are trying to reconcile the matters for themselves. If they’re already trying to find answers, then they can look at what I’ve written to help them. On the other hand, if they are completely content with what they hear from the inside sources of the insular Mormon community they have no reason to have even encountered what I’ve written. Unless they have searched into the matter and made the discovery for themselves, my own ward members are unaware I’ve written books on church doctrine and history. I am not sold at Deseret Book stores, not advertised in any LDS publications, and I do not do advertising or book signings.

The church is an important and valued part of my life and the lives of my family. I attend weekly, and very much enjoy associating with my fellow ward members. I do not understand why people go out of their way to provoke a dispute with the church. If you belong, then follow the rules. If you’re unwilling to follow the rules, then why belong?

If in your own studies you find there are issues, then you should search for answers. I’ve done that. I’ve found answers and I am willing to state what I believe and to defend why I believe it. It is on display for those who are anxiety-filled and uncertain after learning of problems in doctrine, history, practice and scriptural interpretation. All I have done is help the fellow-explorer who has encountered the many issues which are not adequately understood or taught as yet.

When someone thinks they know all the answers, and can give the chapter-and-verse answer from some Deseret Book publication of a former or current general authority, I have no dispute with them. They are free to believe as they wish. They are free to consider only “orthodox” (although there is no such thing in Mormonism) sources and to confine their inquiries to the traditional stories. However, there are so many saints who no longer do that and who are in a crisis of faith as a result. Someone needs to take seriously the problems and attempt to give answers. If you have no crisis, don’t know there are issues, and think all is well with everything then you shouldn’t be reading either this blog or much of what I’ve written. I am writing for those who want to know what the scriptures say. I am writing to those who are interested in the prophecies in the Book of Mormon given to us, the Gentiles. I am writing for those who wish to seek the Lord and Savior. I am writing for those who wish to strengthen their testimony of the Gospel of Christ. I am writing for the troubled, the searching, and the inquiring open soul who honestly wants to believe in the truth but has become alarmed at what they’ve discovered about our faith.

There are answers to the problems. I offer my conclusions as a consequence of my own search and discovery. It is my belief the Lord is pleased by this effort, and has actively assisted me in doing so. I also know there are a great many who are offended by my work, and that I am unpopular among many of the saints. The Strengthening the Members Committee does not approve of what I am doing. I believe myself more accountable to the Lord than to them.

In the last book I wrote, I divided the church’s development into four phases. That is a convenient way to see how and why the church has changed. I am completely converted to my faith, but the version I believe in is the first phase, the original faith which Joseph Smith was developing methodically line-upon-line from the beginning in 1820 through his death in June 1844. It is the foundation of my relationship with God. I rejoice in that faith, and have found God through practicing it. I recognize there are many fellow latter-day saints who hardly understand that version of the church, and dis-prefer it to what is the fourth phase. While I explain my beliefs, and I willingly accept fellowship with anyone who shares faith in the restoration, I do not expect the church or anyone else to adopt a first phase view of Mormonism. It is largely gone. In that respect I am also antiquated. But as an antique Mormon I try to be low maintenance and not require anyone to accommodate me. Instead I’ll accommodate them.

I believe God still speaks, and will do so with anyone who follows the steps Joseph Smith followed. I would not want anyone to follow me, and have never even invited anyone to do so. I think everyone should follow Christ, who will lead them to the Father. I think Joseph Smith is the most current prophetic example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because he was in Christ’s presence and rescued from the fall. That IS the Gospel. I do not worship Joseph Smith, but have tried to replicate the religion he held, and through it to come to know God. It has worked for me.

The church introduced me to Joseph Smith, gave me the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, baptism, ordinances and covenants. I took it all in, accepted and have honored the things I’ve received from the church and been benefited as a result. The church has my gratitude. I would not want to injure it. When there are others who are disaffected from the church, and who have discovered issues or problems, they are welcomed to look into what I’ve written as my best effort to state what I believe and why.

In writing I try to be candid. I know there are those who trust in fourth phase Mormonism who resent, even revile against me and what I write. I’m content with that. What God thinks matters a great deal more to me than what some errant blogger hiding behind a pseudonym puts on some discussion board. I am not a coward and intend to stand accountable for everything I write. I make no apologies for my faith. It is honestly and deeply held. As a result of study and prayer I think I know what I am talking about. Those who have spent only a fraction of the effort I have devoted to my religion cannot affect me by their criticism.

Long ago I realized this honest approach would disqualify me from being popular. It makes me “too suspect” for any significant church callings. That is perfectly fine. It was never the intention to become popular or successful in religion anyway. Only being true to what I believe matters. Everything else is, in a word, vain.

So if you want criticism of the church, you will have to look elsewhere. I try to avoid it. I would encourage others to search into what they believe, and stop complaining about what others believe. Search it out for yourself and be content to believe in what you find.

Mormonism is the last place where God touched mankind. It is the place where His hand will begin again in moving mankind upward. Therefore it is where I intend to faithfully remain.

Themes From Jacob, Part 3

The most striking theme of all is the Lord’s patience. The work of the vineyard is never immediate. It is generational. Those who enter the vineyard impatiently expect the Lord’s work will result in reordering the world for them while they spend their brief moment here.

There has been some confusion in Historic Christianity over the New Testament era expectation of the “end” of things. One of the questions Hugh Nibley asked was “the end of what?” He parsed through the material and arguments and suggested the “end” was of the church itself. The world would continue on, but the church would end. That is one of the themes of Jacob 5. The labor in the vineyard to bring back natural fruit is always against opposition. The success is brief. It requires considerable effort to coax the natural fruit back into production, and when left untended it quickly lapses back to wild, bitter fruit.

The Lord of the vineyard has never been in a hurry. The allegory was originally composed by Zenos in the time of the united Kingdom, some 2,900 years ago. It tells the story of Israel for the next 5,000 years. Jacob put it into his writing approximately 2,400 years ago when the events were only at about verse 14 of the allegory. This allegory was important to Jacob. It is also important to when Jacob’s record would be restored again. We are now at about verse 55, the era when the Lord and servants are trying to bring again some small appearance of natural fruit in the vineyard. We want the fruit from verse 73 to appear long before the story predicts it will return. We expect it to have begun as soon as He sets His hand to the labor by calling Joseph Smith. The allegory allows for no such interpretation. We want that because we think ourselves “natural fruit” and worthy to be saved against the season.

There is a great preliminary work with only the grafting back at first. It started with Joseph Smith. That graft hasn’t taken hold yet, nor produced fruit. It wasn’t intended to do so at the start. The graft will require the branches to take nourishment from the original roots; hence the notion of “restoration,” but the roots from which nourishment is to be taken are quite ancient. At first it is likely (measured by our conduct and preaching) that the only aspiration of the graft is to become merely another New Testament era faith, and not to find nourishment from the ancient roots which run back to the beginning. It is apparent, however the natural fruit will not reappear until the original, first generation teaching’s of man, which were in the beginning, return again at the end.

The Brother of Jared was redeemed from the fall, and was taught about the history of man from the beginning. Enoch’s vision included the story of man from the beginning until the end. Moses also. The vision on the Mount of Transfiguration included a similar visionary show of mankind’s history from the beginning. The reason Zenos composed, and Jacob transcribed this vision of the history of Israel through the end was because they shared in that instruction of what the Lord is trying to bring back into His vineyard. Joseph Smith was not being inadvertent when the accounts of Moses and Enoch, in the Book of Moses were restored. Nor when the Book of Abraham was revealed. These, as well as the Book of Mormon, pre-date the New Testament era. They tell about an original, ancient faith which was to return again so there would be fruit, or in other words, the hearts of the children would turn to the fathers.

When we take our reckoning from the New Testament era and claim ourselves to be like the other “Christian” faiths, we are not looking to the rock from whence we came. We are not taking nourishment from the roots. We now hardly understand Joseph’s preoccupation with the most ancient of themes and religion. Joseph now seems antiquated to us, and he hardly began to introduce the ancient faith which is still to come.

God’s patient cultivation of the tree can continue for so many generations as needed, and will linger without the return of natural fruit so long as we choose not to take nourishment from the original root where the strength lies. The Lord of the vineyard creates the conditions which allow growth, but it is the tree itself that must respond and grow.

Our impatience and expectation that God has given us all we need, and everything He intends for us to have, precludes us from taking in what we still lack. God may intend to yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God, but it will fall on deaf ears if we think we have everything we need for our salvation and exaltation already restored to us.

God’s very long-term view contrasts sharply with our ‘must-be-in-our-lifetime’ outlook. Generations come and go and think themselves saved while God waits patiently for natural fruit, willing to take nourishment from the strength of His Gospel, to finally reappear. Proud and vain men strut about proclaiming how special they and their cultic-following are before God, while God pleads for our repentance, humility and willingness to return to Him. Lofty branches still need trimming and only produce bitter fruit still. We witness how blind, fallen men think it is sufficient for the branches to feel themselves vindicated by reason of their loftiness. If our present form of “Zion” wasn’t “prospering” then we might be more acutely aware of our sickness, sores, disease and stench. We use the measuring rod of Babylon and conclude we are among the greatest of people rather than the standard of heaven against which we are loathsome, bitter fruit.

It is good the Lord of the vineyard is patient. It is good He waits for natural fruit to begin to appear before the next round of cutting down and casting into the fire. We should be grateful for His patience, but never fooled by it. His hand does not stay because we deserve it, but instead from His hope there will yet reappear the natural fruit He can lay up against the coming season.

Themes from Jacob 5; Part 2

Here are five more themes:

6. The work of the last labor will not be abandoned. The Lord did not establish the restoration of the Gospel only to abandon it. Though it will take some time before it produces natural fruit, the Lord intends to stay with the grafts, labor with them, and trim away as necessary. Joseph Smith suggested the church needed to stay together, and the Lord’s hand would continue to watch over the church. As they have left, the splinter groups have all fallen into neglect, and ultimately abandonment. Whether it was Sidney Rigdon, the William Marks/Emma Smith “reorganization”, the William McLellin departure, or the various “fundamentalist” movements, the temporary prosperity or success has ultimately ended in collapse and failure. The Lord intends to work within the church until the natural fruit reappears. Though the church may not be synonymous with the “Gospel,” it is the means by which the Lord preserves the Gospel. To see the Lord’s hand, all you need to do is be near to the laboring full-time missionaries. The Lord does bear testimony to the investigators that the Book of Mormon is true, and Joseph Smith was His prophet, and the revelations are trustworthy, and the sincere soul should receive baptism at the hands of the elders of the church. I received this testimony when I investigated, and have received also the blessings associated with fellowship among others who accept and believe in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, the restoration scriptures, and all the associated practices we have inherited. Though we have departed somewhat from the roots that came from Joseph’s ministry, at this moment, for the first time, the church has begun publishing The Joseph Smith Papers. We are the chosen generation who can see the records for ourselves. The ability to take nourishment from the roots has become more of an opportunity for us living today than any of the prior saints, from Joseph’s day till ours. Thanks be to the church for opening this valuable library that has remained unavailable to the common church member for these last three or four generations. It is as if the Lord has finally moved, despite all we have done to forget our beginnings, to make important change possible and return to His foundation by giving us the original records.

7. The natural fruit involves more than just the regrafting. The establishment of the church was the necessary first step, but the prophecies do not mention The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the target church. The revelations speak of another name for the Lord’s church. (See D&C 76: 54; 78: 21; 88: 5; 107: 19; Hebrews 12: 23; among many others.) The temporal church is essential to produce another group within it. They are not going to reappear as a group disconnected from the temporal church, but instead from within it. The Gospel net will gather all manner of fish, but the angels will gather the good and cast away the bad. (Matt. 13: 47-49.) Being gathered into the net is not the sign of being good and worthy of gathering by the angels. It is only the first step. There is another step beyond that which requires the virgins to have oil in their lamps in order to be with the Bridegroom.

8. The history of the tree is told from the most ancient of our preserved history until the distant end of a millennium of peace. There is no other history that will take off in a different direction. The tree is fully accounted for in the allegory. You needn’t look for another, separated, surprising or unaccounted for sequence of events or long interruption of the Lord’s labors. He is working NOW and it is currently underway. The story is complete. Although the reappearance of the natural fruit is not immediate, it is going to reappear. When it does it will be in the young, tender growth. The high minded and lofty which are barren and tend to grow in their own self-interests, but do not seek the welfare of Zion itself will be trimmed away. The Lord’s hand will be most apparent inside the church, not outside of it. But likely in a young, tender place where nourishment from the roots has taken hold. Watch, therefore, and you will not be mistaken when it begins. This is, after all, the Lord’s work, and it is marvelous in the eyes of those who can see it. (Mormon 9: 16.)

9. Although there are many different groups of people, the Lord’s work has always focused on the House of Jacob and the potential for it to return to covenant status as the House of Israel. This is the “natural fruit” that the Lord seeks to have return to His vineyard. Although having some religious connection to God is desirable, the “harvest” is looking for this particular kind of “natural fruit” to preserve against the season. This kind of fruit requires the very same thing Joseph was so excited about in his last few talks in Nauvoo. The Elijah Talk followed on the history retold in Passing the Heavenly Gift, and goes to the heart of this need to reconnect with “the fathers in heaven,” or the original Patriarchial Fathers who were chosen by God as His. It requires us to track back, reconnect to the roots of the restoration, and return to belief in doctrines long neglected if we want to participate in the Lord’s work. The Lord invites all to know Him, to come to Him and to form this connection with Him. However, if you are waiting for the process to be unfolded in a weekly Gospel Doctrine class, you will first need a new manual. Nothing of these topics remains in our formal curriculum, though the information is still available if you will search for it.

10. The Lord has actually considered burning the entire vineyard before, and fully intends to burn all but the natural fruit in the future. The risk of the entire earth being cursed at His coming is not just an idle notion designed to make us luke-warm in our church affiliation. It is intended to cause us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philip. 2: 12; Mormon 9: 27.) When we think our simple affiliation with our church is enough, we are deceived and show disrespect to the requirements of the Lord’s plan. The best scriptural passage to put the problem into context is Mormon’s description:

“. . . Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws? Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell. For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.” (Mormon 9: 3-5.)

That day will come; now, if you prepare for it, but it will come. If that day “burns you up,” then you were not natural fruit. (Mal 4: 1.) Therefore, it makes sense to do what is needed now, repent, call on His name, and live by every word which He imparts so you may see His face and “know that [He is.]” (D&C 93: 1.)

Themes from Jacob 5

There are important themes in Zenos’ allegory. Here are five of them:

1. The Lord of the vineyard controls overall history through His involvement and the involvement of His servants. However, they can only accomplish two things:  1) removing the bad, bitter fruit by cutting away branches and burning them. 2) encouraging the good, natural fruit by pruning, grafting, nourishing and laboring. Whether or not the natural fruit reappears is left to the tree itself. Mankind cannot be compelled to be good. As agents of their own, they are free to choose. No amount of ministering will force the natural fruit to appear. The Lord and His servants can only present the opportunity.

2. The tree and its branches are prone to repeatedly producing bitter fruit. Producing natural fruit does not come easily. From the beginning, the tree was prone to loftiness and pride. It required cutting away, scattering and destroying the main top in order to have a chance to cause the natural fruit to reappear. This is  the tendency. As soon as people learn they are “called” they will presume they are “chosen,” even though these are two entirely different things. The Lord of the vineyard has learned by sad experience that it is the nature of almost all men that they begin to exercise unrighteous dominion over one another as soon as they have a little authority as they suppose. This is why He does not distribute, and cannot confer, the priesthood on mankind through generations of hand-me-down lines of authority. As soon as it is abused, it is lost. And when the Lord says “amen to the priesthood of that man” he is powerless to give it to another.

3. The Lord has occasionally come to the vineyard. On one occasion He labored directly within the vineyard, choosing to mingle with the scattered branches and to personally minister among them. This produced a period of production throughout the vineyard. However, it was short-lived. The vineyard lapsed into bitter fruit everywhere. There came a point where the entire vineyard produced nothing but bitter fruit, in every part of the Lord’s possession. When that time came, the Lord determined to labor a “last time” in the vineyard, and to bring a “few servants” to assist. Again this return would involve His personal appearance, but it took the form of periodic appearances with His servants, as in the First Vision and Section 76. When He appears He confers authority. Joseph and Sidney both “received of His fullness” when He ministered to them. (D&C 76: 20.) Indeed, no one can behold His glory and not receive of His fullness. (D&C 84: 22.) To receive His priesthood, He must redeem from the fall (Ether 3: 13) and thereby receive Him. (D&C 84: 35.) This is not an apperance in the heart, but is rather a personal appearance, The idea it is something merely in the heart is an old sectarian notion and is false. (D&C 130: 3.)

4. In the Lord’s last labor in the vineyard, the commencement of the work does not signal the end of His involvement. Once begun, He will continue to labor with the tree to encourage it to produce fruit. He will send servants who will labor with all their might to bring the fruit about. However, it will be the tree’s response and not the Lord’s nor His servants’ work that will bring again the natural fruit. This will take a long time before the roots are able to take hold again. The grafted branches will require pruning and additional work before they respond and return to respect and take nourishment from the natural roots. What was shocking and hard to bear with will need to be accepted in humility and gratitude before the natural fruit can appear once more.

5. When the natural fruit begins to appear, the Lord will begin to trim away the bad to make way for the good to prevail. Therefore, those who fight against the natural fruit will be cut down. Even those who entertain high positions will be struck down if they oppose the return of the Lord’s natural fruit. (See, e.g., D&C 85: 7.) The Lord of the vineyard controls which branches are allowed to survive with His tree, and not the tree itself. The inclination to produce the lofty and high minded remains the tendency of the tree. But those unwanted and unproductive branches will be cut away, burned, and not allowed to interfere with the natural fruit.

Jacob 5: 76-77

Zenos wrote at the time of a united Kingdom, before the days of Isaiah, and in another dispensation than John. However, when it comes to the prophetic destiny of the vineyard, Zenos and John tell the same story, using different images to tell the tale.

The allegory has a “long time” in which the vineyard produces natural fruit. (5: 76.) This peaceful and productive era is Paradisiacal. (See Articles of Faith, 10.) The vineyard will allow the Lord to “lay up the fruit of [His] vineyard” because there will be an end to this era of the vineyard. (5: 76.) There will come a time for final accounting. The vineyard will need to be re-created, and a new one brought in its place. But before that day the vineyard will produce “for a long time, according to that which I have spoken.” (Id.) During that time Satan is bound and children grow up without sin.

The story of the end of this creation culminates in the last, great day, when Satan is loosed again for a season: “But when the time cometh that evil fruit shall again come into my vineyard” will happen after the period of Paradise. In the allegory, it is when “evil fruit” returns. In John’s vision it is when “the thousand years are expired.” (Rev. 20: 7.) John describes how “Satan shall be loosed out of his prison” at that time. (Id.) When he is, he “shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth.” (Rev. 20: 8.)

Despite all the Lord of the vineyard has done for His trees, the accuser will still find fault. The things of God will again be challenged, criticized, debated, accused and maligned. The Lord’s motives will be questioned, and His means will be derided. Why so little natural fruit? What right is there to discard the bitter fruit? Is not the worth of each soul great enough the Lord of the vineyard should have done more? Why should so much of the fruit have been gathered and burned? How can the Lord have the best interests of the vineyard in mind when there were so many who have not been gathered as natural fruit? What of those who came into the vineyard and were produced through wild branches, how can it be fair to leave them for the burning when they were given an unfair challenge? Their plight is not of their own making, and the Lord of the vineyard is unfair!

You see it is one thing to claim you believe in and follow the Lord when in your mistaken arrogance you assume His plan requires nothing from you and will exalt you to the sides of the north. (See Isa. 14: 12-13.) But it is another thing when you realize “the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.” (D&C 45: 2.) Then will they lament: “O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out. Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God.” (Hel. 13: 33; see also 3 Ne. 8: 24.) When all men stand before God and realize He did expect obedience, sacrifice, consecration, chastity and a godly walk of all who are saved, then many who profess to follow Him when it was to their vanity and pride will find they cannot profess to follow Him when it is to their shame and condemnation. They will, with the accuser, join in denouncing the Lord. They will also compass the camp of the saints and make war against them and their Lord.

The Lord of the vineyard has done all He could, and respected the agency of men. The arguments at the end of the Millennial Day will prevail. John reports that the number of those who align with the accuser will be so much greater than the camp of the saints, that they will “compass the camp of the saints about” because their numbers so vastly exceed the mere “camp” of the righteous they will be able to entirely surround them. (Rev. 20: 9.)

These rebellious branches are “burned with fire” (5: 77) or, as John describes it, “fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” (Rev. 20: 9.)

This then leads back to the major themes of the allegory. It was included by Jacob for us so that when these things come to pass we are not left surprised or wondering why we were not warned by the Lord.

Jacob 5: 74-75

When the final work in the vineyard begins, and the natural fruit reappears, the process of casting the bad branches producing bitter fruit accelerates. The bad is cleared away to make room for the good. (5: 74.) The remaining gentiles will be swept away and their cities will be inhabited again. This time they will be swept away by the natural fruit, to whom the land belongs. (3 Ne. 22: 3.)

Though there are two gatherings in the last days, when the natural fruit returns it will be to both. Servants will  minister to both. They will all be gathered in, and Israel will gather together in Zion and the long dispersed of Judah will also be given their land in peace. (Isa. 11: 12.) The Lord will hasten His work when the natural fruit reappears. (D&C 88: 73.) Some will say it is like before and everything continues from day to day uninterrupted and the Lord delays His coming. (Luke 12: 45.) Some will think the Lord will allow everything to be destroyed and still not return. (D&C 45: 26.)

Then will be the time when “they became like unto one body” though gathered in both Zion and Jerusalem. (5: 74.) Zion will have her kings (D&C 133: 32) and Judah will have her prophets. (See Rev. 11: 3; D&C 77: 15; Isa. 51: 19-20; Zech. 4: 11-14.)

It begins with the regrafting. Joseph Smith began that process. The purpose was to establish a relationship where it is possible for natural fruit to return. It would take generations before the natural fruit would reappear.

In the work to reestablish the natural fruit, the Lord of the vineyard would send both servants, like Joseph Smith, and He would work alongside them. In other words He would appear to them. (See JS-H 1: 17-19; D&C 84: 35D&C 93: 1.) The Lord will be present for the work of producing natural fruit in the last days. He will appear to them, and both He and the Father will take up their abode with them. (John 14: 23.) These will be those who are the natural branches, capable of producing the fruit for the final harvest. (John 15: 4-5.) This is the culmination of the final chapter in the vineyard. His work and glory is to bring this about. He knows the end from the beginning. His work has always pointed to this great, final labor.

Those who will be gathered will not need to tell one another to “know ye the Lord” for those who remain will all know Him, from the least to the greatest. (Jer. 31: 34; D&C 84: 98.) These are those who have been redeemed from the fall, for they have been back into His presence. (Ether 3: 13.) These are those who receive a testimony from Christ that they are saved. (D&C 76: 51.) Those who claim to follow prophets, but have not received the testimony of Christ that they have part with Him will be burned at His coming and appointed their place in sorrow and suffering. (D&C 76: 98-106.)

There will be no lukewarm saints allowed to stand in that day. If they have received and followed the truth, they will be saved. If they have not, they will be gathered in bundles and burned. The result will be an era of peace in which the entire vineyard, as if one body, produces again natural fruit. (5: 75.) There will be joy at that day. The Lord and His servants will rejoice, and the Lord will give praise to those servants who labored with Him. (Id.) When He could take credit, instead He shares it. And He promises to those servants: “behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard.”

Jacob 5: 71-73

Once the decision is made to recover fruit from the vineyard, the Lord and His servants set to work, although there were only “few” sent. The laborers were told to work “with your might” because the “time which will soon come” will harvest only the suitable fruit. This will be “the last time” for such labor before that day of harvest. (5: 71.)

When the servants appeared within the vineyard to labor, they “did go and labor with their mights” because this is serious work, not to be idled away with distractions. 5: 72.) They will relentlessly seek to reclaim souls, preach repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. They have no time to set themselves up for a light, nor to practice priestcrafts. (2 Ne. 26: 9.) Getting gain, engaging in commerce, diverting attention from the Lord, becoming the object of adoration; all these things cannot distract the true servants. Their only labor, which involves all their might, is to provide sufficient for their needs and then seek only the welfare of Zion. Zion’s welfare, of course, consists primarily in qualifying people to be called to Zion. That is no small feat.

The laboring servants are not left comfortless. The Lord of the vineyard “labored also with them.” (5: 72.) They will not be confused about whether He is laboring alongside them. He will, of course, take up His abode with them. (John 14: 23.) The Lord of the vineyard cannot “labor also with them” if He does not return to assist the laborers directly. He will not be an absentee landlord. He will be with them.

This process is not immediate. It is not automatic, nor is the outcome guaranteed. It may be generations before the work results in any fruit. But, at length, “there began to be the natural fruit again in the vineyard.” (5: 73.) We will see this. There will yet be sons of God, daughters of God, and a people who are “natural” and within the adopted family of God. They are coming. But, as they return, the first appearance is so small a matter that the only thing which can be said of them is they “began” to return.

These beginnings will be marked by something “peculiar” indeed. (1 Peter 2: 9.) The idea of a “royal priesthood” is apt. It captures the idea of nobility, or royalty, or, in other words, a connection with the Family of God. And the co-extensive proposition is that it will necessarily involve “priesthood” also. This is because one cannot receive the Lord without also receiving priesthood. (See, e.g., D&C 84: 35.)

When the Lord bestows this royalty on the individual, it is through His own voice. (JST-Gen. 14: 29.) This happened in the days of Joseph Smith. (See, e.g., D&C 52, when Joseph reported the Melchizedek Priesthood first appeared in the church.) This continued to be the case through March 1835, because the revelation reported there was yet Melchizedek Priesthood in the church at that time. (D&C 107: 1.) By January 1841, the fullness of that authority was taken away. (D&C 124: 28.) The Lord offered to restore it again, as discussed in Passing the Heavenly Gift. I won’t repeat that again here.

What is clear from the allegory is that no matter what labor is required, the servants who are sent will labor with their mights to bring again some start to the return of “natural fruit.” They will gather those who are born to parents who have received the covenant, been sealed by the Lord, have a lively and warranted expectations of inheriting eternal life, and are acquainted with He whom they serve. (D&C 93: 1.)

When it begins, there will be no going back. The appearance of the “natural fruit” signals the beginning of pruning away the wild branches. As the one appears, the other begins to be destroyed, removed, plucked off and cast away. (5: 73.) The Lord is interested in preserving, producing and cultivating the branches producing natural fruit. For the rest, they will be destroyed because they cumber the ground and do not (indeed cannot) produce fruit. You cannot have Zion without qualified residents, and Zion must exist on the mountains before the Lord’s return. So the focal point of the Lord’s labors will shift from the initial cultivation, and grafting to those places where the natural fruit appears.

Jacob 5: 66-70

In order to develop and grow the tree, the Lord requires there to be good fruit growing before cutting away the bad. (5: 66.) The pruning and trimming away the bad will accelerate as good continues to grow. The good growth cannot be threatened by the bad, because the Lord will cut off, cut down, and discard the bad as the good develops.

Ultimately, the purpose is to have the good overwhelm the bad. When that happens, the bad will be cut down, thrown in the fire, and burned. (Id.) They will not be allowed to overcome the good, or “cumber the ground” of the Lord’s vineyard. (Id.)

It does not matter if the bad occupy positions of authority, or have been “called of God” into the lofty positions of the tree. They will be struck down when they attempt to overcome the good growth. (D&C 85: 7.) The intention of the Lord, and His prophetic promise is that His house will be set in order. (Id.) This, however, is still future.

The natural branches are to return to the natural tree (5: 67) to produce the natural fruit again. (5: 68.) That is the original doctrine, the covenant of adoption to God’s family, the return of covenant Israel. Children suitable for Zion are the Lord’s agenda. It hasn’t changed. He will bring it to pass, and we cannot claim any credit when it comes, for it is the Lord alone who will “bring again Zion.” (See, e.g., 3 Ne. 16: 18; Mosiah 12: 22, 15: 29; D&C 84: 99; Isa. 52: 8.) This is His work, after all. We get to participate in it, but the work is His.

Those who falsely claim to be the Lord’s will be “cast away” from the tree, because they can never bring again the natural fruit. (5: 69.) This great last work, which will unfold over generations and result in a restored tree, will be the last time He will work in His vineyard. (Id.)

The Lord sent His servant to labor. There were to be others. But the numbers of the servants who would be sent were disproportionately small. The servant went, and there were “other servants; and they were few.” (5: 70.)

We do not get to chooose who the Lord sends. He does. When He sends a servant we have the rare and infrequent opportunity to be invited back to the roots of the restoration again. There is no point in insisting that we are doing things right, and that we have no need to repent and return. We must respond, repent, regain whatever was offered, reconnect with the fathers, or risk being utterly wasted at His coming.

I think the proposition is self-evident that this will always be in or near the church. The numbers may not be large in comparison to the world, but the work of the Lord has never created a great harvest. The last days vineyard is either filled with bad branches requiring trimming and burning, or in the Lord’s parable, always mingled with tares needing gathering and burning. (See Matt. 13: 30; D&C 86: 7.) The field is always to be burned. (D&C 86: 7.)

Remember, however, that any fruit produced is infinite, eternal, and will produce forever in His House. (See D&C 132: 20.) Even if there were only one couple saved, from that single source there would be worlds without end, and seed like the sand of the sea or as the stars in heaven for their number. (See Gen. 22: 17.) Therefore, from this vantage point, you cannot look upon the harvest as meager. From the vantage point of the Lord in His vineyard it is infinite and eternal. Even if the harvest produced but one, how great would be the joy in heaven over that one. (See D&C 18: 15.) And if there were one, how much greater would it be if there were as great a number as seven? (D&C 18: 16.) Remember the first Zion was made of seven patriarchs and their families. (D&C 107: 53.)

The labor to produce fruit is great. The amount of humility and meekness required to repent and return is almost beyond the tolerance of mankind. Even those who learn a little think they know much more than they do. We tend to gather together, speak reassuring words to one another, and stop up our repentance by the mutual praise we lavish on each other. We interfere with our own repentance.

I’ve often reflected on our presumption that we can apply the words of scripture that were originally given when Joseph Smith was the church’s presiding officer to all later times and individuals. Joseph, of course, stood in the presence of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Therefore, the revelations to him – about him – have their veracity derived from that standing. Can we now apply statements to him, or about him to every situation we’ve encountered since then? Do we have the right to do that without some further revelation giving us that right? Is God’s promise about His protection of the church from error, given while Joseph was living, still applicable when we have lost the man who communed with Jehovah? Are we to expect all successors to also act as if they too hold the keys to the mysteries and sealed truths (D&C 28: 7) even when some have told us they have never received any audience with angels or the Lord? Are we allowed to presume the Lord invariably “sends another” when we vote to fill Joseph’s former office? (Id.) Our traditions gives us an answer that we heard again in last General Conference through President Eyring’s Priesthood Session talk. (Families Under Covenant) That talk was reassuring indeed. I hope it is altogether correct. I hope it answers this question.