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Learning

I do not believe we are under any obligation to be bored in church. I do not believe there is any virtue in sitting in a class without being either edified or taught. Of all the terrible offenses under the claim it is done in Christ’s name, taking high school students and asking them to color pictures in a Sunday School class or seminary course seems to me to be a solemn offense to them and the Lord. When we have an audience of young people who are curious and eager to learn, we ought to capture their minds and hearts with the wonder and glory of Christ’s Gospel. We owe it to them and to God. It should delight them. I’ve told my kids it is their duty to leave and study their scriptures rather than waste time coloring, or engaging in any other activity that is a waste of their time. And I trust them to know the difference.

Creation and Death

Of all the powers given to mankind by God, the one most like God Himself is the power to create offspring. The sexual union of the man and woman resulting in children is a power so great it is called God’s reward. (See Psalms 127: 3.) God’s covenant with Abraham was based upon a numerous posterity. (Gen. 22: 17.)

Sex involves not only “knowing” (i.e., intercourse) between a man and woman (Gen. 4: 1), but also the woman “conceiving” a child (Id.). Sex also includes the woman bringing forth the child, and the father then naming the child (Matt. 1: 25.) It includes teaching the child the ways of God (Deu. 6: 6-7). It extends to a parent’s duty to provide care, food, clothing and shelter for the child as well. (1 Tim. 5: 8.)

When the child is raised, the child then is obligated to honor and care for the parent. (Deu. 5: 16.) The cycle binds together generations in care, nurture and honor, altogether a godlike process. (Enos 1: 1.)

In a word, sex is life. It is the entirety of life. It produces and provides for generation after generation in a godly connection between man, woman and God.

If sex is separated from the entire scope of the Divine order, and redefined to be nothing more than orgasm, then it ceases to be life and becomes chaos and death. For example, if the ability of a homosexual union to produce physical gratification for the participants is regarded as the same thing, it not only fails to comply with the Divinely ordained order, it results in death. Homosexual unions produce no offspring and the participants go down to the grave childless. Their sexual powers have failed to result in creation, order, or fulfilling the pattern for life to continue.

If sex is separated from the entire scope, then children are born unwanted and are not raised with the care, love and sacrifice of the parents. They are not taught in the ways of God. They become less than what they were intended to be because they have inherited less than God intended for them to inherit.

Our society has largely confined its understanding of sex to nothing more than physical gratification. It is an orgasm and nothing more. Once we loose that single component from the Divine order, we have changed godlike creation into disorder and chaos. Ultimately it is the difference between life and death.

Follow-up Question

I got another follow-up from the same person asking:  “In your latest post there is some discussion on these two topics which imply that they are different.  My wife and I discussed this and what we came up with is that the first step is to have an audience with Christ (Second Comforter), from which point He will undertake to perfect you after which the Father will promise you eternal life (Calling and Election Made Sure).  Is that correct? If not could you shed some more light on this?”

These are two different topics. They are related, but are different. I’ve talked about the Second Comforter extensively. I’ve not said much about Calling and Election. I think focusing on that topic is a mistake. It will take care of itself if you can get the Second Comforter. Therefore I’ve remained largely silent on that topic.

There is a tremendous tendency to see things in a linear way and to impose an order into something which does not always follow the time-line pattern we live within. God has before Him information which, for us, remains yet future and hidden. Therefore we tend to want Him to conform to our time-sensitive perceptions, when in fact He does not. All the elements of the pattern will happen. But the order, time-line or sequence can be completely scrambled from our limited perspective inside of time.

If you look at the experience of Enoch, the Lord spoke to him about gifts and power his faith was to produce some time in Enoch’s future (Moses 6: 34) as an existing fact. The events which would display these powers were, however, hundreds of years in Enoch’s future (Moses 7: 13-17). Likewise Joseph Smith beheld the Father and Son in a vision while yet in his youth (JS-H 1: 17-20). He saw the Father. Therefore Joseph had at that very moment, while still a youth, possession of the highest order of priesthood (D&C 84: 21-22). Despite this, Joseph would be later ordained by John the Baptist to Aaronic Priesthood (JS-H 1: 68-70). The Aaronic Priesthood has the keys of ministering angels (D&C 84: 26). Yet before receiving this form of priesthood, Joseph had an angel minister to him (JS-H 1: 30-41). So before Joseph received “keys” from John the Baptist he was exercising the keys belonging to the priesthood he would receive. I could go on but these illustrate the point. Events involving God do not necessarily follow the same time-line as we would expect them to follow. When, however, Joseph received angels, you can know for certain he held priesthood. When he was visited by the Son, you can know he held priesthood and keys for that. When he was visited by the Father, Joseph Smith had priesthood. It was necessarily present and was in him. Don’t ever doubt that. Even if you don’t quite understand it at present, it is nevertheless true. So also you can receive things from God which are apparently out of sequence with the time-line we live in here.

God is not limited as we are. He lives in a place where all things, past, present and future, are before Him (D&C 130: 7). Time is not only irrelevant, it is non-existent with God.

So if you’re trying to prepare a list, the list can include all the ingredients, but it cannot be linear and progressive in a time-confined progression. God doesn’t conform to that kind of list. He will touch all the points, but in His own way. Our difficulties in understanding this kind of matter is further complicated by limitations on language and lack of faith. Therefore Joseph wisely confined his comments to what the Lord required him to say, and left the rest for each person to discover for themselves. To a great degree these things are not explainable in our language. We are two-dimensional, attempting to explain four-dimensional material. There is always a gap.

As a Gospel Dispensation is unfolded, the Lord will always violate rules we think exist involving timing and sequence. He will confer things which apparently belong long into the process, and will do it apparently independent of the established requirements. But His strange act is not ours. He will do as He wills. For us, once an order is established by Him, the order is followed. Joseph may have received the highest priesthood as a youth, but that still required the ministering of angels and conferral of progressive keys in the process of establishing the dispensation. It also required him to conform to ordinances, including baptism, as the order was re-established on the earth. [Jesus was tutored by angels before His baptism, as well. But He was still required to be baptized.] Through Joseph the Lord set a system in place which would teach and perpetuate the process, which then became linear and time-sensitive. Once established it respected the order of things in this dimension. But as soon as you begin to project our dimension onto God’s, you begin to make mistakes about God. He is not bound, as we are, by time or by timing. [This is a very great–meaning vast–topic. It can only be mentioned here, and not fully developed. But it is nevertheless a very real difference between “gazing into heaven for five minutes” on the one hand, and reading all that has ever been written on the subject on the other. It is only referenced in passing in the scriptures. Therefore don’t expect this to become a well developed subject by what some man writes. Look to God for understanding on this topic.] I’ve dealt with some of this in Beloved Enos. You might want to revisit that book with the question in mind because there’s information in there that helps. But it only “helps” and cannot say all on the topic.

Joseph Smith made a comment about a relationship between the Second Comforter and Calling and Election. I quote it early in The Second Comforter, and I think you can read it on the bottom of page 3. (It is a quote taken from TPJS p. 150.) Joseph’s description is linear. He talks about proving you’re determined to follow God at any cost, and then you have your Calling and Election made sure, and then the Second Comforter comes to you. It is a nice quote. It covers the topic. But any implication in Joseph’s statement about a linear progression is belied by Joseph’s own experience. For him the events did not take place in a linear way. He started at the top and worked backwards. But his quote suggests an order based upon this estate and our need for orientation here. So it’s a good quote and altogether accurate (from our perspective here).

Right now we are all in need of a new dispensation of the Gospel. Some lost (or never completed) components of the work need to be dispensed to us either anew or for the first time. Joseph promised more, and the scriptures predict more, will be given before the Lord’s return in glory. An obvious example is the establishment of the New Jerusalem and Zion. It hasn’t happened yet. Joseph wanted to see the Lord bring it again, but it didn’t happen in his day. When he crossed the river on June 23, 1844 he was headed west to the Rocky Mountains to try and find the remnant and the site of the New Jerusalem. Instead because of criticism about abandoning the flock when it was threatened (accusing him of being a “false shepherd”) he returned and surrendered and was killed. Now we all think the New Jerusalem is to be located in Jackson County Missouri. I suppose that’s a good thing we all think that. But it may not necessarily be true. There’s still some missing information on that topic, I believe.

Well, you proceed just as Joseph did. Inquire of God, who gives to all men liberally and does not upbraid. And if you ask in faith, nothing wavering, He will make the truth known to you. That is what this generation needs to hear. That is where it begins. Once it begins, all things get added thereto. God is patient and understanding of His children’s needs. He will never abandon the earnest seeker. So become one of those. Follow what He directs and you will find yourself in possession of life and light and hope and covenants. Not between you and another man, but between you and God. The full answer to your question should be given to you by angels, or the Lord or the Father, and not a man. When men interject themselves into that process they generally create distance between you and your God. They hinder, rather than help.

Having said that, here are the events: Angels minister to you and confer power, light and truth. They prepare you to receive the Lord. He ministers to you and confers promises, administers covenants, takes away your awful shame, and gives you promises. He prepares you to be introduced to the Father. The Father makes you a son by accepting you through His Only Begotten Son. Along the way you will know for yourself the things which occur on the other side of the veil, where God and Christ dwell in glory.

Fullness of Priesthood

I received the following in an email:

“As I’m re-reading The Second Comforter I’m trying to clarify in my mind the issue of power in the priesthood and ordination under God’s hand. Our first trip to the veil is when we have our Calling & Election made sure. Nephi’s example (son of Helaman) indicates that at that time we are given power in the priesthood – sealing power. This is included in the fullness of the priesthood. But you have also made the clear arguments that (1) we do not see the Lord at this time – that is part of receiving the Second Comforter; (2) the fullness of the priesthood and its inherent powers are only received of God, under His hand. I’m sure it’s possible to be ordained under the hand of the Lord without seeing Him, but nowhere do I find an indication that this is what happens at one’s C&E – only that you hear a voice from heaven covenanting and promising. Are you able to share anything that could clarify this for me? I’m happy to read it on your blog if you wish.”
 
This is a topic I’ve never attempted to straighten out. It is marred by many errors in traditional understanding, and almost impossible to recover because of the vocabulary we use now. We have become accustomed to speaking about priesthood using terms we think we understand. Therefore, when the topic arises the first problem is that we speak about something not well developed, using terms we think we understand, but employing incorrect meanings.
The result is that I’ve used the term but haven’t bothered defining it. The closest I’ve come to providing anything is the Tenth Parable in Ten Parables. I’ve also used the concluding chapters of :Beloved Enos to give an overview, without changing the terms we are all accustomed to using.
In the “big picture” there are three levels of priesthood discussed by Joseph Smith. He uses the terms “Aaronic” (which includes Levitical) for one, Melchizedek for another, and Patriarchal for the third. In the D&C there is a revelation stating the church has two priesthoods. (D&C 107: 1.) Since the church claims to possess these two because of Section 107, and since Joseph used the term “Patriarchal Priesthood” to identify a third, I have used this category to explain what is set out in Beloved Enos; then used it further to develop the topics in Passing the Heavenly Gift.
Forget the nomenclature for a moment (because it is not as important as the underlying reality), and no matter what term you use, recognize there are three levels of priesthood. There are three members of the Godhead. There is a different member of the Godhead associated with three levels of salvation, three levels of Divine ministration, and correspondingly three levels of priesthood. There is a priesthood that belongs to the Telestial order, or the world where we presently live. There is a priesthood that belongs to the Terrestrial order, or this world in its Paradisaical state during the Millennium. There is a priesthood that belongs to the Celestial order, or the final redeemed state which men hope to inherit in the Father’s Kingdom. Read Section 76 and you will see these set out as conditions of glory. Then take the conditions and associate a priesthood with each. If you do that, you have a better grasp of the idea of “fullness of the priesthood.”
There are many problems with how we discuss this topic. I have made no attempt to challenge our current vocabulary, or the definitions we use with it. I’ve just accepted it and tried to set out the things I know to be true using the limited and accepted definitions we currently employ.
The Patriarchal Priesthood is not defined in scripture. We think the office of Patriarch in the church is what is meant by that. Or, alternatively, we teach that when you are sealed in the temple you acquire the Patriarchal Priesthood because you become a father within your family and that is kind of the meaning. Joseph made a remark which referred to finishing the Nauvoo Temple, and then going into the Temple and receiving the Patriarchal Priesthood. I’ve found it useful to refer to this most poorly understood form of priesthood to name and define it the third level of priesthood. I can make a persuasive argument to do so. I think it offers a rather elegant solution to our current vocabulary problems. But I won’t do that in this post.
The most important point is that there is priesthood which exists, but is not contained within or conferred by the church. It comes from one source – the Father. To receive that, read the Tenth Parable and you will have a description of how it unfolds. The Son is necessarily involved. He is the gatekeeper, who alone decides if the person is going to qualify. Then the Son takes it as His work, or His ministry, to bring a person before the Father. However, the ministry of the Son can take many years, and is designed to cure what is wrong, fix all that is broken, remove all that is impure, in the candidate. Only when the Son can vouch for the individual is he brought before the Father. It is the Father who confers and ordains a man to the highest priesthood.
I’ve left these topics alone because there is something much more important than having me write about them. The first step along the path is to make it through the veil. Not the veil in a Temple, or in a rite offered by men to one another. We must be brought through the veil back into the Lord’s presence. That is the step which stops most of our progress. By and large we don’t believe it possible. We make no attempt because we think it is not available, or we should not be trying to become more than our leaders, or we are not qualified, or some other false teaching which hedges up our progress. I’ve focused on that topic alone. If I can bring a person to have faith to approach the Lord, the Lord will tell them all things they need to do thereafter. He will work with them to bring them into possession of all they need for Eternal Lives. That is His ministry. Mine is but to point to Him.
I can testify the Lord continues to have a ministry. I can also testify it includes bringing you to a point of understanding that enables you to repent of your generation’s sins and come before the Father. It is happening today, just as anciently.
Joseph Smith’s ministry offered mankind an opportunity to have the ancient order restored. Not just a New Testament church. In the beginning there was one, unified priesthood. There were not three. There was one. It was called the Holy Order. Later it got several additive descriptors, including the Holy Order after the Son of God; or Holy Order after the Order of Enoch; or Holy Order after the Order of Melchizedek. We think we have that in the church today. We think that is what we give to Elders when we first ordain them. But Joseph Smith could not confer that on another person. It requires God. Through Joseph we were offered an opportunity to receive it, but we were more interested in having a church than the original Holy Order.
It was always necessary to restore the Holy Order– the original fullness. That must be here before the Second Coming. As soon, however, as the matter is fully set out, men will immediately begin to imitate and pretend to things because of pride, ignorance or vanity. In fact, the more readily it is explained in detail, the more often there will be those who falsely claim to have power they were never given by God. So I have confined what I’ve written to the first leg of the journey, and testified to the possible return to the presence of the Son. That is a precaution, and is designed to keep the message focused on saving souls. For the rest, I leave it to the Lord’s ministry to inform the disciple of what then must occur.
I believe at some point there will be a more public declaration of the fullness of the priesthood. But at the present, I think the greatest problem lies in connecting men back to angels, then to the Lord. When they have reached that point, the Lord will take them further.
Sealing power is part of higher priesthood, but men suppose God’s word alone is enough. No power comes from heaven without faith. There is always an apprenticeship. There is always further sacrifice required of the student. No one comes to the point in an instant, but increases by degrees in their trust with our God. You will find that in every prophet’s life.
Show me a man who has entered into the Father’s presence and I will testify that he has a fullness. But show me any man, no matter what position or keys he claims to possess, who has not entered into the Father’s presence, and I will testify he has not yet received a fullness. No matter what keys he has, he cannot possess the fullness. For that, the Father has a role He is required to fulfill. Hence the saying by Joseph that no man has seen the Father but He has born record of the Son. The question to ponder is what it means for the Father to bear record of the Son. Therein lies a great key.

Questions:

When a new day dawns, should not a man awaken?

What does it profit a man to awaken if he does not arise?

Does a man awaken only then to boast in his own conceit that he no longer slumbers, while all around him remain asleep; yet the man arise not from his bed? Where is the benefit in that?

The coming day will burn with heat, and those who remain in their beds, either asleep or awake, will be burned. If shade is offered but not taken, there is no benefit to awakening.

If His servant comes alone, he is rejected for the lack of witnesses. If with a company, he is rejected for having followers. Clothed with the spirit and filled with light, he is rejected as innovating. If he mourns, he is too sorrowful; and if rejoicing, he is too merry. You need only ask, and the Lord will tell you what you need to know.

The Whole Not the Parts

There are a few important ideas that define my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith. These are the ideas that make the Gospel whole, and not just a group of disconnected thoughts. Until these were part of the core of my understanding, I was left with disconnected dots and no overall harmony from which to orient myself.

First and foremost is that we are not to follow any man or men. No man is worthy of discipleship. Not me, not another. There is only one who is worth following. He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14: 16). Beside Him there is no other person who can save you (Mosiah 3: 17).

This first principle is what has motivated all I have written. It is a mistake to think there is a departure in Passing the Heavenly Gift from the topic begun in The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil. They are both necessary. They do not reflect a change in my testimony or commitment to the truth, only an elaboration on the essential core principle that we are not going to be saved by following men. Rather, you will become “darkened in your mind” if you do so. (TPJS p. 237.)

Second and equally important, it is not the depth of your study that matters, but the quality of your connection with heaven that matters. Expounding doctrine is not only insufficient, it is oftentimes a distraction from what matters. We go from unbelief to belief when we learn truth. Not every source, including institutional sources, can be trusted to tell you the truth. Only the light of Christ, followed by the Holy Ghost is a reliable guide to distinguish between unbelief and belief. We go from belief to faith as we take action consistent with belief in truth. Faith is a principle of power. It will lead you to receive angels who still minister to those of a sound mind, not given to flights of fantasy or unstable behavior (Moroni 7: 30). We are brought from faith to knowledge as angels prepare us through their ministry. (Moroni 7: 31; Moroni 7: 25; Alma 32: 23.) Knowledge comes from contact with Jesus Christ. (Ether 3: 19.) This is the knowledge that saves, and nothing else. (John 17: 3.) The idea that knowledge of Christ through His personal appearance to you is now unavailable is an old sectarian notion and is false. (John 14: 23; D&C 130: 3.)

Third, there is no written record, including the scriptures, which are able to tell you all you must know. You can only know the truth by having it revealed to you from heaven itself. (D&C 76: 114-118.) This is the reason Joseph said if you could gaze into heaven for five minutes you would know more than you would by reading everything that has ever been written on the subject. (TPJS p. 324.) Either you do as James says, and ask of God, or you will forever remain ignorant of the only knowledge which can save a man. (JS-H 1: 13, referring to James 1: 5.)

Fourth, the truth is intended to save us. We should welcome corrections. Too often, however, we are offended and think the truth is a hard thing to endure. (1 Ne. 16: 1-3.) That is a product of pride and arrogance. It is impossible to learn what must be learned unless we are willing to be corrected. (Mosiah 3: 19.) Therefore, only the qualified will arrive at the gates, because the rest are unwilling to take the trip required of them.

Fifth, this is a personal journey which each must take for themselves. It cannot be shared. You must approach the Throne yourself. Joseph was alone when he met the Father and Son. Moses was alone when he ascended the Mount to meet the Lord. Enoch was alone when he was caught up to heaven. Elijah was alone on the mountain when the whirlwind, lightning and earthquake preceded the Lord’s own voice. Daniel alone saw the vision of the Lord. Paul alone saw the light. Nephi alone saw his father’s vision. Enos was alone in the wilderness in his encounter with God. Abraham was alone when the Lord spoke to him. Jacob slept alone when the ladder to heaven descended for him. You will also be alone should the Lord come to visit you. This cannot be borrowed from another.

These are the core. This core is what faith, repentance, baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost are meant to bring about. The religion of heaven always involves heaven. It does not involve men and administration and popularity. It is solitary, between you and God. The proud, however, are content to proclaim their righteousness and sit in judgment of others. They live without God in the world (Mormon 5: 16), and their end will be destruction. They think their own imagination is revelation, and they foolishly value only their conceit. (Proverbs 26: 11-12.)

I will never flatter you. But I will never lie to you, either. My faith in the Gospel is stronger now than the day I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My fidelity to the church is greater now than it has ever been. It offered me baptism and I gladly accepted. If offered me scriptures, and I gladly accepted. It offered me ordination, laying on hands, washings, anointings, covenants and sacraments, and I gladly accepted them all. It gives me fellowship, and I value it. But my faith is in Christ alone.

A Visit to Temple Square

We took all the kids who are home, our foreign exchange student from Slovakia, and a friend of my daughter’s to visit Temple Square last evening. The place was crowded. That’s an understatement;. It was packed. At times the sidewalks were “sidestands,” because no one seemed to know you could walk on them.

The impatient crowding and the cold made the overall experience less than I’d hoped. After crowding about in the Square itself, we maneuvered to the east, exiting the Square onto former Main Street by the large reflecting pool. There wasn’t any relief there from the congestion and stern faces. People seemed quite determined, though it was hard to see of what.

We found some open space between the two sides of City Creek on the frozen grass and took a few group pictures with the eastern face of the Temple in the background. Then visited the Nativity scenes from other countries in the court area between the Administration Building and the Church Office Building. My daughter’s friend needed to visit the restroom, so we set out for the North Visitor’s Center, using the sidewalk on North Temple to avoid the congestion. As we entered North Temple there was a beggar on the ground. Now that the church owns the property, beggars are not allowed into Temple Square, Main Street,  or in the campus area to the east. I gave some money to my daughter who is home from the University of Wyoming, and she gave to the beggar. That helped improve the spirit of the evening. Reminded us of the condition we occupy in relation to God. (See Mosiah 4: 19.)

At last, arriving in the Visitor’s Center it was even more crowded than outside. There was a small rivulet of movement against the north wall before the desk, and at the moment we arrived the rivulet was occupied by outward bound Sister Missionaries headed back out to the frigid throngs. I noticed a wool cap on the floor, picked it up and held it high above my head for the owner to notice and come to reclaim. No one did. After a few minutes of holding it up, I asked a Sister Missionary with a Swiss Flag beside her nametag if there was a “lost and found.” She said it was at the desk beside the north wall. So I entered the rivulet and headed inward. Those who were not visiting the restroom followed me. We settled beside the lost and found north desk to await the return of our missing company.

In the North Visitor’s Center there was a youth choir in the southeast corner of the main floor singing some forgettable Christmas tune. I was taken by the expressions on the faces of those in the crowd as they either pressed into one another trying to move, or stood about in exasperation. The event was not what they had hoped for either. I lapsed into a quiet thoughtfulness of the circumstances, and wondered at how little joy seemed to be all about me in this crowded place.

Then it happened. It only took six notes to recognize the coming hymn. A cascade of memories of that song came back to me. The first time I remember recognizing it was in high school, when two of my classmates sang a duet. Debbie Penn was one of them, and I forget who accompanied her. When I first heard it I was stirred to reflection. For years it has been my favorite Christmas Hymn, even though it is terribly difficult to sing it well. On occasion, as I try to sing along, I will mutilate it. I cannot do the hymn justice, and I hope the Lord recognizes in my sincerity a slain sacrifice offered in honest devotion.

Then the female voices joined in the melody:
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.

They were perfect. Here was the greatest of Christmas Hymns being presented by the loveliest of chorus voices. I was transfixed. The crowds began to disappear and I was in deep reflection.

It was a holy night. That night represented more than just His birth. It represented also the beginning of an infinite sacrifice. It is difficult to adequately state how great the condescension of God in coming here. His great condescension began by coming into the flesh. (1 Nephi 11: 16-20.)

He explained to the Nephites His great status before His birth. He was the one who gave the Law to Moses on the Mount. (3 Ne. 15: 4-5.) The glory He displayed on the Mount was inexpressible. Moses attempted to convey some idea using precious stone and referring to the bright glory of heaven itself. (See Ex. 24: 10, but the translation is not a fair expression of the idea in Hebrew in which “the clear, bright glory of heaven” should probably replace “the body of heaven in his clearness.”)

A great, glorious Law Giver, whose glory was like the brightness of Heaven itself, condescended to become confined to a body of dust. Condescension indeed! Even before offering Himself as a sacrifice, He descended from glory to dwell here in the dust among our fallen race. The enormity of that step can hardly be put into words.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Here, in the newly born body of our Lord, was Hope come down to this fallen world. What humility exists in the God of Glory who would choose to come here. We are all important because God came from His lofty position down to be among us, to rescue us all. What greater proof of man’s worth can there be than this great condescension by a Holy Being?

Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices! …

The angels came to announce His birth. In their joy they could not contain their feelings, and words alone would not do. They broke out in hymns of praise. Only the combined voices of a glorious chorus could give vent to the feelings within the message of His coming! (Luke 2: 13-14.) Enoch saw this coming, and also rejoiced at the Lamb destined to be slain, at last coming into the flesh! (Moses 7: 47.)

The crowd before me in the Visitor’s Center transformed. They were not longer a busy, distracted, stern body pressing against one another. Each of them showed the merit of a God who came to dwell with them. They are all holy. They are all His handiwork.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother. …

We are our brother’s keeper after all. If we love one another, we are only loving Him. (John 13: 34.)

As the chorus completed the great hymn of praise I was grateful for the reminder of that Holy Night when Christ was born. We all still kneel before His great presence, for nothing else will adequately show our adoration of Him. (3 Ne. 11: 17.) We dare not stand in His presence until His command to “arise.” (3 Ne. 11: 20.) At the command, a momentary conflict takes place inside you between the inappropriate pride to stand in His presence and the compelling respect for His command. All doubts presently flee. His word is sovereign. It is obedience to His will that lets you stand before Him.

As my group reassembled and left the North Visitor’s Center, I was glad we had come. And glad for the great anthem I’d heard from the teenage choir. It was just what I’d hoped to find when we first departed for Temple Square.

History is the stuff

Almost always when an institution or group claims to have authority from God, the primary enforcement tool used to establish control over others is fear. Authority from God relieves the claimant to the authority of any need to display merit apart from the claim of authority itself. The Catholics were able to engage in excesses, abuses, even outright institutional evil, but these great wrongs were regarded as unimportant because of the claim to have authority from God.

God’s holiness was embodied in “keys” given from Peter. They were thought to allow holders of the authority to seal in heaven. This silenced the critics. The fear of being kept from heaven or consigned to hell was enough to rule over the souls of men. They could claim they acted from a higher plane, with God’s ways remaining mysterious, even incomprehensible to the common man. The power of God can judge others, but no may can judge God under this system.

If mental coercion did not work, then credulous and cruel believers could be employed to intimidate and get control. If more was needed, the Catholic hierarchy felt no inhibition at using violence to be able to rule and reign over the souls of men.

The Pope did not need to display virtue, only power. He did not need to produce revelation or expound on how men could entertain angels, only to appear in the seat of power, displaying the incidents of authority, wealth, privilege, standing above the common man in a place filled with art, treasure, statuary surrounded by supporters. These trappings were a substitute for revelation and authentic fruits from heaven.

This formula worked to keep all of Christendom subordinate to the rule of oftentimes wicked, even cruel, men. For nearly a thousand years it monopolized power over men. Because these pontiffs claimed to hold God’s authority, people feared them and were loathe to challenge them. When the bedrock of an institution’s claims rests on authority, these failings are almost always eventually unavoidable. God’s power is so resilient, so powerful, so vital for salvation that almost all men will surrender to it or be forced to submit when a group trusts that it exists.

These are powerful forces. When released upon the stage of history, they are meant to be held by only the meek, the humble, and the servants of all. Never by the proud, the vain, and the ambitious. But it is always the proud, the vain and the ambitious who are drawn to seek to hold such authority. Hence the many sycophants who always congregate at Rome.

We see some of this very excess on display within radical Islam today. Brutality is justified by God’s power; God’s right to kill. No one questions God’s right in such matters. But what man is there who can be certain of God’s will until he has stood in His presence and learned how great a gulf exists between the foolishness of man and the holiness of God? But those are rare indeed. It is far easier to claim to speak FOR God than to actually speak WITH God. Whole cable networks are filled with clamoring clergy claiming to speak for Him. They’ll be the first to burn, because the command to not take the Lord’s name in vain is, after all, one of the Ten Commandments.

History is the stuff from which most clearly the warnings of scripture take form in flesh and blood. All the warnings are there, but we frequently believe them only applicable to those we know to have fallen. But the lessons were always meant for us. …

Wickedness and Destruction

The cycle of wickedness and destruction often includes a complete inability of the wicked to detect their grave errors. They have their religion, and are comfortable with it. They think their pretenses are enough.

Ezekiel saw a vision of the destruction of the “chosen people” beginning at their Temple. The destroyers were told to wait before the slaughter began. First an angel would mark the foreheads of those who “sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” (Eze. 9: 4.) Meaning there were a few among the chosen, who knew their religious practices were used to justify abominable behavior. These few did not just condemn the wicked, they “sighed” and “cried” for their fellow saints. They prayed, made intercession, hoped for more time, and urged repentance.

The larger group, however, were content with their abominations and thought themselves righteous. They were not marked, nor spared. The command was given to slay them all, utterly, and spare none “both maids and little children, and women.” (Eze. 9: 6.)

In the vision Ezekiel saw the destruction begin at the Temple. (Eze. 9: 6.)  It began there because it was the Temple which these corrupt people believed to be proof of their great righteousness and also their favor with God. Therefore the destruction needed to begin there.

The angel faithfully marked only those who were aware of the abominations and who would not join in with it. (Eze. 9: 11.) When the destruction began, the Lord was committed to His judgment, and declared “mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.” (Eze. 9: 10.)

This is a useful chapter to consider. (Ezekiel Chapter 9.) It reinforces the importance of repentance, when it is offered. When the offering ends, it is followed by judgment and destruction.

How odd it is that the self-proclaimed “righteous” are almost without exception those who are most wicked, fallen, abominable and proud. You rarely encounter a corrupt group in the Book of Mormon who are not also quite involved in a false religion. The false religions in the Book of Mormon frequently teach that the followers are righteous and highly favored of God. (See, e.g., Alma 31: 14-18.)

Wouldn’t it be amazing if this kind of mistake could be made again by people who think themselves holy, better than others who do not enjoy the fullness of God’s favor/Gospel, and destined for salvation while all others were doomed to an inferior kingdom? It’s almost too ridiculous to even consider. Those things are behind us now, aren’t they? Because we are promised salvation, and for us to fail would be for God to fail, and we know He’s not going to do that.