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Cycles of Truth

The ordinances have been the same since Adam, according to Joseph Smith.  He explained that “[Jesus] set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever.” (TPJS p. 168.) Also, “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundations of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed.” (Id., p. 308.) This is why Joseph “restored” the Gospel, but did not bring anything new. It was a return to the earlier, forgotten truths.

Christ was careful to explain what was “fulfilled” in Him and what remained still intact from His earlier dealings with mankind. He “fulfilled” and brought to an end the Law of Moses. It ended. It was fulfilled. But everything else remained and was still in effect. Part of His explanation was as follows:

And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.

 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.
 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.
 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.
 And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come.
 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me. (3 Nephi, 15.)
Was Abraham a prophet? Did he live before Moses? Was the covenant with him fulfilled in Christ’s fulfillment of the Law of Moses? If Abraham preceded Moses by more than three centuries, how is the later Law of Moses related to the earlier covenant?
Here is part of the covenant between Abraham and God, to endure throughout all generations of those who claim part of Abraham’s covenant:
 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
 ¶And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
Since the covenants between God and man were established in the heavens before the foundations of the world, as Joseph explained, I suspect the covenant of circumcision did not originate with Abraham. I suspect it was restored through him, but came down from the beginning. I believe if we had a full record we would find that originally the covenant was established through Adam. That it was originally intended to be performed by the male in contemplation of marriage. That the covenant of marriage, like all covenants, required the shedding of blood to be in effect. For the man, circumcision sealed with the shedding of blood his covenant to marry. For the wife, the virgin sacrificed blood at the marriage. But those things are now long forgotten, lost to time, and could only be known today by revelation.
If Joseph’s statement is correct, and Adam had the fullness of the Gospel, then every prophet from the beginning has only “restored” lost truth. It has been a search to return to the original truth. After all, Christ came to Adam three years previous to his death and comforted him. (D&C 107: 53-57.) Such an event strongly indicates Adam had the fullness. The Gospel is, therefore, in all likelihood a search into the ancient order of things, not a leap forward into something new. In order to go forward, we will need to go back.
It is an interesting question to contemplate whether the Lord was serious about the token becoming a memorial of His “covenant [which] shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” Also, although the New Testament debates over “those of the circumcision” determined not to require circumcision of adult converts, they did not have 3 Nephi, Chapter 15 to inform their debate. (For New Testament references, see, e.g., Romans chapters 2 & 4, Galatians chapter 5, among many other places.)
I would doubt there will be any uncircumcised males included in the latter-day Zion. It is, at least for me, an interesting question to contemplate.

The First Three Words

In addition to the Elijah talk recently posted, we have decided to also upload the “First Three Words.” A great number of blog readers have requested this and had it emailed to them, and we are still occasionally receiving requests. Thanks to technology and the internet and all that good stuff we are providing that one as a pdf as well.

We hope you all enjoy and everyone have a joyous Christmas season focusing on Christ.

CM – the moderator

The First Three Words

Elijah

Here is the Elijah talk given at Confetti Books in October.  

Elijah Talk

Answer to Inquiry

I received criticism about using John D. Lee as a source in Passing the Heavenly Gift. My response was this: Though he was excommunicated from the church, convicted of the crime and executed for his role in Mountain Meadows, the church reinstated John D. Lee to full fellowship in 1962. His temple ordinances were restored, and so far as the church is concerned all his blessings returned.

There are things in the church’s archives that have never been made public. Therefore, the church knows things about John D. Lee’s role in the incident that have not been made available for me to review. In the recent book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, one of the LDS Church Historians (Richard Turley) makes a number of acknowledgements about the event. I presume he was acquainted with material in the archives when he did so.

The primary sources for my views are the work of Juanita Brooks and the recent Richard Turley books, not John D. Lee’s work. However, I think it is now a mistake to ignore what was said in Lee’s book. If the church believed he deserved reinstatement of all blessings, including his temple rites after what he wrote about the event, then I think it is a mistake to just ignore it.

I read Lee’s book with his attitude at the time it was written fully in mind. There were competing motivations. On the one hand, he was decidedly disaffected and felt betrayed by Brigham Young and the church. On the other hand, he was about to die and wanted to part this world telling the truth. Each reader will have to decide for himself which motivation prevailed. I found parts of the book were not credible to my mind because the incident was too remote and his retelling seemed to have too much detail for me to believe it wasn’t being embellished. But there were other parts which were very believable. His acknowledgements of wrongdoing and acceptance of his faults, particulary in his own family and among his plural wives, seemed to me to be an authentic effort of a man about to die to set matters straight.

In the end, I think his work is something that needs to be read and considered. I wanted corrobration to important details, but since the church has more information than has been given to the public, and decided in the light of that information to fully reinstate John D. Lee, it is no longer appropriate to dismiss him out of hand.

I also considered the criticism that his lawyer could have altered the text to make it more salacious before publication. I reached my own conclusion about that and do not think there was enough of that to warrant the conclusion that the text represents the story of the lawyer, and not John D. Lee’s. Anyone reading it should consider the historical criticisms made about the book.

On another subject altogether, if you’re in Beaver, Utah, check out Hammy’s. It is a new fast-food restaurant now occupying the old Arbys building just off I-15. The Arby’s signs were still up when we stopped there on our way home, and at first we thought we were going to Arby’s. After trying the place, I have to say I prefer it to Arbys. It’s our new favorite place to stop when we’re in Beaver.

We drove to Las Vegas in a snow storm on Friday. My daughter’s last softball games were down there. The drive down was exciting. We lost count of the wrecks we passed, or, in one occasion, drove through. Stayed in Circus Circus. I learned that Las Vegas still considers men who wear their uncontrolled lusts on their countenances, who are willing to pay money to titilate themselves in their desperate hormonal slavery, “Gentlemen.” They organize “clubs” for them. Somehow there are enough of them to apparently make a profit from catering to their weaknesses.

Editing and Expanding

I’ve been working with the transcript of the Elijah Talk for the last week. It is expanding from what was done in the oral presentation. I had a two-hour time frame to speak in that evening. Therefore the material was adapted to be presented in that time. For the transcript, however, I don’t feel the same constraint. Therefore I have been expanding the information to reflect other related ideas which would not fit into the time allowed.

I’ve also been adding footnotes and showing the sources from which the ideas were taken. There are over 190 footnotes in the first 28 pages. Right now the paper appears to be some 37 pages long, but it has a tendency to continue to expand as I edit further into the document. When finished I expect it may grow to 43 or so pages. But then it will be edited to reduce redundancy, etc. and shrink again.

At the moment, I’m hoping to have it done by next weekend, but make no promises. It will be made available for anyone interested. Given the length, however, it cannot be put up here as a post. Instead it will either be sent as a pdf copy by email, or posted as a pdf you can either download or read on-line.

I’ve been struck by the quantity of scriptures which were relied on in the talk. It isn’t clear that the ideas come from scripture until you go back through and cite to the sources. Then the entire talk becomes a foray into the Standard Works.

This effort reminds me once again just how delightful the faith restored through Joseph Smith was intended to be for those who follow it. It is a feast that includes “all truth.” Mormons should be the most open, inquisitive, searching minds in the universe. The faith spreads from antiquity to all eternity. We are the only folks claiming to be Christian whose scriptures include Egyptian hieroglyphs, some of which are left unexplained and for the reader to search out. In other words, our scriptures raise questions which they deliberately do not answer. We are forewarned, therefore, by our own Standard Works, that we have a job to undertake for ourselves if we want to learn the truth. What a delight it is to be Mormon.

I hope those who want to cut off discussion, curtail thought, stop the search for truth, and censor differing views realize they advocate apostasy from the original vital, living, delightful religion of Christ. If they succeed, they reduce our restored faith to just another dead faith, without living root or branch, separated from the living vine, who is Christ. So long, however, as there remains even one soul willing to search for the truth in Christ, the Restoration remains alive.

Two Suggestions

There are two suggestions I’d offer to you. First, when you read the scriptural accounts of answers to prayer, ask yourself if there is additional information given by God beyond the topic raised by the prayer or petition to God, in the answer received. The prayer or petition is what the prophet wanted to know. The answer, when it goes beyond that, is what God wanted to be known.

In the First Vision, Joseph wanted to know what church to join. He learned not to join any of them. But it was the rest of the information which was the Lord’s agenda, not Joseph’s.

When the Brother of Jared asked about lighting, that was his concern. The answer solved the problem, but went well beyond that. The answer included a revelation about the entire earth’s history and destiny.

Section 76 resulted from an inquiry about “heaven” but included a great deal more.

Section 107 satisfied the inquiry about how to organize the church, but it went well beyond that.

It is the additional information which tells you what the Lord wants us to know. Where He would like our attention directed. Follow that suggestion and you’ll find a great deal of what we often overlook.

Second, I’d suggest you read Passing the Heavenly Gift as a doctrinal exposition, rather than a history. The history can be disorienting and upsetting, even though it was intended for an audience which was already aware of issues and needed to be reoriented and comforted. If you are content with the traditional story, the book wasn’t written for you. But if you elect to read it anyway, then read it as an exposition of what the original doctrine was at the beginning with Joseph Smith.

Elijah talk not transcribed yet

The talk referred to earlier today is still the “First Three Words” or the King Follett discussion.  There are people who still request it. The talk on Elijah given at Confetti Books has not been transcribed yet. 

Sorry for the confusion.

Recent Conversations

I have a few requests for the talk mentioned on this blog. I will send those out later today to the ones who have requested them.

This morning I finished reading the Book of Mormon again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it through now. Dozens, if not hundreds. It still contains new information and powerful doctrine that I haven’t noticed before. It is apparent they had the Temple rites. They were in possession of greater knowledge than we have among ourselves.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a former Mormon who became Catholic when he left the church. He finished reading Passing the Heavenly Gift and wanted to talk to me about it. It was a wonderful conversation. He talked openly about his experience as a Latter-day Saint and how much the church changed during the four decades he was a member. He talked about how much he liked being a member at first, and how he thought it was the church that changed and not him. He thought it had become increasingly dictatorial and harsh over the years he belonged, and he was at last completely alienated from it.

I mentioned the historic excesses of the Catholic Church, the terrors exercised by their priestly authorities during the Dark Ages and the atrocities of the Inquisition. He admitted their historic shortcomings, but thought these errors were now all behind the Catholics. They had learned from their mistakes, and were now keenly aware that they cannot dictate to people in a modern, pluralistic and secular society. They were now more broad-minded, tolerant and accepting of freedom to think and behave than perhaps almost any other Christian faith. There are things such as abortion and homosexuality, which the Catholic Church condemns, but despite this, whenever personal failure occurs the church’s role is to forgive and to support. There is almost no thought given to church discipline, even in the case of transgressing priests who engage in pedophilia, and homosexual abuses. They accept and rehabilitate, condemn sin, but do not cast away the sinners.

As we talked, he said he expected that Mormonism, which is still in its infancy, will make the historic errors of the Catholic Church rather than to learn from history. He believed Catholicism’s great mistakes were in the past, but he thought Mormonism’s great mistakes are still in its future. He thought it was unlikely my LDS faith would learn from what I’d written in my book and turn away from its current direction. He thought my book offered an opportunity for Mormonism to reassess itself and turn into a more open, hopeful, helpful and tolerant faith because it would be necessarily more humble if it faced down its history.

Well, there were things we could agree on and things we will respectfully disagree. But I respect his faith because it is sincerely held. And he respects mine because he knows of my devotion to it. I enjoyed the open discussion. Neither of us felt threatened by the conversation and neither of us was trying to convert the other. We respected the choices each made in their faith.

As my wife and I walked and talked later that night, we discussed the problem of fear that is often an undercurrent when discussing religion with other people. Whether consciously or unconsciously fear is a great problem when the topic is religion. We puzzled over why that is the case.

With Latter-day Saints, the idea of a “testimony” can be an impediment to increased learning. That should not be the case. A person should be able to have a testimony and learn something new, even if it has the effect of changing their testimony. In fact, it is impossible for a testimony to grow if the new things must always conform to what is presently known. If a person’s understanding is limited, incomplete, or even mistaken, then when a new idea that conflicts with these incomplete, limited or mistaken ideas is encountered, the temptation is always to resort to measuring the new ideas by the old, mistaken ones.

The Nephites followed the Law of Moses. But when Christ taught them He informed them the Law was fulfilled in Him. (3 Ne. 15: 2-4.) Can you imagine what the result would have been if the Nephites chose to measure Christ’s message against their “testimony of the Law of Moses.” They would have rejected our Savior, knowing that He was false and trying to deceive them because He was teaching something that conflicted with their prior testimony.

Fear is a tool used to limit inquiry. Fear is a tool used to keep people from repenting and facing God. The path to God can only be found when you refuse to share in the confederacy of fear held by your fellow man. (Isa. 8: 11-13; see also 2 Ne. 18: 11-13.) For those controlled by their fears, they will view Christ’s way as a stumbling block and an offense. (Isa. 8: 14-15; also 2 Ne. 18: 14-15.)

What if your testimony is incomplete? What if your understanding is wrong? How can God ever work to your satisfaction if you refuse to acknowledge His gifts among His people? (Moro. 10: 24-25.)

As our conversation continued, my wife was of the view that fear is one of the most effective ways to prevent learning. It shuts more minds and curtails God’s gifts more than any other tool in Satan’s arsenal. It takes faith to allow your beliefs to be corrected by the Lord’s continuing revelations. He always imparts things that are unexpected, and which require you to adjust what you are thinking to a new, and greater light.

Thanksgiving

I’d been thinking of putting something up about Thanksgiving and using some New Testament things I’ve been reflecting on, but it changed today when I got my mail. Now I thought I’d just put up a short comment on another matter.

The practice of law is largely just work and the means for providing for my family. I like to be able to assist in solving problems between people, but oftentimes the work involves disputes which are intractable among people who want to vent against an opposing party. It is a real privilege to work for someone whose cause is just and who has been put upon in an improper way. That, however, is not always the client.

I have a client who has spent several years in prison on a conviction of a felony which he did not commit. The system failed. I did not represent him in his trial, nor in the appeal which followed. But I was asked to assist him once the Appellate court had denied his appeal. After four years in prison there are limited options to try and get him freed from prison. He has a great deal to be angry over, and little reason to be giving thanks for how his life has been afflicted from a system which has, in his case, failed.

Nevertheless, today I got a hand-made card in the mail from him, thanking me for the work we are doing on his behalf to seek his freedom again. Tomorrow I am going to have my children read his card, sent from prison, and use it to celebrate our own many, many blessings.

We all have much to be grateful for. A man I met after he read some of my books died of brain cancer last week. I was able to talk with him before his death. I tried to cheer him, but found it was instead him who was cheering me.

Life is difficult for everyone. But every life is also filled with blessings. Whether we notice the blessings seems to be entirely optional. But what seems almost mandatory is that we notice the problems, the slights, the disappointments and the failings we each endure here. Tomorrow, however, I intend to be not only superficially grateful, but genuinely so; and to reflect on recent events and the home-made card I received from prison to remind me once again how God blesses me almost beyond measure.