Someone asked this question:
In one part of Come, Let Us Adore Him you talk about the Dispensation in the Meridian of Time. How “Men of good faith and sincere desire doing their best to follow after God, lost the light of the Spirit, then lost sound doctrine, and ultimately lost their covenant status and drifted into darkness.” Did you mean this collectively? Over time as a group? As an individual of good faith, sincere desire, doing their best to follow after God, losing the light of the spirit, then sound doctrine and later drifting into darkness…. How tragic. If after all that they still failed, what then is our hope for an individual now, in our dispensation? Are we doomed to the same outcome? I see many following the same course as anciently.
It is troubling. It is the terrible problem of mortality. We are all prone to drift and fail. It is only by constant renewal of faith that we can hope to succeed. No matter how far we have come, what great things we have obtained, we are still subject to failure. This is why the FIRST principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: “faith, repentance, baptism and laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” We never outgrow these FIRST principles.
I believe them to be “FIRST” in the sense of primacy, not a singular event which happens and then you can take them off the list of stuff to do. They are primary. They are foundational. They are required to be used constantly. Therefore, they are “FIRST.”
So, we always go forward in faith. No matter how much we already know, we must use faith to go forward. We live within the limitation of linear time. We experience things in a flow that happens without our control. Life unfolds as an unknown to us, and we must cope with all it hands us from day to day. That requires faith to confront this uncontrolled, unfolding stream of time in which we are presently confined.
Repentance is required because even if we are doing what we should be doing we are always going to learn more. It is the nature of the Gospel that our light should increase. Whenever we learn more, we must change to reflect what we have just gained. Change is the heart of repentance.
Baptism is to have sins washed away. If you are already baptized, then the ordinance does not need to be done again, but the remission of sins and washing them away is required repeatedly. For those already baptized, this is done through the Sacrament. It is still required for us to have sins remitted.
The Holy Ghost is should be a regular participant in our lives. Its renewed companionship is also primary. Its witness to us that we are on the right path is the only way to wage the necessary war against entropy which seeks to take you into darkness. It is the source of renewed light that always enlightens when it comes.
These are the only means by which we can avoid the same dismal fate as all others of all prior dispensations. We must do this individually. It does not matter if it is done collectively. I’ve yet to see any reason in the scriptures to expect great collective success by the Gentiles who inherit the Gospel in our dispensation. There are individual promises to the few Gentiles who will repent, have faith, be baptized, enter into the covenant and remain faithful. But the collective outcome is not particularly rosy.
I was asked whether the white stone and new name in D&C 130 are the same as the Second Comforter. It was an interesting question and I thought I’d put the answer up here:
There are some equivalents (ie., if A=B and B=C, then A=C) in the Gospel when it comes to this subject. The ministry of the Second Comforter is to bring those to whom He ministers to the Father, and have them accepted by Him. This means that the Father accepts them as a member of the Heavenly Family, or in other words, promises them exaltation.
Since the end of that ministry is to have the person accepted by the Father as a son or daughter of God, then an equivalency can be drawn between the final outcome and the Second Comforter. This is what is done in D&C 88: 3-5. Joseph Smith did something similar in a statement he made in which he put the voice declaring a person’s exaltation first, and the visit of Christ and the Father with that person second. You can read about it in the Words of Joseph Smith, pages 3-6, but the most relevant excerpt is found below:
The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest & perhaps understood by few of this generation, After a person hath faith in Christ, repents of his sins & is Baptized for the remission of his sins & received the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands) which is the first Comforter then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering & thirsting after Righteousness. & living by every word of God & the Lord will soon say unto him Son thou shalt be exalted. &c When the Lord has thoroughly proved him & finds that the man is determined to serve him at all hazard. then the man will find his calling & Election made sure then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter which the Lord hath promised the saints as is recorded in the testimony of St John in the XIV ch from the 12th to the 27 verses Note the 22.214.171.124.23. verses. (16.vs) & I will pray the father & he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; (17) Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you & shall be in you. (18) I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you (21) He that hath my commandments & keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. & he that loveth me shall be loved of my father. & I will love him & will manifest myself to him (23) If a man Love me he will keep my words. & my Father will love him. & we will come unto him, & make our abode with him.
Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more or less than the Lord Jesus Christ himself & this is the sum & substance of the whole matter, that when any man obtains this last Comforter he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him or appear unto him from time to time. & even he will manifest the Father unto him & they will take up their abode with him, & the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him & the Lord will teach him face to face & he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, & this is the state & place the Ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious vision Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St Paul in the third heavens, & all the Saints who held communion with the general Assembly & Church of the First Born &c.
(This is an excerpt from Willard Richards’ Pocket Companion contained in The Words of Joseph Smith.)
Since the white stone and new name mentioned in D&C 130: 10-11 are referring to the state of exaltation and inheritance, and since the promise which the Second Comforter (Christ) is working to obtain for those to whom He ministers is the promise of exaltation, that equivalency may also be made. The difference as I see it is that those described in the verses in D&C 130 are in a future state, in which they have actually inherited the condition of exaltation, have entered into the Celestial Kingdom to dwell there and possess the white stone on which their new name is written; whereas the promises Joseph speaks of in the quote above and the promises in D&C 88 are given to a mortal and are to be realized fully in the future.
Now the promise of the Lord is reality itself. What He says will happen. His Word becomes the law of the universe. (See D&C 1: 38.) Therefore when viewed with the eyes of faith, the Word is the reality, and the inheritance is immediate for those with faith. This is the reason why Joseph said when a man receives “this last Comforter he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him or appear unto him from time to time. & even he will manifest the Father unto him & they will take up their abode with him, & the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him & the Lord will teach him face to face & he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God[.]”
Finally, since the mortal who receives these things is already in company with the Lord and the Father, they are already occasional visitors in a Celestial Kingdom although they are still here in mortality, required to endure to the end, suffer death and then await resurrection. Despite this, they are celestial and their lives are punctuated by contact with celestial beings from time to time, as the Lord determines is appropriate or necessary.
I was asked about godliness.
The ordinances are helps, symbols and requirements. “Helps” in that they establish milestones that memorialize passage from one stage of development to the next. “Symbols” in that they point to a deeper meaning or spiritual reality almost always grounded in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. “Requirements” in that they mark the defined route taken by Christ as a mortal to fulfill all righteousness.
The power of godliness is tied to opening the heavens and receiving assignments, confirming revelation, or blessings from God. Promises given to others are not promises to you. Men are rarely reliable sources from which to attain the Word of God. It is the unfortunate condition of mankind that, so soon as the are given a little authority they begin to use unrighteous dominion. Heaven, on the other hand, does not dictate, abuse, misuse authority or entice you to do evil.
All power is tied to heaven. When the powers of heaven are withdrawn from someone, then their authority comes to an end and they have no power.
The ordinances as symbols point to the real thing. The real thing is Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
If you want to have the power of godliness in your life, it must be gained through Jesus Christ; access to whom is available to all men on equal terms.
I was asked about Near Death Experiences and their interface with conversion. Here’s my take:
The advantage is that they know there is a continuation of life after the death of the body. However, whether they use that knowledge to advance in light and truth or not is individually determined.
Some have used NDE’s to become guru’s and sell books or give talks. That may detract from getting more light and truth. The thing about growing in light and truth is that it is always directly connected with the humility of the person. Humility or openness to new ideas and greater understanding is required to move from wherever you may be at present to a position of greater truth. It is that openness to new ideas which is indispensable to gaining knowledge of God.
Closed minds, particularly those that may grow out of religious experiences or beliefs, are not benefited by what great things God has to offer in the continuing education of His children. Joseph Smith once commented that it will be “a great while after we have left this life before we will have learned” enough to be saved. It is not all to be understood in this life.
Openness to ideas and further instruction is necessary to continue in the path of truth and light. A NDE may open one’s eyes to some truths, But the fullness of what is to be taught or gained from God is not given in a single experience or in a brief tutelage from missionaries. It is a lifelong quest.
I’ve been reflecting on the frailty of the human experience. We are buffeted and torn from the time of birth, tempted and beckoned to choose poorly, subject to hunger, fatigue and loneliness. The wonder is not that we see so much failure and frustration in mankind. Rather the wonder is that we see occasionally such heroic lives that shine like a brilliant star while lived among us.
The Deseret News had an article and pictures of the young Utah lives cut short by service in the military. For the families of these valiant men and women who died for our country’s interests, the loss will be lifelong. They will hardly take a breath from the day of their son or daughter’s death that the memory of their child does not stay with them.
I don’t think we do enough to express our collective gratitude for those who have lost their lives for others. Whether they are in the military, police service, firemen or others who die trying to render noble service for the rest of us, we owe a debt of gratitude to these families.
The Priesthood is separate from the church. For example, when someone is excommunicated they are told to stop using their priestly authority. When they are re-baptized they are never re-ordained. They are simply given authorization to now begin using their authority again.
We do not re-ordain someone when they are re-baptized because re-ordination is unnecessary. They held priestly authority even while they were not a member of the church.
Priesthood preceded the church and is the basis upon which it was organized. It will last beyond the church, at least in the final, Patriarchal form. That priesthood will endure into eternity, for it is the basis upon which the eternal family is predicated. The eternal family is the government of God, not the church. After this life, the church will come to an end. But the family, as a form of government, and priesthood of a Patriarch and Matriarch, presiding as a king and queen, priest and priestess, will endure.
I’ve figured out part of the problem I have in discussing Mormon issues with others. Oftentimes there is a disconnect between how important the two parties view the subject being discussed. To illustrate the point, I’m proposing a completely arbitrary method of ranking an issue on a 10 point scale of ascending importance as follows:
1. Completely meaningless
4. Somewhat significant
6. Very significant
8. Very important
10. Essential to salvation
When I think a subject is “1” and someone else thinks it is “10” then naturally I don’t care about the point. They think I must be convinced of the point or I am going to forfeit salvation itself. When that is the case, we don’t connect very well. If we do reach an agreement, I don’t think the agreement amounts to much. They on the other hand, think they’ve won a major point, or provided a valuable service. I would likely be bored with the discussion, and since I didn’t value the subject’s importance would probably offend the other party by my disinterest.
On the other hand, views change. At one point I am convinced that some behavior or conduct is either 9 or 10, only to later realize that it is more likely a 3 or 4. That change in attitude may be due to nothing more than living longer, getting more experience and developing a little humility about life and its challenges.
I think that a lot of discussions, disagreements and strong arguments are rooted in an assignment of different levels of importance to the subject.
For example, when I was an Elder’s Quorum President, Home Teaching by Quorum members was something between an 8 and 10. I’m not an Elder’s Quorum President any longer, and I go home teach my families because I really care about them. I like them. I want to be with them. I find them interesting. I’ve been 100% for many months and, if I miss at all, it is due to either their absence during the month or mine. But I try to keep in close touch, not because of some “assignment” but because I like them. If I were to assign a level of importance to home teaching now, based on the scale above, I would candidly give it a 5 or 6.
There are people who believe the center piece of the relief society room during a lesson is a 10. I don’t relate well to that. And there are those who think President Monson’s General Conference Addresses are a 1. I don’t relate well to that, either.
Before a discussion begins about gospel subjects, I think it is always helpful to first find out how important the subject is to the person with whom you are speaking.
My youngest daughter plays on a 10-and-under boy’s super league baseball team. They played in a tournament this week. In the first three games she was hit by pitches in every game. In one, the bases were loaded and her hit-by-pitch walk scored an RBI. I told her she had “RBI’d” a run and I was proud of her. She thought about it a while and asked, “What does RBI mean?” I said, “Run batted in.” She replied, it should mean “Run by injury.”
In the last game she hit a single and RBI’d 2 runs.
I noticed that the moms for the opposing teams all rooted for her when she was up to bat. The dads, however, were horrified that a girl was competing with their sons. I think she’s doing a public service.
King Saul lost his counselor-prophet when he died of old age. (1 Sam 25:1) Saul’s unstable conduct and unfaithful behavior precluded him from getting an answer from the Lord. “And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.” (1 Sam. 28:6) So Saul went to visit a woman who could conjure the dead. Saul had the woman conjure the deceased Samuel.
Saul had prohibited conjuring as a matter of law within the kingdom. (1 Sam. 28:3) So think about what he’s doing:
– it’s illegal to go see a conjurer, so he’s breaking his own law.
– he goes to see the witch of Endor in order to get access to the dead prophet.
– so are we to trust the witch? or are we to trust the spirit that the witch conjures to be reliably Samuel?
Life really gets complicated for the superstitious and foolish.
I have been struck by how much of the message which Samuel the Lamanite and Abinadi both deliver have previously been the subject of Nephi’s prophecies. Almost every bit of Samuel the Lamanite and Abinadi’s messages are first included within Nephi’s message. It is possible that both of these later Book of Mormon prophets were “restoring” to new generations the message originally taught by Nephi which had fallen into neglect.
The entire message of Joseph Smith was to restore what had been here before and become lost. The work of scholar Margaret Barker suggests that Jesus Christ was restoring First Temple theology and earlier lost traditions.
If the gospel was originally preached to Adam (and I think it was) then every prophet from that day until now has simply been restoring what was once here. Prophets fight the law of entropy. Mankind keep losing truths and prophets keep bringing them back.
One of the great “signs” that there is a true prophet on the earth is the restoration by them of truths which have fallen into disuse or neglect. True prophets are at war with entropy and decay.
After Christ’s resurrection, when He had ministered to His disciples, and proven that it was He who had been crucified, Luke makes this interesting observation: “And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” (Luke 24:52-53)
First, it is interesting because Christ had fulfilled the Law of Moses. Therefore, the rites of the temple of Herod were no longer necessary. Yet Christ’s disciples returned to the temple “continually” to worship Him. Second, the temple was under the control of those who conspired to kill the Lord. Despite this, Christ’s disciples were “continually” in the temple.
True worship by a true disciple is never impaired by the circumstances. We should not allow anything to distract us from our own “praising and blessing God.” If it can be done in the temple of Herod after the crucifixion of Christ, it can be done today.