86: Endure It Well

Today Denver addresses the following question, “How can we know if the boils we receive in life are due to being like unto Job or because you are more akin to Pharaoh?”


It’s a great question; I love the question. First, there’s an interesting exercise that I would commend to any of you. Go to the account of Exodus, the early events, and only read the words of Moses. Just read Moses’ responses, his reactions, his complaints, his fear, his doubts—and what you will realize is that it doesn’t matter if someone occupies a great position, as Moses did, or the lives that each of us are now living. No one fits easily or comfortably or without anxiety into the work of the Lord. There’s a measure that you take of yourself in which you look inward and say, “I’m not adequate to what needs to be done; I don’t have the faith required.” And you’ll see that that’s exactly what Moses was telling God—that looking inward, he did not think himself equal to it. 

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi gives us an account of their journey—after they had been delivered from Jerusalem which was about to be destroyed and they were migrating—here are some comments that he makes about their experience: 

  • We have suffered much afflictions, hunger, thirst, and fatigue (1 Nephi 5:10 RE); 
  • …we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness (ibid, vs. 11); 
  • …we had suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea even so much that we cannot write them all (ibid, vs. 14). 

This is Nephi explaining his experience in the wilderness. Afflictions, hunger, thirst, fatigue—so many afflictions that they can’t even talk about ‘em. We don’t look at those words; we pass over ‘em as if Nephi were somehow being modest, or Nephi were being self-deprecating. We pass over what Moses says when he’s getting the responsibilities imposed upon him by the Lord, as if it’s just common sense that he’s heroic and larger than life and greater than the common man. When you read his reaction, he sounds like us: he sounds common, he sounds ordinary. And when you read the lamentation—we suffer because we are… because we’re mortal, because we’re here, because that’s the common lot that is designed to be experienced as a consequence of the fall. And there’s no escaping that. 

The question isn’t: Are we going to suffer while we are here? The only question is: To what degree do we bear up under the troubles of this life, graciously and humbly—and acknowledging that God rules in the heavens above; He rules in the earth beneath; and He rules in your life, too. And that everything that you experience is designed to make you be added upon by the things that you suffer and the things that you experience here.

I was asked (verbally) if I would comment on some of the challenges that people of faith have in defending the Book of Abraham. And that’s probably a subject that’s worth writing about, rather than just talking off the cuff, but—here’s, generally, my observation. The people want to know what Joseph did and how he did it, in order for them to understand, maybe, how they can do it. 

So there’s this relentless inquiry into: “How did that process take place? What went on?” When, in fact, the gifts of God are almost entirely incapable of being transferred from one to another. Each person has to come to God on their own. 

Oliver Cowdery was a man of faith, and he believed in Christ and the possibility of the second coming of Christ being proximate (or in close proximity) to his life. He believed in and he got answers from God; and then he hears about what Joseph is doing, and he goes to become his scribe. 

One of the early revelations that were given to Oliver talked about his, Oliver’s, own gift—that he had this gift, in which Oliver could get yes or no answers by using the (what we would call a) “divining rod” (or a stick) that would respond positively or negatively to inquiry. And so he had this—and the revelation does not call it anything other than “a gift.” It may seem like a peculiar gift to you and I; but it’s, nevertheless, a gift, and it came from God. 

Joseph had a gift in which he was capable of receiving revelation—sometimes through instrumentalities, sometimes by study, sometimes simply by God speaking through him in the first person in a spontaneous way. How he went about doing that is unique to him. The way in which you relate to God is unique to you. Running out and trying to replicate something—in order for you to know the process by which God involved Himself in revelation in Joseph Smith’s experience—is not gonna teach you what Joseph Smith experienced.

The fact that I have concluded that Joseph Smith was a restrained man (in many respects, a very modest man), whose defense of what he believed to be the truth was fierce, but who recognized that there were a lot of people (including his own wife, Emma Smith) who had a better education than did he— 

Joseph was like a sponge when he thought he could get truth or help from others, and he was meek and humble in that respect. But if God had revealed something to him, he was an iron-fisted, immovable man for the truth, personally and privately, just as the scriptures say concerning Moses. Moses was the meekest of all men. If you just read the dialogue from Moses (in Exodus), you’ll see nothing but meekness in that man. If you’ll read Joseph Smith’s three documents in A Man Without Doubt, you’ll see a meek man—unbelievably frustrated by some of the circumstances into which he was put, searching to find the right way out of the dilemma, trying to get God aroused to anger in the same way that the circumstances aroused Joseph to anger, but submitting always to whatever the will of God was for him. Ultimately, Joseph Smith left to go to be imprisoned in Carthage, knowing he would not come back from there (or at least expecting that he would not)—and commenting about how his life was no value to his friends, as he returned and he went back for the slaying. 

Say what you want about those final moments in the life of Joseph Smith. He put himself in harm’s way to prove his fidelity to his friends. He would not forsake them (as they claimed he was doing in their hour of need) and ultimately gave his life up. That’s not the conduct of a con-man. That’s not the way in which someone who’s going to lie and cheat and steal and behave as an immoral exploiter of others would conduct their lives. Joseph, in my view, was not just a virtuous man, but he qualified as one of those who hath no greater love, because he went back and surrendered at the behest of his brethren—in part, with the hope that by losing his life, Nauvoo would be spared the slaughter that had gone on at Far West and Haun’s Mill and elsewhere. 

And so, when you ask about the translation issues and the controversy over the Book of Abraham, the bottom line/the real issue is: However the mind of Joseph was set on fire with the restoration text of father Abraham’s account of his search, you have to decide that the content either is from heaven or it’s a lie. 

There was a series (it’s now been abandoned, but it’s a series that was begun at Brigham Young University), the first volume of it—the Book of Abraham series—the first volume of it was pretty good. What they did was take concepts that are included in the text of the Book of Abraham which were completely unknown in the Christian world at the time that the Book of Abraham was put into print. They had to be unique concepts. If you could already find them in the Bible or if you could already find them in what was available to the Christian world, generally, then those weren’t included. They had to be unique ideas. They took and gathered the unique ideas that come out in the Book of Abraham (about which Joseph Smith would have known nothing), and then they looked into other material that exists (from diverse places) about legends or stories concerning the life of Abraham. And what they found is that there were Hindu traditions that talked about Abraham, that preserved some of the very same incidents that are only found in the Book of Abraham at the time Joseph published the Book of Abraham. They found there were Islamic texts that were similarly describing the same kind of event, the same incident that’s unique to the Book of Abraham. They found sources that were in Coptic Egyptian texts. They amalgamated into one volume (it’s a pretty big volume) all of the parallel accounts from the life of Abraham (in cultures from around the world or religious traditions from around the world) that Joseph Smith nailed on the head in his account of the Book of Abraham. 

That approach does not defend Joseph Smith as a translator of Egyptian, because it has nothing to do with the papyri. But it does a pretty good job of defending Joseph Smith as a revelator, as someone to whom God could reveal light and truth and he could accurately record it—because echoes of the unique material in the Book of Abraham show up in the ancient world and in other cultures that date back nearly to the time of Abraham. So, the real question is, Do you trust Joseph?

I know of no more cheerful a being in the universe than Christ. When He says, ​Be of good cheer​, we ought to all accept that as the mantra. There is nothing that any of us will ever go through that He hasn’t gone through, with a considerable greater degree of difficulty. He lived with a higher ‘specific gravity’ than any of us had to ever fight against. And He won for each of us a prize that is potentially eternal. It will be eternal, one way or the other. But if you take full measure of what He offers, it will be delightfully eternal.

Cowardice is largely predicated upon fear. Don’t be cowardly. Don’t be fearful. Fear is the opposite of faith. For goodness sake, you’re already in the battle! You’re already going to be overtaken. The fact of the matter is that no one gets out of here alive. Live this life nobly, fearlessly. When you take the wounds that come your way, you make sure that they come to your front! Don’t let ‘em shoot you in the back. Go about your life boldly, nobly, valiantly. Because it is only through valiance in the testimony of Jesus Christ that you can hope to secure anything—not valiance in your fidelity to anything other than Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is that faith must be based in Him, and Him alone.

Turn back to Doctrine and Covenants section 121. This is a letter Joseph composed while in Liberty Jail. Mind you he was in Liberty Jail and had suffered through wintertime and it was now in the spring when the letter was composed.

Joseph had no release date in mind, or even if he would go free. He did not know if the original order for his execution would be carried out. He had been kept jailed for many months, in a state of suspension. In these circumstances, verses seven and eight were received by revelation: “My son, [that alone ought to be reassuring to Joseph] My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” [Endure it well! Joseph, in the extremity of Liberty jail was told, “endure it well.” You think you have challenges, difficulties, and you face the limits of what you can bear. Endure it well. Your adversity and your afflictions are going to be for a small moment, and then if you endure it well, something better is going to come.]

Then, as if it weren’t enough reason to end self-pity, turn to 122 verse eight: “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

If you think that your burdens that you carry are great, remember the burdens carried by the Son. He faced burdens inordinately greater than yours. All of us should be tested to our limit. All of us should be “proven” by the experiences we endure. The only way to test some things is to destroy them. The only way to test you through mortality is to cause mortality itself, with the eventual coming of death. That is the way this probation works.

Look at verse 4 of Ether chapter 3. “And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea. Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.” [He was not asking for this to see a light show. He asked for this out of pity and concern, charity and intercession for others who would otherwise be left in the dark. He is trying to do something to bless and benefit others in a very practical way. He hopes to make the lives of others better. He was not doing this for himself. He was doing it on behalf of his people.]

Therein also lies something very important about the attitude of this man, that tells you why God had respect for this man.

Think about what it means to be given the power of God. Think about what it means for God to be able to do all things, including sustaining you from moment to moment by lending you breath. With that great power, God says to us, “You are free to choose to do whatever it is that you choose.” Think of the patience of our God. Think of the meekness of our God. And think about the test you are presently taking to prove who and what you are. Ask whether or not, in the circumstances of this test, you are proving that you can be trusted to have the meekness, to have the patience, to endure in humility what must be done. Will you endure the abuses God allows to take place in order to permit His children to gain experience? Do you respect God’s plan so that in the long run we can all ultimately know the difference between good and evil? Will we voluntarily choose to love the good and to stay away from the evil.

Think about that. And think about this record, and think about the test currently underway. Think about what it is you in your life should be choosing, doing, desiring and holding to your breast. What do you love?

“And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger.” [Now I want to pause because the only thing that the brother of Jared ever sees at this point, is His finger. The Lord may stretch forth His hand, but the only thing seen is His finger.]

I really love LDS writer Catherine Thomas. I love her books, I own them, I’ve read them, and I like what she did with the brother of Jared at the veil. However, it is simply based upon a fanciful connection between the dialogue at the veil in the temple ceremony and this incident here.

The hand of God never emerges, only His finger. You can read it in verse 6 and again in verse 9. The Lord asks him, “Did you see more that this?” “No,” he answers, “just the finger.” I put one of the stones I used in my experiment into my hand. Let’s assume for the moment I have 8 in one hand and 8 in the other, as the brother of Jared. Let’s assume someone else touches it in my hand. It is impossible to touch the stone in a man’s hand without the one holding the stone feeling it has been touched.

We read this record, but we fail to notice what was really happening. They were in his hands, eight and eight, and the Lord touched them one by one with His finger. Now, there is nothing in this record that suggests that after the last stone gets touched, or after the stone the Lord was touching at the moment that the finger is seen, there were anymore stones remaining to be touched. They were touched. First one, then another, one by one. Sixteen times this was repeated. This record read fairly suggests to me that the brother of Jared stood there and witnessed 15 of the 16 stones, felt the touch on 15 of the 16 stones, before on the very last stone he saw the finger of the Lord. Think about that for a moment. Think about coming into contact, admittedly through a stone, but coming into contact with the Lord when He manifests Himself for the first time to man physically. Think about that.

“And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood…” [That is the way the Lord chose to manifest Himself in this incident. He appeared “like flesh and blood” because He came physically into contact with 16 stones.]

“…and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear. And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen? And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.” [It frightened him to realize that the God who controls all things had flesh and blood. This was a great secret that ought not get out, and now he knows it. Knowing it frightened him. He thought he was intruding into space he shouldn’t and he felt convicted that somehow, that was something he ought not know.]

“And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this? And he answered: Nay.” [He didn’t see the hand, he saw the finger, and he didn’t see more than this.]

“Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me. And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” [This is a necessary prerequisite, because what the Lord is about to speak to him will be covenantal. When it comes to prophecy, covenants, commitments by God, what He’s about to do requires the brother of Jared to have faith in God’s true nature. He needed to have a correct understanding of God’s attributes. This was required before God could show him all things. This is an incident right out of the Lectures on Faith we discussed in Idaho Falls.]

“And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie. And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you. Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters. And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image. Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh. And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written, therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.”

What was the body Jesus showed Himself unto the Nephites in? What is the difference between water as a solid, water as a liquid, and water as a gas? The difference between that, if you want to take a scriptural word, is “quickened.” In one condition it is quickened, in another condition it is less quick. In science the difference between the two is “temperature” or heat.

God dwells in everlasting burnings. In order to be with or near Him, a man must be “quickened” to endure His presence. Does that mean that in a quickened state, it is impossible for a quickened being, to manifest itself in a solid form? Well, take a look at Doctrine and Covenants section 131 verse 7. “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.”

Doctrine and Covenants section 77 verse two includes the statement: “…that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual.”

D&C 88 verses 15 and 16: “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man. And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.” [This definition was given by revelation to Joseph Smith in 1832. Three years later in 1835, Chandler came through and sold the mummies to Joseph Smith. He did not bother translating the end part of the Book of Abraham as we have it, until the 1840s in Nauvoo. By the time he translated in Nauvoo, he knew the definition of a “soul.” It was the spirit and the body. When Joseph translated the Book of Abraham, in Abraham chapter 3 verse 23, speaking of those in the preexistence he rendered it: “God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits.” They were souls, possessing therefore a spirit and a body. And they were spirits because they had not come down to this level as yet, in the beginning, to be in this condition. These are identified as “the noble and great”ones.

I talked before about the definition of “rulers” in the Gentile world, and that is someone who exercises authority over someone else. In the vernacular of both the Book of Mormon, and in the vernacular found here, “rulers” in the house of God have nothing to do with dominion over someone else. A “ruler” is someone who teaches. A ruler is someone who is able to give an accurate gauge by which to measure things. A ruler is someone who teaches the truth. If you want to be a ruler in the house of God, then you have to be someone who declares and teaches the truth.

Take a look at Alma chapter 13 because this is where it becomes very important for us. Alma chapter 13 beginning at verse 17: “Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness. [This was his audience.] But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.”

First he received this priesthood. Second, he preached repentance. But still nothing would have happened except for, third, the people who heard him did repent. Because of that Melchizedek was a prince of peace. His people were described as having waxed strong in iniquity. His people were captivated by abominations. His people had all gone astray, but turned out to be the very people who established this City of Peace. But they did it. They did it by repentance. This isn’t something Melchizedek pulled off, this is something the people accomplished, and they accomplished it because of their repentance.

I want you to contrast that with another group. This group is described in Mosiah chapter 12, beginning halfway through verse 12. This was people reacting to the message Abinadi delivered to them. They accused Abinadi, saying, “And he [Abinadi] pretendeth the Lord hath spoken it. And he saith all this shall come upon thee except thou repent, and this because of thine iniquities. And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man? And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain. And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper.”

Here is pride, vanity, and here is the very thing which, had the people to whom Melchizedek spoke, had they done this, there would have been no City of Peace, there would have been no Salem, there would have been no second Zion.

You generally hail from a tradition that assures you that you’re in the right way. You generally come from a tradition that says you are better than others. You are able to look down your nose at other people who stumble about in the dark, because they don’t have all the great truths you think you have. The fact of the matter is, you generally, not specifically, are not right before God. Of course, there are some to whom this absolutely does not apply, whose hearts are right before God, but there aren’t many.

You have been handed this tradition. Understand, however, the wicked one cometh, and he takes away Light and Truth and he does it because of the false traditions you have been handed. The greatest among us is wholly inadequate. The greatest among us cannot be trusted with the power of God, not yet anyway. The greatest among us is still in need of repentance. Every one of us should walk fearfully before God, not because God is not generous, but because what He offers can turn you into a devil. The only way to be prepared and not fall, is to realize the enormous peril you potentially present to the universe. Before you get in a position to enjoy the status God offers to us all, you need to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, exactly like Paul said. You need to purge, remove, and reprove. This attitude we see in this man in this account (the brother of Jared), this is the man of God! Christ may be the prototype of the saved man, but I know of no record anywhere in all of scripture that exposes the heart of the real disciple of Christ as well as this chapter exposes the heart of this man. This is what we should become. This is why the Lord could open up to him. This is why this man became, in the history of the world, up to that moment, the one God revealed the most about Himself. This is despite the fact the Lord came to Adam in Adam-ondi-Ahman and administered comfort to Adam in the Valley of Adam- ondi-Ahman.48 Here He came and showed Himself as He truly was, as a preexistent spirit, possessing a soul as tangible as man’s. Christ ministered to him in a way, which, if you understood what it takes for a quickened being to condescend to show Himself as He does here, you would appreciate this was an enormous sacrifice by our Lord.

The foregoing are excerpts taken from:

  • Denver’s Q&A session at the Keeping the Covenant Conference in Boise, ID on September 22, 2019
  • Denver’s 40 Years in Mormonism Series, Talk #1 entitled “Be of Good Cheer” given in Boise, ID on September 10th, 2013; and
  • Denver’s 40 Years in Mormonism Series, Talk #8 entitled “A Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit” given in Las Vegas, NV on July 25th, 2014