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Sunstone Paper

The paper that the Sunstone talk I gave yesterday is available as a download. You can view or download the paper here.

We are working to add it to the “Downloads” area of this website and should have that accomplished later today.

Preserving the Restoration is now available.

PtR_front_1

 

After a year’s work the book inspired by the ten lectures has been completed and published. It includes a great deal of supporting research and citations which the lectures did not use. Some of the limitations of the talks do not exist for a book. Therefore the book covers more than I could fit into the lecture series and is organized somewhat differently to finish the discussion.

The substance of the book is contained in the ten lectures, the blog posts about King Benjamin and the paper titled Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge. These are available for free on this website. It is not necessary to spend money to acquire the book to learn the substance.

This new book enlarges on subjects and has a better overall organization. It has also made extensive use of the Joseph Smith Papers, the Times and Seasons, conference minutes, contemporary newspapers written in the 1830’s and 1840’s, correspondence from the era. The quotations from those sources leave their language as in the original, with misspellings, cross-outs, improper grammar, etc. At the end of the book there is a “Word Index” that is blank, allowing the reader to fill in citations to pages that the reader may want to find quickly. The book is a reference work to recover the original faith that existed at the beginning of the restoration, the original destiny, and sets out how the restoration can continue despite the fact institutions based on “Mormonism” have universally abandoned the original faith.

Anyone who is interested in Mormonism will benefit from reading this book. It is not hostile to any sect, but attempts to restate the original “Mormonism” for the benefit of anyone in any sect who would like to better understand what their faith started out to accomplish.

You can view details about the book by clicking here or on the image at the top of this post.

Jos Smith Letter Sept 1833

Jos Smith Letter Sept 1833

Below I have copied and pasted a transcription from the Joseph Smith Papers publication of the LDS Church Historian Press. The letter is written in September, 1833, while Joseph was working on a series of lectures which would eventually become scripture. They would not be published until 1835 as Lectures on Faith. But the thinking of Joseph in September 1833 shown in this letter to his uncle show how the analysis of the later published Lectures on Faith came from the mind of Joseph Smith. This version is taken from the website, but a printed version appears in JS Papers, Documents Vol. 3, pp. 303-308.

________o0o__________

Kirtland Mills Ohio sept 26 1833

Respected Uncle Silas

It is with feelings of deep interest for the well fare of mankind which fills my mind on the reflection that all were formed by the hand of him who will call the same to give  an impartial account of all their works on that great day to  which you and myself in common with them are bound, that I  take up my pen and seat myself in an attitude to address a few  though imperfect lines to you for your perusal.

I have no doubt but that you will agree with me that men will be held accountable for the things which they have and  not for the things they have not or that all the light and intell igence communicated to them from their benifficen [beneficent] creator wh ether it is much or little by the same they in justice will be  judged, and that they are required to yield obedience and  improve upon that and that only which is given for man is  not to live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds [p. 228]

out of the mouth of God

Seeing that the Lord has never given the world to unders tand by anything heretofore revealed that he had ceased forever  to speak to his creatures when saught unto in a proper manner  why should it be thought a thing incredible that he should be  pleased to speak again in these last days for their salvation Perhaps  you may be surprized at this assertion that I should say for the  salvation of his creatures in these last days since we have already in  our possesion a vast volume of his word which he has previously given But you will admit that the word spoken to Noah was not suff icent for Abraham or it was not required of Abraham to leave  the land of his nativity and seek an Inheritance in a strange land  Country upon the word spoken to Noah but for himself he obtain ed promises at the hand of the Lord and walked in that perf ection that he was called the friend of God Isaac the promi sed seed was not required to rest his hope upon the promises  made to his father Abraham but was priviledged with the assu rance of his approbation in the sight of Heaven by the direct  voice of the Lord to him If one man can live upon the revelat ions given to another might not I with propriety ask why the n ecessity then of the Lord speaking to Isaac as he did as is record ed in the 26 chapter of Genesis for the Lord there repeats or rath er promises again to perform the oath which he had previously  sworn unto Abraham and why this repet[it]ion to Isaac Why was not  the first promise as sure for Isaac as it was for Abraham.  Was not Isaac Abraham’s son And could he not place implicit confidence in the word of his father as being a man of God.

Perhaps you may say that he was a very peculiar man and  different from men in these last days consequently the Lord  favored him with blessings peculiar and different as he was  different from men in this age I admit that he was a peculiar  man and was not only peculiarly blessed but greatly bless ed. But all the peculiarity that I can discover in the [p. 229]

man or all the difference between him and men in this age is  that he was more holy and more perfect before God and came to  him with a purer heart and more faith than men in this day.

The same might be said on the subject of Jacobs history  Why was it that the Lord spake to him concerning the same prom ise after he had made it once to Abraham and renewed it to  Isaac why could not Jacob rest contented upon the word  spoken to his fathers When the time of the promise drew nigh  for the deliverance of the children of Israel from the land of  Egypt why was it necessary that the Lord should begin  to speak to them The promise or word to Abraham was that  his seed should serve in bondage and be afflicted four hun dred years and after that they should come out with great  substance Why did they not rely upon this promise and  when they had remained in Egypt in bondage four hundred [years] come out without waiting for further revelation but act entirely  upon the promise given to Abraham that they should come  out.

Paul said to his Hebrew brethren that God b[e]ing more abu ndantly willing to show unto the heirs of his promises the immu tability of his council [“]confirmed it by an oath.” He also  exhorts them who throug[h] faith and patience inherit the pro mises.

[“]Notwithstanding we (said Paul) have fled for refuge to  lay hold of the hope set before us which hope we have as an an chor of the soul both sure and steadfast and which entereth  into that within the vail.” Yet he was careful to press upon them  the necessity of continuing on untill they as well as those who  inherited the promises might have the assurance of their salvat ion confirmed to them by an oath from the mouth of him who  cannot could not lie for that seemed to be the example an ciently and Paul holds it out to his brethren as an object atta inable in his day and why not[?] I admit that by reading [p. 230]

the scriptures of truth saints in the days of Paul could learn beyond  the power of contradiction that Abraham Isaac and Jacob had  the promise of eternal life confirmed to them by an oath of the  Lord but that promise or oath was no assurance to them of their salvation but they could by walking in the footsteps <and> continuing  in the faith of their fathers obtain for themselves an oath for  confirmation that they were meet to be partake[r]s of the inheri tance with the saints in light.

If the saints in the days of the Apostles were priviledged to  take the saints for example and lay hold of the same promises  and attain to the same exhalted priviledges of knowing that  their names were writen in the Lambs book of life and that  they were sealed there as a perpetual memorial before the face  of the most high will not the same faithfulness the same pur ity of heart and the same faith bring the same assurance of eternal  life and that in the same manner to the children of men now  in this age of the world[?]

I have no doubt but that the holy prophets and apostles  and saints in ancient days were saved in the Kingdom of  God. Neither do I doubt but that they held converse and com munion with them while in the flesh as Paul said to the cori nthian brethren that the Lord Jesus showed himself to above 500  saints at one time after his resuretion [resurrection]. Job said that he  knew that his Redeemer lived and that he should see him in  the flesh in the latter days. I may believe that Enoch wa lked with God <and by faith was translated. And I may [believe]  that Noah was a perfect man in his generation  & also walked with God.> I may believe that Abraham communed with God and conversed with angels. I may believe that Isaac  obtained a renewal of the covenant made to Abraham by the  direct voice of the Lord. I may believe that Jacob conversed  with holy angels and heard the word of his Maker. that he  wrestled with the angel until he prevailed and obtained a  blessing I may believe that Elijah was taken to Heaven in a chariot of fire with fiery horses I may believe that the [p. 231]

saints saw the Lord and conversed with him face to face aft er his resurection I may believe that the Hebrew Church came  to Mount Zion and unto the city of the living God the Heaven ly Jerusalem and to an inumerable company of angels. I  may believe that they looked into Eternity and saw the  Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant;  but will all this purchase an assurance for me, or waft me  to the regions of Eternal day with my garments spotless, pure,  and white? Or, must I not rather obtain for myself, by  my own faith and dilligence, in keeping the commandments of the Lord, an assurance of salvation for myself And have I not an equal priviledge with the ancient saints? and  will not the Lord hear my prayers, and listen to my cries,  as soon [as] he ever did to their’s if I come to him in the manner  they did or is he a respecter of persons?

I must now close this subject for the want of time; and I  may say with propriety at the begining; we would be pleased to see  you in Kirtland and more pleased to have you embrace the New  Covenant. I remain.

Yours affectionately

Joseph Smith Jr [p. 232]

Lehi’s Message

Lehi delivered two separate messages to his generation at Jerusalem. These two messages provoked two separate reactions.

The first message was that they were wicked, and were engaged in abominations before God. (1 Ne. 1: 19.) In other words, these were sinful people needing to repent and return to God.

When the people heard “the things which he testified of them” their reaction was to mock and ridicule him and his message. (Id.) They had the scriptures, the priesthood, the Temple, the ordinances, and they were absolutely certain they were living their religion just as God wanted them to. They were “chosen” and were holy people. This idea of being “wicked” and engaging in abominable practices while they lived devoted lives seemed rediculous to them. Lehi could not be taken seriously. If there was anything to this message, then they would expect it would come from the established hierarchy, not some obscure trader living in Jerusalem. He wasn’t even a Levite for that matter.

The second message was much more serious. He spoke “plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.” (1 Ne. 1: 19.) Since this was an idea the Jews of that day had rejected, Lehi’s testimony of Christ was too much. He was accusing them of apostasy. This aroused anger and even fury. The idea that these holy people, devoted to their religion, practicing the ordinances and preserving the Temple rites could be in a state of apostasy was too much for them to brook.

In response to this second message they had a second reaction: they wanted to kill him. (1 Ne. 1: 20.) They knew what to do with this kind of message. They would excommunicate, or “cast out” anyone who dared to preach this message. It threatened the pretenders who presided. It threatened the order of their day. It challenged the authority of the faith. It was too much.

Lehi would be either cast out (excommunicated). Or he would be “stoned” (an officially sanctioned religious punishment). Or he would be “slain” (a mob reaction not sanctioned by the religion). (Id.) The first two were to be imposed by the religious leaders. The third, however, would be popular reaction. An uncontrolled mob, showing spontaneous religious zeal, having been indoctrinated by their leaders to react in this manner. The leaders would prefer the third remedy. That would show their teaching was having the desired effect. If not, then the first two would be imposed.

Two messages, and two reactions. The popular practices of religion of Lehi’s day were condemning souls. No one was being saved. No leadership existed which would lead men back to God’s presence.

Lehi listened to the “many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent” (1 Ne. 1: 4). He learned for himself, directly from God that this was a true message. He took up the message and he delivered his own testimony.

This was a message from God, whom He had met. This was authorized and, whether the Jews of his day would acknowledge it or not, it was binding upon them. Therefore, when they rejected his testimony against them and his message requiring them to repent, they rejected God’s word.

These deeply religious peers of Lehi’s were astonished at the idea an obscure merchant could speak with and for God. Once again the first chapter of the Book of Mormon introduces us to a world where God alone decides who He will call. Then, after a private audience with the Lord, the commissioned spokesman proceeds to cry repentance. These are radical ideas, and prove the Book of Mormon is no ordinary text. It is a warning from God, and its precepts will bring mankind closer to the truth than the precepts you will find in any other volume of sacred text.

Jacob 5: 48-51

The vineyard fails continually because of “the loftiness of the vineyard.” (5: 48.) That is, the pride and arrogance of Israel itself is the cause of continual failure. They run faster then they are able, reaching what they cannot attain, claiming to have what they do not have, and relying on their conceit rather than the Lord. As a result, the branches overcome the roots. They grew faster than could be accommodated, and took strength to themselves, which always defeats fruit production. (Id.)
The Lord’s exasperation with this complete failure results in the announcement that He was going to return to the vineyard, “hew down the trees” and then “cast them into the fire” so they no longer cumbered the land. (5: 49.) It was time to return and destroy everything. Or, to use a phrase from Malachi, to “smite the whole earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4: 6.) We see in this that the Lord does actually consider smiting the entire earth. The allegory reveals it. It is indeed possible for the Lord to consider that as an option.
The only way to prevent it is for the “vineyard” to again bring forth fruit worth laying up against the season of the harvest. It failed. There was a universal apostasy. The Lord announced it was His intention to destroy all the people of the earth. (5: 49.) But it was the “servant” who pleaded for the Lord to “spare it a little longer.” (Id.) In Zenos’ allegory, the Lord is the one wanting to destroy the vineyard. When He was in His mortal ministry, the Lord reversed these roles. He had the angels wanting to destroy, and the Lord being patient. (See, Matt. 13: 28-30.) In both, the judgment is postponed until something worthy of preserving can be brought into the harvest. The Lord agrees to spare the vineyard despite the universal failure to bring about “fruit” because it “grieveth” Him to see such a loss, so great a waste. (5: 51.)
Now all of this is about history. It has already happened. Zenos wrote in the unified kingdom, before the division into the Northern Kingdom, or Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, or Kingdom of Judah. He wrote before Isaiah, and before Jeremiah. His prophecy became a benchmark from which other, later prophets would draw in fashioning their own prophecies.
Using these allegorical themes and images (tree, branches, transplanting, grafting, laboring, gathering, burning, trimming, pruning, etc.), we can see what happened historically with the scattering of Israel. Now, however, we have reached a point in the allegory where the events are either current or future. They are underway. This part of the allegory relates to us. It is meant to warn us about the time we live.
We think we’ve gotten the benefit of the Lord’s hand in the effort now underway. However, there is nothing going on at this time in the vineyard that should make us think we can relax. There is more pruning, gathering and yet more labor, before we yield fruit.
As we continue from this point forward, we must pay more attention. It is a blueprint for how the Lord is dealing with us. We should take every opportunity to consider how the prophecy may be intended to warn us against our own “loftiness” and ultimate failure.

Restoration and Apostasy

There really is no static position in nature.  The full moon of two nights ago is now replaced by the waning gibbous immediately as the light begins to be lost.  Nor does the half-moon last longer than a single night, followed by the waning crescent. When the moon’s light is altogether stricken, the new moon phase begins with the waxing crescent which is, at first, only a sliver. But it follows nightly through the waxing crescent, to the half moon, to the waxing gibbous, to the full moon.  Always in motion.  Always either growing or receding in light.

So also with the sun.  From solstice to equinox, to solstice to equinox, it grows, then dims.  Never static.  It is impossible to freeze the light.  It will grow or it will fade.

All things in nature testify of the truth.  This includes things in the “heavens” or sky above, as well as things on, in and under the earth. (Moses 6: 63.)

It is not possible for an individual, nor a collection of individuals, to remain static.  They are either involved with restoring truth or in apostasy from it; never merely “preserving” it.  Those who claim to merely preserve the truth given them are concealing the fact of their apostasy.  They are soothing their conscience.  Caretakers simply cannot exist.

All great truths are simple, and they are testified of in nature as well as in scripture.

2 Nephi 32: 4-5

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.  For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.”
 
Comprehension of the “doctrine of Christ” is not based on command of a vocabulary or mastery of an argument. It is based on gathering light. Light is gathered by heed (obedience) and diligence alone. (D&C 130: 19.) By following the light you have received already, you grow in light. (D&C 50: 24.) This process leads to the “perfect day” where the light has chased away all darkness. This is how we, like Christ, can grow from grace to grace until we also receive a fullness. (D&C 93: 20.)
 
If you do not do this, then you may acquire a vocabulary with which to discuss the subject, but you will not have the light to comprehend it. Light can be shining all around you, but if you do not acquire light within yourself by your actions, you cannot comprehend the light.  (See, e.g., D&C 6: 21; D&C 10: 58; D&C 34: 2; D&C 39: 2; D&C 45: 7; and D&C 88: 49.)
 
If it perplexes you, then ask God for understanding. He will tell you what to do.  Follow His instruction. In this way you qualify to receive further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord. He knows perfectly what you lack, and by the Holy Ghost within you will tell you what you must do.

If you will not humble yourself and ask for this to be made known to you, then you cannot be brought into the light. Then the only result will be to perish in the dark.

If you will follow the steps with the required real intent, acting no deception before God as you do, then you will receive the Holy Ghost.  It will be unlocked to tell you what you lack and what you need to do. This inner light is a powerful source which can literally tell “you all things what ye should do.”

 
It is in the doing that you find the learning.  It is in the act of following Him that you learn to be like Him. Obedience is the means by which you gather light. The commandments are revelations of the inner person you ought to become. They are how you grow in the flesh to comprehend God in the Spirit. Your body is a veil that keeps you from Him. By subordinating the will of the flesh to the will of the Spirit, you gain light and truth.
 
Do it to understand it.
 
Once you understand you will be able to tell when someone speaks with the power of the Spirit words of eternal life, or if they are, as Nephi puts it: “perishing in the dark.”  There are many who claim to speak on the Lord’s behalf who declare false, vain and foolish things. While they will be held to account for that, the point is not to condemn them. They may yet see the light, and repent and return.  The point is that you must avoid being misled by those who would lead you astray. The few humble followers of Christ are warned that they will be taught the precepts of men and must use caution to avoid being misled. (2 Nephi 28: 14.) We’ve discussed that already.
 
The proportions and the balances required to see things aright are too fine, too subtle and too difficult to put into words. They are harmony. Nephi’s teachings are woven into one great whole. There are not isolated strains to be taken from the great whole and then given undeserved importance. They must fit together. You can only accomplish that when you see the whole by the light of the Holy Ghost within you.
Nephi is both pleading and warning in these two verses. He wants you to go to the source and be directed from there. To have the words of Christ available to you. To hear the words of angels as you draw near to the light. If you do not, then it is because you refuse to follow the steps he has described.
 
You must act to know. Without following through in your heart (which you cannot ever deceive) you can’t draw near to the light. The discussion in The Second Comforter walks through line upon line that walk back into the light, and ultimately into Christ’s presence.  It is a modern manual to find Him.

2 Nephi 31: 1

 
And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you, my beloved brethren. And I cannot write but a few things, which I know must surely come to pass; neither can I write but a few of the words of my brother Jacob.”
 
Don’t make any mistakes, Nephi was a prophet. He knew he was a prophet. He also knew his testimony and explanations were indeed prophesy. So, in case you were wondering, here he removes any doubt. He is “making an end of my prophesying unto you.” And he identifies “you” to mean his “beloved brethren.” Who would that be? Could gentiles be included as his “beloved brethren?” What would a gentile have to do or be in order to qualify for that description? They why aren’t you doing that?
 
Why “cannot” he “write but a few things” further? Is there a limit put upon his prophecy for us? (1 Nephi 14: 28.) Would he have liked to have said more? Does he assure us what he did write is true and complete as far as permitted to be written? (1 Nephi 14: 30.)
 
What does it mean that he knows it “must surely come to pass?”  How can he know that? What does it mean about the information we have in his record? How closely was the information given in conformity with what the Lord wanted him to reveal? How seriously should we take the record or prophecy of Nephi?
 
Why does Nephi refer again to his brother Jacob? What did Nephi and Jacob have in common in their faith and knowledge? (2 Nephi 11: 2-3.) What does this imply about the validity of their testimony, their prophecy, their commission to deliver words of warning? What level of attention should their words attract from us? If we give them strict heed, will they lead us in the way of life and salvation?
 
As he ends his record, an aging and dying prophet, whose journey began on another continent is pleading to us to save ourselves. He has been such a significant source of faith in moments of despair, that when the Lord was reminding Joseph Smith of faith in troubled times, He drew directly from Nephi’s life. Joseph was in Liberty Jail, abandoned by force of arms by his people, who had been evicted from Missouri. The governor had ordered the extermination of Mormons if they remained. Joseph’s people had been killed, mobbed, evicted, driven in the snow from Missouri, their property pillaged, their women abused, and their houses burned. In a dungeon cell, Joseph was lamenting his plight. He felt abandoned by the Saints, and by God. As he pled for relief, the Lord told him to face adversity without complaint, because it would ultimately be for his good. When the Lord spoke and reminded Joseph of moments of despair over which faith and hope triumphed, one of the moments used was taken from Nephi’s life:

“if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (See, 1 Nephi 18: 13-16.)
 
It was no accident that the 116 pages were lost, compelling the use of Nephi’s full record to begin the Book of Mormon. It was a “wise purpose” indeed. (Wds. of Mormon 1: 6-7.) These words were always destined to come to us unabridged, from the hand of Nephi unaltered, translated by the gift and power of God into our language by Joseph Smith. Now they confront us, inform us, elevate us, warn us and deliver to us the means of obtaining the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2 Nephi 29: 12

“For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.” 

This is more than interesting. The Lord speaks, various people write what He speaks to them. These groups include:

1.  Jews– we get that and it’s the Bible, right?
2.  Nephites– we get that too, the Book of Mormon, right?

3.  Other tribes– how many? Who? When?  Where? What?
4.  All the nations of the earth–Now it’s just too broad. What does “all the nations” mean, exactly?

So, let’s take this a bit by bit, going through each one:

1. Jews: We have a Bible. But we DON’T have all the writings of the Jews, do we? We already referred to missing prophets Zenos and Zenok, and there are others. Look in your Bible Dictionary for “Missing Scripture” and you’ll tree a list. (I’m pulling your leg.  If you look that up it’ll refer you to “Lost Books” so go there.)

[That reminds me of a joke I tell: If I get a tattoo it’ll say “Leviticus 19: 28.” But you probably won’t think that’s funny.]

Anyway, the Jews recorded more both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament than we have currently. So don’t get all certain the Bible is the final word from the ancient Jews. It isn’t. Never was. There’s more coming.

2. Nephites: Clearly more coming. Sealed material has not been revealed, and will be some day. Providing, of course, we were to actually merit the disclosure. So, I suppose that means don’t hold your breath.

3. Other Tribes: We got nothing. Not even a number. The one chance we had to get a number was blown by both the disciples in Jerusalem and the Nephites. I’ve written about this in The Second Comforter. So the only way to triangulate is to either take the allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob 5 and try to estimate– a risky proposition since it was intended to convey an overall meaning not a number– or we can work backwards from the crucifixion to the approximate 11 1/2 months later when Jesus appeared to the Nephites. Take the time spent with the Nephites, then estimate He’s been busy doing that same ministry elsewhere. Divide the time taken to minister into the available time and you get something between 10 and 18 other potential groups out there depending on your estimate of the time used. The record attempts to prevent us from being too accurate because it identifies three days specifically, then resorts to just “many times” to cover what may have been days or weeks. (3 Nephi 26: 13.)  However, when you read of the Nephite disciples “journeying and preaching” but coming together in “mighty prayer and fasting” and the Lord’s appearance again there, it seems closer to the 10 number than the 18. (3 Nephi 27: 1.) Well, you work it out. It’s just an unknown plural number which might be greater than just a couple. And for these we have no record at all.

4.  All nations: Nothing here, either. And no basis from which to compile an estimate.

So, from the foregoing we can see that we have some tiny fragment of the whole, and cannot even begin to construct an outline of what we are missing. But despite our ignorance, the Lord spoke to them, they wrote it, and it is available for some group to eventually read.  Apparently not us. We do not even get the rest of the record written on parchment and hidden by John, (referred to in the headnote to Section 7 of the D&C). We only get a part of the information from it. (D&C 7: 1-8.)

So, there’s a lot to be had.  We don’t have it…But what we do have we won’t study. Well,  maybe there is a cause and effect…

Seems to me, you don’t want to talk about it. Seems to me, you just turn your pretty head and walk away. (Joe Walsh, from the James Gang era, before the heaviest toll was taken.)  

So the Lord wants us to know there’s ever so much out there. That we have a tiny fraction of what was once available. And we just don’t seem to care. We’d rather reduce the volume of topics we study and eliminate the “mysteries” from our diet of Gospel study, so as to relieve ourselves of any responsibility for what we already possess. We are beyond dumbing down the Gospel. We’re discarding it by the week. Tighter and tighter, until you are left alone, without God in the world. There’s a brilliant phrase. It comes from the Book of Mormon. It is found at Mosiah 27: 31; Alma 41: 11 and Mormon 5: 16. Of all the phrases turned in the Book of Mormon this is the most solitary, profound and descriptive of the fall from grace mankind experiences. It is perfect, even if what it describes is perfectly horrid.

Well, enough of this…

2 Nephi 28: 22

 
“And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.”
 
How can the devil “flatter” someone? Why would it be “flattery” to tell someone “there is no hell?” What does it mean that “there is no hell?” Have you ever heard this idea taught?  Historic Christians are fully persuaded of the existence of hell. We, on the other hand, have three degrees of GLORY in which the idea of hell is sometimes lost.
So, is there a “hell?” (D&C 19: 15.) Do those who go there suffer? How difficult is the suffering? (D&C 19: 16-18.)
 
How can it be flattery for the devil to tell someone “I am no devil?” Would his appearance to someone as an “angel of light” be flattery? (2 Ne. 9: 9.) Did the devil attempt to do this with Joseph Smith? (D&C 128: 20.) How was Joseph able to determine the devil was the devil, rather than an “angel of light” when he appeared? Did Joseph learn something about detecting evil spirits from this encounter?  What did Michael do to teach Joseph how to detect the devil? What did Joseph later teach about how to detect the devil? (D&C 129: 8.)  What kind of a handshake would you expect to be used to detect a true messenger?
 
Have others been confronted by Satan appearing as an angel? (Moses 1: 12.) Now if one were deceived by the devil, thinking him an angel of light, would the devil teach them false doctrines? (Alma 30: 53.)

Would the false doctrines make them and those hearing from them feel secure, or would it stir them up to repentance?

 
What does it mean for the devil to claim “there is none?” I’m reminded of Peter asking a minister if he knew who he (the minister) worked for. The minister did not know, and so Peter informed him he worked for the devil.  We don’t think about that much anymore, but it is nonetheless the case that there are many people offering instruction who are really either in the employ of the devil, or using then precepts of men as the fodder for their teaching.
 
What comes to mind with the image of the devil “whispering in their ears?” How close must the devil come to be whispering into a person’s ears? How attentive must the devil become to his target?
 
Why “awful chains” and not just “chains?”  Are there “chains” that are not “awful?” Why would these particular chains always become “awful?”
 
What does it mean that “there is no deliverance” from these chains? Why would there be no more deliverance provided?
 
The verses we are considering are part of a careful message and cannot be separated from each other. They blend together. So when considering this portion of the message you must also keep in mind the other things that went before in Nephi’s sermon.
 
I am awestruck by this great prophet’s message. It inspires fear for my fellow man when I read it. The plight in which some men find themselves by the traditions handed to us seem to be such a trap as to defy escape.  What can I say to liberate them?  What can I do to help them escape? Who am I to even dare think I can make any difference? What petitions might I weary the Lord with to help avert this end for others?

We seem to all be asleep and incapable of noticing this terrible warning. Why cannot we all awake and arise and put on the beautiful garments, going forth to meet with the Bridegroom? (Moroni 10: 31; D&C 133: 10.)

 
Perhaps some of you may make a difference in this battle. All of our souls are at risk and we seem more interested in preserving our current circumstances than in understanding them.

This Book of Mormon is alarming when we consider it a warning for us. Not at all the docile and superficial text we can turn it into when studying 8 chapters in a single 50 minute Gospel Doctrine class– reduced by the time taken for announcement, opening and closing prayers, and witty banter exchanged among affable Saints as part of our renewal of weekly fellowship. Those things are good, of course, but the book commands deeper attention.

 
If I had to say one thing has done more to bring me into harmony with the Lord than any other thing it would be this: I have taken the Book of Mormon seriously. I have assumed it is an authentic and ancient text written by prophetic messengers whose words ought to be studied for how they can change my life.  Though all the world may treat it lightly, I have tried to not do so. For that I believe the Lord’s approval has been given to an otherwise foolish, vain, error-prone and weak man.

Take the Book of Mormon seriously. Apply it to yourself. Not as a means to judge others, but as a means to test your own life. It is one thing to evaluate our circumstances, which the book compels us to do, but we needn’t go further than to realize our terrible plight.  From that moment the warning should work inside ourselves to help us improve within, see more clearly our day, think more correctly about what is going on, and act more consistent with the Lord’s purposes.

 
The Book of Mormon is the most correct book available. A person can get closer to God by abiding its precepts than with any other book.

2 Nephi 28: 1-2

2 Nephi 28: 1-2:
 

“And now, behold, my brethren, I have spoken unto you, according as the Spirit hath constrained me; wherefore, I know that they must surely come to pass.  And the things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men, and especially unto our seed, which is a remnant of the house of Israel.”
Nephi, as any prophetic writer, says what “the Spirit hath constrained” him to say.  This is the very definition of using the Lord’s name with permission and not using His name in vain. (Exo. 20: 7.)
Nephi held power from God in the words he used. Therefore he could “know that they must surely come to pass” because he sealed them as he wrote them. (D&C 1: 38.) For any person holding the sealing authority (which is an indispensable part of the Patriarchal Priesthood discussed earlier), the authority requires an alignment between the prophet, the Lord and the Lord’s will. (See, D&C 132: 45-49, in particular verse 48 which mentions “by my word and according to my law”–which required Joseph to align himself with the Lord before using that power.) Those who have this authority will not do anything contrary to the will of the Lord. (Helaman 10: 5.)  It is because of this trust between the Lord and His messenger that the power is given to the man. Nephi was such a man. His book contained a seal upon it bearing the power of God.
Nephi knew. Knowledge came from Christ. Nephi knew Christ. (2 Ne.11: 3.)

Notice how Nephi refers to the “remnant” who are “our seed.” Nephi refers to the remnant variously as:

-descendants of his father Lehi (1 Ne. 13: 34)

-descendants of his brethren (1 Ne. 13: 38-39)
-his family’s descendants or “our seed” (1 Ne. 15: 13-14)
-a mixture of Nephi’s descendants who are among his brother’s descendant’s (1 Ne. 13: 30 

Nephi’s primary line of descendants would be destroyed, but that destruction would not include all. There would remain a mixture of blood that would include partial descent from Nephi. (1 Ne. 13: 30-31) The various bloodlines remained identified as Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites. (Mormon 1: 8.) Although it would be impossible, without revelation, for us to determine which of these lines a person might belong to today, the Lord nevertheless revealed in 1828 that these various divisions remain identified to Him. (D&C 3: 16-19.) No doubt, in time, He will restore to the remnant descendants this knowledge of their sacred paternity and eternal identity.

Their blood may be mixed, but the remnant remains. Nephi may have referred to them more often as descendants of his “brethren,” but they have within them some of his blood as well. In the day of redemption and restoration, the promises will all be fulfilled. The whole of the family of Lehi will be represented in the remnant.

Notice Nephi’s prophecy is that “words which shall be written out of the book” rather than the book itself. This is, of course, exactly what we have. The actual book has been withheld. Only words from the book have been given us. But those words are intended to be of great worth to mankind, and in particular to the remnant.

This process is sacred, the promises are from the Lord. These words are given to us by Him, through a servant possessing authority to seal them up. We cannot prevent them from happening. We can, however, align ourselves with them and in turn be saved as well.

3 Nephi 21: 15-18

3 Nephi 21: 15-18:

“And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds; And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers; Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;  And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.”
 
Cleaning up things so that the course of wickedness comes to an end involves some highly specific purging. However, the description is not given to us so we can know what will be coming as much as it is given to us to guide our own conduct and beliefs.
 
“Cities will be cut off” means what? “Strongholds thrown down” refers to what? Interesting things to contemplate to be sure.  But much more relevant are the warnings in what follows:
 
“Cut off witchcrafts” is a warning to those who engage in certain practices. What should you do to avoid being cut off as a result of being involved in “witchcraft?” What does that mean? Are only wiccans being warned by this?
 
Who are the “soothsayers” who are to be terminated? What constitutes “soothsaying?” Look that word up. It appears in interesting contexts. The typical example involves predictions made using means other than true prophecy. But you should look at it and ask yourself how it would apply in modern applications: in business, government, economics, weather–especially long-term weather, politics, etc.
 
What are “graven images?” What are “standing images?”  Why are the “standing images” said to be “in the midst of thee?”
 
What does it mean to “worship the works of thy hands?” How can a person worship their own works?
 
What are the “groves” that are to be plucked up? Why are the groves also “in the midst of thee?” The ancient usage of groves involved fertility rites, sacred sexual practices, or the worship of intercourse. What modern versions of this ancient form of fertility worship would be similar to the ancient behavior as to merit being called the same thing?
 
What does it mean to have our “cities destroyed?” Does this have anything to do with the other prophecy that the final victory of Israel will inhabit the desolate cities of the gentiles?  (Isa. 54: 3.)
 
Remember this is Christ speaking. This is the Redeemer, the merciful author of our salvation. Therefore, you must conclude that these direful predictions are actually based on the overall long-term best interest of those involved. They are better off, improved and advanced by these judgments. Imagine that. The wrath of God is best visited upon those who are destroyed, rather than leaving them to continue the course they are headed in. It is an interesting thing to contemplate.

1 Nephi 14:7

1 Nephi 14: 7:

“For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.”
There will be a time when the accounts will all be settled. Everything will become everlasting and people will either inherit eternal lives and move forward, or they will return to be destroyed both temporally and spiritually again. Joseph Smith commented in the King Follett Discourse about the process of gaining exaltation.  He said, “you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”
Death and hell are the devil’s domain. He’s the god of that world, and since we have death and suffering here, he calls himself the god of this world. Those who come here are subject to his buffeting, and his will. They are tormented, tempted, troubled, and then they die. While captive here, they endure the insults of the flesh, and the difficulties of trying to find their way back to God.

Those who find Him, however, are able to receive “peace and life eternal” through a higher way. The devil is bound for them, and they are able to be “added upon” by the experiences and difficulties here.

All of this is called a “great and marvelous work” to occur “among the children of men.” Note it isn’t the “remnant” or the “gentiles” but “the children of men.”  Why so? Is everyone invited? Why, if everyone is invited, will it largely only affect the “remnant,” and the “gentiles,” and the “scattered Israel,” and “Jews?” What about the “heathen,” since they are also “the children of men?” Don’t they also have part in the first resurrection? (D&C 45: 54.) Will even some of them be included among the “children of men” who behold this “great and marvelous work?”

Why is it “everlasting” whether it is for “peace and eternal life” or “captivity and destruction?” Isn’t “Everlasting” another of God’s names just like “Eternal” and “Endless?”  (D&C 19: 10-12.) If so, then what does the “everlasting peace and eternal life,” and “everlasting captivity and destruction” really involve?  [You really need to read that paper I’ve been emailing out if you haven’t read it already.]

Why does God want us to respond to His message and get out of this Telestial Kingdom into another, higher kingdom? Why does He want us to become like Him? How is this experience able to make us more like Him?
If one is involved in the “continuation of the lives” (D&C 132: 22) is that distant and second-hand? Or does God (or the Gods) get involved directly with His/Their children? (Abraham 3: 24-25.)

What causes “hardness of their hearts?” What causes “blindness of their eyes?”  Why are those whose hearts are hard unable to receive Christ? Why are those who are blind unwilling to see Him?

This cycle of inviting people to come to the Lamb of God has been going on for some time now. When mankind generally rejected Him after the time of Noah, there was a chosen people who were given a sacred tradition. Ultimately they got proud, failed to recognize Him when He came, rejected His message, and killed Him.  Gentiles converted and became the inheritors of His teachings. Then the gentiles began to persecute the previously chosen people for generations. In this verse the gentiles are remembered, sacred materials are entrusted to them with an obligation to spread that sacred material back to the earlier chosen people. However, for the gentiles to be able to accomplish this they need to hold onto the sacred materials and teachings. You simply can’t spread abroad what you’ve failed to retain.

If the gentiles let the sacred materials and teachings fall into disuse, forfeit their priesthood by draining it of any power, and have nothing to offer the previously chosen people, then the gentiles will be cast off, trodden under foot and destroyed, as we have earlier seen.

This verse reminds us what is at stake: Eternity. Or at least God’s judgment. It’ll be embarrassing to return to Him unimproved and un-added upon. Particularly when His hand was stretched out to us all the day long. Gentiles who do as they are asked are given all the blessings of the chosen people. Those who do not are rejected and destroyed.
As a friend and I discussed last week, Hindu’s advise us to get off the wheel and return to God. They may be onto something with that thought. One eternal round, indeed…..

1 Nephi 13: 36

“And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.” 

Christ’s Gospel is in the Book of Mormon. I’ve written books explaining just how much of His Gospel is contained in the Book of Mormon. When writing The Second Comforter I found the Book of Mormon was the best source to explain the process. In the Preface to Eighteen Verses I wrote (and meant) the following: “I am convinced the Book of Mormon is the preeminent sacred text for our times. All other volumes of scriptures are not just inferior to it, but vastly so.”  (Id. p. iii.)

The Book of Mormon contains Christ’s Gospel.  It also contains His “rock” and His “salvation.” What is the “rock” contained within it?

John Hall thought the better translation of Christ’s colloquy with Peter would have included the Lord identifying Peter not as a “rock” but as a “seer stone.” And upon the stone or seership would the Lord build His church.

I’ve thought the Book of Mormon was more a Urim and Thummim than a book. It is a tremendous source of subject matter upon which to ponder, oftentimes drawing a veil at critical moments while inviting the reader to ponder, pray and ask to see more. Used in that fashion, the Book of Mormon can open the heavens and make any person a seer indeed.

The words of a prophet are best understood by a prophet. If you can come to understand the Book of Mormon’s words, you can become a prophet. Or, more correctly, a seer before whom scenes of God’s dealings with mankind, past, present and future, will be put on display. Mosiah 8: 17 reports: “But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.” 

Another way to interpret the “rock” is found in Eighteen Verses where I discussed the meaning of 1 Ne. 1: 6. The meaning of the “rock” before Lehi (who wrote in Egyptian and would therefore understand meanings) would mean Ma’-at.  Facsimile 2. figure 4, for example, shows the image of the Horus Hawk atop a rock and on the heavenly boat.

Still another meaning is found in Moses 7: 53 where Christ uses the term as a proper noun, or name for Himself.  He is “the Rock of Heaven.” In this instance the meaning of the above verse is that you can find the Lord within the Book of Mormon. (Remember that EB Grandin’s print shop provided all punctuation and capitalizations to the first edition. It was actually John H. Gilbert who did the work, which he described in a written recollection of the events dated 8 September 1892. (John Gilbert’s September 8th, 1892 recollections) If this was a proper noun and Gilbert did not capitalize it, we still don’t. But that would not mean the word “rock” ought not to be rendered instead “Rock” as a proper name for Christ.)

The “salvation” to be found in the Book of Mormon is the same as salvation to be found in all the Gospel. That is, by finding Christ.  For life eternal consists in coming to know Christ, and in turn Christ introducing you to the Father.  (John 17: 2-3.) It is this appearing which Joseph Smith referred to as literal, not figurative.  (D&C 130: 3.)

The prophetic message of the Book of Mormon is deeper and more profound the closer you examine it. It begins to become quite unlikely Joseph Smith could have produced such wisdom unless it truly is an ancient document. Of course the critics labor to make it seem so, but they haven’t seriously examined its contents to see what it says.

Alma 13:9

 
“Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.”
Several things about this formulation are interesting.  Most interesting is the closing declaration, “And thus it is.  Amen.”  It is iconic.  It is as if the statement were an authorized, serious message, intended to be accompanied by the requisite formalities to let the reader know that this is serious stuff.  This is “most holy.” This is not just a passing description. It holds terrible, eternal significance.  So the material that preceded it holds important keys to understanding. Important warnings and knowledge. Perhaps, as a result of the concluding punctuation, we should be very, very careful about the words that preceded it.  [This is why I’m conducting this exercise.]
 
Now look at the beginning-
 
“Thus they become…”  These individuals have become something.  The “high priests” about whom this material has been written have been in the process of becoming something holy from before the foundation of the world. This is pre-earth or pre-mortal existence stuff. The history, or background leading up to finding a holy high priest in mortality is eons in the making. It goes back to before this world had been reorganized.
 
“..high priests forever…”  This priestly authority and holy order is not mortal. It is without beginning in this mortal phase of existence.
 
Now comes the formula of the authority: “after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth.” Look at it in pieces.
 
-After the order of the Son
 
-After the order of the Only Begotten of the Father
 
-After the order of Him who is without beginning of days or end of years
 
-After the order of Him who is full of grace
 
-After the order of Him who is full of equity
 
-After the order of Him who is full of truth.
 
What does it mean to be “begotten” of the Father?  (Psalms 2: 7.)
 
What does it mean to be a “son” of the Father?  (1 John 3: 1-3.)
 
What does it mean to be full of “grace?”  (D&C 93: 11-20.)
 
What does it mean to be full of “equity?”  (Proverbs 2: 9.)
 
What does it mean to be full of “truth?”  (D&C 93: 24.)
 
This is interesting. What are we to make of such “holy” men who are “high priests after the order of the Son of God?”
 
Do you think we make a man such a thing by sustaining him in Ward, Stake and General Conferences?  Can we make one of them at all?

If we never realize who they are, does that mean they don’t exist? Does it mean they weren’t ordained before the foundation of the world?

 
If they come, minister in obscurity, never hold high office and never have a single building at BYU, BYU Hawaii or BYU Idaho named after them, are they any less?
 
Does our recognition of them make them any more?
 
Are they here to be recognized? Are they here just to teach so that others may be brought back to God by learning His commandments and enter into His rest?
This is quite different than what I’ve been told in Gospel Doctrine class. It is beginning to look and feel a lot like what Joseph Smith was saying right at the end in the Nauvoo period.  I wonder why we neglect this today?