Category: signs

More on the Brazilian Claims

Yesterday I met with Joseph Frederick Smith, the great-grandson of Joseph Smith. I heard his account of his involvement with the claims that a man from Brazil has been given the plates of the Book of Mormon. Listening to him I had no reason to doubt his sincerity. If there is mischief afoot, he is not the author of it, but the victim of it.

I offered him a few words of caution because I believe he will be the one who will be scorned if this proves to be a misadventure. If it all proves to be false, as I suspect it will, then the great-grandson of Joseph Smith will be the largest target of the critics. It will potentially be used as additional fodder for condemning his great-grandfather as well.

So far the Brazilian claims are not connected with any translation of a text, but have been confined to witnesses claiming to have seen plates purporting to be the Book of Mormon. I reminded them that the witnesses to the Book of Mormon in 1830 did not testify apart from a published text. There is a great difference between testifying to attract readers to take the text of the Book of Mormon seriously, as was done in 1830, and testifying without a text for anyone to consider, as now being done.

The claimants assure the public that a text will be forthcoming. Until there is such a thing, there is nothing to consider.

So far all that has been advanced is testimony about “signs.” Since “he that seeks signs shall see signs, but not unto salvation. …behold, faith comes not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.” (T&C 50:3.) The news of “signs” does nothing to attract me.

All three of the original witnesses to the Book of Mormon eventually abandoned Joseph Smith. The “signs” to them failed to produce enduring faith. That is because signs do not, indeed cannot, produce faith.

When the saints were condemned in 1832, the words of condemnation stated: “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things that you have received, which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation rests upon the children of Zion, even all, and they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon, and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do, according to that which I have written, that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s Kingdom.” (T&C 82:20.)

Coincidentally, I have written nearly 4 million words testifying, explaining, exhorting and teaching primarily from the Book of Mormon, and secondarily from the other works of Joseph Smith. I have labored for years to directly remove the condemnation, by remembering and teaching the Book of Mormon. I know of nothing that the man in Brazil has labored to do to remove the condemnation. I only hear of miraculous events wholly divorced from any sincere effort by those involved to repent and remove the condemnation imposed in 1832 upon all the children of Zion.

If there is ever a text to examine, I will gladly review it. I accept truth from any source. I would like to see what God withheld from the published Book of Mormon because it was too sacred to reveal to the public in Joseph Smith’s day. Since I have seen things which are not lawful for man to utter, nor is man capable of making them known, I would very much recognize a true text that removes the veil and puts on public display those most sacred and unspeakable things. I expect to be able to recognize immediately if the text is authentic. If it proves to be true, it will be an astonishing thing for the world. Heretofore the Lord has commanded, “You shall keep the mysteries of the Kingdom unto yourself, for it is not given to the world to know the mysteries.” (T&C 26:20.) If there is a text, it will no doubt explain why these heretofore withheld precious mysteries are now being published for the world to see.

In the history of the world, God’s greatest mysteries were kept from public display. They become known according to a pattern: “Knowledge of the mysteries of godliness is obtained only through obedience to God. He ordained this method to make His greatest truths universally available to all His humble followers training for the ministry.” (T&C 159:31.)

I very much appreciated the visit, and when our meeting ended, sincerely wished for God to go with Joseph Frederick Smith. We agree on more than we disagree. I regard him as a brother in Christ.

Mosiah 3: 14-15

When the Lord’s people wanted religion, but were unwilling to accept the fullness, He accommodated their desire and gave to them the “law of Moses” to keep them busy. (Mosiah 3: 14.) It is the nature of “stiffnecked” people that they prefer religious ceremonies, and endless repetition of rituals to coming into the Lord’s presence. (Id.)

King Benjamin is reminded by the angel that the purpose of the “law of Moses” was not to redeem anyone. It was merely a way to keep the people busy.

In addition to the law of Moses, the Lord gave “signs and wonders” and also many “types and shadows” to acquaint the people with the fact of “his coming.” (Mosiah 3: 15.) These were not ends. They were all means.

Why give the law of Moses?

Why give “signs” and “wonders?”

The people confused the symbols with the real thing. They thought through the symbols they were chosen, elect, and holy. They thought they were a kingdom of priests, a royal priesthood. Instead, what they should have thought was that they were poor because the Lord was not dwelling among them, they considered themselves rich because they had “types and shadows.” They preferred the symbol to the reality. The true religion was only symbolized by the rites. By worshiping the symbols and not recognizing the truths which were their foundation, they became mere idolaters. It is one of the constant risks faced by God’s people, because the devil is always looking to convert the holy church of God into something perverted and evil. (See Mormon 8: 33-38.)

They could rejoice in their laws, rites, ordinances and rituals. They could consider themselves better than the nations around them because they had God’s program for salvation. All the program did was “harden their hearts” because they were proud rather than humble.

These religious and proud people did not understand that all their endless rites “availeth nothing” because it was the Lord alone who could redeem them. (Mosiah 3: 15.) They took their eyes off the Lord, and put them on the religion. They did not understand the religion was nothing, if it failed to point them to the Lord.

How oft might the Lord have gathered them, indeed! It is astonishing that men would prefer religion to God; prefer pride which alienates them from God to humility which could bring them into His presence.

Signs, wonders, types, shadows are nothing if they fail to get you to look at the underlying reasons for them. They are not the real thing. They merely point to the real thing; for that, it is left between you and the Lord.

Some few will see it as it really is. They will not be limited by the failures of the generation they live in. They can be saved in any generation because they see beyond the Lord in His types, shadows, signs and wonders. (Alma 12: 10.)

Salvation is and always has been individual. This is why there are prophets. Some will lay hold on the promises which others refuse to see.

Fullness of the Gospel Among Gentiles

I’ve written about the issue of the “fullness of the Gospel” being rejected by the Gentiles on this blog in connection with a discussion of the Book of Mormon remnant and 3 Ne. 16: 10. There is another mention made of this matter by the Lord in a prophecy He spoke to His Apostles at Jerusalem. That prophecy was restored by revelation through Joseph Smith.

The Lord explained to His Apostles that:
-Men’s love to one another would wane.
-Iniquity would increase.
-The Times of the Gentiles would come in and the Gospel light would be restored to them.
-The Gentiles would not be willing to receive it, however.
-They would turn their hearts away from Christ.
-They would prefer the precepts of men.
-Then, because the Gentiles refused to accept His fullness, the Times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled.
-Nevertheless, there would be a few disciples who would stand in holy places and not be moved by the overflowing scourge poured out.
(D&C 45: 27-32.)

In the prophecy, the Lord returned to His parable of the Ten Virgins. For those who would take the Holy Spirit for their guide, and because of that “have not been deceived” they will abide the day and not be hewn down by the judgments to be poured out. (D&C 45: 56-57.)

This revelation to Joseph Smith was in March 1831. It anticipated more would be given as the scriptures were revised. Matthew Chapter 24 was translated later that same year and appears in The Pearl of Great Price, as “Joseph Smith-Matthew.” The latter-day tribulations begin with verse 31. There the warning again refers to the widespread latter-day deception. Even His “elect” will be vulnerable to being misled. However, before His return His ministering angels will preserve and gather those few who “treasureth up [His] word.” (JS-Matt. 1: 37.)

The Lord’s prophecy focuses on two things His elect will have to rely on: Angels and the Holy Spirit. These two are the last days source through which His elect will find safety. Conspicuously absent are men, or perhaps more accurately, the arm of man.

Interestingly, the elect will be able to see this as it unfolds. (JS-Matt. 1: 39.) They will recognize it is like the time of Noah. (Id. v. 41-42.) Then again, if those who thought themselves wise actually knew when the thief was coming in the night to overtake them, they would not have remained asleep. (Id., v. 47.)

Taken in aggregate, it appears the Gentiles do have a fair chance given to them. We can understand the Lord’s lament, “what more could I have done?” Still, there is always a difference between saying, “I am of Christ,” and “receiving the testimony of Christ.” (D&C 76: 100-101.)

3 Nephi 21: 1

Now we jump to late in His ministry where Christ is teaching the Nephites. We pick it up in 3 Nephi, Chapter 21:
 
 
And verily I say unto you, I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place—that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion;”
 
Christ is telling the Nephites (and us) about timing. He will provide a “sign” to those who watch for such things. Contrary to what you’ve heard all your life about “signs,” they are and always have been part of the true Gospel. They invariably follow faith, but do not and never have produced faith. (D&C 63: 9-10.) There are examples of signs throughout God’s dealings with those who follow Him. (See, e.g., Helaman 14: 4; Ezek. 24: 24; Ex. 10: 2; Acts 2: 22, among many others.) We are supposed to see signs, that we may know God is dealing with us. (D&C 68: 10-11.)
 
Christ is giving a sign to us so we may understand when His Father’s promises are being fulfilled.
 
The time when His Father’s covenants are to be fulfilled will be the moment when Christ will “gather in, from their long dispersion, my people.” Note it is “I” meaning Christ, who will do the gathering. Christ is the great husbandman of this, the Lord’s vineyard. It is Christ who will personally do the gathering. How do you suppose Christ will “gather in” those whom He calls “His people?”

Notice how the gathered are referred to by Christ as “my people” and “house of Israel” and “my Zion.” When the gathering is complete, the various groups are no longer separately identified. On the other side of this gathering they will be “one” people and a restored “house of Israel.”

 
But note the sequence:
 
First, gathering in from a long dispersion.
 
Second, they convert into “my people” or the “house of Israel.”

Then they are “established” as “Zion.”

 
Why does the Lord refer to it as “my Zion?” Can you have Zion without the Lord’s presence? Can there be Zion without the Lord dwelling among them? (Moses 7: 16-18.) Notice in Enoch’s City that it was the Lord who came and dwelt there, then later the Lord is the one who names or calls the people “Zion.”
 
When the Lord calls it “my Zion” how literal is this? How directly will the Lord be involved?

If you want to have a place there, do your connections in a church, organization, fraternity, fellowship, quorum or brotherhood matter? If not, what association alone will allow you to participate? How important is the “testimony of Jesus?”
 
Read again the description of the group of Saints who are included with those who will comprise Zion. As you read, keep in mind all we have discussed up to this point as you recognize familiar words used below:
 
“51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

  52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

  53 And who overcame by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

  54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.

  55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—

  56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;

  57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.

  58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—

  59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

  60 And they shall overcome all things.

  61 Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.

  62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.” D&C 76: 51-62.)
 
These, then are Zion.These are those who become “one” and are called by the Lord after they are gathered in the “house of Israel” and “my Zion.”