Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Covenant Book, Part 5: The Remnant


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
—3 Nephi 21:12

By Tausha Larsen

I’ve heard (and it may be true!) the Irish people have a saying: “There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were!” As a product of Irish ancestry, I’ve long been interested in my cultural traditions and heritage. My maiden name “Quigley” is considered one of the original Irish names. Unfortunately, the name “Quigley” means “untidy person,” which is about as far from the truth as you can get when referring to my family. But that doesn’t stop us from being a little too proud of our name! 

Ephraish


As I was raised in the LDS church, I was taught that I was part of the tribe of Ephraim, and I believed that somehow my Irish heritage fit into this lineage. I also believed that being LDS made me a member of the House of Israel, and that the Gentiles, mentioned throughout scripture, were all those “other” people who were not members of the LDS church. But I was wrong in many of these beliefs. Through a more careful study of the scriptures, and particularly the Book of Mormon, I have since learned that I AM a Gentile, as is practically every other person of European descent, and those of many other nations as well. I have also learned that the Book of Mormon is full of surprises, and that the fate of the Gentiles is something completely different than I could have possibly ever imagined.

With my new understanding came a newfound desire to learn more about the Gentiles and how the Lord is including them to fulfill his work regarding the last days Zion. My husband, Adrian, has been writing a series of posts on “the covenant” and what we can learn about it from the Book of Mormon. Because I’m passionate about this topic, I volunteered to write about the various groups involved in the covenant. The “who,” of the covenant, if you will. This topic certainly involves us Gentiles. So, let’s take a closer look at the history of the Gentiles, and how they fit into the coming covenant.

We are They

Joseph Smith, in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland temple, described the people in attendance as those “who are identified with the Gentiles.” (D&C 109:60) This leads to the question: What exactly does the word “Gentile” mean? 

The word originates from the Latin word gentilis, which means “of the same family or clan.” Gentilis was used in the Latin Vulgate to translate the Greek word ethnikos from ta ethne “the nations,” and the Hebrew ha goyim, or “the (non-Jewish) nations.” The term Gentiles eventually came to mean all those who did not descend from Jacob (Israel), and are therefore not part of the House of Israel. Over time, the term also came to signify nations without knowledge of the gospel—or basically foreigners to God.

For a little more information about the Gentiles, I’m going to turn to Adrian, and borrow something from one of his prior posts, about how Nephi defined the Gentiles: 

1 Nephi 13 gives a lot of information about those Nephi viewed as the “Gentiles.” Here is some of what he says about them (with verses in parentheses):

  • They are the source of the great and abominable church (4)
  • They were separated from Nephi’s descendants by “many waters” (10)
  • The Gentiles went forth out of captivity and crossed the waters to come to the land of promise (13-14)
  • The Gentiles scattered and smote the remnants of Nephi’s seed, but did not utterly destroy them (14, 30)
  • The Gentiles were prosperous, white, fair and beautiful (15)
  • They humbled themselves on the land of promise (16)
  • They were delivered by the power of God from all other nations (19)
  • They had the Bible, though it was in a very corrupt state and actually prevented salvation and became a stumbling block to them (24-29)

In short, the “Gentiles” refers to the primarily white, European immigrants who came to America and displaced the Native Americans. That is how Nephi sees you, me, and the vast majority of all people on this continent, as well as Gentile nations elsewhere. 

OK, so we’ve got a starting definition of Gentiles in scripture, as described by both Nephi and Joseph Smith. Next, let’s consider how Ephraim fits into this whole story. (Because aren’t we LDS-ish gentiles somehow, some way, kinda-sorta, supposed to be associated with, or to fit in with the tribe of Ephraim somehow?) The LDS church has taught many of us all our lives that we are of Ephraim, that this is our lineage. It’s by far the most common lineage declared in LDS patriarchal blessings. 

So What’s Up with Ephraim?

In the Book of Genesis, we read of the blessing Jacob (now named Israel) bestowed upon his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh. When giving the blessing, Israel reached for Ephraim first and laid his right hand upon Ephraim’s head. This displeased Ephraim’s father Joseph, who moved Israel’s hand from Ephraim’s to Manasseh’s head. 
And Joseph said unto his father, not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day saying, In thee shall Israel bless saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh; and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.” (Genesis 48:18-20)
Ephraim received the birthright blessing, that his seed would become a multitude of nations. Curiously, as the story of Ephraim and his descendants unfolds, it becomes evident that this blessing was fulfilled by a curse. Stick with me and we’ll get there.

The next part of the story takes place after the Israelites left Egypt and possessed the promised land of Canaan. The terms of the covenant tying them to the land were clear:
And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come on thee and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice the Lord thy God. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)
But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statues which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee….and the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. (Deuteronomy 28:15, 64)
After King Solomon’s death, the 12 tribes of Israel divided into Southern and Northern kingdoms—the Southern consisting of Judah and Benjamin, and the Northern including the other nine tribes and Ephraim. Jerobaom (an Ephraimite) became king of the Northern kingdom. From this time forward, the southern kingdom was referred to as “Judah” and the northern kingdom as “Ephraim.” 

Unfortunately, the Israelites became rebellious and failed to obey the Lord—with Ephraim, perhaps, being the most rebellious of all. As a consequence, the tribe of Ephraim was particularly scattered when the Lord scattered the Northern kingdom. The prophet Hosea took special note of this fact:
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. (Hosea 7:8)
The Hebrew verb root balal, in this verse translated as “mixed” literally means “anoint.” Ephraim has anointed a multitude of nations. 

By scattering Ephraim, the Lord not only brought about the curses pronounced in the covenant, but also blessed the world by mixing the blood of Ephraim, and therefore the blood of Israel, into many nations. This literally fulfilled Israel’s blessing on his grandson Ephraim, that his descendants would become a multitude of nations. But it happened by God’s scattering curse. 

During the scattering of Israel, legend has it that much of the tribe of Ephraim migrated to Northern Europe. This is how Ephraim came to be known and associated with the Europeans.

Let’s Talk about Lehi

Now if you will remember, Lehi, having left Jerusalem, sent his sons back to gather Ishmael and his family (Ishmael having many daughters) so the sons of Lehi would have women to marry “that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.” (1 Ne 7:1) Lehi descended from Manassah (Alma 10:3) and according to many early church witnesses, Joseph Smith taught that the original 116 pages of the Book of Mormon showed how Ishmael descended from Ephraim. 

So we see, even in the very beginning of Lehi’s journey to the Land of Promise, the Lord gathered descendants of both Ephraim and Manassah, connecting them through every one of Lehi’s sons. Therefore, any male-line descendent of Lehi, is by definition, an Ephraimite, at least in part.

Furthermore, because Lehi’s posterity are directly related to Ephraim’s bloodline through Ishmael, it follows that the white, European Gentiles, descended from Ephraim, also have ties back to Lehi and his seed through Joseph. 

But There is More


The Europeans who came to America and displaced the native inhabitants didn’t only scatter and kill them, but also intermingled and intermarried with them. The result of hundreds of years of connection is that the largest single mixed-race group in America is white-American Indian, who comprise 50% of all mixed-race people. Nearly all these identify as white, and are unaware of their mixed-race blood. (See American Indian and white, but not ‘multiracial’, D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center, June 11, 2015.)

The point of all this is that the bloodlines are in place. In fact, the bloodlines in America are so mixed, that we really don’t even know how interracially mixed a people we are. Many of us are directly connected to Lehi’s seed through blood, and we don’t even recognize or know it. Even if we perhaps don’t have the Native American bloodlines connecting us to Lehi, many of us are still connected to Lehi’s seed through Ishmael and his Ephraimite lineage. 

I am going to be so bold as to say: Many of us are the literal seed and remnant of Lehi. Go back and look at your family history. Do you have Native Americans in your family line? Even if you don’t know it, you may. And if your ancestors came solely from Europe, or even other nations of the earth, there is a good chance your lineage is through Ephraim. His blood was scattered among many nations.

You—the Remnant

Bloodlines matter to the Lord, and are required to inherit the covenant opportunity promised to Israel. But even if we have the correct bloodlines, we are no more special than anyone else. Until we rejoin the house of Israel by covenant, we are still considered Gentiles. For that matter, even Native Americans are considered Gentiles until they accept God’s covenant.
The Book of Mormon is intended to be received as a covenant. The covenant MUST first be delivered to, and accepted by, the gentiles in order for the gentiles to be numbered among the remnant of God’s people. (3 Ne:21:22) The gentiles must have a covenant or they cannot assist in any way to establish the New Jerusalem…. But if even a few will accept it, those who do will become at that time part of the covenant people of God, numbered with the remnant, and entitled to inherit this as their land. In turn, God will protect them. If they abide the covenant, He will establish a New Jerusalem. (Denver Snuffer, Things to Keep Us Awake at Night)
If we look at what Nephi has to say in the Book of Mormon about the Lord gathering His family Israel in the last days, we see just how connected the seed of Lehi and the Gentiles are and how the covenant is an essential part of the last days gathering. The following is a lengthy passage, but it deserves careful attention. Please read it slowly and carefully, with the realization that it is speaking of YOU.
Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel? 
And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fullness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fullness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed. 
And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved. 
Behold, I say unto you, Yea; they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive-tree, into the true olive-tree. And this is what our father meaneth; and he meaneth that it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by the Gentiles; and he meaneth that it shall come by way of the Gentiles, that the Lord may show his power unto the Gentiles, for the very cause that he shall be rejected of the Jews, or of the house of Israel. Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. (1 Ne 15:12-18)
In these verses, Nephi makes it very clear that when his seed have dwindled in unbelief for many years, and this after the Messiah manifested himself unto his seed at Bountiful, then many years later, the fullness of the Gospel would be given to the Gentiles, who would then take the fullness to the remnants of Nephi’s seed. He specifically states that they will come to the knowledge of who they are, and therefore rise up and become Israel, “pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days.”
It will be former Gentiles who are called “Ephraim” once restored, to whom all other tribes must come to receive their part in the covenant. This will happen once the gentiles have been given the land as THEIR land of promise, an inheritance from God given only to covenant people. (Denver Snuffer: Things to Keep Us Awake at Night)
And thus, these former Gentiles, with Ephraim now restored, will fulfill the prophecy:
And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence. And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep. Their enemies shall become a prey unto them, And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land. 
And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants. And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence. And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy. 
Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows. (D&C 133:26-34)
Fulfilling Prophecy


Many ancient prophets spoke of the very events that are now upon us. For example, the prophet Micah (for whom we named our second son) said the following:
And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass. (Micah 5:7)
When rain or dew falls on a group of people, they all get wet. Therefore the statement that the remnant will be “in the midst” of many people seems to indicate that the bloodlines will be common, like rain falling on a group. Yet, only some few will “awake and arise,” to recognize who they are and what they are called to accomplish.

Isaiah said it this way: 
For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return; (Isaiah 10:22)
The blood of Israel is spread far and wide. Yet only a remnant will reclaim the covenant.

Even more striking, the Hebrew word root am, translated in this verse as “people” is the same root used by Hosea, when referring to “the people” among whom Ephraim would mix, and the same root used by Isaiah in referring to “thy people Israel.” In other words, the blood of Israel is now common and widespread among all people, awaiting some few to rise up and become the remnant.

Micah’s language gets even more interesting when he says: 
And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. (Micah 5:8)
Waking Up

The remnants of both Lehi and of Jacob will finally realize who they are by the preaching of the Book of Mormon from other Gentiles. The preaching must be done (and is being done) by servants of the Lord who are given power to help open our eyes of understanding, and help us realize our false traditions and unbelief. Then, we, who already have the bloodlines in place, can finally recognize who we are, and see how we fit into the prophecies concerning the last days Gentiles and our role in the establishment of Zion. 

Not all Gentiles can be classified as the remnant of Jacob or Ephraim. Only those Gentiles who will accept God’s covenant, once it is offered, can change their identity from Gentile to House of Israel, or God’s family.

Then Nephi’s prophecy can be fulfilled:
And now, I would prophesy somewhat more concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. For after the book of which I have spoken shall come forth, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the remnant of our seed. 
And then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews. And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers. 
And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes (2 Ne 30:4-6)
The Book of Mormon will fulfill its purpose, “Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.” (Book of Mormon, Title Page)

And now, nearly 200 years after the Book of Mormon was first given to the Gentiles and treated lightly, (D&C 84:54) the Gentile seed of Israel will finally come to understand who they are and what they must do. They will finally “come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.” (1 Nephi 15:14).

Denver Snuffer explains this process even better. 
The conversion of the “Gentiles” will remake the nation of Israel in the latter-days. Those who regard themselves as “Gentile” include great numbers of formerly Israelite people who have lost knowledge of their original birthright… 
As they convert, the Gentiles shall regain their identity with Israel. This process of re-affiliation with Israel by conversion is also spoken of by Nephi. And he uses the words of this verse to capture the idea: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like a father unto them; wherefore, the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.: (2 Ne 10:18.) The way the Gentiles become numbered among Israel is by softening their hearts; i.e., conversion. When they convert, they are restored through covenant to their status as Israel. (Nephi’s Isaiah, pp. 154-155, emphasis mine)

An Irish Girl

So I think I finally understand how my Irish ancestry fits into the whole story of the last days. Because of my Irish roots, I most likely do have the blood of Ephraim, but I also understand now that bloodlines alone aren’t enough. The Lord, in His infinite knowledge, made it possible to disperse the blood of Israel among many nations. Any of those bloodline people who accept the offered covenant, will be changed from Gentiles, or foreigners, to God’s family Israel. 

Even though the Lord currently views me as a Gentile, I still love my Irish heritage. I also look forward to my status changing from “Gentile,” to “Ephraim.”  

This is my first blog post, and I can say that, after writing this post, I think a trip to Ireland to kiss the Blarney stone is definitely in order—to give me the gift of eloquence! 

In closing, I will leave you with my own Irish blessing: “May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint!” 

Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles, unto your seed which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity...it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel.
—3 Nephi 21:5-7

Monday, June 5, 2017

Covenant Book, Part 4: His People



Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

But, behold, all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people shall dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel if it so be that they will repent.
—2 Nephi 22:28


In the prior post in this series, we examined the idea of a promised land. Connected with the promise of land, is the promise of protection to those who dwell in the land if they keep the Lord’s commandments:
Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever. (2 Nephi 1:9)
Lehi expressed the promise this way to his son Jacob:
Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men. (2 Nephi 2:3)
God fulfilled Lehi’s promise. Nephi and Jacob did indeed dwell safely in the land of Nephi without being displaced. But as later generations began to turn away from the covenant, they became increasingly unsafe, requiring increasing efforts by prophets to warn—and even threaten—the people against transgression:
Behold, it is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts, and the deafness of their ears, and the blindness of their minds, and the stiffness of their necks; nevertheless, God is exceedingly merciful unto them, and has not as yet swept them off from the face of the land... 
And it came to pass that they came many times against us, the Nephites, to battle. But our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord; wherefore, we withstood the Lamanites and swept them away out of our lands, and began to fortify our cities, or whatsoever place of our inheritance... 
And thus being prepared to meet the Lamanites, they did not prosper against us. But the word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep  my commandments ye shall prosper in the land. And it came to pass that the prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land. (Jarom 3, 7, 9-10)
Eventually, even the threat of destruction couldn’t induce the people to maintain obedience to God, so destruction is exactly what they got:
Behold, it came to pass that three hundred and twenty years had passed away, and the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed. For the Lord would not suffer, after he had led them out of the land of Jerusalem and kept and preserved them from falling into the hands of their enemies, yea, he would not suffer that the words should not be verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall not prosper in the land. (Omni 5-6)
It took generations to sweep them away, but eventually the Nephites fell to the Lamanites. The few remaining righteous in the land of Nephi fled with King Mosiah to the land of Zarahemla, where Mosiah’s son, Benjamin, labored with his whole soul to reestablish a covenant with God for the people in Zarahemla (Words of Mormon 1:18, Mosiah 5:6). As they did so, the Lord’s protection returned, and their enemies fell (Words of Mormon 1:14).

Zeniff

Meanwhile, a group of Nephites who had fled to Zarahemla, desired to return and repossess the land of Nephi, including Nephi’s temple (Omni 1:27). As you may recall, their first attempt to do so ended with them mostly killing each other (Omni 1:28). The second attempt, under Zeniff, restored them to the land of Nephi, though under a crafty Lamanite plot to subjugate them and keep them as slaves (Mosiah 9:10).

But these Nephites repented, remembered the covenant of their fathers, and called upon the Lord. He responded to their repentance by restoring their blessing of safety. Though vastly outnumbered, they repelled massive Lamanite attacks. Twice.
Yea, in the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle against the Lamanites; for I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers. And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might; yea, we did go forth against the Lamanites, and in one day and a night we did slay three thousand and forty-three; we did slay them even until we had driven them out of our land. (Mosiah 9:17-18)
Unfortunately, it all changed when Zeniff died. His son, Noah, lived in sin and debauchery. He also taught his people to do so by eliminating the priests who taught truth, and appointing priests who taught wickedness. The Lord, ever faithful, sent Abinadi to warn King Noah of the resulting loss of protection:
And it shall come to pass that except this people repent and turn unto the Lord their God, they shall be brought into bondage; and none shall deliver them, except it be the Lord the Almighty God. Yea, and it shall come to pass that when they shall cry unto me I will be slow to hear their cries; yea, and I will suffer them that they be smitten by their enemies. (Mosiah 11:23-24)
As you know, Noah rejected God’s warning and killed God’s messenger. Quickly thereafter came the fulfillment of Abinadi’s warnings, with the Nephite colony conquered and Noah killed. Breaking the covenant cost them the Lord’s protection, precisely as Abinadi said it would.

Noah’s son, Limhi, made a deal with the Lamanite king, allowing the Nephites to remain on the land as renters, paying half of all they possessed to obtain what God would have given them freely, had they remained obedient. Three times they attempted to drive the Lamanites out; three times they suffered terrible defeat. Without the Lord’s protection, they could not dwell safely in the land.

After their terrible defeats, the Nephites repented and sought a covenant with God again.
And now since the coming of Ammon, king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments. (Mosiah 21:32)
But by the time they humbled themselves enough to receive the covenant, they could no longer recover rights to that particular land. Therefore, the Lord led them to another promised land, back to the land of Zarahemla, where the main body of Nephites dwelt.

What Lessons Can we Learn?

It’s plainly illustrated for us that the rights to a promised land are conditioned upon obedience to the covenant. If you keep the terms, you dwell in safety. If not, you get swept off in the Lord’s due time. Many may possess lands, and temporarily think they own them, but the inalienable right to promised land only comes from God, and it only comes by a covenant He offers.

Bloodlines alone DO NOT confer a covenant, or a right to the land. Those who claim this land is the exclusive property of Lehi’s descendants, or other “Native Americans” fail to recognize that those former possessors lost the covenant right, lost the land, and experienced almost complete destruction. They were scattered and trodden down. (3 Nephi 16:8) Regardless of the bloodlines anyone may possess, there is NO covenant right to anything until one has actually received the covenant from God. If bloodlines alone were adequate to secure the promises, Lehi’s descendants would never have been driven and swept off this land by Gentile invaders.

Claiming superior right by virtue of blood, rather than righteousness, is a time-honored technique designed to eliminate the need for repentance. The Jews made the same false claims at the time of Christ, supposing their ties to Abraham conferred special status. (John 8:32-40) And then the Romans wiped them out.

Covenant Cycle


Do you see how the cycle we’ve commonly called the “Nephite Pride Cycle” is really the cycle of receiving and rejecting God’s covenant? Starting with Lehi, those who received and obeyed the covenant from God received right to the land, and God’s protection in it. Those who rejected the covenant through disobedience lost right to the land, lost God’s protection, and experienced destruction and removal from the land. In the Book of Mormon parlance, they were “swept off.”

That cycle yet remains active, and the Gentiles who currently possess this land of promise will likewise be swept off when they are fully ripe. God has allowed the gentiles to possess this land for a time, and even made them a mighty nation, but that time will come to an end and they, like all others who don’t have God-given right to the land, will be swept off.
And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity. For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.
And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done. (Ether 2:9-11)
These are not idle warnings. The time is rapidly approaching when those who will not repent and receive God’s covenant will be swept off. In the face of these dire circumstances, we can attempt to rely on promises to our ancestors—and fail—or we can make up stories about how a covenant isn’t required—and fail—or we can even claim to obtain the covenant in some other way than the way God decrees—and fail. The hard-hearted Gentile tendency is to fight against God while claiming to be righteous. Such will surely be swept off.
And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people— 
Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.
And I will gather my people together as a man gathereth his sheaves into the floor. For I will make my people with whom the Father hath covenanted, yea, I will make thy horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass. And thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth. And behold, I am he who doeth it. 
And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles. (3 Nephi 20:15-20)

Liberty

Connected to the promise of safety is the guarantee of liberty in the land for those who keep the covenant:
Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever. (2 Nephi 1:7)
When the Lord offered the covenant to the saints in Joseph Smith’s day, His language included the following statements:
And I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh; And I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts. 
And this shall be my covenant with you, ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever, while the earth shall stand, and ye shall possess it again in eternity, no more to pass away. 
But, verily I say unto you that in time ye shall have no king nor ruler, for I will be your king and watch over you. Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver, and what can stay my hand? (D&C 38:18-22)
Freedom of thought and action are required for agency to fully operate. If Zion is to come, it must be by the free-will decisions of those who wish to be one with the Lord and each other. Oppressive laws and governments are the antithesis of Zion, and will prevent it. Lucifer’s plan from the beginning was to destroy the agency of man. (Moses 4:3) The Lord promises liberty to those who will abide His covenant.

Kings

Similarly, kings are prohibited on the land, both in the passage above, and in other Book of Mormon passages. Here’s an example:
But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land. And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles. (2 Nephi 10:10-11)
In the Book of Mormon, we repeatedly see how wicked kings lead their nations into abominations and destruction (Mosiah 29:24). And yet, we also confront the righteous examples of King Benjamin and King Melchizedek (who’s very name means “king and priest”) who actually led their respective societies into a covenant relationship with God. How can this be?

Well, it has to do with the definition of “king.” If that word is defined as a sovereign monarch who exercises absolute authority and dominion over his people as their ruler, then yes, such will inevitably lead to exactly the sorts of problems we have the Book of Mormon to warn us against. On the other hand, if “king” isn’t a political position, but rather a title in the household of God, and it really means “servant and teacher,” as was the case with Benjamin and Melchizedek, well then, you have an entirely different situation. Such “kings” can and will exist in lands of promise. Such kings elevate and bless others, bringing them into a relationship with the Lord. Indeed, when Christ returns, He will reign on earth as King over such kings (and queens), even though all political kingdoms will be destroyed.

Family

And this brings us to the final blessing of the offered covenant: A place in God’s family.

We’ll start to examine this topic by taking a look at some things Christ said just prior to his atoning sacrifice, in what is commonly called “the Intercessory Prayer.” Referring to his disciples, Christ prayed the following:
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17: 11-12)
Note that Christ refers in this passage to those the Father had “given” Him. What does that mean? This cryptic passage has been applied in a number of ways, based on a number of assumptions, by many flavors of Christians. If the King James version of John were our only resource, we would still be left to guess what Christ meant by these words. But fortunately, we have the additional light available in the Testimony of St. John, where Christ prays the following:
I have explained your title to the men you gave to me from out of the fallen creation. They were yours at the beginning, and you have given them to me as my offspring. And they are devoted, prepared and always waiting to respond to your words. Now they understand and accept that everything I have done and taught comes from you. For I have said to them the things you told to me. They are devoted to the truth and know I am your sent Messiah. I pray for them, and what I ask is for them and not the world, for they are yours. And all who are devoted to me are yours, and you share with me, and I am their light. I am soon to depart from this creation, but these followers will remain here as I return again to be with you. Holy Father, please watch over these like a sentinel. Protect and guard them using your power, so that they may be united as one, as we are united as one. While I accompanied them in the world, I shared light with them in your name. Every one you gave to me I have kept, and none of them will be lost to us, other than the son of perdition. Those who are kept and those who are lost are divided according to your covenant made from the beginning. (TSJ, p. 27, emphasis mine)
Christ explicitly states that the Father has given Christ these disciples as His offspring—part of His family—to be numbered among His household in the eternities. And this according to the Father’s covenant, made from the beginning. Accepting God’s offered covenant leads to Him claiming you as His child. (I’ve written extensively about this idea in another blog post).

We find this same idea in Psalms:
I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalms 2:7)
King Benjamin’s covenant delivered the same results:
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. (Mosiah 5:7)
Connecting back to Christ in a family relationship through other covenant fathers will require Elijah’s last-days mission. Such is recorded in Malachi 4:5-6—which is included among the material Christ quoted to the Nephites and instructed them to record for us (3 Nephi 25:5-6). It is also the topic discussed by the angel in Joseph Smith’s bedroom on September 21, 1823 as a prelude to the restoration. In other words, the topic of connecting mortals to God through a family relationship is at the very heart of what we call “the Gospel.” It is the purpose, and the result, of the covenants God offers to mankind.

Those who receive God’s covenant, He calls “His people.” He claims them as His own, which, incidentally, is the only way to become “His.” HE must claim you—not the other way around. Many, many people claim to be “His,” speaking, acting, and teaching in His name. But foolish claims by mortals mean nothing. Only the Lord’s view matters. You are not His until He says so.

I believe the family relationship with God is the root of all other promised covenant blessings. You get a land because He gives His family a place to live. You dwell there safely because God defends His family. You enjoy liberty because God wants your agency to result in your exaltation so you can dwell with Him.

Recognizing the Covenant

As we approach Christ’s message in 3 Nephi, we now have some tools to recognize references to the covenant that was offered in the past and will be offered in the latter days. Specifically, we should watch for the following:
  • A promised land, and the right to possess it.
  • A promise of safety in the land, including divine protection from enemies or interference.
  • Promised liberty, including freedom of thought and action, and a prohibition against rule by kings
  • A family connection to Christ, often by way of other covenant Fathers. 
Now that we’ve covered some of the blessings offered by way of covenant, we will be better prepared to receive our Lord’s message from 3 Nephi, which we’ll get to in due course, after we discuss a few other important items.

Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
—Jeremiah 32:37-38

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Further Details about Both Youth Conferences


Two youth conferences planned for 
June 2017!

Three-day Gathering: "Restoration Youth Conference" June 19-21, 2017: 

This youth conference has been completely planned and organized by the youth who are putting it on. I've been asked to post the following information: 

This conference is for youth ages 11-18. In order to provide enough food and preparations, please RSVP by June 9th at restorationyouthconference@gmail.com. When you register, please include your teenager's name, age, and fellowship. A chaperone or parent from each fellowship would be helpful but is not required. Chaperones should also register and include the names of the youth they are accompanying. Once registration is completed on June 9th, we will send out a packing list, an itinerary, and directions. A $35 donation for food and paper products for each registered child and adult is requested but not mandatory. We are excited to provide a great experience for the youth to bond, grow, and connect with each other and the Lord. If you have any questions, please direct them to restorationyouthconference@gmail.com

Here is a video produced by the young people who are organizing this conference:


One-day Gathering: "A Day of Faith and Connection"June 10, 2017:

Details are listed in the announcement below, or at: https://zionyouthgathering.wordpress.com


A Day of Faith and Connection


Connect with Friends,  Connect with Purpose, Connect with Christ.

Dear Restoration Youth,

“…we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” 2 Nephi 25:26

What a wonderful time we live in! We have opportunities that other generations haven’t had. We have easy access to scriptures from past dispensations. With a simple Internet search, we can connect with people from all around the globe who share our same beliefs and goals. We feel blessed to have new friends who strengthen us and help make the journey light. Together we can offer a sweet sense of family and belonging.

You are invited to come and make some great connections this summer! Please join us in connecting with friends, connecting with purpose, and connecting with Christ. There will be games, canoeing, cooking out, and great testimonies! We hope you will be uplifted and energized by our speakers, which include Robert and Quintina Bear Chief Adolpho. We look forward to seeing you!

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When: Saturday, June 10, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Where: Barker Family Private Park,  2900 N. 1000 W. Pleasant View, UT 84414
Who: All Restoration youth ages 11-18

Please RSVP and send questions to:  zionyouthgathering@gmail.com

“Children are the means to preserve Zion”

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Things to bring:                                                                                     
  • sack lunch
  • notebook or journal
  • sunscreen/hat
  • bug repellent
  • camp chair
  • towel (for drying off after water games)
  • water bottle
  • picnic blanket (optional)

We’ll provide dinner, snacks, drinks, and dessert!
(Bring your own sack lunch and water bottle)
Saturday, June 10, 2017
9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Arrive early for check-in!

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Individual vs. Group

I received the following email in response to my last post. I thought it was worth putting here, along with my response. 
You said, "Once a people rightfully possess a land by covenant, if they continue to obey God, they can build a temple through which they can reconnect with the divine, and in which God can restore the fulness of the priesthood (D&C 124:28). As the people become sanctified, the land to which they are connected also becomes sanctified (D&C 124:44), and the earth ceases to mourn for the wickedness on her face (Moses 7:48). This is the beginning of how “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” (Article of Faith 10)" 
Adam, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, King Benjamin, Alma., Alma the Younger, Captain Moroni, Helaman, Mormon and Moroni, John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joseph Smith and others [Denver's claim],all obtained their last comforter without a brick and mortar temple and "corrected" scriptures. What if these things are becoming a huge distraction and lead to the "train reck dream" so carefully laid out by Denver in his Boise talk last year? He said himself he gets it wrong every time, that his compass points "south," and the Lord has to correct him all the time.  
Why does Joseph have to a failure in order for Denver to perform his ministry?
Here’s my response:

It is an error to confuse individual redemption with the establishment of Zion. The Lord can, has, and does redeem individuals on a one-on-one basis, and has done so throughout history. But such individual redemption cannot, has not, and does not bring Zion. The establishment of Zion is always a group endeavor, requiring group cooperation and the subjugation of individual interests in favor of the group.

The council, or family in heaven, is a group. It is not a bunch of redeemed individuals singly and separately working on their individual goals and purposes. The city of Enoch is a group, and they will return when there is a group here with whom they can associate, and upon whose necks they can fall when they return (Moses 7:63). Zion will be a city and society where the Lord can come and dwell (Moses 7:64), not an individual endeavor that saves one and excludes all others.

God’s purposes include gathering his family together to function as a society. This will require an accurate body of scripture and a temple to which the Lord can come and provide to the group what can only be obtained from Him personally (D&C 124:28). Then, it will require those so gathered to participate in gathering others (3 Nephi 21:24).

The saints of Joseph’s day failed to receive what God offered. This does not make Joseph Smith a failure. The fact that Joseph’s ministry was required (including his labors to correct scripture and build a temple) highlights the fact that prior dispensations ended in apostasy, and a restoration was therefore required—just as it is today.

Though Denver certainly gets things wrong and has to be corrected, he does not stand and publicly teach things in the name of Jesus Christ unless he has received them from Christ and knows them to be correct. He takes that responsibility very seriously, as should we all. Why assume he was right about the Second Comforter and the train wreck dream, but wrong about the scriptures and the temple? Such an approach appears to be based on the idea that he’s only correct when he agrees with you.

I believe the current efforts to obtain accurate scriptures, a covenant with God, and a temple all agree with scripture and God’s will. He has confirmed these things to me. It is a mistake to use the true principle of the Second Comforter to oppose the true principle of Zion. The two are not at odds.