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.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Covenant Book, Part 3: Promised Land

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

And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
—1 Nephi 2:20

In the musical production, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the title character, unjustly imprisoned, and seemingly without hope of release, sings the following refrain:
Close every door to me
Keep those I love from me
Children of Israel are never alone
For I know I shall find
My own peace of mind
For I have been promised a land of my own
The musical is great entertainment, and though I wouldn’t recommend it as a reliable source for accurate history or doctrine, this particular song touches on a profound truth when Joseph takes comfort in the Lord’s promise of land. As we examine God’s covenants, we necessarily must start with the idea of a promised land.

So let’s start at the very beginning. When God introduced Adam and Eve into this world, He gave them a place to dwell for their sojourn here—a home that would provide the essentials of life, and therefore, temporal security. It was God’s intent to give Adam and his posterity dominion, or the right to possess, this earth as their inheritance. (Moses 2:26) Adam stood as the patriarchal head of the human family, and therefore the possessor of this covenant from God—including dominion over the earth. The covenant of land became so identified with Adam that the Hebrew word for land is “adamah,” which is derived from Adam’s name.

When Cain committed the first murder, he lost the right to inherit God’s covenant, and therefore the dominion over the earth promised to Adam. As a result, rather than being tied to a land where he could safely dwell, he was instead cursed to be a “fugitive and a vagabond” without any permanent right to land he could call his own. This loss of a homeland is the extent of Cain’s recorded curse, and is also the beginning of a sort of shorthand used in scripture to express the covenant. Whenever you encounter a promised land in scripture, you are looking at a covenant between God and man. If the covenant is broken, right to the land is lost, as it was to Cain.

It’s important to recognize that references to a land of promise generally refer not only to land, but to the full extent of God’s promises. Like I said, shorthand. We’ll see many examples of this usage as we study pertinent scripture. But first, we have to ask why.

Why Land?

The Father promises land to those with whom He covenants. Land is vital because it is the source of food, community and stability. If God promises you a land that cannot be taken away, it means you and your posterity will always have a place to live, and a way to make a living. It means the improvements you make to the land will benefit your family’s future generations. Land provides current and future temporal security for the recipient and any posterity that also choose to honor the covenant. It is a home. It is the anchor for a family and a community. It is identity and standing. Land is life.

Likewise, land has always been equated with wealth. Wars have been, and continue to be, fought over seemingly insignificant patches of dirt. Hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, have died in land disputes, both local and international. World wars have raged over invasions and incursions into land claimed by others. The current situation in the Middle East ultimately comes down to a land dispute between major religions that venerate, and claim right to, the same piece of land.

Though we seldom think about it, without a land to call your own, you are homeless, separated from God in this lone and dreary world, a stranger and foreigner wherever you go—having been dispossessed of your prior home, cast out of God’s presence by the fall, and abiding here only as an alien, rather than a citizen. The beginning of the restoration to God’s presence includes God reversing your unfortunate condition by giving you a home. 

This in contrast to how men treat each other with respect to land. In general, under our current system, land ownership is bought and sold at tremendous prices, most often requiring a lifetime of work to pay for the land and its improvements. We trade our very lives for lands, and enslave those who wish to obtain legal title to what is ultimately God’s to give. Such a system, though allowed at this moment, will eventually come to an end.

Land and Temple

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)

The journey of a people back to God’s presence, and the establishment of a holy city where God can dwell, all begin with a God-given, promised land. This pattern is clear throughout scriptural history.

 Enoch obtained a land by covenant and retained his covenantal right to the land as not only his people, but also their entire city, rose up to heaven. After the flood, God gave Noah the same covenant, including the promise Noah would dwell on the earth, safe from threat of a flood. Abraham documented God’s promise of land to him and his seed:
And the Lord appeared unto me in answer to my prayers, and said unto me: Unto thy seed will I give this land. (Abr. 2:19)
Lehi received the same covenant:
But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord. (2 Nephi 1:5)
When you think about it, the entire Book of Mormon narrative begins with the journey to a land promised by God in a covenant. The sub-narrative of the Jaredite civilization begins the same way, with a land of promise. Here’s how the Lord expressed it to the brother of Jared:
And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth. And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. (Ether 1:42-43)
Are you starting to see a pattern here? When God offers a covenant, the first promise is a land to call home. This is such an important part of the covenant that it became the promise repeated for hundreds of years among Lehi’s descendants. How many times in the Book of Mormon do you find some variation of the following statement?
For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence. (2 Nephi 4:4) 
Notice that every time the promise is repeated, it is not just about prospering, but specifically about prospering “in the land.” It is a reminder of both the covenant, and of the obedience required to obtain the promised blessings, including the right to the promised land. Ultimately, it is a reminder that sanctification of a people will bring sanctification of the land, and the return to a paradisiacal state in which the earth can again “bring forth in its strength” (D&C 59:3) so the people may indeed prosper in the land. It is the return to Eden and the presence of God.

Land as Covenant Identity

Obtaining the land-right as part of the covenant is so pivotal that it even becomes an indication of who has received the covenant and who has not. As an example, take a look at how Lehi addressed his two youngest sons before he died. Remember, these are the two sons born to Lehi after he had left Jerusalem, and after he had been promised a new land. We should also pause to notice their names—Jacob and Joseph—both named after Lehi’s covenant fathers.

To Jacob, the elder of the two, Lehi said the following:
Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain. Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi (2 Nephi 2:2-3)
Notice the affirmative statement that Jacob “shall” dwell safely with Nephi, who had covenant right to the land (1 Nephi 2:20). This affirmative statement indicates that Jacob, though young, had already received his own covenant with God—which should not surprise us, as Lehi notes, “And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh.” (v. 4) Jacob had seen the Lord and received the same blessings as those who would later receive His ministry at Bountiful. Jacob had a covenant.

Joseph, on the other hand, received a somewhat different statement from Lehi:
And may the Lord consecrate also unto thee this land, which is a most precious land, for thine inheritance and the inheritance of thy seed with thy brethren, for thy security forever, if it so be that ye shall keep the commandments of the Holy One of Israel. (2 Nephi 3:2)
Notice the expression of a conditional hope: “May the Lord consecrate also unto thee this land…” Lehi expresses his desire that Joseph will receive the same covenant as Nephi and Jacob had, but that it is a yet future, and conditional event. Joseph was still very young, and not yet prepared at this point. Said Lehi:
Behold, thou art little; wherefore hearken unto the words of thy brother, Nephi, and it shall be done unto thee even according to the words which I have spoken. (2 Nephi 3:25)
The differences in Lehi’s statements plainly reveal who had a covenant with God and who did not. The right to the land proves it. We could drive home the point by examining Lehi’s statements to his other sons, but the point is made and we need to keep forging ahead.

Covenant Restoration

The Book of Mormon was specifically provided “to shew 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)

The outline of God’s plan to honor His covenants and restore the production of good fruit is shown us in Jacob 5. Perhaps the most poignant scene in this powerful chapter is the moment when the Lord of the vineyard, having done all he could for his failing trees, sits and weeps, lamenting his failure.
And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard? (Jacob 5:41)
Though there had been other failures in other locations, the Lord’s overwhelming sorrow ultimately resulted from the failure of those in the promised land—a land the Lord described as “a good spot of ground; yea, even that which was choice unto me above all other parts of the land of my vineyard.” (v. 43) This was the failure of those tied by covenant to the promised land. This was a rejection of the Lord’s covenant. And though the covenants (roots) remained intact, nobody was interested in receiving what was offered.

We yet remain in that lamentable state today. Nevertheless, there is reason for hope. God made promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, among others, and God absolutely WILL fulfill those promises before this world’s work is finished. As part of that fulfillment, God WILL restore believers to their lands of promise. Such a result is documented multiple times in the Book of Mormon:
And now, my beloved brethren, I have read these things that ye might know concerning the covenants of the Lord that he has covenanted with all the house of Israel—That he has spoken unto the Jews, by the mouth of his holy prophets, even from the beginning down, from generation to generation, until the time comes that they shall be restored to the true church and fold of God; when they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise. (2 Nephi 9:1-2)
Not only the Jews, and the House of Israel, but even strangers will be offered the covenant.
For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land; and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them and bring them to their place; yea, from far unto the ends of the earth; and they shall return to their lands of promise. And the house of Israel shall possess them, and the land of the Lord shall be for servants and handmaids; and they shall take them captives unto whom they were captives; and they shall rule over their oppressors. (2 Nephi 24:1-2; see also Isaiah 14)
In the above text, quoted from Isaiah 14, the Hebrew word “ger,” is translated as “strangers,” and the Hebrew word “saphach” is translated as “cleave to.” But given the various meanings of these Hebrew words, and the Lord’s intent to honor His covenant, a better translation would be “and the sojourners shall be joined with them and shall become part of the house of Jacob.” Or in other words, those without right to the land will obtain that right as they come into the house of Israel by covenant.

God intends to restore His covenants to a believing people who will rise up and receive what He offers. Part of what He offers is the covenantal right to land—which can and must be used to build a temple, establish a holy city, and gather in all who will come to Zion. God has promised these things will happen, and they most surely will.

Understanding the promise and significance of land is the beginning to understanding the coming covenant. 

Wherefore, let us be faithful to him. And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise.
—1 Nephi 7:12-13

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Covenant Book, Part 2: Keys, Keys, Keys

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

Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.
—3 Nephi 21:11

In the first post in this series, we discussed an important key to understanding Christ’s message at Bountiful. It is that the message was specifically targeted to the last days gentiles—you and me—and not to the people at Bountiful. If we are to understand Christ’s discussion of the covenant, this is the point at which we must start. We should apply his words to US, not to those long dead who initially wrote them.

Working the Mine

With that preliminary in place, we next need to discuss several more keys to understanding Christ’s message to us. In today’s post, we’ll examine some of those keys and how they affect our understanding of Christ’s message. I realize it’s probably a lot more interesting to get right to the message itself, but it really is vital to start with these preliminaries. We’ll have to sink a rather deep mineshaft to get to the gold, but it will pay off in the end.

I expect it will likely take even a couple more posts to sink that shaft before we get to the actual text of the message. The good news is that those posts are coming along well and I’m not the only one writing them. So with some luck and divine aid, we should be able to start moving a little more quickly.

Christ’s teachings at Bountiful are the highest achievement and deepest treasure of the Book of Mormon. We simply can’t approach them casually or take them lightly. Context is everything in understanding this message, and if we fail to view it through the right lenses, we’ll continue making the same errors that have been made for 187 years—and obtain the same unfortunate results.

The opportunity for the covenant is soon upon us, and time is running short. We can ill afford to misinterpret the message at this point.

So with that introduction, let’s take a look at some keys:

Key #1: Throw Out the Numbers

I’ll illustrate this idea by intentionally chopping the following paragraph to bits:
  1. As we approach the text of Christ’s message, we must keep in mind that 
  2. The division of the text into chapters and verses is completely artificial. The text was not recorded that way, nor was it translated 
  3. That way by Joseph Smith. The artificial divisions were added post-Joseph, 
  4. And frankly, do quite a bit to impede understanding. Therefore, it’s proper to ignore them, 
  5. Or better yet, use a version of the Book of Mormon that excludes them. When I began reading the Book of Mormon without constant
  6. Numerical interruptions, it became an entirely new book. It reads very differently without the numbers.
The above was intended as one paragraph and one thought. The verse divisions only distract, and can even mislead. In fact, the verses make the whole thing nearly incomprehensible. So here it is again, without the interruptions:
As we approach the text of Christ’s message, we must keep in mind that the division of the text into chapters and verses is completely artificial. The text was not recorded that way, nor was it translated that way by Joseph Smith. The artificial divisions were added post-Joseph, and frankly, do quite a bit to impede understanding. Therefore, it’s proper to ignore them, or better yet, use a version of the Book of Mormon that excludes them. When I began reading the Book of Mormon without constant numerical interruptions, it became an entirely new book. It reads very differently without the numbers.

The one caveat I’ll add is that, for purposes of reference and locating specific words, I’ll continue to use the current LDS chapter and verse system as reference notation in this series of posts. This is only a practical consideration; the text still stands on its own, regardless of numbers, and should be studied that way.

Key #2: Who is it From? 

Though we refer to Christ’s words as His own, He makes it clear He is, in fact, merely the messenger. The covenant, the message, and the work now underway are all actually the Father’s. Christ informs us of these facts repeatedly in 3 Nephi.

To be more precise:
  • Christ states 4 times that it is the Father’s covenant that will be honored and fulfilled. It was the Father’s covenant from the beginning and remains His until the end.
  • Christ states 23 times that he is delivering the Father’s message. Typical language is “such and such…saith the Father.” or “Thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you…”
  • Christ mentions 16 times that the work of leading remnants away to other places, gathering them back together, fulfilling the covenant, and all that will happen before the end belongs to the Father as well. The whole plan and all the work are clearly Father Ahman’s. 
Of course, Christ and the Father share the same mind and will, so we can properly call it Christ’s message and Christ’s work as well. But I believe it’s worth noting that the original covenant with Abraham and its final fulfillment in the end, are all Father Ahman’s doing. This will become increasingly relevant as we move along.

Key #3: Continually Before His Eyes

All things—past, present and future—are continually before the Lord’s eyes (D&C 38:1-2, 130:7). Therefore his method of communication can, at times, be difficult to follow. In particular, verb tenses, pronoun objects, timetables, subjects and audiences shift continually as he speaks. Trying to distill the information down to fit our linear way of thinking can be challenging, or even impossible without divine aid. Likewise, it’s a mistake to assume the Lord thinks or speaks like we do. An entirely different approach is needed.

Remember, He required the multitude to be filled with the Spirit before He could even deliver this message to them. Likewise, we cannot expect to understand it unless we are similarly filled with the Spirit—which is defined in the Lectures on Faith as the “mind of God” (LoF 5:2). That is to say, the only way to understand the message is to have access, by the Spirit, to know what Christ was thinking when He said it.

In His message, Christ directly addresses the latter-day gentiles, the latter-day Jews, those who believe His words and receive the covenant, and those who do not. He delivers remarks at times specifically to the twelve, and at other times generally to the multitude. Unravelling the specific group to which each statement is directed, and the group to which it is delivered, aids in understanding the message—and reveals significant information hidden just below the surface.

Fortunately, we are aided by other portions of scripture to help us match up Christ’s statements with the groups to which they’re directed. We’ll do so as we examine His message.

Key # 4: Throw out False Assumptions

Nearly all of us who read the Book of Mormon come from an LDS or other Mormon-based religious tradition, in which we have been handed a set of beliefs about who we are, who we aren’t, what the Lord thinks of us, how to identify certain groups, how the Book of Mormon should be interpreted, etc. For example, one common LDS belief is that the Book of Mormon references to “gentiles” universally refer to non-LDS, non-Jews—essentially to other Christians. If you’re LDS, then automatically you’re on the righteous side of the equation and all the warnings and threats to the gentiles apply exclusively to all the other churches out there—and not to you.

This interpretation is both false and damning. Until we awaken to the idea that the Book of Mormon writers referred to US as the gentiles, we will never heed the warnings or repent. Many of us have come to this realization and let go of this false assumption, but it must not stop there.

What other false assumptions also burden our reading of Christ’s message? Well, how about this: There’s a common assumption that the “remnant of Jacob” on this continent refers exclusively to descendants of Lehi, which we interpret to mean Native Americans. Therefore, some expect that the prophecies were intended for, and will be fulfilled by, primarily Native Americans, with perhaps a few gentiles along for the ride if they repent. I used to believe this, until I studied the scriptures more closely, and found that they tell a very different story.

Though it’s difficult to cast aside such traditions, it’s absolutely vital to do so if we expect to have any chance of understanding Christ’s message. If we want to understand the covenant, we must abandon ALL assumptions and traditions, in favor of what the text actually says.

Just because we ascribe certain expectations to how, when, where, and by whom the prophecies will be fulfilled, that doesn’t preclude the possibility that the Lord may have something completely different in mind. A rigid view that things MUST happen a certain way and in a certain order is the greatest hinderance to understanding what is actually happening. Our thoughts are not His thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9) In the end, nobody will be in any position to tell the Lord He didn’t fulfill the prophecies. All who failed to recognize their fulfillment will have to admit their assumptions were incorrect, and consequently their eyes were blind, and their hearts were hard. It’s best to admit our ignorance now and seek understanding while we still can.

Ok, with these keys in place, we can move ahead to begin examining the covenant more closely. We’ll do that in the next post. Until then, we would do well to remember Christ’s advice to the multitude when they could not understand His message: 

I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time. Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.
—3 Nephi 17:2-3

Thursday, April 27, 2017

One-Day Youth Gathering

I was asked to post the following announcement about an upcoming one-day event for youth ages 11-18. This is not the same event as the Youth Conference I posted about earlier. To avoid confusion, here's information about each of the two separate events:

Three-day Gathering: "Restoration Youth Conference" with details listed in a previous post at this link:

One-day Gathering: "A Day of Faith and Connection" with details listed in the announcement below, or at:

I hope many youth will attend one or both of these events. They look like wonderful opportunities, organized by dedicated people.

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!

stacks-image-44f1c66-450x450 (1)

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:

“Children are the means to preserve Zion”


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!

17904402_1916227628607692_122201243757541321_n     DSC03169

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Covenant Book, Part 1: Crying From the Dust

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

And the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?
—Moroni 10:27

When the Lord condemned early church members for their failure to take The Book of Mormon seriously, He referred to it as “the new covenant.”
And this condemnation resteth 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. (D&C 84:56-58)
There’s much to consider in the idea that The Book of Mormon is a covenant. So we’ll start by examining what we can to better understand how the Book of Mormon and the new covenant are related. Ultimately, we’ll discover:

• The Book of Mormon CONTAINS a covenant
• The Book of Mormon IS a covenant


• The Book of Mormon is to be RECEIVED by covenant

That’s a lot of ground to cover, and it will take some time to cover it all. So let’s get started. 

Lehi’s Covenant

Our study necessarily begins with Lehi—whose repentance opened up an important possibility for the Lord and for us. As you recall, Lehi lived at a time when the Northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed, scattered and carried away captive by the Assyrians. The Southern kingdom of Judah came under threat from Babylon, and would soon be similarly destroyed if the Jews did not repent. 

The Lord sent many prophets to cry repentance and warn the people, and Lehi believed them. He took actions that opened the heavens and brought him into the presence of God, where he saw and heard much (1 Nephi 1:6). Because he was faithful, Lehi received a covenant from God, which included a land of promise for him and his family, as well as other blessings. The covenant required faithfulness to God’s commandments (2 Nephi 1:5-9). We do not have the full record of Lehi’s covenant, because Nephi did not record it (1 Nephi 1:16), and Lehi’s book was lost as part of the 116 pages Joseph Smith entrusted to Martin Harris. 

Nevertheless, from the information we do have available, we can see that the covenant included a promised land, scriptural records, safety, liberty, and prosperity (though not the way the world defines prosperity.) Because the Lord had a covenant people, even though it consisted of just two families, He led them to safety in this land of promise. Leading them away also accomplished another very important thing in the Lord’s wisdom: It preserved a record that bypassed Babylon and Babylon’s influence, ultimately to come to us in the latter days. 

As a quick review, remember that Babylon destroyed or corrupted the last vestiges of Abraham’s covenant, teachings, and people. By the time the Jews returned to Jerusalem after 70 years of Babylonian captivity, their religion had become so corrupt, it was ultimately used as justification to slay their God. 

We need to keep in mind that the Bible, containing records of God’s dealings and covenants with former prophets and patriarchs, came down to us by way of Babylon and Babylonian influence. The loss of Jerusalem affected the world forever, by forever supplanting God’s word with Babylon’s ideas.

But God sidestepped all that by sending a pure record with a covenant family to a land of promise; they escaped Jerusalem before Babylon invaded. Though the Nephites eventually apostatized from the covenant, their records preserve for us a knowledge of their relationship with the Lord and His requirements. 

Christ’s Message

Now, let’s fast forward about 600 years to the time of Christ. In particular, I want to focus on the curious event wherein Christ attempted to teach the Nephites, then abruptly stopped. He could tell they weren’t getting the message, and it was too important to risk them getting it wrong. Said He:
I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time. Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again. (3 Nephi 17:2-3)
Too weak is too weak. Even Christ couldn’t teach them the message He had been sent to share.

As I’ve previously written at length, Christ didn’t leave—because the people asked Him to stay. So to cure their weakness, He healed their sick, then improvised an endowment ordinance using their children. Having accomplished these, He next instituted the sacrament among them and empowered his disciples to bestow the Holy Ghost.

The next day, Christ returned, endowed the twelve, and provided the sacrament again. The ordinances had the desired effect:
Now, when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus, whom they both saw and heard. (3 Nephi 20:9) 
Having thus prepared them, Christ continued His sermon from the day before, repeating the previous day’s misunderstood information, and continuing the message to completion. When I wrote about this previously, I said the following:

Oddly enough the balance of the message dealt with OUR DAY, not theirs. Why do you suppose that is so? Is there something there for us, or was it all for them?

I previously left those questions unanswered, but now it’s time to answer them. As we proceed to study Christ’s sermon, we need to keep one vital key in mind to unlock the meaning of His message. To put it simply, it is this:

The message was NOT for the people at Bountiful. Christ used the Nephites to get a message to US.

The message wasn’t for them; it wasn’t about them; it had very little to do with them at all. But Christ needed them to record His words and faithfully transmit them two thousand years into the future. The fate of this world, and the completion of God’s work depended on Christ's ability to get the message to us. 

He commanded three times that His message be recorded, making particular note that the message was to be transmitted to the Gentiles of a different day:
And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer. (3 Nephi 16:4)
Therefore give heed to my words; write the things which I have told you; and according to the time and the will of the Father they shall go forth unto the Gentiles. (3 Nephi 23:4)
Write the things which ye have seen and heard, save it be those which are forbidden. (3 Nephi 27:23)
The Lord knew, thousands of years in advance, that the only record of His dealings and covenants available in the latter days would be the post-Babylon, corrupted Bible, which would suffer from the ravages of poor copying, intentional alteration, and misinterpretation. He knew that such would never be adequate to restore knowledge of His covenants, or establish a new covenant branch of Israel to complete the Lord’s latter-day work.

So he used an existing covenant family as His scribes to etch a message from Him to us, preserved on metal plates. Safely buried in the ground, it would remain uncorrupted and untouched until it could be translated by the gift and power of God to reach us in its purity. This message was so important, so vital to His final labor in the vineyard, that he wouldn't even teach it to the Nephites at Bountiful until they were prepared to properly understand it, vividly recall it, and accurately record it. 

They would need the Lord’s Spirit to make this possible.


Fortunately, the text is clear that, having eaten and drunk the emblems of Christ’s flesh and blood, the multitude “were filled with the Spirit.” Mind you, this is the first time the record notes the multitude being filled in such a way. Evidently, the sacrament ordinance had the desired effect and the multitude were prepared to understand and record Christ’s words.

His response?
And it came to pass that when they had all given glory unto Jesus, he said unto them: Behold now I finish the commandment which the Father hath commanded me… (3 Nephi 20:10)
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork to understand the context of what the Lord is about to speak, and the pains he took to get it in front of us—in my next post we’ll begin to consider the actual message he conveyed.

Just One More Thing:

It’s clear from the record that it was always meant for us, and never for the Nephites who wrote it. Likewise, it’s clear the message was preserved for the specific purpose of re-establishing the covenant the Lord previously made with Israel:
And now behold, I say unto you that when the Lord shall see fit, in his wisdom, that these sayings shall come unto the Gentiles according to his word, then ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel, concerning their restoration to the lands of their inheritance, is already beginning to be fulfilled. (3 Nephi 29:1)
The time is now. The gentiles who repent will come into the covenant and be numbered among the house of Israel. (3 Nephi 16:13) They will inherit this land.

The final chapter of 3 Nephi consists of a personal note from Christ to us, as follows:
Hearken, O ye Gentiles, and hear the words of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, which he hath commanded me that I should speak concerning you, for, behold he commandeth me that I should write, saying: 
Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel. (3 Nephi 30:1-2)
There’s Christ’s summary to you and to me. Repent, obey the doctrine of Christ, and come into the covenant He offers. When you have eyes to see it, you’ll find the same message everywhere throughout the Book of Mormon, crying from the dust.

And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust...for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey!
—2 Nephi 33:13-15

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Scripture Project Updates

But now hold your peace, study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men, or that which you are translating, yea, until you have obtained all which I shall grant unto the children of men in this generation, and then shall all things be added thereunto.
—D&C Section 5, Restoration Edition (11:22 LDS Edition)

The committee working on the scripture project has posted a very helpful update. Click on the image to view the PDF, or visit and look under the "Conferences" menu.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Restoration Youth Conference

A group of like-minded youth are in the process of planning and organizing a Restoration Youth Conference June 19-21 in Cache Valley, Utah. They asked me to post the announcement here, which I'm glad to do. I think this looks like a wonderful event. I'm told the target age range is approximately 12-19. More details are coming soon, but here's the pre-announcement they've created. Click to enlarge:

Saturday, April 1, 2017

John Chapter 2: Conference Chiasmus

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? 
—Romans 10:14-15

Do you know what a chiasmus is? If you don’t, keep reading. If you do, feel free to skip a bit ahead. 

A chiasmus is a rhetorical or literary figure in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order, in the same or a modified form. 

A classic example is this simple statement: 

The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. 

You can visualize it like this:


or, as it’s often noted:


Sometimes the repeated ideas can be related but opposite. Idea A could be “hot” and A' could be “cold.” Opposite, but related ideas to illustrate a principle. 

Chiasmus was particularly popular in the literature of the ancient world, including Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, where it was used to articulate the balance of order within the text. It can also be used to emphasize a central idea, which appears at the center of the chiasmus. 

In the example above, it would look like this:

C: Central Idea

The chiasmus around the central idea serves to emphasize the most important thought of the discourse. Alma 36 is a great example of a chiasmus, with the central idea appearing in verse 18:
Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death!
Alma’s story of repentance centers around his desperate plea to Christ for salvation. He draws attention to the message by placing it at the center of his chiasmus.

And that’s the end of the chiasmus lesson. 

John Chapter 2

Here’s a chiasmus I ran across in the Testimony of St. John—it turns out the entirety of Chapter 2, comprising the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, is just a large chiasmus, with doublets of ideas repeated and inverted. It’s a thing of beauty. 

Here’s the general structure:

  1. Light vs. darkness &  the title, “Enlightened Heavenly Guide”
  2. Light vs. darkness & the ordinance of baptism
  3. Ascension vs. condemnation & overcoming sin
  4. Sacrifice of the flesh & refusal to believe
  5. You must receive and give heed to the servants God sends

And here it is in its fulness:

A. There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, who was in darkness and came to visit with Jesus. He sought wisdom from Jesus and said, Enlightened heavenly guide, some of us know you have descended from the High Council of Heaven because signs confirm you have authority from God. 

B. Jesus answered and said to him, In the name of Father Ahman I testify there is a new dispensation begun. You must accept the ordinances of this new Light or you cannot hope to progress to know God.

C. Nicodemus said to him, If I believe this, can I ascend in this life, or will it be accomplished only in the afterlife? Jesus answered, In the name of Father Ahman I say to you, Except you receive the ordinance of baptism to join the new dispensation, and thereby forsake your sins and receive forgiveness and an outpouring of the Spirit, you will not ascend to God's presence in this life or the life to come. 

D. All who are devoted to the ambitions of the flesh remain imprisoned by the flesh, and those who are born anew through the ordinances, receive the Spirit of Truth, and are able to know the record of heaven by the Spirit of Truth. Do not question if what I say is true because the Spirit of Truth confers light, knowledge, and understanding of the mysteries of heaven within every soul who receives it.
Nicodemus replied to him, Why is this not widely known? Jesus answered, Why does a member of the Sanhedrin not recognize that a new dispensation has begun? In the name of Father Ahman I confirm what was told by John the Baptist and I have begun a work that comes from heaven. But you who lead Israel fight against it and you refuse to humble yourselves. If I offered you a position of respect and authority, as you now hold, you would believe. But because I testify only of heavenly things that require faith and sacrifice, you refuse to believe

E. I tell you, if you want to ascend to the Heavenly Council, you must first acknowledge and give heed to the messengers sent by them. 

D' You can refuse to believe, but you will see in me a sign and remember this saying: When Moses nailed a brass serpent upon a pole in the wilderness, he prophesied of me. And I shall also be nailed upon a tree, and those who believe on me will receive deliverance through my sacrifice, even as Israel was delivered by looking with faith at Moses' serpent. Father Ahman loves the world, and like father Abraham, Father Ahman will allow His Son to become an offering for sin. Whoever believes and follows His Son will not be lost, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world. 

C' Those who believe and follow His Son will escape the limitations of sin. The faithless are condemned already because they refuse to believe and obey the Only Begotten Son of God. Everything about my assignment, which I am now performing, was foretold by the prophets sent earlier to teach Israel, for they all testified of me. They told you I would come, and I am now here doing what was prophesied, but you refuse to see it happening. 

B' Enough is underway that rejecting it means you prefer darkness to light. Humble yourself and admit the prophets foretold the very things now underway; repent and be baptized and the Spirit of Truth will open your eyes. 

A' If you want greater light, you will obey this instruction. If you refuse, then you never meant it when you greeted me as an enlightened heavenly guide.

Two Challenges

Recognizing true messengers is the universal challenge of mankind. God sends messengers, and they are almost always rejected. Likewise, false messengers, speaking in Christ’s name, often gain followings, wealth, power, and prestige. The first challenge is to recognize the true and reject the false. 

The second challenge is to give heed. Nicodemus acknowledged Christ by calling him by a respected title, but had not yet given heed to Christ’s message. It’s easy to confer titles and give lip service, but much harder to actually obey God’s message, which always requires sacrifice.

As Christ told Joseph Smith in the first vision, “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Little has changed since then.

This weekend, in particular, Christ’s central message in this chapter is applicable. Ministers will stand and read addresses in an impressive stage production. It’s up to you to determine whether they were sent by Christ, or are on their own errand. Are you hearing the voice of the Lord, or the voice of an organization? Who you heed determines your eternal future.

I tell you, if you want to ascend to the Heavenly Council, you must first acknowledge and give heed to the messengers sent by them.