Sunday, August 12, 2018

September Conference: Teaching our Children to Honor God

There's a general conference coming up in September, in Davis County, Utah. All are invited to attend Sept 28-30. I've looked at the planned events and locations, and I believe the organizers have done a wonderful job, deserving of our gratitude.

The theme of the conference is Preserving the Hope of Zion: Teaching our Children to Honor God. Here is the website:

https://preservingthehopeofzion.com/

I hope everyone who is interested in the continuing restoration and the coming Zion will attend.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

How Long? Part 3: Deceiving Beings and Being Deceived

One great evil is, that men are ignorant of the nature of spirits; their power, laws, government, intelligence, etc., and imagine that when there is anything like power, revelation, or vision manifested, that it must be of God. 
—Joseph Smith, Try the Spirits, T&C 147:6


God has been remarkably generous in offering new light and knowledge in this dispensation. We now have open access to truths kept hidden from the foundation of the world, together with the consequent responsibility to value, learn and apply these truths. We should study them diligently.

But we also have a problem. Whether we study diligently or not, deceivers and imposters do, studying how to pull off increasingly effective deceptions, which do, and will, fool all who are not better informed than the deceivers. Greater light empowers them; does it empower us?

Said Joseph Smith:
A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God. (TPJS, 217)
Suppose, for a moment, he really meant that. Do you have more knowledge than the evil spirits who attempt to mislead you? Or, setting the bar even lower, do you have adequate knowledge to detect the mortal imposters, deceivers and charlatans currently abroad in the world? It’s not getting any easier, and too many are already falling prey to shockingly transparent deceptions. As the deceivers up their game, more will be deceived. Will you?


Moses confronted Pharaoh’s magicians, who worked miracles by their sorcery. Is it possible such powerful deceptions will come again? Do you believe the prophecies telling us to expect deceivers working miracles in our day? (Rev. 4:9, 6:8; 8:3, Mark 6:4, Matthew 11:3, 6 NC, among others) How will you tell they are deceivers, when they seemingly exhibit such mighty power—and greater knowledge than you?

A Page from Hiram’s Book

In the incipient stages of the restoration, imposters beset the church, receiving false visions and revelations, exhibiting spiritual gifts from false spirits, and misleading many. Early among these was Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon plates. Within three months of his baptism, Hiram began receiving and writing false revelations to the church through a seer stone. Joseph Smith received a revelation to have Oliver Cowdery correct this error, and Hiram Page repented. Eight years later, though, Hiram turned against Joseph and was excommunicated. This is a man who joined the church less than a week after it was formed. He had seen and handled the gold plates, yet found himself susceptible to deception. This should not be as surprising as it may sound, though. Signs never produce faith.


Though signs, wonders, false scriptures, false revelations, forgeries, imitations, and high-quality replicas all abound today, they only lead away from faith. Without the ability to discern, we are all at grave risk.

After the Hiram Page incident, influence of false spirits continued, and many expressed concern about the phenomena manifested in Kirtland and elsewhere, leading Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord and receive a revelation on the topic in 1831; see T&C 36. Then, eleven years later, leading a people who were still too-often deceived, Joseph published an editorial in the Times and Seasons on the same topic. It begins as follows:
Recent occurrences that have transpired amongst us render it an imperative duty devolving upon me to say something in relation to the spirits by which men are actuated. It is evident from the apostles’ writings that many false spirits existed in their day, and had “gone forth into the world,” and that it needed intelligence which God alone could impart to detect false spirits, and to prove what spirits were of God. The world in general have been grossly ignorant in regard to this one thing, and why should they be otherwise — for “the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.” The Egyptians were not able to discover the difference between the miracles of Moses and those of the magicians until they came to be tested together; and if Moses had not appeared in their midst, they would unquestionably have thought that the miracles of the magicians were performed through the mighty power of God, for they were great miracles that were performed by them — a supernatural agency was developed and great power manifested. (T&C 147:1)
Consider Moses

Moses was not deceived. But he already had knowledge adequate to detect, confront and overcome even Lucifer himself. Consider the definition of “glory,” which is intelligence, light and truth, as you read this prior event in Moses’s life:
And now it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying, Moses, son of man, worship me. But Moses lifted up his eyes and looked upon Satan and said, Who are you? For behold, I am a son of God in the similitude of His Only Begotten, and where is your glory that I should worship you? For behold, I could not look upon God except His glory should come upon me and I were transfigured before Him, but I can surely look upon you in the natural man. Blessed be the name of my God for His spirit has not altogether withdrawn from me. I say, Where is your glory? For it is blackness unto me and I can judge between you and God. For God said unto me, Worship God, for Him only shall you serve. Depart from here Satan, deceive me not…And again Moses said, I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of Him. For His glory has been upon me and it is glory unto me, wherefore, I can judge between Him and you. Depart from here Satan. (Genesis 1:3, OC, emphasis mine)
Moses had adequate light and truth within to detect the identity of the false Christ demanding his worship. How would you fare in the same situation?

Back to Joseph:
…if such ignorance as this is manifested about a spirit of this kind, who can describe an angel of light? If Satan should appear as one in glory, who can tell his color, his signs, his appearance, his glory, or what is the manner of his manifestation? …Or who can drag into daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day Saints? We answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God, so no man knows the spirit of the Devil, and his power and influence, but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysterious operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious windings. A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. (T&C  147:8-9)
Are we foolish or arrogant enough to presume there will not be another Kirtland-like outpouring of false spirits and deceived followers? Do we presume Hiram Page was an isolated anomaly? Are we really competent enough in the things of God to detect and reject deceivers and deceiving spirits when they come (and they surely will)?

An Infestation of Manifestations

In light of these warnings from Joseph, it’s alarming to read current claims of spiritual manifestations—eagerly and publicly shared in great detail—yet bearing the hallmarks of deception. Books, websites, and social media groups do a brisk trade in this false currency, convincing and deceiving the uninformed with instructions about how to “pierce the veil” and obtain a sought-after experience. As I’ve written before, “piercing the veil” will indeed bring you into contact with spiritual beings. But this is no guarantee they will be sources of truth. If “piercing the veil” is your stated goal, you’re practically begging to be misled. Evil spirits with a great deal of knowledge, even the appearance of glory, most surely stand ready to interact with all who will receive them.

Likewise, mortals under the influence of false spirits, make lavish claims about themselves, their importance, their titles, callings, authorities, future roles, indispensability to the kingdom of God, and the necessity of following them. Yet, such people have accomplished nothing besides making claims. Didn’t the Lord tell us to judge by their fruits? Where, then, are the fruits, by which we can know them? What good does it do to make claims—as a substitute for the years of actual labor and sacrifice required to accomplish something that furthers the Lord’s work?

False Christs? For Real? 

The Lord warned us explicitly of false Christs who will work great signs and wonders, deceiving, if possible, even the elect according to the covenant. (Matthew 11:6, Mark 6:4 NC). I don’t take this to simply mean there will be deranged people running about, claiming to be Jesus returned (though there certainly are.) Such generally fail to convince anyone, and have little chance of deceiving the elect. What need of the warning, then?

No, the dangerous false Christs are those angels of light who make themselves known to those who seek Christ with zeal but not knowledge. They most certainly pretend to be our Lord, and they do a passable job of imitation. Are we to assume every purported experience with a supernatural being claiming to be Christ actually is Christ? Are we to believe every so-called “second comforter experience” trumpeted on the internet, which, upon inspection, bears none of the hallmarks of a true encounter, and disturbing hallmarks of a false one? If every “second comforter” experience is actually genuine, then why did our Lord explicitly warn us of false Christs?

The only logical explanation is that He warned us for good reason, and that there are, and will be, false Christs deceiving, if possible, the very elect.


The devil tried it on Moses. He’s not above trying it on you. If you “pierce the veil” unprotected by adequate light within and a reliable connection to the Record of Heaven, you will most certainly be deceived. The light and truth that will protect you are only obtained by the medium of sacrifice. See Lecture Sixth of the Lectures on Faith.

Sacrifice and Sound Reasoning

Part of that required sacrifice involves putting in the time and diligent effort in study and prayer required to obtain light from God. It’s becoming evident who has not made such effort, as people ask questions and propose ideas that demonstrate their lack of familiarity with what has already been given. We now have a massive library of reliable information available to us, and it continues to grow, thus requiring a concerted effort, spanning years, to come to understanding. Further, God expects us to use critical thinking, sound reasoning, and logic to process what we’re studying. Notice, however, that list of tools does not include emotion—and for good reason.

Emotion is unreliable as a revealer of truth. As I’ve written previously, one of Lucifer’s greatest triumphs has been convincing so many that their emotions constitute revelation because they “feel the spirit.” Thus, they make their feelings the final measure of truth, and become easily deceived. Many false ideas offered and believed among us are nothing more than wishful thinking, based on emotional whimsy, demonstrating both ignorance and poor reasoning. Perhaps some of these emotionally appealing, but false ideas, will provide subject matter for a future post in this series.

It matters not how compelling, moving, or sentimental an idea the devil presents. His power shook the earth when he commanded Moses to worship him. His dramatic performance included shouting, weeping, wailing, teeth gnashing and trembling. Moses was moved with emotion, but when he gave place for that emotion, he only saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, Moses subordinated his fear, trusted in the light and truth he had already obtained, and overcame the devil himself.

This is a valuable lesson. Truth is not subordinate to our emotions; rather, we are to subordinate our emotions to truth. Get it backwards, and you’ll most certainly fall victim to deceit. Get it right, and you’ll have a powerful fortification against being deceived. I don’t know how to say it more directly, but I’ll try:

If you believe something is true because you “felt the spirit” you are probably deceived. I wish I could proclaim it with the sound of a trump every time I hear someone make this statement. It still happens far too much among a people who should know better. Feelings are not the source of light and truth.

And remember, the ONLY way Moses could differentiate was by having MORE light and truth than Satan. Do YOU?


Do not be preoccupied with food for your bellies, but for food from God, that is, light and truth, leading to endless progression upward. I am Son Ahman and can give you sustaining light and truth, for God the Father has declared I am His Son. 
—TSJ 5:13

Then Jesus said to them, In the name of Father Ahman I tell you the truth, Moses was not the one who gave bread, it was my Father who did that. But now my Father is offering true life-giving bread from heaven, which is light and truth. For the Bread of God is sent from the Heavenly Council to give light and truth to the world. They responded, Master, feed us with this bread forever. 
—TSJ 5:15

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Remnant Missionary Pal



Who remembers the Missionary Pal?

For those who don’t, here’s the back story:

In 1959 Keith Marston printed a brilliant little book titled, Missionary Pal: Reference guide for missionaries & teachers. For decades this handy reference guide supported LDS missionaries in their sincere attempt to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by providing scripture references, organized by topic. I was a big fan of the book on my mission.

In 2017 the Lord offered a covenant unto His people and accepted the Restoration Scriptures as His Holy Word. At that time the new scriptures became the “rod of iron” from which we must not let go. (1 Nephi 2:8-9).

To assist with the transition into the Restoration Scriptures, and to support all who are working to live God’s covenant, the Remnant Missionary Pal has been compiled by a group of dedicated believers.

Though I didn’t have the privilege of working on this volume, I applaud the efforts of all those who did. I think this is an excellent reference guide for the new scriptures, and I’m extremely happy to see it made available.

It can be had on Amazon at a very low price. Here’s the link:


Monday, June 25, 2018

Restoration Conference Recordings Available

The Joseph Smith Restoration Conference 2018 was a wonderful success. Many thanks to all who participated!

Recordings of the speakers are now available at www.restorationconference.org.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

How Long? Part 2: Ignorance and Knowledge


Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore hell has enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure, and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoices shall descend into it.
—Isaiah 1:15 OC

We all, collectively and individually, have a problem with ignorance. If we must point to one thing that hinders our preparation for Zion more than all else, it is our meager education in the things of God. The Glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth. (T&C 93:11). Since the Glory of the Lord will be the hallmark of Zion, (T&C 31:14) those who lack such Glory will surely not be able to come into it (Isaiah 18:6, OC). All who dwell in Zion will know the Lord (T&C 158:15) and not merely know about Him. 

We claim to want Zion so badly, and yet we know almost nothing about it. We don’t even have the tools, in our present state, to begin to understand Zion’s economy (or lack thereof), social order, relationships, work ethic, infrastructure, communication, human interaction, culture, heavenly connections, manners, habits, customs, salutations, or nearly anything else about it. We have some platitudinal references to ideas like no poor, dwelling in righteousness, and being of one heart and one mind, and though we understand those words, we have little idea what they truly represent.

But before we try to understand Zion (which will take much more knowledge than we currently have) perhaps we should start with trying to understand some basics. Our greatest sin is ignorance, and it will remain so until we intentionally overcome our ignorance by faith, study, and divine tutoring. We must become competent in the things that God has already made available to us, or remain unprepared to dwell together in holiness. 

In the Answer to Prayer for Covenant, the Lord said, “I desire to heal you from an awful state of blindness so that you may see clearly my will, to do it.” (T&C 157:16) This was spoken to people to whom the Lord offered His covenant. The fact that He yet describes our state as “an awful state of blindness” should give us serious reflection. Admitting and embracing our blindness will bring the humility to seek and receive truth from Him. The opposite—pridefully assuming we have superior knowledge and understanding, and are therefore prepared for Zion—will only bring condemnation.

Therefore, recognizing my own blindness, here are some questions I’m asking myself. Perhaps they will be useful to you as well:
How vigorously are you pursuing truth? Are you searching the scriptures and attempting to plumb the depths of what God has already given? Do you study with care, or merely read? 
Do you hope to receive more scripture without wringing out all the truth you can from what has already been given? 
Are you anxiously engaged in this good cause? Doing many things of your own free will? Bringing to pass much righteousness? (T&C 45:6) Are you seeking and receiving answers from God to questions regarding scripture? 
Consider this account of the Lord healing blindness: 
And he came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man unto him and petitioned him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when he had spit upon his eyes and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and he said, I see men as trees walking. After that, he put his hands again upon his eyes and made him look up. And he was restored and saw every man clearly. (Mark 4:20 NC)
Where can you obtain truth that will cure your blindness and allow you to see aright? Can it all be done in one step? I count at least four contacts with the Lord in this example, before the man was able to see clearly. Is there symbolism in our Lord’s ministry to the blind man that required multiple steps and multiple contacts with the Lord before the man could see properly?

What might we learn from the Lord first leading the man by the hand and taking him out of the town? What about spitting upon his eyes, and putting his hands on him before the man’s vision was even partially restored? And what about putting His hands on the man’s eyes again, and making the man “look up?” There is great symbolism here, describing the cure for blindness.
 
Heritage of Ignorance
(or, the Traditions of our Fathers)

All of us suffer from ignorance, and we all share an inner yearning for the Glory of God, which is light and truth. (T&C 93:11) Yet we also bear a heritage and traditions that teach us not to inquire, or to confine our inquiries to men in authority, rather than studying and inquiring of the Lord. Consequently, we tend to waste our curiosity on fruitless pursuits, uninformed teachers, online chats with similarly ignorant people, sharing unstudied opinions, and seeking truth where it can’t be found.

Our heritage of ignorance is the reason current anti-Mormon efforts are meeting such tremendous success among faithful LDS people. When confronted with information they have never studied, do not understand, and cannot put into context, the too-frequent response is to reject Joseph Smith, the restoration, the scriptures, the gospel itself, and even the Lord. Many deal with their manifest ignorance and cognitive dissonance by throwing out all religion and becoming atheists. The LDS church is of no help, even to honest seekers, as it continues to misrepresent its history, doctrine and scripture, while insisting those with questions only seek answers from “approved” sources that offer no help.

For too many of us, this is our heritage, and it needs to come to an end. If you want to overcome your ignorance, you hunger and thirst, read, pray, fast, seek and search. It is labor, to be sure. It is sacrifice. The Lord is ever willing to lead, guide and inform. He is first, and foremost, a teacher. But few are interested in His lessons, and even fewer are willing to do the homework required. Never in history has more light and truth been so readily available, with so few willing to search it out.

The Lord has been unbelievably generous in the outpouring of knowledge and truth He’s recently revealed. It’s hard to overstate the abundance of what has been given. It is, of course, undeserved on our part, but so is all grace. Just as the Book of Mormon was given to try our faith before more will be given (3 Nephi 12:1 NC), I believe our use of the current records and revelations similarly reveals our hearts and determines when, and if, more is given. Regardless of our response, we are left without excuse. Should we remain ignorant, it will be entirely our fault. None will have standing to accuse the Lord.

Palm, meet face. 

I once knew a wonderful woman on my mission who was the backbone of the ward. A lifelong member of the LDS church, she faithfully served as Relief Society President and carried much of the weight in the ward, despite being in her 60’s. I thought she was a tremendous example of service. 

During a lesson with an investigator in her home, I invited this lovely sister to share her testimony of the Book of Mormon. She stumbled a bit, then said, “I know the Book of Mormon is true. Though I really can’t say I’ve ever read it, I know it’s true.” 

I was flabbergasted. I had to pick my jaw up from off the floor. Being young and idealistic, and full of that missionary zeal, I simply couldn’t comprehend that a lifelong church member in her sixties, the backbone of the ward, the Relief Society President, had never read the Book of Mormon. And I further couldn’t compute how she could say she “knew” it was true.

I’ve grown up a bit since then, and lost my idealism. I’ve been around enough to see that abject scriptural ignorance is more the rule than the exception, even among so-called church leaders. It is our unfortunate heritage. 

But I digress. 

Though only a little. 

Because a similar level of ignorance yet persists among many of us who seek to labor in the Lord’s vineyard. “Awful blindness,” indeed. 


In the midst of these very serious matters—truths kept hidden from the foundation of the world, now revealed—a covenant people again on the earth—a servant sent by the Lord to teach truth—a new dispensation, including an opportunity for Zion—we yet make statements like these:

“I don’t really know the scriptures very well, but I think…”
“I asked the Lord if (fill in the blank) is true, and I felt the spirit…”
“I’m not really up on church history, but it seems to me that…”
“I can’t believe in a god who…”
“Well I just feel like…”
“So…I’ve never studied (fill in the blank.) What does everybody think about it?

Or, one of the most ridiculous:

“I don’t care what (the Lord’s servant) says; I don’t need need any man to teach me. I only need the Lord.”

Here’s the Lord’s word on that matter:
“And woe be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent, receiveth not him, and therefore he will not receive them at the last day. And it would be better for them if they had not been born.” (3 Nephi 13:5, NC–emphasis mine.)
Consider carefully if it is logical to, in one breath, claim to believe someone is sent by the Lord, and in the next breath, claim you don’t need to receive that servant’s words. “Better to have not been born” is a pretty strong condemnation. And so is what follows in the next sentence: 
“For do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God who hath been trampled under feet of men, that thereby salvation might come?” (3 Nephi 13:5 NC)
The Lord equates ignoring his servants with trampling Him under your feet.

We are like the blind man at Bethsaida; we need the Lord to take us by the hand, lead us out of our false paradigms, anoint us with his spirit, touch us with his power, converse with us, and convince us to look up. This process is neither easy nor quick. But it begins with admitting our blindness and seeking to be cured. We can speed the cure by responding as another blind man did:
And they came to Jericho. And as he went out of Jericho, with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus) sat by the highway side, begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! And many charged him that he should hold his peace. But he cried the more exceedingly, saying, Son of David, have mercy on me! And Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. And they called the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, arise, he calls you. And he, casting away his garment, arose and came to Jesus. And Jesus said unto him, What will you that I should do unto you? And the blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go your way, your faith has made you whole. And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus in the way. (Mark 5:29, NC)
I identify especially with blind Bartimaeus, the beggar of Jericho, because I happen to live on Jericho Road, and I consider myself a blind beggar before the Lord. Just as with the blind man of Bethsaida, I find a great deal of symbolism in the process of this man’s healing. He cried out, and cried out all the more when attempts were made to silence him. He responded to the Lord’s call, cast away his garment, arose, and came unto Christ. He spoke with the Lord, implored for the ability to see, and was made whole. 

Jesus, the Son of David, has mercy on us, and both the desire and power to heal us of our awful state of blindness. But we must take the steps required. He calls us and patiently waits. 

The Gathering has Begun

We yearn for the day of gathering, and hope to be gathered into the Holy City. We wait on the Lord for that to take place, not realizing it is already taking place. It’s not a physical gathering—not yet. Attempts to physically gather are foolish until there are enough prepared people to gather together and not fail. The angels, not us, will appoint who participates in that gathering.

No, the gathering currently underway is one of knowledge. Those who will pay the price in study, prayer and sacrifice, to become competent in the things of God, are gathered by virtue of their understanding, into a group of those prepared for what comes next. The Lord knows who has obtained light and truth and who has not. His angels are taking careful note of those who are beginning to see.

On the next day after, John stood beside two of his followers, and noticing Jesus as he walked nearby, he said to the two others, Behold the Sacrificial Lamb of God! And these two who had followed John, when they heard that testimony, followed after Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following him, and asked, What do you want? They called him, Rabbi (which means acknowledged teacher), and asked, How can we understand the truth and advance? He replied, All men move upward by gaining light. If you advance you will learn to be like me. And these two went with him and were taught, and were his companions through that day, for it was mid-afternoon.
—Testimony of St. John 1:12

Friday, June 1, 2018

How Long?

Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?
—Matthew 9:6

A friend recently pointed out that the Lord visited the Nephites in Bountiful, and that they were indeed considered “Nephites” at the time of His visit.

But you already knew that, right? Moroni said so…
…therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus shewed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he shewed himself unto the Nephites. (Ether 1:14 NC)
My friend pointed this out because of my assertion about these people in a prior blog post:
There were no Nephites in the “Nephite Zion.” Nor were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites. They valued their identity as children of Christ far above their previous, divisive labels. 
No Nephites in the “Nephite Zion,” yet the Lord ministered to the Nephites at Bountiful. Do we have a problem here?

Well, as it turns out, we do. But it’s not the problem you might think. It’s a much different, and more important problem than me potentially making a mistake in a blog post, though again, as it turns out, I made no mistake in my assertion. Clear enough so far? No?

OK, let’s lay it out from the beginning.

According to the text, the Lord showed himself to the Nephites and former Lamanites who had survived the earlier destruction and traveled to Bountiful:
And it came to pass that in the ending of the thirty and fourth year, behold, I will shew unto you that the people of Nephi who were spared and also those who had been called Lamanites who had been spared did have great favors shewn unto them and great blessings poured out upon their heads, insomuch that soon after the ascension of Christ into Heaven he did truly manifest himself unto them, shewing his body unto them and ministering unto them; and an account of his ministry shall be given hereafter. (3 Nephi 4:11 NC)
Notice this was at the end of the thirty-fourth year, after which, things developed in due course. Here is a breakdown of what developed, as well as the years noted in the text:




Let’s take note of a couple of things. First, “no contention” is stated three separate times, and if you read the text carefully, you’ll see it’s associated with three different levels of not contending. Second, it took something like 66 years for the people to reach their pinnacle of Zion, by which point they had laid down their divisions and become one.

This may seem like a long time—indeed, a lifetime—to reach the status of Zion, but this is actually remarkably fast. Adam’s Zion, brief as it was, came after he had lived and taught for 927 years. Melchizedek tarried 500 years after the flood before he and his people were taken up. Enoch preached righteousness for 365 years. I suppose having an incredibly long lifespan is a boon to slow, steady progress. The Nephites, who had no such advantage, managed to pull it off in a single lifetime (or what we currently consider a lifetime, anyhow.) This is the world speed record, at least according to the scriptures currently available to us.

But in each case, the Zion society started, grew, and reached its zenith during the lifetime of its founder or founders. The living teacher of righteousness taught and ministered to a receptive people, who believed and practiced the teachings. Always, the opportunity was limited to the lifetime of the teacher. In every case, had the audience not been receptive, Zion would not have come. When the teacher’s life ended, the opportunity ended as well, and did not return for generations. This is always the case.

Joseph Smith’s ministry lasted approximately 16 years, during which time the saints came under the Lord’s condemnation, and repeatedly failed to repent and receive what the Lord offered. His ministry ended first with the death of his appointed successor, Hyrum, followed by his own death moments later. Hyrum’s death demonstrated a definite end to the opportunity by eliminating the successor first. The opportunity for Zion came to an end, and did not return for 4 generations.

So, like I said, we have a problem, and it centers on our own opportunity for Zion, which must come to fruition in the lifetime of the dispensation head, or be lost. The fuse is lit and burning. Our time is limited.

Impatience

This comes as no surprise to many of us, who feel the urgency of the opportunity. There’s no shortage of excitement, even impatience, for the Lord to act to bring Zion. Tremendous things have happened, and many of us hope more will happen soon. Look at all that has come in a few short years: The gospel taught with clarity and power; new scripture giving us the most accurate accumulation of Christ’s words to date; a covenant established by God; incredible light and knowledge pouring forth; people awakening and arising. These are tremendous blessings, which ought to fill us with gratitude.

Yet, in the midst of such an outpouring, we exhibit an insatiable appetite for more. When will we get more scripture? When will the temple be built? When will Zion come? When will more cool stuff happen? When will we gather? What’s taking so long?

Hey, I’m as excited for these things as anyone. But no matter how impatient we may be, the Lord controls the timing. And He’s already shown Himself more than willing to act. Therefore, I’m left to conclude that “things” aren’t happening for one reason only: We aren’t prepared for the Lord’s next steps. If we were ready, the Lord would act. He intends to complete His work, and He most certainly will as soon as the time is right and He has a people prepared to receive, believe, and act on what is offered. But He is also far more patient and wise than we are, and He will allow us to wait out, even squander our opportunity, in hopes we will finally repent and turn to Him.

So what’s the hold up?

We are.

Conversion Speed

This brings up the topic of how fast things can happen. The establishment of Zion is the Lord’s work (Isaiah 18:7, OC), and we cannot hasten it (Isaiah 1:16, OC). However, though the Lord’s work cannot be hastened by man, our own work in our own lives CAN. The scriptural record is replete with examples of those who made astonishing changes, almost instantly. Rapid repentance and conversion are possible, and frankly recommended. The Lord is quick to forgive and ready to teach. He patiently waits for us to repent, just as He invited those who would eventually meet Him in person at Bountiful:
O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me and repent of your sins and be converted that I may heal you? Yea, verily I say unto you, If ye will come unto me, ye shall have Eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. (1 Nephi 4:7 NC)
Question: How much time passed between the above invitation and the personal ministry of Christ to these people?

Answer: Less than a year.

More questions: How long did it take Benjamin’s people to experience a mighty change of heart? What about Lamoni? And his father? Alma the younger? Paul? The Lamanites at the prison where Lehi and Nephi were held?

Alma the younger, who knew something about conversion, had the following to say about it:
And now, my brethren, I would that after ye have received so many witnesses, seeing that the holy scriptures testify of these things, come forth and bring fruit unto repentance. Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer. For behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation. And therefore if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you. (Alma 16:37 NC)
Immediately. You can’t get much quicker than that. The Lord’s plan accommodates even the impatient, just as quickly as they will repent. (And just for fun, check out how many times the word “speedily” associates with the word “repent” in scripture. Returning to the Lord SHOULD be a matter of haste.) There is no prescribed checklist to be followed, no specific time period required. There is only recognition, desire, and a mighty change of heart, which can happen almost instantly. It is born more of abject surrender and desire, than it is of grueling effort. Repentance is speediest when it is most desperate.

Yet, repentance also seems to be a low priority. Speaking for myself, anyhow, I often find it more appealing to consider the Lord’s future work and my hopes of being involved, than to recognize my own shortcomings, disobedience, and bad behavior. As foolish as it sounds, I’m sometimes more interested in the Lord keeping His promises than I am in keeping my own.

Maybe you’re in the same boat as me. We all fall short of living the truths we claim to embrace, and Christ is more than willing to forgive. But forgiveness alone is not progress. We cannot succeed collectively until we succeed individually in repenting, turning to our Lord, and doing as He has asked. Until then, He will wait. He will not move things even an inch beyond where we are prepared to go. Some have already been pruned from the tree of life. Some will yet be. The digging, dunging, and pruning will continue until the Lord, at last, has a people who are humble, obedient, and filled with understanding. The natural fruit must return to the vineyard.

In that spirit, and intended mostly as advice to myself, my next few posts will focus on “what’s taking so long” and what to do about it. Again, this is not about hastening the Lord’s work. He, alone, controls the timing. This will be about preparing ourselves to be ready for Him to act, and capable of accomplishing what will be required.

Behold, verily I say unto you that these are the words of the Lord your God, wherefore labor all of you, labor in my vineyard for the last time; for the last time call upon the inhabitants of the earth, for in my own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment. And my people shall be redeemed and shall reign with me on Earth, for the great Millennial, which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come, for Satan shall be bound.
—T&C 29:9

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Introductory Handout Available

Someone has noticed the need for a small, introductory handout for the restoration movement, to provide a basic introduction and background to any who may be interested. Ideally, it should be compact enough to be conveniently carried in a mobile phone case or checkbook, so it's available when needed. 

The good news is someone has created just such a handout. They have printed some and will mail a few at no charge to anyone who sends their name and address to john@utahtt.org. I had nothing to do with this effort, but I think it is worthwhile and helpful, so I agreed to publicize it here. 

This handout attempts to show the pattern throughout history of truth being revealed and then repeatedly corrupted so that there must be a movement, like the Protestant Reformation, to return to the original.  It attempts to be non-offensive to both Christians and LDS and yet it also points out some of the problems that cause the need to preserve the restoration.

You can download a PDF of the document here. It is designed to be printed on 8.5 x 14 inch paper, cut down, and multi-folded. The numbered panels are to be read in order. 

NOTE: This document is not, and has nothing to do with, the Guide & Standard/Statement of Principles project. This is not a statement of principles, nor is it a guide and standard; rather it is merely a historical introduction to the Lord's work, useful as an introduction. 


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Joseph Smith Restoration Conference

If you are associated with one of the various branches of the restoration, or know people who are, please take a look at this important announcement. (click to download a PDF version.)


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Volunteer Miracles

But the record thereof is of great worth, and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless. For none can have power to bring it to light save it be given him of God. For God will that it shall be done with an eye single to his glory, or the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord, and blessed be him that shall bring this thing to light, for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light according to the word of God. Yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness and come unto the knowledge of the people, and it shall be done by the power of God. And if there be faults, they be the faults of a man.
—Mormon 4:3 RE


The volunteer project to produce a more correct and true-to-original set of scriptures has born wonderful fruit. All three volumes are now available on Amazon and as PDF downloads.

Volume 1: The Old Covenants contains the Joseph Smith translation of the Old Testament, including the work formerly published as the Book of Moses, which has been properly placed where it belongs in the book of Genesis. It is the most exhaustively accurate version of Joseph Smith’s Old Testament work ever printed, and the only version to contain every correction that can be shown to have come from Joseph.

Volume 2: The New Covenants includes both the New Testament and The Book of Mormon, published together in one volume, as Joseph Smith intended. As with Volume 1, the Joseph Smith translation of the New Testament is the first ever printed to include all the changes Joseph made. Likewise, this is the most textually accurate version of The Book of Mormon ever printed, having been exhaustively reviewed and compared with the original manuscript, the printer’s manuscript, and all versions personally edited by Joseph Smith.

Volume 3: Teachings and Commandments contains works formerly included in the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, as well as revelations to Joseph Smith not previously published, and recent revelations given through Denver Snuffer. One of the most remarkable new revelations published is The Testimony of St. John, which I have written about previously.

I’ve been carefully searching John’s testimony and leading group studies on it over most of the last year. After a year of exhaustive study, I believe this testimony is—thus far—unparalleled among scripture. Its light can only be described as brilliant.

One of the hidden gems of the scripture project is the 71-page Glossary of Terms, featuring outstanding explanations of numerous gospel terms and concepts. Not only does it stand on its own as an incredible resource of higher understanding, but it also adds immense richness as a vital companion to scripture study.

Because the Glossary is in the back of a lengthy volume, I’ve found it very useful to have a separate, printed copy for ready reference during study. Here’s a link where you can download PDF copies in various sizes and printing configurations:

http://scripturesproject.blogspot.com/p/glossary.html

The dozens of volunteers who spent thousands of combined hours laboring on this project deserve our gratitude. I’m amazed and delighted that they have accomplished what much larger, better staffed, and wealthier organizations have never bothered to do, despite having  access to expert scholars, original texts, and vast financial resources. Apparently desire and willingness trump all those other resources on God’s balance sheet.

Never underestimate the miraculous potential of scrappy volunteers, inspired by God, and willing to work.

Hearken diligently unto me and remember the words which I have spoken, and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness. Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God.
—2 Nephi 6:13 RE

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Invitation for Prayer on the Statement of Principles Effort

Friends of mine wrote the following and asked me to post it here: 

The Freedom to Disagree

In the many genuine efforts by the body to move forward with the instruction to write a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of the Lord’s people, and then to be added as a guide and standard for His people to follow, there is a common theme. The common theme, or understanding, is that we need to reach agreement to complete the task.  We have discussed this “agreement” in terms of either a majority agreeing, or in some cases complete unanimity of the covenant body. This suggests all or a majority need to agree on a specific statement for it to be added to the scriptures. Without agreement, we cannot move forward, a statement cannot be included in the scriptures, and our efforts seem frustrated. We believe until we can convince those responsible for the scriptures being published to include a statement in the publishing process, or convince those dissenting from a statement to agree with the prevailing statement of choice by the body, completion of this task seems unreachable at present. Why is this happening? What are we to understand by this process? Have you noticed that it seems to be in the apparent contradictions we face that the Lord can provide greater understanding?

What if we as a people cannot see what the Lord’s definition of “mutual agreement” is really about? Is it possible we don’t understand or know how to apply it? Possibly because there is nothing to compare it to here. What if His definition of mutual agreement has nothing to do with agreement at all? What if it has to do with the freedom to disagree, and yet remain together as His people, as brothers and sisters in deed? We should reconsider our definition of mutual agreement and replace it with His words. If we did, we may realize something. The Lord has given us His meaning of the term:

“As between one another, you choose to not dispute.”

Where is the word “agree” in the above definition? There is no agreement found there, because it’s not required. Why do we think agreement is required? Where does the idea come from? Which being wants to force, or require others to agree? What if it has nothing to do with agreement, and everything to do with the freedom of choice? The freedom to choose for ourselves. What if it simply is describing a choice made by the individual, that they choose to not dispute. According to recent teachings and light provided to us, it takes strength of character to make this personal choice. It takes the strength that is reflected in our Mother. It required great strength of character for Christ, being in possession of the truth, to make this personal choice during His mortal life—to not dispute, although He was right all along.

Given this idea, why couldn’t we disagree respectfully about a statement of principles and yet have the Lord’s definition of mutual agreement with one another? We do not need to agree. The Lord has provided the freedom for everyone to disagree respectfully, by maintaining our unique views and understanding. Perhaps over time, individuals can be persuaded one way or another. Persuading others to our view is not required to obtain mutual agreement. All that’s required is for a certain number of individuals to make the choice to not dispute concerning their disagreements. At that point, for those individuals, they’ll have mutual agreement with everyone that they’ve chosen not to dispute with. As others make this choice, they’ll also have mutual agreement with everyone else. No percentage or vote of agreement is needed for that group of individuals, large or small, to take action based on their belief and faith.  Disagreement is ok, it’s good to have and maintain the freedom to disagree respectfully about many things, including a statement of principles. It’s our right and freedom to have independent thought. That comes from God. Our uniqueness comes from Them. If others believe a certain statement of principles has been accepted by God, even though you may disagree with it, as long as you have made the choice that it’s not worth disputing over, then you have met the Lord’s definition of mutual agreement with them. Everyone will have the freedom to continue to persuade each other while having respectful disagreement. The Lord’s “mutual agreement” protects respectful disagreement, it allows for the freedom to disagree. We believe respectful disagreement can go all the way into heaven.

There is a second theme within the effort to write and add the statement of principles to our scriptures. It is not as prevalent as the idea that we must agree in order to move forward, but it’s just as powerful in sowing fear. That theme is that if you disagree, or even dispute a statement of principles that is acceptable to the majority, then you are not abiding in the covenant and risk being excommunicated from the covenant body. At times this theme has not been stated directly, although it has been implied. It’s a powerfully false idea in our view. It suggests that, even as a body of equals, some have power over others. If this idea is true, then we ask: who has the authority to excommunicate another covenant brother or sister with who they are equal? What organization will they be tossed out of? Which permission slip granting access to a place of worship, signed by a presiding brother, will they be stripped of? There is none.

In our current state of blindness and ignorance, we’re not convinced we even have the ability to judge one another as to whether we are abiding in the covenant. Only God knows that. Only He has the authority to enforce the covenant. This was to be a “light thing” for us; it certainly should not be worth separating ourselves from the body over, nor should anyone suggest another be cast aside for not coming on board. Our commitment was that we would assist all others taking the covenant to accept the scriptures as the standard to guide their lives, and to lighten their burdens. We are to assist each other to abide in it, not cast each other out. Many of us have passed through the humiliation of being thrown out of our former religious organizations, for simply disagreeing. There was no freedom to disagree in those former institutions. Let’s not bring those false ideas with us. Joseph Smith, Jr., was right when he described the freedom to disagree, “I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled.”

If you are convinced that these two ideas should be discarded--forced agreement in order to move forward and the threat of being cast out of the body if you disagree, or even dispute a statement--and replaced with the idea that mutual agreement allows for freedom to disagree respectfully and even disputing a statement’s inclusion may have no consequence to someone’s covenant status, then we would like to extend the following invitation.

First, we would like to express our view about one of the statements that have been written. It’s not necessary that you be persuaded by it, this is simply one couple’s view. We would have accepted many of the documents that were written from the start of this assignment. One of us was at the meeting on August 5th, and we accepted that document. It’s our opinion that had the August 5th document or other previous documents been taken to the Lord, He would have also accepted them. He is easy to be entreated. None of those previous documents were taken to Him at the time for various reasons.

On November 21st, 2017, the Lots Group did take their statement to the Lord to seek His word. It’s our belief that He responded to their prayer through Shalyce, the only women in their group, with the following revelation:
“Shalyce, I am here. And I can hear you. I know you’re scared, and it’s ok. But I love you, and I’m grateful for your effort. I am grateful for all of your effort. What I ask of you is not always easy, and sometimes it’s quite a sacrifice. But I will labor with you through all of it, so long as you come unto me, and listen for my words. This document that you’ve presented is sufficient for my needs. You have filled the measure in which I have called you. Your work has been valiant. You are correct in saying that there are many ways in which it could have come about, and there are many ways that it did come about. And I am grateful for all of them. At this point, you have a unity with the body. They agree with these words, and this document will suffice. Heed the words contained in them, heed the words contained and referenced in the footnotes. All of those words were mine. I want you to come to me. I will come to you, and we together can be one.”
We believe and recognize these words as coming from our Lord in response to the prayer of faith by the Lots Group and covenant people. In it, the Lord states that the statement of principles written by the Lots Group is sufficient for [His] needs. It’s not necessary that you agree with this belief. We have the freedom to disagree about this. We can continue to try and persuade each other. For now, we are persuaded this came from Him to the point that we feel impressed to take action to further demonstrate faith—in the belief that He will respond to our attempt in spite of our weakness.

This prayer has been provided online, together with the Lots Group’s statement of principles titled Revised Guide and Standard, for several months now.  The latest version of the Restoration Edition (RE) of the scriptures has also been provided for purchase since March 2018. We believe it is wisdom in the Lord to provide the means for this statement to be “added” to the scriptures by any individual that so chooses. No one would have to wait before proceeding. The power is within each person to take the individual step. This has already been done by some and suggested by the scripture committee. It can be accomplished by simply printing out the Lots Group statement and adding it to your physical set of the RE scriptures.

We believe it is important to take the physical step of adding the statement to your set of scriptures in order to be obedient to His requirement. It’s a small thing, it would be done by very small means. The heavy lifting has already been done by those you produced the RE scriptures and the many individuals that contributed to the effort to produce a statement of principles—about which the Lord said He was grateful.

To those who are persuaded to choose to not dispute this statement, whether you agree or disagree with the statement, we invite you to join together with others in approaching our Lord in prayer and fasting on April 14th, 2018 to seek His word in determining if He accepts this step as fulfilling His requirements. To those who choose to dispute this invitation, we only ask that you also add your faith in prayer to ours that day, that our Lord will provide us with more light, or correction, to better understand His will for us. If we are wrong, perhaps approaching the Lord together in humility, as a covenant body, will persuade Him to tell us His part. It is our belief and hope that He will respond.

Russ & Teryn Ellersick

Monday, April 2, 2018

Identity

Therefore I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. 
—Mosiah 3:2, RE


You’ve heard the term, “Identity Politics,” haven’t you? It generally refers to the conformity of someone’s political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which that person identifies. It also applies to those politicians who lump people together, based on such groupings, and attempt to pander to group priorities. 


For example, politicians may view voters as racial groups, courting the Black vote, the Jewish vote, the Hispanic vote, or others. They may divide people by special interests, focusing on the environmental lobby, the anti-gun lobby, or the priorities of big business. They divide by sex, expecting women to vote for women, or at least vote for the man that courts the female vote. The political parties carry the expectation of monolithic thought and voting, counting on those who identify as Republican or Democrat to vote based on party alone. 


This exercise in grouping and labeling completely dominates the political landscape during every election cycle. Politicians and their handlers calculate every statement, every speech, every appearance, to appeal to some specific group or another, presuming people only vote based on their group identity. Blacks vote a certain way. Gun nuts vote in a block. The poor vote for whoever promises them free stuff. And don’t forget to mention God frequently, so you can capture those Jesus freaks in the Midwest and South. Or that’s how the story goes, anyhow.

Humans, by nature, like to divide, categorize, compare and group; it is how we understand and interpret our world. Shared identity and common experience bind us together with others who understand our journey and struggles. Savvy institutions of all types use this “need to belong” as a marketing tool and a means of controlling behavior. The LDS church, for instance, capitalizes on the “us against the world” dynamic, combined with the “pioneer forefathers” shared history to forge a common identity among adherents. This is why LDS teenagers drag handcarts around the wilderness in costumes every summer. 

The issue of identity politics has likely existed as long as politics in general. James Madison focused on it in Federalist Number Ten, where he wrestled with the question of “faction.” The problem he discussed was how to prevent any particular faction from dominating government and forcing through laws that served their interests while harming others. This is a very real threat in any free society, as any who manage to aggregate power or a majority vote will end up in charge and act in their own self interest. Madison anticipated this threat as our Constitution came into being, and argued for a constitutional solution to the problem. 

He addressed two approaches to prevent damage from faction: either remove the causes of faction, or limit the possible effects. Ultimately, he concluded freedom itself is the cause of faction and must not be removed. Therefore, he proposed a republican form of government as a way of tempering faction’s effects. Elected representatives, he reasoned, would provide a layer of insulation between the control inherent in a majority of the populace, and the actual laws to be made. His solution isn’t perfect, however, and has become less so, as elected representatives have become increasingly immoral, corrupt, and unfit for office. Faction is now the name of the game, and identity politics continue unabated. 


Click to Enlarge

So what’s the point of all this? 

Those who have made a covenant with God must also grapple with the issue of identity. In the current assignment to write and adopt a single statement of priniciples, factions yet divide us and prevent the unity required for Zion. Writing yet another document is not the solution, because the document is not the problem. So let’s consider the issues of faction, division and identity. Fortunately, the Lord has a much better solution than even James Madison could offer. 

A New Name

As it turns out, God places high importance on identity. Throughout history, those who enter into a relationship with God invariably receive a new identity as a result, often accompanied by a new name. 

  • Shem became Melchizedek
  • Abram became Abraham
  • Jacob became Israel
  • Enos was called Blessed

An excellent group illustration comes from King Benjamin’s sermon at the temple. As his life came to an end, Benjamin commanded his son to gather all the people to the temple so Benjamin could address them one last time, to give them a new identity. He told his son, Mosiah: 
For on the morrow I shall proclaim unto this my people out of mine own mouth that thou art a king and a ruler over this people, whom the Lord our God hath given us. And moreover I shall give this people a name that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem. And this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord. And I give unto them a name that never shall be blotted out except it be through transgression. (Mosiah 1:2 RE)
During his sermon, which was given him by an angel, Benjamin taught his people of Jesus Christ with such power that they all fell to the earth, overcome by God’s spirit. With changed hearts and exceeding joy, they entered into a covenant to do God’s will and keep His commandments. Said Benjamin:
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. And under this head, ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free; there is no other name given whereby salvation cometh. Therefore I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. 
And now it shall come to pass that whosoever shall not take upon them the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore he findeth himself on the left hand of God. And I would that ye should remember also that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out except it be through transgression; therefore take heed that ye do not transgress that the name be not blotted out of your hearts. I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called and also the name by which he shall call you. (Mosiah 3:2-3 RE)
Note that Benjamin asked them to retain this new identity written in their hearts because it is the only name by which Christ will call His children; it is the only name by which they can be saved. All other names, groups, factions, associations and identities are subordinate to the name of Jesus Christ. And this is as it should be. God does not practice identity politics. 
And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness, and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female and he remembereth the heathen, and all are alike unto God, both Jew and gentile. (2 Nephi 11:17)
This brings us now to the Book of Mormon period we mislabel as “the Nephite Zion.” We mislabel it because there were NO Nephites in that blessed assembly. 

Wait, what? No Nephites whatsoever?

Yes, that’s correct. We’ll get there. But first, let’s note what happened. It started with the people’s conversion to the Lord, which eliminated factions from the start:
And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them and every man did deal justly one with another and they had all things common among them. Therefore, there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free and partakers of the heavenly gift. (4 Nephi 1:1 RE)
Having given up their desire to contend, they also gave up the factions and identities of rich and poor, bond and free, with all equally partaking of the heavenly gift, regardless of former identity. The absence of contention allowed such love to dwell among the people, they even laid down their ethnic and lineage identities:
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people, and there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness, and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites or any manner of -ites, but they were in one the children of Christ and heirs to the kingdom of God. (4 Nephi 1:3 RE)
And there you have it. There were no Nephites in the “Nephite Zion.” Nor were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites. They valued their identity as children of Christ far above their previous, divisive labels. 


We should here note that when this society collapsed, it did so under the weight of divisions, factions and labels. It started with economic division of rich and poor factions, followed by many churches causing religious divisions, and finally the full reclaiming of ancestral enmity by re-application of the labels Nephite, Lamanite, and others. Having thus divided into factions, and re-embraced identities other than “children of Christ,” the people again had something over which they could contend, and ultimately fight to the deaths of millions, in a war of extinction. 

It all came down to identity; and because of identity, it all came tumbling down. The moment any of them recognized “my people” vs. “your people” the seeds of destruction took root.

Faction or Covenant?

Those who entered into the covenant offered by the Lord last September received a new identity. Said the Lord:


Hear therefore my words: Repent and bring forth fruit showing repentance, and I will establish my covenant with you and claim you as mine. 
……………
Then by my law and my word they will be mine and I will be with and lead my people onward through the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, the Record of Heaven, the peaceable things of immortal glory, even the Holy Ghost which will abide with them, and you will be children of the Most High God, fellow servants and numbered with the congregation of the just. Therefore rejoice!
……………
All you who have turned from your wicked ways and repented of your evil doings, of lying and deceiving, and of all whoredoms, and of secret abominations, idolatries, murders, priestcrafts, envying, and strife, and from all wickedness and abominations, and have come unto me, and been baptized in my name, and have received a remission of your sins, and received the Holy Ghost, are now numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.
……………
And you shall be called the children of the Most High God, and I will preserve you against the harvest. 

The Lord asks us to be one in our new identity and rejoice together, rather than valuing our old, Babylonian unbeliefs, sins, cares and longings inherent in the factions that used to identify us. Here are some of His statements: 
Rejoice in me, and rejoice with your brethren and sisters who are mine also. Be one. 
……………
 
Flee from the cares and longings that belong to Babylon, obtain a new heart, for you have all been wounded. In me you will find peace and through me will come Zion, a place of peace and safety.
……………
 
I have given to you the means to understand the conditions you must abide. I came and lived in the world to be the light of the world. I have sent others who have testified of me and taught you. I have sent my light into the world. Let not your hearts remain divided from one another and divided from me. 
……………
 
Be of one heart, and regard one another with charity.
……………
 
Study to learn how to respect your brothers and sisters and to come together by precept, reason and persuasion rather than sharply disputing and wrongly condemning each other, causing anger. Take care how you invoke my name. Mankind has been controlled by the adversary through anger and jealously which has led to bloodshed and the misery of many souls. Even strong disagreements should not provoke anger nor to invoke my name in vain as if I had part in your every dispute.
Abide in the Covenant

The Lord not only asks us to relinquish our old disputes and factions and come together in our new identity as His children, but He also asks us to eliminate division completely. He then commands us to “abide” in the covenant: 
Receive my covenant and abide in it, not as in the former time when jarring, jealousy, contention and backbiting caused anger, broke hearts and hardened the souls of those claiming to be my saints. 
To “abide” means to dwell, tarry, and continue permanently; to remain and continue.
It is not enough to receive my covenant, but you must also abide it. And all who abide it, whether on this land or any other land, will be mine and I will watch over them and protect them in the day of harvest, and gather them in as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. I will number you among the remnant of Jacob, no longer outcasts, and you will inherit the promises of Israel. You shall be my people and I will be your God and the sword will not devour you.
Along with obeying ALL Christ’s words, abiding in the covenant also means abiding in the new identity given us by Christ, and preferring it above all others. 

Because the gospel is designed for internal application, I’ll use myself as a case study. I’m sure any politician looking at me would label me as white, American of English, Irish, French and Danish in extraction, middle class, college educated, Idaho resident, married, Christian, ex-LDS, return missionary, British car enthusiast, Mac user, blogger, business owner, alternative health practitioner, frequent flyer, pet owner, and dozens of other, possibly less-flattering, labels meant to categorize me and divide me from other people, so as to better appeal to my assumed biases.

And you know what? There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those labels or identities. I’m fine with them all, as far as they go, and freely admit they apply to me. But I’d trade away the whole lot of them in favor of “child of Christ.” And in fact I have. Though I may be all those things in that list, I hope to value my covenant identity above all others. Therefore, I’m wiling to lay down whatever history, biases, and prejudices that may come from my prior factions and labels, in favor of unity with Christ and his family. To the degree I put any other interest or identity above that one—that is the degree to which I do not abide in the covenant. Those other identities only bring “jarring, jealousy, contention and backbiting.”


And though I aspire to value my covenant identity above all others, I’m certainly not there yet. I’m trying every day to let go of my biases and seek to be of one heart with my fellow covenant holders. This does not require me to lose my individuality nor suppress my unique gifts. Unity does not require uniformity. It simply requires a shared common purpose and elimination of the desire to fight about it. Unique, God-given gifts and diversity of expression will yet exist, and be required, to establish Zion. 

I still disagree with my brothers and sisters on some points, so I attempt to persuade kindly. If I cannot persuade, I am unwilling to contend. I have the Book of Mormon to inform me where the route of contention leads. 

Among those who made the covenant, we can find every label under the sun, if we want to. We can divide ourselves as Jews and gentiles, black and white, bond and free, male and female, rich and poor, well known and unknown, teachers and learners, free spirits and rigid rule followers, and so on, ad nauseam. But the Lord has asked us to drop those factions, stop viewing and treating each other according to those Babylonian labels, and be “in one the children of Christ and heirs to the kingdom of God.”

This ideal is represented well in the epigraph to the newly released Teachings and Commandments (Volume 3 of the Restoration Edition Scriptures):
I would rather submit to the decision of the group than insist that my view be followed. For me harmony between brethren is more important than getting what I think best to be followed. I believe harmony can lead to much greater things than can merely enforcement of even a correct view. I know how difficult it is to have a correct view, because of how often I have been corrected by the Lord. Sometimes I am humiliated by my foolishness when the Lord reproves me. Humiliation can lead to humility, but my experience is that the humiliation is accompanied by shame, whereas humility can proceed with a clear conscience.  
My experience with others leads me to conclude that if we can have one heart first, eventually we can likewise come to have one mind. But if we insist on having one mind at the outset, we may never obtain one heart together. 
—Denver Snuffer
Said the Lord in the Answer and Covenant:
For the sake of the promises to the Fathers will I labor with you as a people, and not because of you, for you have not yet become what you must be to live together in peace. If you will hearken to my words I will make you my people and my words will give you peace. Even a single soul who stirs up the hearts of others to anger can destroy the peace of all my people. Each of you must equally walk truly in my path, not only to profess, but also to do as you profess. 
One More Identity

I believe the new identity given us by the Lord actually reflects a prior identity we lost, or temporarily forgot, when we came to this earth. We find ourselves standing at the pinnacle of history, placed to not only see Zion established, but to actually participate in its establishment if we will choose to do so. It’s no mistake or coincidence that YOU are situated where you are. God did not send lead to do what He knew only iron could accomplish. You were most probably sent here with the specific mission to get this done so the world itself could be recovered from its lost and fallen state. 

Do you believe that? I do. 

I believe God knew exactly what would be required and who He could trust to get the work done. I believe we all have a common purpose here that far surpasses our temporary squabbles over the placement of words. There is yet an immense amount of work to be done, and we were sent here to do it. Shouldn’t we be about it? Time is short and the clock is ticking. 

Like mules hitched to a common plow, we can pull together or we can kick against one another. But we can’t do both. As the old farmer saying goes, “You can’t pull if you’re kicking, and you can’t kick if you’re pulling.” 

The trouble we face is amnesia. We have forgotten who we are and why we came. From our very birth here, we obtained labels that divide us into factions and prevent cooperation. Our Lord invites us to drop those labels; to remember; to recover our original and most important identity, to awaken, arise, and accomplish what He sent us here to do. He invites us to abide in His covenant, valuing it above all. 

In the inspired words of Eliza R. Snow:


O my Father, thou that dwellest

In the high and glorious place,

When shall I regain thy presence

And again behold thy face?

In thy holy habitation,

Did my spirit once reside?

In my first primeval childhood

Was I nurtured near thy side?

For a wise and glorious purpose

Thou hast placed me here on earth

And withheld the recollection

Of my former friends and birth;

Yet ofttimes a secret something

Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”

And I felt that I had wandered

From a more exalted sphere.

I had learned to call thee Father,

Through thy Spirit from on high,

But, until the key of knowledge

Was restored, I knew not why.

In the heav’ns are parents single?

No, the thought makes reason stare!

Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.

When I leave this frail existence,

When I lay this mortal by,

Father, Mother, may I meet you

In your royal courts on high?

Then, at length, when I’ve completed

All you sent me forth to do,

With your mutual approbation

Let me come and dwell with you.


Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, but he hath given it free for all men, and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men unto repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, but all men are privileged, the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. 
—2 Nephi 11:16 RE