—John 9:8 RE
Note: I wrote this post on September 3, but circumstances prevented me from placing it here until now.
One year ago today, an event prophesied and anticipated from the foundation of the world took place: the Lord offered His covenant to all who would receive it, in anticipation of completing His Father’s work and returning to reign on Earth. I doubt most of us who accepted the covenant last year fully appreciate the significance and importance of this step in God’s final labor of the last days. This very event was prophesied by Jesus Christ Himself:
But if they will repent and hearken unto my words and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance. (3 Nephi 10:1 RE)In the very next breath, our Lord explained the covenant’s significance, why it is required in our day, and how it is the foundation of the completion of the Father’s work:
And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city which shall be called the New Jerusalem. And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem. And then shall the power of Heaven come down among them and I also will be in the midst. (3 Nephi 10:1 RE)I was privileged to close the meeting where the covenant was offered with prayer, which began with the words,“We Rejoice!” and truly, we did. I was doubly privileged to commemorate this occasion last night, in a place I consider sacred, with dear friends and fellow covenant holders, in a way that was very meaningful to me. This one-year anniversary gave me many reasons to ponder, consider, and repent.
One year along, I wish to share a few thoughts, primarily directed at myself, but applicable to us all, so I’ll use “we.”
Have we taken to heart the commands, the chastisement, and the counsel the Lord gave us? Here are some items from the Answer and Covenant:
If you take upon you my covenant, you must abide it as a people to gain what I promise. You think Satan will be bound a thousand years, and it will be so, but do not understand your own duty to bind that spirit within you so that you give no heed to accuse others. It is not enough to say you love God; you must also love your fellow man. Nor is it enough to say you love your fellow man while you, as Satan, divide, contend and dispute against any person who labors on an errand seeking to do my will. How you proceed must be as noble as the cause you seek. You have become your own adversaries, and you cannot be Satan and also be mine.Over the last year, have we become less adversarial toward our brothers and sisters? Have we made progress in learning to love one another? Do we yet carry the spirit of contention? How do we proceed in a cause as noble as Zion?
I desire to heal you from an awful state of blindness so that you may see clearly my will, to do it. I promised to bring unto you much of my gospel through the Book of Mormon and to provide you with the means to obtain a fullness of my gospel, and I have done this; yet you refuse to receive the truth even when it is given unto you in plainness. How can you who pursue the truth yet remain unable to behold your own weakness before me?How clearly do we see our own weakness? Have we become better this year at receiving truth given in plainness? How do we “receive” truth in the way the Lord desires?
I speak of you who have hindered my work, that claim to see plainly the beams in others’ eyes. You have claimed to see plainly the error of those who abuse my words, and neglect the poor, and who have cast you out, to discern their errors, and you say you seek a better way. Yet among you are those who continue to scheme, backbite, contend, accuse and forsake my words to do them, even while you seek to recover them. Can you not see that your works fall short of the beliefs you profess?Do our works yet fall short of the beliefs we profess? Do we yet hinder the Lord’s work? Do we forsake the Lord’s words, or do we do them?
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. And unto those who will receive will more be given until they know the mysteries of God in full.
I will teach you things that have been hidden from the foundation of the world and your understanding will reach unto Heaven.The Lord has kept His promise, and revealed things that have been, quite literally, kept hidden from the foundation of the world, despite our unworthiness and lack of preparation. Most notably, the “Holy Order” and “Our Divine Parents” talks offered an incredible flood of new light and truth not seen in this world since Joseph Smith lived and taught. Do we appreciate the significance of what has been given, or even the fact that it has been given at all? It would require many pages to adequately express the importance of just these two talks alone, but that will have to wait for another day.
Here’s my point: The Lord keeps His covenants. Do we?
After a year, what fruit exists to recommend us as the Lord’s people? Has a year made a difference? If so, in what ways? Are we really any better now than we were a year ago?
Trigger Warning: Statement of Principles
Perhaps my most urgent concern is that we’ve failed, and continue to fail, to keep the most basic commandment the Lord gave us. I’m referring, of course, to the statement of principles the Lord required us to write and adopt by mutual agreement as a guide and standard, then add to our scriptures. Unfortunately, the entire subject has become so toxic I hesitate to even bring it up.
With these thoughts heavy on my heart, I received, moments ago, a letter from my friend Paul. In it, he addressed the statement of principles in a much better way than I can. With his permission, I include below a portion of his letter, (with my added comments in red):
The Lord was very specific in His instructions about a Statement of Principles in the “Answer and Covenant”:
1. You are not excused from writing a statement of principles that I have required at your hands.
This is a commandment, and it must be obeyed. There is no excuse for not obeying, and those who intentionally prevent or oppose the Lord’s work will be held to account for doing so.
2. I forbade my servant David from participating, and again forbid him.
David has kept the commandment, even as we have failed to do so. Perhaps this is why the Lord trusts him and not us.
3. But I require a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people, for if you cannot do so you will be unable to accomplish other works that I will require at your hands. (Mutual agreement has been defined : “As between one another, you choose to not dispute” [T&C 175:1]. “Simply put, even if we disagree, if we choose to not dispute, we have mutual agreement.”)
The definitions of “statement” and “principles” are so basic and fundamental the the Lord left no room for us to gainsay what He really meant. These terms have been discussed at length. Likewise, “adopt” and “mutual agreement” have been well defined. There is no point in further arguing the meanings of these words. We should, instead, get to obeying them.
4. When you have an agreed statement of principles I require it to also be added as a guide and standard for my people to follow.
The Lord spoke these words in the context of other items that were to be added to the canon of scripture. Merely pasting a statement in the back of your own scriptures makes a mockery of this commandment and its purpose, which will be detailed in a moment. The statement must be canonized.
5. Remember there are others who know nothing, as yet, of my work now underway, and therefore the guide and standard is to bless, benefit and inform them—so I command you to be wise in word and kind in deed as you write what I require of you.
This statement is not for us or about us. It is for others. You cannot bless, benefit, and inform those who, as yet, know nothing if you merely tape a piece of paper in your own scriptures. This must be published. Period.
Likewise, the statement must include information about the Lord’s work NOW underway. Therefore, merely quoting scripture that has been available for hundreds, or thousands of years, does not fulfill the requirement. We must inform others of the Lord’s CURRENT work, including the new dispensation, requirement of rebaptism, gathering in fellowships, the expected temple, and the new covenant. Those who argue otherwise would deny blessings to people who, as yet, know nothing and need to be informed.
6. Do not murmur saying, Too much has been required at our hands in too short a time.
7. If your hearts were right it was a light thing I have asked.
Thankfully, the Lord has not **yet** given us a deadline, though we’re now more than a year on, and still unable to complete this “light thing.” Which is, frankly, shocking. As I have written before, we ALL agree on certain principles, by virtue of the covenant itself. This is a fact. And yet, incessant arguments continue over those very same principles we have already accepted by covenant. This is a problem of the heart. Until hearts are right, or broken, we will continue to fail.
8. You hinder and delay and then you say I require too much of you and do not allow you time, when, if your hearts were right and you prepared yourselves you could have finished this work long ago.
9. Do you indeed desire to be my people? Then accept and do as I have required.
The Lord had more than just a little to say. These are clear instructions. They total nine separate directions. He was not constrained by the number of words or a limited vocabulary. The Lord chose His words very carefully. By last count, the Lord delivered more than 6,300 words in the “Answer and Covenant.” If He had wanted His covenant people to merely copy scripture that was already accepted as canon, He would have said so. His command could have been one instruction in the place of nine. Instead of the commandment to write, He could have commanded us to copy. For example, if he had wanted a Statement of Principles that only encompassed the Doctrine of Christ and the Beatitudes, or the Ten Commandments or King Benjamin’s address or whatever, then He certainly could have made that abundantly clear. It would have been astonishingly simple—something along the lines of, and making no presumption here to speak for the Lord—“Write a Statement of Principles that consists only of the Doctrine of Christ and the Sermon on the Mount.” Instead, He gave completely succinct and unambiguous instructions, which included a commandment “to be wise in word and kind in deed as you write what I require of you.” And this “writing” is to be for the benefit of those who know nothing, as yet, of His work now underway, and this guide and standard is to bless, benefit and inform them.
Those among us who “desire to be [His] people [will] accept and do as [He has] required.” When the Lord says He require[s] a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people, it is only “my people” who will then accept and do as [He] has required.” The Lord is not forcing or compelling anyone to accept and do as He has required. Those who accept and do as He has required may be a relatively small number indeed. I hope and pray that it includes you and me.
That’s the end of Paul’s letter, and all I can say is, “Amen, brother Paul!” Perhaps part of this assignment is designed to draw into sharp relief our own hearts, so that even in our blindness, we can perhaps discern whether we are His people, even as we display it clearly to the angels who are taking note. I am left to conclude, from the Lord’s own words, those who will not accept and do as the Lord has required are not claimed by Him as His people. A sobering thought indeed.
“Do not forsake my covenant to perform it”
It seems to me this assignment can only be completed by people who have certain qualities:
Love: This assignment is to bless and benefit others. If we love the Lord and love those who need the information, (the first two great commandments) we will speedily do as He has asked. If we refuse to do so, we do not love Him (or them.) “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Unity: Our Lord said, “Be one. And if ye are not one, you are not mine.” The Lord has asked us to unify around a basic set of principles with which we already agree. This is the lowest, most basic foundation for unity he could have possibly given us. And yet—and yet—we have not come to agreement. Clearly, we cannot accomplish the other works the Lord will require if we can’t even unify on basic principles. I’ll add that the issue isn’t that we don’t believe enough of the same things; we do. The issue is our hearts and our refusal to drop our arguments. So long as ego and emotion trump principle, the disagreements will continue.
Agreement: The Lord set the bar for “mutual agreement” very low. In fact, we don’t even have to agree! We simply have to “choose to not dispute.” This is a choice. And likewise, disputing is also a choice. The Lord has clearly defined the choice He would have us make, and it is to not dispute. Choosing to dispute is choosing to disobey Him.
Here are some words spoken by the Lord’s servant a year ago when the covenant was offered:
But the path to Zion is to be found only by following God’s immediate commands to us. That is how He will bring it. He will lead us there. There is no magic, there is no sprinkling fairy dust that will take you to where God is. It does not and cannot happen that way. He will lead us, teach us, command us, guide us, but we have to be the ones who become what He commands. We have to be the ones who do what he bids us do. (Denver Snuffer, Covenant of Christ Conference, Opening Remarks, September 3, 2017)When will we do what he bids us do? When will we keep this first commandment He gave His covenant people? There are new believers who have already been harmed by the lack of a clear statement. I’m currently involved in a project to provide copies of the Restoration Edition scriptures to a number of new believers overseas, who likewise need the statement the Lord has commanded us to write. And yet, the scriptures I’m sending contain no such statement, so they will be left unblessed, unbenefited, uninformed.
Through this process, a number of very good statements have been written and garnered widespread acceptance. The Lots document process was approved by a vast majority of believers before it ever took place, then the Lord’s hand was manifest in the process itself, and the final product gained wider acceptance than any other effort. Ultimately, however, those who control publishing the scriptures have opted not to include any statement to which even one person objects, regardless of the nature of their objection. (IMPORTANT UPDATE: I am wrong in this assertion about even one person objecting. I leave it for reference, but it is more correct to say, "those who control publishing the scriptures have, thus far, declined to publish any statement.") This is a difficult issue, and I’ll admit, I have no idea how to solve it. No matter what statement gets presented, someone will object, and perhaps not even over content, but over some other point.
Therefore, we’re back to the idea that those who will accept and do what the Lord has asked are His, and those who will not, are not. If we love Him, we will not “hinder and delay,” but will find a way to keep His commandments, and soon.
My friend Paul, who wrote the letter above, has also written a statement of principles. I find it very good, and I gladly support it. You can download a copy of it here. Every principle it contains is true, and I simply can’t fathom how any who claim to be the Lord’s covenant people could oppose any of the principles it contains. One year on, and still failing, will we finally drop our disputes?
I’ll close with another quote from one year ago, today:
I have been ashamed of us because of recent events. Subsequent to the Lord’s Answer, we have continued to be quarrelsome, bickering and unkind to one another to such a degree we certainly must offend the Lord. I thought God would be so disappointed with us that it was wrong to proceed and therefore I prayed to call this off. To my surprise Lord did not expect us to do things right at first. He expects us to learn how to do things right. Failure is part of learning.” (Denver Snuffer, Covenant of Christ Conference, Opening Remarks, September 3, 2017)We have spent a solid year failing in this thing. What have we learned? The Lord is patient, but for how long? How can we claim to be His, but do not the things which He says? These are questions that I’m pondering very seriously today. I invite you to ponder them as well.
And why call me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whoever comes to me and hears my sayings and does them, I will show you who he is like. He is like a man who built a house, and dug deep and laid the foundation on a rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house and could not shake it, for it was founded upon a rock. But he who hears and does not is like a man that, without a foundation, built a house upon the earth, against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
—Luke 5:13, RE