Now that we’ve examined a couple of the Lord’s gentle invitations to us, let’s turn attention to the marvelous revelation commonly called “Answer to Prayer for Covenant,” now found in T&C 157 and 158. In this document the Lord offers an immense amount of counsel, advice and reproof. In terms of sheer volume, the last revelation I can think of that gave this much direct instruction is the Sermon on the Mount, or the Sermon at Bountiful.
Take a look at these statements:
- For you to unite I must admonish and instruct you
- Wisdom counsels mankind to align their words with their hearts
- I speak these words to reprove you that you may learn, not to upbraid you so that you mourn. I want my people to have understanding.
- I desire to heal you from an awful state of blindness so that you may see clearly my will, to do it
- Can you not see that your works fall short of the beliefs you profess?
Notice the mercy of our Lord as he instructs us. By rights he could thunder down commandments upon us with a voice to shake mountains, but instead he patiently, kindly explains his need to teach us, and as the master teacher, he takes upon himself responsibility for our understanding.
An analysis of the revelation shows a hierarchy in the sorts of statements the Lord makes. He offers explanations and instructions and to teach us, gives imperative statements telling us what we must to, and issues direct commandments. Commandments are, of course, the most forceful statements, carrying an additional weight of condemnation for those who do not obey.
The balance between statement types in this revelation indicates the Lord’s preference to teach, instruct, inform, and correct—rather than command and condemn. As he stated:
I have given to you my doctrine, and have also revealed teachings, commandments, precepts, and principles to guide you, and it is not meet that I command you in all things — reason together and apply what I have given you, and it will be enough. (T&C 157:45)
Let’s examine our Lord’s words, grouped by types of statements.
Here are some of the imperative statements the Lord made, directly telling us what we must do, and often coupled with a principle to be understood.
- Repent, therefore, like Peter and end your unkind and untrue accusations against one another, and make peace
- Each of you must equally walk truly in my path, not only to profess, but also to do as you profess
- All must come unto me or they cannot be saved
- But remember that without the fruit of repentance, and a broken heart and a contrite spirit, you cannot keep my covenant; for I, your Lord, am meek and lowly of heart. Be like me.
- Forgive one another. Be tender with one another, pursue judgment, bless the oppressed, care for the orphan, and uplift the widow in her need for I have redeemed you from being orphaned and taken you that you are no longer a widowed people. Rejoice in me, and rejoice with your brethren and sisters who are mine also. Be one.
- I descended below it all, and know the sorrows of you all, and have borne the grief of it all and I say to you, Do my works and you will know my doctrine
- Flee from the cares and longings that belong to Babylon, obtain a new heart
- Let not your hearts remain divided from one another and divided from me
- Be of one heart, and regard one another with charity. Measure your words before giving voice to them, and consider the hearts of others
- 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
- Pray together in humility and together meekly present your dispute to me, and if you are contrite before me I will tell you my part
- Do not murmur saying, Too much has been required at our hands in too short a time
- Receive my covenant and abide in it
- But again I say, Judge not others except by the rule you want used to weigh yourself
- Let your pride, and your envy, and your fears depart from you
- Cry peace. Proclaim my words. Invite those who will repent to be baptized and forgiven, and they shall obtain my Spirit to guide them. The time is short and I come quickly, therefore open your mouths and warn others to flee the wrath which is to come as men in anger destroy one another
- Be comforted, be of good cheer, rejoice, and look up
- Teach your children to honor me
- Seek to recover the lost sheep remnant of this land and of Israel and no longer forsake them. Bring them unto me and teach them of my ways, to walk in them
- Labor with me and do not forsake my covenant to perform it
- Study my words and let them be the standard for your faith
- Love one another
Wow, that’s quite a list, but I find it absolutely beautiful. Our Lord, who is meek and lowly of heart, uses persuasion and kindness to instruct us, hoping we will deduce correct behavior on our own. He avoids harsh commandments, choosing instead to plead and teach.
- It is not enough to receive my covenant, but you must also abide it.
- 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.
Do these remind you of the Sermon on the Mount? “Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time…but I say unto you…”
In our next category, we have conditional promises, teaching the results of doing what the Lord asks:
- If you take upon you my covenant, you must abide it as a people to gain what I promise
- Come to me and I will make sins as scarlet become white as snow, and I will make you stand boldly before me, confident of my love.
- If you return good for evil you will cleanse yourself and know the joy of your Master.
Next, we should look at several of the Lord’s statements concerning those he claims as “his people.” (emphasis mine:)
- Do you indeed desire to be my people? Then accept and do as I have required.
- If you will hearken to my words I will make you my people and my words will give you peace.
- Repent and bring forth fruit showing repentance, and I will establish my covenant with you and claim you as mine.
- 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.
- 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.
Now, having examined the above teachings, promises, and instructions, we notice the conspicuous absence of commandments, or to be more precise, the absence of statements directly expressed as commandments. To me, this indicates two things.
First, we’re not there yet. Commandments are a blessing to those who will obey them, but a cursing to those who will not. Our Lord seeks to bless, not curse, which means the absence of commandments reveals much about our spiritual development. The Lord said this about those who come to Zion:
Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel, for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength. And they also shall be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time, they that are faithful and diligent before me. (T&C 46:1)
The second thing I take from the lack of commandment statements is our Lord’s desire to teach us correct principles in hopes that we will govern ourselves. If he has to command our behavior regarding basic principles, we are clearly not prepared for higher commands to do things like gather to a holy city. We ought to take this opportunity to demonstrate our ability to internalize his teachings and govern ourselves.
And finally, having examined all the other types of statements, let’s look at the only two that the Lord actually expresses as commands. Given the scarcity of this sort of language in this lengthy revelation, we should take excruciatingly careful notice of these items—always remembering that commandments bring into sharp relief the difference between cursings and blessings. Commandments come with consequences.
So I command you to be wise in word and kind in deed as you write what I require of you.In the events surrounding the Lord’s requirement that we write a statement of principles, much improper behavior was manifest. A fair bit of the teaching and instruction in this revelation sprang from the obvious deficiencies in our behavior as a group who claims to be his. So after teaching extensively, the Lord let us know how far we had tested his patience when he issued this direct command to behave properly. Frankly, it reminds me of how I’ve sometimes had to deal with squabbling children. “Can’t you just be nice to each other?” usually followed by, “Do you want me to stop this car?”
The Lord expresses his other commandment more subtly, and by so doing, demonstrates his brilliance. Here it is (emphasis mine):
Whenever I have people who are mine, I command them to build a house, a holy habitation, a sacred place where my presence can dwell, or where the Holy Spirit of Promise can minister, because it is in such a place that it has been ordained to recover you, establish by my word and my oath your marriages, and endow my people with knowledge from on high that will unfold to you the mysteries of godliness, instruct you in my ways, that you may walk in my path. And all the outcasts of Israel will I gather to my house, and the jealousy of Ephraim and Judah will end. Ephraim will not envy Judah and Judah will not provoke Ephraim.Notice three things. First, when the Lord has a people he claims as his own, he always commands them to build a temple. “Whenever” is all inclusive. Therefore, if we are indeed “his people” then we are commanded to build a temple. It’s that simple. The only way to avoid this commandment is to not be “his.”
Second, notice the Lord’s extensive explanation about why a temple must be built, and what he intends to do there. He doesn’t simply demand a house, but rather offers immense blessings through its functions. The temple is NOT for him, though it will be his. The temple is, in the end, for us. Did you notice that list of promised blessings?
- A sacred place where my presence can dwell
- Where the Holy Spirit of Promise can minister
- [Where I can] recover you
- Establish by my word and my oath your marriages
- Endow my people with knowledge from on high that will unfold to you the mysteries of godliness
- Instruct you in my ways, that you may walk in my path
If we truly understood and appreciated the full implications of what the Lord offers, we would view this command with very different eyes.
And third, notice that the Lord speaks of this commandment as an established condition, to inform us it is indeed required of us. “Whenever I have people who are mine, I command them to build a house.” He does not give the time, date, location, etc., leaving those specifics for the future. This is brilliant on his part, because once he provides those particulars, the clock starts and it’s do or die time. Literally. Such conditions accompanied the command to build the Nauvoo temple, and it turns out the clock was set for 1255 days, or just under three and a half years. Those days expired with the neglected temple incomplete, the Saints scattered, and the accompanying curses lasting to the third and fourth generation. Such will be our fate if we similarly fail.
When the detailed command comes to us (and it will), the clock will start and we must succeed or be destroyed. Such dire circumstances may motivate many of us to action, but perhaps too late to accomplish what is required. Therefore the Lord shows exceeding mercy by informing us of this commandment without yet attaching the particulars. This gives us extra time to prepare—if we are wise enough to do so.
Not Yet Commanded?
Sometimes we speak of a future point, “when the command comes to build a temple,” expressing ways in which we will change and behave at that point. When the temple fund was established more than two years ago, to begin gathering funds in preparation for the project, some opposed the very existence of the fund, based on the objection, “we have not been commanded to build a temple!” The corollary to that statement was usually along the lines of, “When there’s an actual command, then I’ll donate. Until then, I see no reason to so so.” Other criticisms of the effort generally followed as well.
I hope you see where this is going. We have an actual command. All who received the covenant in September, 2017 and since, are now, currently, at this moment, under command to build the temple. It is only the Lord’s mercy that has prevented the clock from starting. If we are not engaged in that effort, we are failing to keep the covenant.
So what should this mean for us? Let’s go back to our lesson from my last post on deductive and inductive reasoning. Here’s the chain of deductions I apply to myself:
General principle: The Lord’s people are always commanded to build a temple.
Specific application: I made a covenant to be included among his people. Therefore I am commanded to build a temple. Building a temple will require a substantial amount of money, even before the site and other particulars are known. Gathering substantial money will take time. Therefore, I should use the time available to donate all the money I can and prepare for the time when the particulars are given.
The next logical step tells me that gathering and donating funds will require sacrifice on my part. This is good news, because this is the only means by which I can gain faith:
Let us here observe that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. For from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy Eternal life, and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do His will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice & offering, and that he has not nor will not seek His face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on Eternal life. (Lectures on Faith 6:7)Once the temple particulars are given, the clock will start and both blessings and cursings will hang in the balance. Before that happens, we should do all we can to be ready. If we fail to prepare now, the sacrifice required to hurriedly prepare under threat of condemnation may prove too sore a trial for us to complete. Therefore, those who consider themselves the Lord’s people, should be sacrificing NOW to amass the funds necessary while there’s yet time to do so.
This is one of those “anxiously engaged in a good cause” moments. NOW is the time for sacrifice and preparation. NOW is the time to show our understanding and acceptance of true principles. Will we allow ourselves to be guided by gentle nudges, or will we require thundering commands to rain down upon us like fire and brimstone, to our likely condemnation?
The choice is ours. Time is limited. It ALL hangs in the balance.
I will visit my house, which the remnant of my people shall build, and I will dwell therein, to be among you, and no one will need to say, Know ye the Lord, for you all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
—T&C 158:15 (emphasis mine)
Postscript: For more information about the temple, I highly recommend reviewing Denver Snuffer’s temple podcast series that begins here: Temple, Part 1
And his blog post: Why a Temple?
And my blog post series that begins here: The Temple, Part 1: House of Glory