Friday, July 28, 2017

Scripture Project Voting (Round Two) Ending Soon

The second round of voting on the scripture project, for the purpose of ranking the various Governing Principles documents, ends Saturday, July 29 at midnight. 

You can review the options and vote at this link:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Young Single Adult Conference Reminder (Please Register)

I was asked to share the following announcement:

Register for the Young Single Adult Conference!

Hey Everyone!

The Young Single Adult conference is almost here!! We are hoping for a great turnout. If you haven't registered at please do. That is where you will receive all the information concerning schedule location and all additional details. Please continue sharing the word and email with any questions. We look forward to sharing this great weekend with you and will see you on the Friday, July 28th.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Covenant Book, Part 7: Gentile Rejection

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

And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever. 
—2 Nephi 29:14

In 3 Nephi 16, Christ finishes His statement to the twelve by discussing the role of the latter-day gentiles. He explains how Plan B will operate.
7  Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.
Notice that the fulness of “these things” shall come to the latter-day gentiles. This refers to what Christ mentioned in verse 4 concerning the fulness of His ministry among, not only the Nephites, but also among the other scattered tribes to whom He ministered. We do not yet have the fulness of any of these records, though we can expect to in the future. His word will be gathered in one.
8  But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles—for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them 
9  And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them—
Christ speaks of the unbelieving of the gentiles. Remember, “unbelief” is not the same as disbelief. “Unbelieving” gentiles are religious—holding to false traditions and believing a false gospel. The Father pronounces a wo upon them due to this state of unbelief—because it causes the gentiles to reject truth and persecute God’s covenant people. It is always the most religious who oppose God.

There is a dual fulfillment of this statement. First, the gentiles came forth on the face of this land and scattered the prior inhabitants, including Lehi’s bloodline. The American Indians were indeed smitten, cast out, slain and hated. They became a hiss and a byword. Then, as if in a great chiasmus, after the initial restoration of the gospel, the proud gentiles to whom it came now cast out, hate, and spiritually slay those who believe Christ’s word and seek to recover their status as covenant Israel in our day. The “remnant” has become a hiss and a byword among both LDS and some post-LDS gentiles.

Ironically, the gentiles who repent, become covenant Israel—only to be persecuted by their fellow gentiles.
10 And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.
The Father recognizes that the proud gentiles will refuse what He offers. They will reject the fulness of the gospel, and engage in gross sin—including the “secret abominations” that always trigger destruction. Therefore, the fulness of what He offers will be “brought from among them.” This is a curious turn of phrase. He didn’t say “I will take it away from them.” The statement that He will bring the fulness “from among them” literally means that among the gentiles there will be some few—a remnant, if you will—who will gratefully accept the fulness of what the Father offers. These will be brought from among the gentiles and, in due time, gathered into a holy city, comprised of those who have received the Father’s covenant. The fulness will then be found nowhere among the gentiles.
11  And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them. 
12  And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel.
The gentiles will have no power over Zion. Those with whom the Father covenants become his family, and if they remain faithful to Him, He will protect them. Any who fight against God’s family fight against God himself, and will come to ruin.
13-15  But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel. And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father. But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.
All are invited to repent and turn to Christ. All are invited to receive God’s covenant and become His people. Those who reject His invitation will be trodden down by those who accept it. In this statement, Christ paraphrases language of Micah 5:8—a destruction theme to which the Lord will return, and which is becoming increasingly relevant in our day.
16  Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance.
“This people” doesn’t refer to the Nephite 12 to whom Christ is speaking. It doesn’t even refer to the general Nephite multitude looking on. Rather, it refers to those about whom Christ has been speaking—those covenant people identified as the House of Israel in the last days who will inherit this land as part of the covenant—they who will receive the fulness of the gospel, accept God’s covenant, and enjoy gathering and protection.

Christ finishes this portion of his message by quoting Isaiah 52:8-10 (3 Nephi 16:17-20):
And then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say: 
Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.
This is a fascinating and meaningful prophecy by Isaiah. It refers to the dual-Zion restoration of Israel in the last days, with two holy cities—Jerusalem and New Jerusalem, or Zion—established and peopled by those who God has accepted as His own. It is the culmination of the Father’s purpose in remembering and honoring His covenant to Abraham.

An alternate translation from the Hebrew can be rendered as follows:
Those who are waiting and watching will cry out; they will all raise a cry together and shout for joy because they will see the Lord face to face when he returns to Zion. Explode with shouts of joy together, ruins of Jerusalem, because the Lord has had a change of heart toward his people and has bought back his family, Jerusalem. The Lord has shown his holy power appearing among the Gentiles, and all the world shall see the victory of God. 
The “watchmen,” or “those who are waiting and watching,” bring to mind Christ’s statements in the Testimony of St. John:
He that treasures my teachings, and stands ready, watching for every communication I send him, is he who shows love for me. To those who show love for me, my Father will show love to them, and I love all those, and I will personally minister to them. 
Judas (not Iscariot), asked, Lord, how is it you will manifest yourself to us, but not to the world?  
Jesus answered and said to him, If a man loves me, he will stand ready, watching for every communication I will send to him; and my Father will also love him, and we will come visit him, and continually abide by his side.  
Whoever claims to love me but does not stand ready, watching for every communication I will send, indeed does not love me. These teachings are not from me, but come from the Father who sent me.  
Those who watch for every communication from the Lord surely treasure His word and seek more of it. This is a good reason to support the current effort to recover and accept the most complete, accurate gathering of scripture possible. It shows we treasure and value His word. Ultimately, it shows we love Him. And, as Christ pointed out, Zion will begin among a group of cast-out gentiles who will repent, value the fulness of the gospel, receive the Father’s covenant, and become Israel.

Isaiah’s Summary

The verses Christ quotes from Isaiah 52 summarize the final outcome of God’s work. This is the very Isaiah passage the priests of King Noah attempted to use against Abinadi when they tried him for his life (Mosiah 12:22-24). The priests’ failure to understand this passage proved their perverted and wicked status (Mosiah 12:25-27). Abinadi taught a masterful sermon centering on these passages, ultimately relating it to the atonement of Christ and the very foundations of the Father’s plan to redeem mankind (Mosiah 12-16).

Of course, truth often incites attacks, and it didn’t end well for Abinadi. His sermon incited the king and priests to put him to death (Mosiah 17:1). But Christ’s use of this Isaiah prophecy vindicates His servant Abinadi, and re-emphasizes the final outcome: God’s promises WILL be fulfilled. As gentiles of the last days, the choice is left to us. We are free to join with the few who treasure God’s word and are willing to become His people, or we can remain with the unbelieving many who will be trodden under foot, gathered into bundles, and burned at His coming. The choice is always ours, but the final outcome is certain.

And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.
—1 Nephi 13:37

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fools and Foundations: Beyond the Doctrine of Christ

And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. 
—2 Nephi 31:19

Recently, I’ve encountered arguments that we ought not attempt to recover a more correct set of scriptures, or seek a covenant from God, or build a temple, because these things are not part of the doctrine of Christ. Because such things are not mentioned in Christ’s doctrine, as the reasoning goes, their pursuit serves the purposes of the evil one and will lead to ruin.

Those who make such arguments misapply, of course, Christ’s own words to promote these false notions. To wit:
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. (3 Nephi 11:40)
Now, to be fair, the Lord certainly does say that declaring more or less than He has declared, and establishing it for His doctrine, comes of evil. And I’m not questioning that assertion. But His wording is quite specific; nothing else is to be established as the doctrine of Christ. This does not, however, say that there is nothing else to be learned, believed, performed, or received in Christ’s gospel. Indeed, the apostles, dozens of prophets, and even the Lord Himself, have taught many other principles, tenets, teachings, obligations, and commandments as part of the Godly walk required of those who would follow the Savior.

How can this be? How can there be anything required other than faith, repentance and baptism? Especially given the Lord’s binary statement concerning salvation and damnation:
And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. (3 Nephi 11:33-34)
Such a statement as this, unexamined, may lead one to believe that the whole of the scriptures really ought to occupy one paragraph, that religion ought to take an hour out of a lifetime, and that having been dunked, all is finished and a glorious reward awaits. Such a leap undoubtedly breaks all olympic records, but is nevertheless engaged in too frequently, and then used as a club to assault any who dare suggest the gospel of our Lord requires anything further.

We wouldn’t want to fall into such a foolish error, so, let’s examine things more carefully—and in context.

Cut Off

Our examination begins with recognizing our situation here in this fallen world. Because of the fall, we are cut off from the presence of the Lord (2 Nephi 9:6). We are in the grasp of “that awful monster…death and hell” and only have hope because God has prepared a way for our escape (v. 10). Because of this offered deliverance, “they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever” (v. 18).

God’s purpose is to return us to the relationship we enjoyed before the fall; to reconnect us to Him (Them) in a family relationship of personal association. He wants to return us not only to His presence, but also to His household and family, which are often called His kingdom in scripture.
And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it. (2 Nephi 9:23-24)
Faith, repentance, baptism. You’ll no doubt recognize the pattern from the doctrine of Christ. The requirement to “endure to the end” is also included, and it may not mean what you think. The typical LDS definition can be more or less summarized as “put up with all the hardships of this world until you die.” This gives “enduring” the connotation of bearing suffering without resistance, in a grit-your-teeth-until-you-die sort of way. But the more correct definition has to do with abiding; remaining unchanged; staying true to what and who you are. Make the change permanent. This is what it means to endure.

The Return

The requirements to believe, repent, and then remain in the repentant state—these are the prerequisites for salvation in God’s kingdom. Repentance requires seeking and obtaining knowledge. So the progression is to believe, repent, receive baptism, and then continue repenting and seeking knowledge. This is the beginning of the walk back to God’s presence. Or, as Nephi put it, this is the “gate by which you should enter.”
Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 31:17)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 11:35)

The doctrine of Christ has one, very specific purpose. Just one. The promise, from the Father Himself, is that He will send the Holy Ghost to those who obey His Son’s doctrine. And the purpose of the Holy Ghost is to get you back in touch with the source of all truth, so you can obtain more knowledge and continue your repentance. The Holy Ghost “will show unto you all things what ye should do.” (Note: this has nothing to do with “feeling the Holy Ghost.” It has ONLY to do with gaining light and knowledge. See this post for more information.)
For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do. (2 Nephi 32:5-6)
Continually receiving and obeying truth from the Holy Ghost will eventually bring you into contact with Christ, while yet in the flesh, and He will teach you further doctrine. But nobody ever gets to that point without first entering in at the gate. 

The Beginning

Therefore, it’s clear the doctrine of Christ is meant as a beginning, not an end. It is the gate by which we all must enter to BEGIN the journey back to God. Christ Himself calls it the foundation upon which we must build:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. (3 Nephi 11:39)
Nephi seems surprised that anyone would teach that the doctrine of Christ is the end, and that there’s no more to do:
And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. 
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. (2 Nephi 31:19-20)
You MUST press forward. You MUST feast upon Christ’s words, you MUST remain repentant. You MUST endure to the end. (2 Nephi 31:15) Nephi finally ends his sermon in frustration with those who insist on misinterpreting Christ’s doctrine:
Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark. 
And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be. And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. (2 Nephi 32:4, 7-8)
Nephi calls it unbelief, wickedness, ignorance and stiffneckedness when we refuse to progress past the gateway of the doctrine of Christ. Those who attempt to use Christ’s words to fight against Christ’s further teachings “must perish in the dark.”

Declaring More or Less than This

Now that we’ve got the pathway laid out, let’s get back to Christ’s emphatic statement about adding to His doctrine.
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. (3 Nephi 11:40) 
Christ specifically stated that attempting to establish anything more or less as His doctrine is the problem. If you add qualifications before one is allowed to enter in at the gate, or if you claim there is another gate, or another way to get the Holy Ghost, or additional actions, beliefs or ordinances required to enter the path of salvation, you are doing exactly what Christ said cometh of evil. Don’t mischaracterize the gate. Recognize that it’s the beginning of the return to God, and that more will most definitely be required of those who enter.

Don’t build on a sandy foundation of falsehood. Find the rock, and build upon it. 
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12)
Christ is, literally, the “stone of help” or “Ebenezer” raised by Samuel and memorialized in Robert Robinson’s classic hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, which has not survived more recent tampering to obscure the original intent of the hymn. Robinson’s original inspired words, penned at age 22, spoke directly of the journey back to God’s presence, starting with the “Ebenezer” or “stone of help.” Here are a couple of the original verses:
2. Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I'll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home. 
5. O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Cloth-ed then in blood-washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.
Saved and Damned

This brings us to Christ’s other oft-abused statement:
And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. (3 Nephi 11:33-34)
Our Lord offers two opposite outcomes, based on your obedience to His doctrine, namely, salvation and damnation. These are actually two sides to the same coin. Damnation halts your progress in the path; salvation allows your progress to continue. Both can be reversed. Salvation, therefore, is not an end, but rather is the definition of the path you must walk. No matter how you may wish to define what it is to be “saved,” Christ has clearly defined it as entering and progressing in the correct path. It is a process, not a final outcome. It is designed to lead somewhere.
And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. (2 Nephi 30:18)
Gaining knowledge IS the path of salvation. Hence Joseph Smith’s statement:
“… 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.” (HC, 4:588)
The saving knowledge path requires the testimony of one authorized and sent by the Lord as His messenger. This has always been the pattern, since the days of Adam, who taught his posterity the words of God. The two Zion successes in scripture both directly resulted from the teachings of mortal ministers, and are so inextricably linked to the ministers that to this day we still call them the cities of Enoch and Melchizedek—not the cities of a bunch of people who independently figured things out on their own.

Joseph Smith taught this principle in the Lectures on Faith:
We have now clearly set forth how it is, and how it was, that God became an object of faith for rational beings; and also, upon what foundation the testimony was based, which excited the enquiry and diligent search of the ancient saints, to seek after and obtain a knowledge of the glory of God: and we have seen that it was human testimony, and human testimony only, that excited this enquiry, in the first instance in their minds—it was the credence they gave to the testimony of their fathers—this testimony having aroused their minds to enquire after the knowledge of God, the enquiry frequently terminated, indeed, always terminated, when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries, and eternal certainty. (Lectures on Faith 2:56, emphasis mine)
Salvation comes from hearing, and believing, God’s actual word, as delivered by one He sends:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? (Romans 10:13-15)
One of the most striking examples of this principle is the case of Lehi and Nephi, the sons of Helaman, in the Book of Mormon. They learned truth from their father (Hel. 5:13), received authority and power from God (v. 18), and preached with such power that they converted thousands of their enemies to the path of salvation (v. 19). These two messengers alone accomplished what the entire armies of the Nephites could not, and in the process brought salvation to many thousands of souls. 

Alma knew this principle:
And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. (Alma 31:5) 
Salvation is a path, and it is pointed out by God’s messengers. If your unbelief requires you to define salvation in some other way, it puts you at odds with Christ. Those who cannot find the path, or will not follow the path, are damned.

Where the Path Leads

The path of salvation does lead to an event—which the scriptures call “redemption.” And the Lord specifically connects redemption to having acquired knowledge:
And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you. (Ether 3:13)
Redemption from the fall is the completion of the path back to God’s presence, and beholding Him in the flesh. It is the return to Eden, where God walks and talks with men in the flesh.

Fighting Against Zion

Zion will come. Scripture clearly shows it will require a covenant people willing to labor, a temple where Christ can come, a holy city comprised of those who will obey the Lord, and quite a bit more light and knowledge than we currently enjoy. Recovering the most accurate scriptural record possible is part of the process needed to gain further light and knowledge, as are receiving God’s covenant and building a temple. These are all part of the path of continued repentance for those who have entered in at the gate.

Zion will come. The God of heaven has said He will fulfill his covenants, and His word will NOT return empty. Only a fool would attempt to fight against God. Only a great fool would attempt to use God’s own words to oppose Him.
Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God. For I will fulfill my promises which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh. (2 Nephi 10:16-17)
Don’t be fooled by those who fight against Zion. Anti-Christ deceivers claim the need for Christ, while opposing His commandments, rejecting his messengers, and refusing to walk in His path. Anyone who preaches that you should enter in at the gate, then refuse to do anything more, is literally preaching damnation. The gates of hell prevail against all who embrace such sophistry, and stand open to receive them at the last day.

Press forward. 

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
—3 Nephi 11:39

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Scripture Project Voting is Underway!

The first round of voting on the scripture project opened yesterday. I believe it's very important for all who have any interest in the scripture project to take an active role in voting. Whatever the outcome, heaven will take note of those who care enough to study the issues and express an opinion.

Voting continues through July 11. Here's the link to get details and take part:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Covenant Book, Part 6:
It’s Time for Plan B

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

And now behold, I say unto you that when the Lord shall see fit, in his wisdom, that these sayings shall come unto the Gentiles according to his word, then ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel, concerning their restoration to the lands of their inheritance, is already beginning to be fulfilled. 
—3 Nephi 29:1

We’re finally ready to discuss Christ’s message to us from 3 Nephi. I’ll admit, it took a fair bit more preparation and background than I initially thought—hence the 5-post prelude to prepare for the message.

I also realize it’s been a long time coming, so I’ll offer the following points from the prior 5 posts as refreshers before we move forward.

  • Christ’s message was meant for US, not for the Nephites who received and recorded it. He is speaking to you and me, not to them.
  • Though Christ delivers the message, it actually comes from the Father. It is the Father’s work, the Father’s plan and the Father’s covenant.
  • As Christ teaches, He doesn’t adhere to our linear, time-bound way of thinking. He tends to jump around in chronology.
  • Our assumptions and traditions do us harm as we attempt to understand Christ’s words. We are best served by casting away what we think we know and what our prior, ineffective traditions tell us.
  • Keys to recognizing the covenant include a promised land, safety, liberty, and a family connection to Israel, which is a family connection to Christ.
  • This family connection is available to all who will repent because the bloodlines are already in place. Bloodlines alone have no saving power, but those who will accept the Lord’s offered covenant will become Israel’s family. 

OK, got all that? If not, you might want to review some of the prior posts in this series. If you’re good, let’s move ahead to 3 Nephi 15. We’ll start in verse 11:
And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he said unto those twelve whom he had chosen: Ye are my disciples; and ye are a light unto this people, who are a remnant of the house of Joseph. And behold, this is the land of your inheritance; and the Father hath given it unto you. (11-13)
It’s vital to notice that Christ spoke this directly to the 12 disciples whom he called up out of the multitude and empowered. He said that the Father “hath given” the land to these disciples. Given what we know about the covenant, what does that indicate about these twelve men? And how is that knowledge enhanced by verse 24, which reads as follows:
But behold, ye have both heard my voice, and seen me; and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me.
If the Father has given the land to these twelve, and has given these twelve to Christ, they clearly have a covenant relationship with God. I suspect this is why these particular twelve men were chosen and called by Christ out of the multitude—because they had already obtained a covenant with Him.

While we’re on the topic, we also need to note that ALL of Christ’s remarks in this portion of His message—starting with 15:12, and continuing through the entirety of chapters 15 and 16—ALL of this portion is spoken NOT to the multitude, but directly to these twelve covenant holders. It’s very important that we recognize this truth as we study what Christ said. We must realize He is speaking in the context of a covenant, to those who have obtained it. There’s a lesson there for us.

OK, are we good? Let’s move on.

Christ next gives a lengthy explanation regarding His statements at Jerusalem about “other sheep.” The salient points He makes are as follows:

  • The people at Jerusalem don’t know about these Nephite covenant holders.
  • Christ spoke of these Nephites as His “other sheep,” but the Jews didn’t understand and made false assumptions, based on their false beliefs. 
  • The Nephites were separated because of the iniquities of the Jews. In other words, Christ separated Lehi and gave him a promised land because he was willing and able to accept God’s covenant, while the Jews rejected it. 
  • There are other covenant holders who have also been separated from the Jews at Jerusalem at various times.

Christ commands these Nephites to write His words, for a very peculiar purpose. Here are His words:
And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer. (3 Nephi 16:4)
If you look closely, you see that Christ outlines two possibilities in this commandment because it could go two ways. Either:

A) The believers at Jerusalem will ask the Father and receive knowledge of the other tribes by the Holy Ghost;


B) These writings will be manifested to the Gentiles, and through the “Gentile fulness,” the remnant of the lost tribes’ seed will be “brought in,” or brought to a knowledge of Christ.

This is a very peculiar either/or statement. Christ expressed two possibilities as if there were two ways to accomplish the end goal, which is to “fulfil the covenant which the Father hath made unto all the people of the house of Israel.” (16:5) Given this purpose, we must ask some obvious questions. What was it about receiving “a knowledge" of the Nephites and other tribes that would bring about the fulfilling of the Father’s covenant? Was it enough to simply know about them? What was Christ getting at? How would knowing about the other tribes help?

Holy Order

The answers to these questions will require us to go back just a bit further. Like back to Adam, and this prophecy he made:
Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also. (Moses 6:7)
“This same Prieshood” refers to the patriarchal order, or as Abraham put it when he sought it, the “right belonging to the fathers.” Here’s a bit more about Abraham’s understanding of this order:
And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers. It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me. (Abraham 1:2-3)
Abraham spoke of a holy order, organizing the family of God, with a patriarchal head connecting the family on earth to God in heaven. Abraham’s connection through Melchizedek (Shem) therefore reached back in a direct line to Adam.

There is such power in this order, that Cain’s lust for it incited the first murder. Noah’s son Ham, though he could not hold the right of the firstborn, nevertheless sought to imitate this order, because even an imitation provides power. (Abraham 1:26-27) Throughout the ages, the knowledge of this order has ever been abused by those seeking for power and gain. The Book of Mormon calls this knowledge “the oaths which were given by them of old who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain.” (Ether 8:15)

Those who practice these things in wickedness form “a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God.” When such secret combinations become powerful and widespread, the results endanger all humanity, the earth, and the whole universe. There comes a point at which a merciful God must intervene to stop the spread of this particular form of wickedness.

-Like with a flood.
-Or by confounding languages to prevent communication.
-Or by wiping out entire civilizations.

In fact, history shows God will put up with some very bad things, but abuse of this knowledge is where he draws the line. These secret combinations proved the “entire destruction” of the Nephites (Helaman 2:13), the Jaredites (Helaman 6:28, Alma 37:26) and the inhabitants of Ammonihah, (Alma 8:16-17, 10:18, 16:9-10) among others.

And yet, this knowledge, when applied in righteousness, and employed in strict conformity with God’s commandments, makes a connection with the Fathers in heaven, restores God’s family to the earth, and brings again Zion. This sacred knowledge is, quite literally, the key to obtaining heaven or hell. It has the potential to make families of gods or devils.

Given that such knowledge exists, must remain on earth, and must be protected, while also preserving agency, and must safely come forth in the last days to fulfill God’s promises (Alma 37:14, 18)—what must be done? How would you approach such a daunting task, especially given the failures of the past, which were only mitigated by widespread destruction? How would you preserve and protect such knowledge?

I submit that God established an incredibly brilliant plan to do what is required. He took steps thousands of years ago to preserve and protect this sacred information, and bring about the circumstances required for its proper application at the right time in the last days. Explaining it all would take many blog posts, so I’ll just summarize with a few bullets, as follows:

  • The information was divided up between several covenant families, or “tribes” who were led away to various lands.
  • It was recorded in durable records (like metal plates or papyrus) so it would last thousands of years
  • The information was written in languages that would be largely unknown by the latter days, so it could only be interpreted by the power of God (and likely the aid of tools called “interpreters.”)
  • It was written in such a way that even when translated, the meaning could only be discerned by the Spirit of God.
  • The records were safeguarded by prophets who obeyed the Lord.
  • A master key, or keystone, to the discovery and reassembly of the scattered information was prepared and hidden on this continent, to come forth in the latter days and start the process of gathering scattered Israel, including the scattered records. This keystone is the Book of Mormon.
  • If you’ll forgive a modern computing analogy, the Lord prepared a distributed, encrypted backup, and has handed us the password.

Plates of Brass

As an explanatory example, we should consider Lehi’s departure from doomed Jerusalem. After Lehi obtained a covenant and left Jerusalem for the promised land, he received a commandment from the Lord to send his sons back to obtain a very strange record.

What was so strange about the record?

Well first, it was written on brass plates. This manner of record keeping was largely unknown in antiquity; it was difficult, costly and time consuming. This points to the importance and intended permanence of the information to be preserved. Also, the record was kept under lock and key, in a “treasury” guarded by 50 men, in the city of Jerusalem. Laban, the leader of the guard, held a position of wealth and prestige, as well as high religious office. Even his ceremonial armaments were extremely precious and valuable. While all of the above doesn’t necessarily prove the record was kept at the temple treasury, it at least holds out a very strong possibility of just that. In fact, I think it’s more likely than not, that Laban had charge of the temple treasury, and hence the keys to obtain the brass plates. (I could give more details, but this topic is beyond the scope of today’s post.)

Remember, Lehi left Jerusalem ahead of the Babylonian destruction. The temple would shortly be sacked, the treasury looted, and the treasures carried away to Babylon—except this record, which escaped with a covenant family, under a cloak of strict secrecy, to be carried across an ocean and hidden on a different continent. Babylon would conquer the Jews, but would not capture their record.

Lehi referred to the brass plates as “the record of the Jews,” not merely “a” record, but one important enough to be defined as “the” record  of the Jews (1 Nephi 3:3). When he read the record, he found it contained “the prophecies of the holy prophets from the beginning” and “a genealogy of his fathers” showing his connection to covenant Israel through Joseph. (1 Nephi 5:11-16) The record was still being expanded, even in the days of Lehi, because it contained many of the prophecies of Lehi’s contemporary, Jeremiah.
And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed—That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed. Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. (1 Nephi 5:17-19)

The brass plates will yet come forth, just as Lehi prophesied. Likewise, the other scattered records will be gathered in one.
And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews. And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever. (2 Nephi 29:13-14)
This brings us back to where we started—with Christ’s statement in 3 Nephi 16:4 about the Jews at Jerusalem learning of the “other sheep.” I submit that Christ’s statement has much less to do with knowing “about” the other tribes, and much more to do with knowing the things they know. The Nephite twelve were not the only people to have a covenant with the Lord; He also has “other sheep.” (3 Nephi 16:1-3). Each of these groups has recorded vital information, some stretching all the way back to Adam. This knowledge will be necessary for the fulfillment of God’s covenant and the re-organization of God’s family in Zion. These are “many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” Joseph Smith predicted God would reveal. (A of F 9)

By dividing the information and vouchsafing parts of it with different groups, God has ensured that the knowledge, and consequent power that comes with it, cannot fall into the wrong hands and lead to the sort of disaster that brings the destruction of the earth. The records will only be gathered when circumstances exist to keep the information safe and prevent its abuse.

As we know, the Nephite record, rich as it is, includes only the lesser things that Christ taught (3 Nephi 26:8-10). The records that came from the Jews at Jerusalem in the New Testament are similarly limited (1 Nephi 13:28).  The only way to get the whole picture is to obtain the knowledge vouchsafed with other covenant groups throughout the world. And that can ONLY happen through God’s direction, by the power of the Holy Ghost, after there exists a people with faith He has tried and proven.

Well, Plan A was for the Jews at Jerusalem to recognize the need for more knowledge, petition the Father, and set in motion the gathering of the lost tribes and their records into Zion. But that didn’t happen. Hence the need for a second plan.

Welcome to Plan B

And so, as we’ve seen, the Lord, in His wisdom, arranged a backup, in the form of a sacred record, etched on metal plates and buried for 1,400 years to come forth in due time and set the process in motion. The purpose of the Book of Mormon record is to provide an introduction—a teaser, if you will—together with directions for how to obtain more. It came to the Gentiles—you and me—for the specific purpose of setting in motion the Lord’s work once again, and bringing it to completion. It is the key to gathering the puzzle pieces and reassembling the puzzle. As Joseph Smith said, it is the “keystone of our religion.” (HC, 4:461)

That’s it. It comes down to you. YOU are plan B. You are the final hope for this world. You are where you are, when you are, because the Lord needs YOU to do what needs to be done. The early Saints failed and came under condemnation for taking these things lightly—most particularly the Book of Mormon. (D&C 84:54-58) We must not let that happen again. We must bring forth “fruit meet for [our] Father’s kingdom.”

Part of this process requires taking scripture much more seriously, which is why the current scripture project is so vital. It demonstrates to the Lord that there exist at least a few Gentiles who take His word seriously enough to attempt to recover it. Are you one of them? God will only reveal more to those whose faith He has proven.

If we make an acceptable effort and present an acceptable gathering of scripture to the Lord, it will demonstrate our commitment to His word. He will, in turn, offer a covenant by which we may become His people—identified as Ephraim. This is the first of the tribes to be gathered. Ephraim will be tasked with building a temple so the other tribes can gather as well.

As my wife, Tausha, covered in the previous post in this series, Ephraim has a unique role to play in the last days’ gathering.
And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence. And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep…And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants. And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence. And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. (D&C 133:26-32)
Ephraim’s role in blessing all the other tribes brings to mind Israel’s blessing upon his grandson Ephraim, that “his seed shall become a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 48:19) The Hebrew words melo hagoyim, translated as “multitude of nations” can be more accurately translated as “fulness of the Gentiles.” Ephraim’s seed shall become the fulness of the Gentiles, which is exactly the term Jesus used to describe what is now happening: 
…that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, [Ephraim] the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer. (3 Nephi 16:4, emphasis mine)
When there is a temple appointed, accepted and protected by God, and a proven faithful people He recognizes as His family—then it will be safe for the records of the other tribes—their “rich treasures”—to be brought to Ephraim at the temple in New Jerusalem, where they will be translated, understood, and added to the body of knowledge we call “the Gospel.” The record will grow until it is complete, and the family of God will likewise grow until it is organized completely.

It’s underway now. It begins with repentant Gentiles who value God’s word enough to begin recovering it from a distributed, encrypted backup. It’s time for plan B.

And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.
—3 Nephi 26:9-10