Sunday, December 27, 2020

Gramarye in 2021: Doctrine & Covenants Plus Lectures and Teachings

In 2004, Davis Bitton (former Assistant Church Historian, former president of the Mormon History Association, former University of Utah history professor) gave a presentation at the FairMormon Conference called “I Don’t Have a Testimony of the History of the Church.”  It is a good talk with some excellent points – it is from the apologist perspective but it’s well worth reading. 

From this talk:

“A number of years ago, I was asked to speak to a combined priesthood group in the Federal Heights Ward. At the conclusion of my remarks, someone asked the following question: ‘What effect has your extensive study of Church history had on your testimony?’ I wasn’t really prepared for the question. The first words out of my mouth were: ‘I never had a testimony of Church history. My testimony is in the gospel of Jesus Christ.’”

I feel the same way as Professor Bitton although I’d say it this way: I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  That testimony is not just based upon study but upon spiritual and temporal experiences that have changed me fundamentally – I am no longer the man I was.  I have entered a path, through the birth of the Spirit which is the gate, that leads to knowing Christ with a surety in this life.  I am seeking to navigate that path – to come unto Christ, who waits at the end of this road (incidentally, I suspect He also walks the path in disguise to help us along the way).  However, I don’t have a testimony of the history of the Church.  Don’t get me wrong – I believe strongly that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  The Book of Mormon which he translated, and many of the revelations he received have been the key catalysts in my experiencing the birth of the Spirit.  The “fruit” I’ve received from Joseph Smith has been sweet. 

Lectures on Faith 2:56 says:

“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.

In addition to the testimonies I have received from the “ancient saints” in the Bible, I have the “human testimonies” contained in the Book of Mormon plus the testimony of Joseph Smith which has excited my desire to inquire into, seek after and obtain a knowledge of the glory of God for myself.  The doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon and by Joseph Smith are proven true if they terminate in the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty, if I rightly pursue them.  So far, they have proven true in my life – I have followed the doctrine taught and experienced a mighty change of heart – I have been born again.  And if laying my whole soul on the Lord’s Altar resulted in entering the Gate, I have anecdotal proof that the Book of Mormon is true, as these doctrines are taught in plainness there.  And if the Gate which leads to the path is true – and it is, then that gives me hope that if I endure to the end of the path,  I will come unto Christ in this life and know Him with a surety and be redeemed, as taught in 3 Nephi 11, 2 Nephi 32 and Ether 3.  There is no more glorious a discovery than the person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and no promise of eternal life more certain than one that comes from His lips to you. 

This is where I spend my time and focus in this life – on seeking the Lord Jesus Christ.  In the past I have studied quite a bit of Church history.  At first, I found it faith promoting (and pride inducing…), but at a certain point it became faith destroying.  I had to really learn to sift the wheat from the tares, because previously it had been hard to tell the difference and I’d assumed that if it came from what I thought was one plant, it should all be wheat.  The realization that someone had sown tares among the wheat was a shock and made me bitter for quite a while – I felt betrayed by the Church whose history was not as I’d been led to believe by them.  However, because I’d already experienced the birth of the Spirit – IT DID NOT SHAKE MY TESTIMONY IN THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST or in the human testimonies of those that had guided me to that experience, including the Prophet Joseph Smith.  I KNOW that the Lord lives and has the power to fundamentally change hearts, because He’s changed mine – and that was after years of trying and failing to change my own. 

There are issues with the history of the Church.  For some aspects, I don’t know what to believe.  There is a lack of access to primary, contemporary sources without which you can’t be sure of the truth, some may no longer exist or perhaps never did – and there are ulterior motives which seem to justify “lying for the Lord” among even the most senior Church leaders over the course of the whole history of the Church.  This has created some small stir and division amongst the people, some apologists crying “Lo, here!” and other apostates, “Lo, there!”  What is to be done?  Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together?  How shall we know it? 

I am not advocating for ignoring Church history – I think it’s vitally important to understand that there are tares among the wheat so that you can identify the difference and only keep the wheat.  But there are others who know much more about these things than I do and I would commend you to them – as well as to primary sources like the Joseph Smith Papers.  Sadly, some of these people have been excommunicated now from the Church for pointing out the issues – but that doesn’t make the issues any more real.  For me, these actions by leadership are another proof point along the road the Lord prophesied about in 3 Nephi 16, 20-21 – that the Gentile Church WILL reject the Fullness of the Gospel of Christ, if it hasn’t already.    

So, how shall we know the truth?  We must go to the source – go to God in mighty prayer.  We must truly study the scriptures and revelations we’ve been given so that we can connect with God in this life.  We must enter the Gate via the baptism of fire and navigate the Lord’s wilderness until He manifests Himself to us in the flesh – and then we must push on, valiant in the Testimony of Jesus, doing the things which He shall say unto us that we should do.  Among these will likely be to proclaim the truth of what we’ve experienced to others, so that they can have a “human testimony” to arouse their minds to enquire after the knowledge of God for themselves. 

With that in mind, rather than following the Church's Church History/D&C lesson plan for Come Follow Me, I will focus the Gramarye blog in 2021 on the doctrine of Christ contained in the revelations and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  I have identified 24 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants which I will combine into 14 posts.  Following those, I will publish 6 posts on the Lectures on Faith (which was canonized as scripture in the D&C during the entire life of Joseph Smith) and 4 posts from various chapters in the book Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Altogether, that adds up to only 24 posts for the year, so I’ve decided to publish each “Questions” post and leave it up for a week before publishing thoughts on the answers.  My hope is that the Questions will promote more of a conversation with God than a debate with me – and a discussion with Him about saving doctrines is the only conversation that is really important anyway. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Christmas and the Winter Solstice

I can’t remember how old I was when I learned that the birth of Christ did not occur in December but actually around the time of the Passover in the Spring; perhaps it was on my LDS mission, when I first started really studying the scriptures and the various available commentaries.  I have to admit that it slightly dampened my Christmas celebrations for a few years and heightened my love of the Easter season, especially when I discovered that many of the “Christmas” traditions and symbols I loved were actually pagan to begin with and were conveniently adopted by the church to more easily transition new converts into historic Christianity.  Some historians and other experts speculate that early Christianity chose to appropriate the Winter Solstice for its Christmas celebration, as the solstices and equinoxes were key parts of many pre-Christian religions. 

Despite all of this (and not to mention the commercialization of Christmas), to me the holiday has always been about the birth of the Christ child as much as it was about pine trees and holly, Santa Claus and gift giving, or feasting and caroling.  In my heart I thought, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”  Maybe ten years ago, a friend of mine gave a talk in church about the symbolism of Christmas.  It was a bit of a re-appropriation talk; I enjoyed it and it made me think about the chicken and egg of these symbols – who appropriated what, from whom, and when?  He talked about the symbolism of caroling pointing to the heavenly choirs singing hosanna to shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem, rather than the pagan wassailing to drive away evil spirits.  The evergreen tree as a tree of life adorned with “fruits” of light rather than the fertility decorations Romans used for Saturnalia.  And of course the greatest gift of all – the condescension and later sacrifice of a god, rather than the jolly Sinterklaas tradition or kindly gift giving Italian witches or Scandinavian tomtens or Saint Nicolases or even the Celtic Corn King who offered himself as a sacrifice so that his people could live.  I thought it was a pretty incredible talk for a sacrament meeting and felt good to have those symbols “back”, so to speak. 

Maybe a couple of years later I came across someone on the internet asking why the Lord picked the Autumn Equinox as the day that the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith four years in a row to prepare him to take the golden plates from the hillside in New York.  I didn’t have an answer but I thought it was a great question.  Why indeed did God utilize that day, above all others?  It did not seem like a coincidence.  I turned to the scriptures to find an answer and learned that the Lord uses the sun, moon and stars of the heavens, and the change of seasons, as signs in a more pointed way than I’d realized. 

With regards to the Equinoxes and Solstices, the movement of light and dark is a key theme.  The light of “day” is either growing or shrinking throughout the year – it is never static.  At the Equinoxes, the light of the day and the dark of the night are in perfect balance.  At the Solstices, the light and dark have their respective peaks.  The two breakthroughs for me came in studying the Jewish holy days in the Spring and Autumn (Passover and Yom Kippur, specifically) which gave me insight into the Equinoxes, and in a realization I had in 2016 about the Summer Solstice. 

I learned that the Equinoxes represent the atonement and resurrection of Christ.  In the Fall, as the light is in balance but is descending to its darkest day, the equinox is symbolic of how Christ descended below all things in the Garden of Gethsemane – even the red leaves falling to the ground bring to mind Christ’s bleeding from every pore.  There is a reason that the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) takes place in the fall near the Equinox.  In the Spring, again the daylight and night are in balance but the light is rising toward a perfect day, symbolizing Christ’s victory over darkness where He overturned an unjust death, having never sinned, and rose again to life as the Spring does from Winter’s dead and frozen grip.  Christ’s resurrection occurred right after the Passover had been celebrated, in the Spring of the year. 

Regarding the Solstices, I was first pondering over the symbolism of the Summer Solstice.  That day is all about light, as it contains the most minutes of daylight of any day during the course of the whole year.  At or around noon on that day, when the sun has risen to its zenith, it is a triumph of light – and if the Lord uses the seasons as signs, it represents His Coming in glory, majesty, and light for the world to see!  That insight was confirmed to me through the Spirit with power, and since then, I’ve taken the opportunity to worship the Lord in prayer during that moment of that day, and it has truly been a phenomenal experience. 

So, if the Equinoxes represent atonement and resurrection respectively, and the Summer Solstice symbolizes Christ’s Second Coming, then the Winter Solstice must represent His mortal birth.  How is this the case, though?  Since the apex of light on the Summer Solstice, each day for approximately the last 182 have seen fewer and fewer minutes of light.  Midwinter’s Eve becomes the longest or “darkest” night of the year, so far.  What if the night continued on its path, eating up the minutes of sunlight until none were left?  Sometimes, as I look around at the spiritual darkness in the world, it feels like that’s exactly what happened.  But to save this world from devolving into darkness, destruction and chaos, the Lord condescended to be born into mortality to work out an atonement and attain to the resurrection – to turn the tide of darkness and redeem us with His light and life.  As the sun rises on the morning of the Winter Solstice, the trend is reversed and the sun provides more seconds of light every day from that point forward until it reaches its climax the following June.  But on the day after the solstice, it’s not easy to tell that you had an extra moment of light.  In fact, the world around you will only grow colder for the next couple of months, at least – bitter cold, in some places.  Christ’s mortal birth was a subtle thing, not noticed by mankind generally.  His humble life was not what the Jews were expecting of their Messiah.  And His death on a Roman cross was ignominious – the death of a cursed man.  And yet, that birth and His mortal ministry changed everything. 

It is my hope, this Christmas and on the Winter Solstice tomorrow, that we each take the time to worship the Lord – to praise Him for His goodness and greatness, and to thank Him for His tender mercies and blessings of grace – for His condescension from His heavenly throne to be born a mortal baby in this dark world, for the purpose of bringing us each back into the light. 


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Perfect in Christ (Moroni 8, 10)

Principles of the Atonement: Why Child Baptism Is an Abomination

READ Moroni 8:8, 22-24

Who did the Lord come into this world to call to repentance?

Sinners.

All of us…who are “sick”.

Are little children subject to the Fall or “curse” of Adam?

Yes.

Everyone who is born into this mortal sphere, is subject to the effects of the fall from the moment of their conception – both physical (mortal body) and spiritual (separation from God, fallen nature) deaths.

If Christ is the prototype of the saved being as stated in Lectures on Faith 7:9, what must we all be like to be saved?

Salvation consists of being precisely what Christ is (a just and holy being) and nothing else because He must be perfectly aligned with the Eternal Laws which govern salvation (see LoF 7:9; 3 Nephi 12:48; D&C 88:20-22; D&C 105:4-5; D&C 130:18-21) to be saved.

If Christ was different from what He is or if it was possible for Him to change in the least degree from what He is, He would fail of salvation and lose everything.

And if Christ can only be saved by being precisely like He is, as per eternal law, we must also become precisely as He is to be saved or, by definition, we cannot be saved.  We must be perfect, even as He is now (see D&C 93:13-14) perfect (see 3 Nephi 12:48; 3 Nephi 27:27).

Why are little children “whole” if they are still subject to the effects of the fall?

They are decreed whole by Christ; which He has the right to do, by virtue of His Atonement.

Christ sets the terms by which we can gain His forgiveness and sanctification.

They are not accountable for sin because they lack the ability to discern or really understand the difference between good from evil.

So, what does this imply about “sin”?

There is a difference between committing sin, which requires a capability based on accountability to do so, and being not completely aligned or compliant with eternal law, or in other words, in not being precisely like Christ or not being perfect.

Sin is to knowingly discern the difference between God’s will (good) and what is not His will (evil), and choose the latter; it is to betray yourself, or what you know is right through the Holy Spirit or light of Christ.

Ultimately, we must be perfect as Christ and the Father are or we cannot be saved, but through their mercy and Christ’s merits, we have been given time to become like Christ - to receive grace for grace on the way to receiving a fulness ourselves and becoming precisely like Him (see D&C 93:12-14).

 

READ Moroni 8:9-20

Why is it “solemn mockery before God” to baptize little children?

God is no respecter of persons but is completely fair.

Because little children are not accountable for their actions, they are not capable of committing sin.

Enabled by His atonement, Christ has decreed that those who are not accountable will be saved.

The requirement of baptism for little children supposes that God cannot save who He wants, regardless of the atonement that Christ suffered – He is bound to the performances of mankind, which He cannot have faith in.

It also implies that either He is calloused and uncaring with regards to the millions of children who died before the age of accountability and would be going to hell without baptism or He would have to significantly suspend our agency to ensure that no one died before that age.

But God is not dependent upon the works of mankind; His mercy through Christ’s atonement, makes a way through which justice can be served while those who sinned unknowingly (without accountability) can also be saved. 

What is the relationship between capability to commit sin and accountability for one’s actions?

They are directly connected.

If you are not accountable for your actions, you cannot commit sin.

Although you can act in ways that are not precisely (or even closely) aligned with how Christ acted.

If you are accountable for one’s actions (implied is that you have access to the Holy Spirit or light of Christ and can also discern the difference between good and evil), then any time you betray the guidance you are given through that medium (i.e. betray your higher self or what you know from God to be right), you sin. 

What do we learn about God’s character and attributes from this discourse?

He is not partial or a respecter of persons (see LoF 3:17).

He unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity (see LoF 3:15).

He is filled with a fullness of perfect, everlasting love (see LoF 3:18) and that love is embodied in the sacrifice Christ suffered in His condescension and atonement.

He extends mercy and grace, which is His right because of the atonement (see LoF 3:14).

What implications can we draw from these attributes?

Everyone has an equal privilege and responsibility to exercise faith in Him and seek Him out; He does not play favorites, including through bloodlines or Church callings; He rewards those who keep His commandments (see LoF 3:23).

Without the attribute of unchangeableness, no one could truly have faith in God because there would always be a doubt that He could switch the rules around and what was formerly approved by God is now unapproved, making it extremely difficult to understand what tenants really govern salvation (i.e. polygamy as essential to exaltation under Brigham Young vs. polygamy as excommunicable and damning sin under Joseph F. Smith and all who came after him; see LoF 3:21).

His perfect love for us paired with His omniscience means that we can trust Him explicitly to do what is right by us; He has our best interest at heart; this means that He will and did sacrifice Himself for us (see LoF 3:24; John 15:13).

If it were not for His mercy, we could not have faith in Him when the fullness of our sins and the impossibility of our salvation became truly clear to us, as doubt would overpower our faith, despite the love we feel from Him (see LoF 3:20).

What does it mean that little children are alive in Christ from the foundation of the world?

All things are before the Father’s face - as a God of truth, He can see things as they were, are and will be.

As God is merciful, loving, unchangeable and impartial, He has provided a way for salvation for those who die before they are accountable AND for those who are accountable and abide by the terms of the salvific covenant He has laid out through His doctrine: faith, repentance, baptism in water, baptism by fire, enduring unto the End (Christ Himself) – see 2 Nephi 31-32.

The implication is that Christ’s atonement is timeless within this eternity; in the meridian of time, He atoned for all things stretching back to the “foundation of the world” and through to the end of time.

What is the relationship between perfect love and fear?

Not only are they mutually exclusive, meaning that to the degree one is present, the other is not or cannot be…

But perfect love acts upon fear, while fear exits in the absence of perfect love; love drives out fear but fear cannot drive out love (see 1 John 4:16-19); fear is allowed to fester in the vacuum that exists when love is gone – it is related to doubt and anger (see Moroni 9:5).

Doubt and fear are banished by the love we feel from a perfect being, but it is also banished by the perfect love we feel for God and mankind.

Why is a person who believes in the need for child baptism without faith, hope or charity?

He has no faith that God can do what He says He can do; He does not know the true attributes of God, and this prevents His ability to exercise true faith in a living God (see LoF 3:2-5).

Without faith in the living God, a person will never receive a hope or promise of their salvation from Christ.

And without a promise of salvation and the mighty change of heart (baptism of fire), they will not be offered the gift of charity, which is a spiritual gift given to true followers of Christ who have been changed spiritually.

 

READ Moroni 8:25-26

What is the relationship between baptism and repentance?

“Planting” repentance in one’s heart “yields” or results in, as a natural process, baptism (of water and fire).

It results in the baptism of water as the person seeks a way to demonstrate to God that they are willing to sacrifice their whole soul to God and turn to Him – and the rite of baptism is symbolic of our wish to do this.

It results in the baptism of fire since God will accept the sacrifice of the whole soul (demonstrated through repentance or turning one’s heart to God) made in covenant to Him through water baptism by baptizing that person with fire or the Holy Ghost.

What is the relationship between fulfilling the commandments and remission of sins?

We fulfill the commandments when we exercise faith unto repentance, are baptized and offer our whole soul, a broken heart and contrite spirit or in other words, meekness and lowliness of heart; these are the requirements for entering in by the Gate (see 2 Nephi 31:9-13, 17-21).

When we fulfill these commandments with real intent, we will know our covenant has been accepted when we receive a remission of sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

We then go on to abide in the covenant we have entered into by following that the new heart we’ve been given (desiring to “do good”) by following all of the commandments we’ve been given, and then repenting as quickly as possible when we betray ourselves and fail to do so. 

How does love endure with us during this mortal life?

Through prayer.

We must continually connect with God to be filled with His love; we must be one through receiving His Mind or the Holy Spirit and quickened or filled with His glory and light.

Love and light are dynamic, like the seasons of the sun or the light of the moon, they are either waxing or waning in this world – it is the same within us.

 

 

Knowing All Things

READ Moroni 10:1-2

Why does Moroni address these verses (Moroni 10:3-23) to the Lamanites and not to the Gentiles?

Because Moroni has seen that in the last days, they are the ones who will not take the Book of Mormon lightly but will embrace the book, follow its teachings and follow the example of those whose testimonies are contain in it, and receive the promised blessings of the Fullness of the Gospel for themselves.

Only a few of us (Gentiles) will, although the offer is there for all (see Ether 12:23, 26, 36-38).

 

READ Moroni 10:3

Why is God’s mercy to mankind from Adam to the present, as articulated in the Book of Mormon, the topic on which Moroni wishes his readers to ponder?

Fully realizing our nothingness as unprofitable servants and God’s mercy and grace (both completely undeserved) towards us from the fall of Adam down to His daily support of and interventions in your life, and the price Christ paid through the Atonement to be able to offer that mercy, is required if we are to understand our need for Christ and be motivated to come to unto Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit or the sacrifice of our whole souls, which is required of us if we are to enter in by the Gate and experience the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost.

This is the experience (baptism of fire or birth of the Spirit) that the Book of Mormon was designed to teach us about (in power and clarity) and motivate us to seek after and experience for ourselves.

After receiving this gift and entering in by the Gate, we will have the Holy Spirit with us constantly – be transformed by it (the Mind of God or record of Heaven) and can know the truth of all things.

But our nothingness and absolute need (called “being born again to see” or receiving the gift of godly sorrow) is first required if we are to reach out to Christ with our whole souls (see Alma 36:12-18; Omni 1:26); if we don’t receive this “gift” of insight regarding our fundamental need for Christ, we will not offer the required sacrifice of our whole souls – it will be seen by us as too great a sacrifice. 

And the Book of Mormon teaches the principles of the fall of man and our nothingness and God’s mercy more clearly than any other book.

 

READ Moroni 10:4-5

Why does God require that we pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, rather than providing more compelling proof?

He wants people to believe and follow the doctrine of Christ laid out in the Book because they have begun to have a relationship directly with Him, through the Holy Spirit.

He wants people to receive a direct witness, through spiritual means – to experience hearing from Him – connecting with Him themselves so that THEY can know Him – not rely on the testimonies of those in the Book

The Spirit, bearing testimony to the truth, is the basis for all conversion to Christ.

The process disconnects the individual from the way in which things are usually learned (from mortal experts or authority figures) and connects them with a new form of learning (directly from Him via the Holy Spirit or mind of God).

If He just provided traditional earthly proof, the great majority would “believe” the Book but would not go on to know God by following its principles – which is the whole point of the Book in the first place: to connect us each directly to God in a redemptive covenant relationship.

Why does knowing the truth of the Book of Mormon require a sincere heart, real intent and faith in Christ?

You must desire to know before God will tell you the truth; because as soon as you are told the truth, you must act and the actions required will change your life as you submit to God’s will instead of your own; these are not things to enter into lightly.

God will not violate your agency; you must ask (exercise faith) before He will give you an answer.

When you act in faith on the small, initial feelings you gain when you inquire of the Lord regarding the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, they will grow stronger until they transcend feelings alone and become the whispering of God’s voice into your mind.

Ultimately, the mighty change of heart through the baptism of fire is the proof to you; the Book taught you truths which you followed and are now a fundamentally different person than you were before – something no amount of self-help books, will power, or therapy could have done.

Does the Holy Ghost really have the capacity to reveal all truth?

Yes.

The Holy Spirit knows all things and if we associate ourselves with it so that it is within us, we can comprehend and know all things or mysteries of Godliness, too (see Moses 6:61; Alma 26:22; 1 Nephi 10:19; D&C 76:7).

The Holy Ghost is only constrained by us, but we are a constraint! (see Alma 12:9-11; Jacob 4:8; Moses 1:5; Alma 40:3).

Everyone has access to all truth; the Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “it is your privilege to purify yourselves and come up to the same glory, and see for yourselves, and know for yourselves. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 8:10-11; TPJS 19:1; Joel 2:28; Alma 32:22-23).

There is nothing off limits. It is possible to ask for something you may not yet be prepared for, but by asking, things are set in motion and those on the other side of the veil begin to help prepare us. When we are prepared, we receive the answer. The answer is set into motion as a consequence of the laws of God, one of which requires us to ask. Blessings are predicated on laws. But it may take years of development and preparation for us to receive the answer because we are not yet ready. God’s answer will almost always be “yes.” However, if you are not ready for the response, then He will work through a period of renovation and repair required before the answer can be given. How long the tutoring lasts depends on each individual.

How do we get the Holy Ghost and the truth it reveals?

We receive light and truth by obedience to the Gospel.

Obedience to the commandments (aligning ourselves with eternal law or God’s frequency) connects us to God through the Spirit.

We are sanctified or quickened through receiving His Spirit and we are changed, or our capacity to receive more light, truth, Spirit, or intelligence is increased, until we receive a fullness or become one with Him or “single” to His glory (see D&C 93:12-14; TPJS 390-393; D&C 88:67-68).

The falsehoods we prize in this toxic environment keep us from receiving answers from God. As soon as you turn away from world and turn to the truth, God begins to repair your soul. He will only enter a temple that is holy… which temple we are. Your body is His temple. The Lord whom you seek shall come suddenly to His temple. But it must not be defiled, therefore repent and be clean.

What are the differences between how God offers wisdom and truth vs. how the world seeks to gain it and dispense it?

Power comes from connection to God via the Holy Spirit (see D&C 132:7; D&C 121:37).

Power from the Holy Ghost is available to all (see Alma 32:23; 2 Nephi 26:33), as they align their lives with God’s “frequency” or light via keeping His commandments (aligning their mind and actions with eternal law) and as they ask for further light and knowledge or blessings.

But revelation is “messy” (from man’s perspective) as the Lord will share what He will, when He will and to whom He will, and the whole of it is rarely shared with a single person, as to do so, they could no longer remain in the flesh (see Moses 1:5); so by definition, everyone on earth has holes in their knowledge and understanding which may present themselves as paradoxes or be incomprehensible and seem irrational without the missing light and knowledge, and require faith in God to believe.

However, the world does not trust the Holy Ghost but puts its trust in scholarship, priestly authority, and councils of men.

In addition, sophistication and credential are required of earthly learning to make it acceptable to and respected by the world.

And worldly learning must be gestalt – it must hold together on rational grounds as an appealing and holistic theological or scientific construct and cannot be held to ransom by the whims of revelation and the “supernatural” (see JSH 1:19).

But there is nothing noteworthy in skepticism; all people have it to one degree or another and must wage a battle to overcome it, as it is a default position for everyone on earth.

Those who have the faith to part the veil despite their many weaknesses and receive the ministry of angels and behold the Lord are brave in the face of unbelief, disbelief, cynicism and their own unworthiness.

Those who do not have the faith to part the veil depend upon science, scholarship and priestly authority and while they are “ever learning”, they never come to a knowledge of the truth (see 2 Timothy 3:7).

 

READ Moroni 10:6-7

Is there a difference between “knowing that Christ is, by the power of the Holy Ghost” and “knowing that Christ is, with a surety?”

Knowing that Christ is by the power of the Holy Ghost requires that one “deny not His power” or gifts.

It requires that one understand God’s character and attributes – that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, so that they can exercise the requisite faith needed.

Knowing that Christ is with a surety requires that one feel the wounds in His side, hands and feet (see 3 Nephi 11:14-15).

Knowing that Christ is by the power of the Holy Ghost is preparatory to knowing that Christ is with a surety; but that’s where it leads if pursued – “the enquiry frequently terminated, indeed, always terminated when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty” (LoF 2:56); there are no more glorious discoveries than to know that Christ is the God of Israel and was slain for the sins of the world with a surety (3 Nephi 11:8-17), and no revelation of your standing before God will be given you with more eternal certainty than that given by Himself when He stand before you, a living being with wounds which prove to all mortals and now to you, that He is who He says He is and did what He said He did – and can decree you saved.

 

 

The Power and Gifts of God

READ Moroni 10:8

Why would the Lamanites in the latter days deny the gifts of God to the degree that Moroni must warn them against it?

The Lamanites seem to be an inherently more spiritual people, with very different cultural values (community vs individual) and beliefs (spiritual vs scientific) than “Anglos” or Gentiles (this is from my experience with the Navajo and Zuni and the research I have done on the Lakota); for example, it is interesting that the prevalence of Navajo witch stories (or “skinwalker”; yee naaldlooshii in Navajo) near the borders of the reservation are much higher than in the deep or interior reservation areas, as the characteristics of the witch matches what it takes to be successful in American culture – they are cautionary tales to the tribe members to beware of the selfish, individualistic traits that Gentiles value.

So the warning would need to be given because the latter day Lamanite Remnant have been influenced heavily by us, the Gentiles (including both the general western culture and specifically, the latter-day Gentile Church), to discount or deny the gifts and power of God;

Without our faith destroying influences, they are much less likely to deny the gifts and power of God than Gentiles are, as they are more inherently believing and attuned to spiritual frequencies than we are (both light and dark) – or at least that has been my overriding experience; I don’t know if the “blood of Israel” and their genetics (physical or spiritual) plays a part in this or it is just a cultural phenomenon, but it’s been demonstrable to a statistically significant degree, albeit anecdotally.

What does it mean that “there are different ways that these gifts are administered” but it is the “same God who worketh all in all”?

As each individual who receives a gift is unique, the way their gifts are manifested through the Holy Spirit, which has quickened that person to be able to use their gifts, will be different from individual to individual because the Spirit is working through the unique person; in addition the light and knowledge they have each personally accumulated (and in the way it was accumulated, which shapes them) is different from person to person – and differs over time within the same person.

It is not like a magic spell from Harry Potter which each student must learn to perform perfectly according to the law that governs such magic; spiritual gifts work at the level of the individual’s spirit and how it interacts with the divine (in the form of the Holy Spirit which fills the immensity of space and gives light and life to all things) to transform the individual’s spirit, making it holy or a holy spirit or a “holy ghost” within them; but as none are yet “precisely like Christ” because they have not yet attained to the fullness, the manifestations of that holy spirit (these spiritual gifts) will be different from person to person.

What is God’s purpose in giving us spiritual gifts?

For mankind to profit from them.

To enable us to bless each other’s lives (see D&C 46:12).

 

READ Moroni 10:9-16

What is the difference between the “word of wisdom” and the “word of knowledge”?

Wisdom = the right use or exercise of knowledge to the choicest of laudable ends, usually gained through experience; discerning or judging what is most just, proper, useful and best (see Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).

Knowledge = a clear and certain perception of that which exists, or of truth and fact; illumination of the mind; acquaintance with or cognizance of a fact, skill or person; gained through observation and experience (see Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).

Wisdom is associated with the female divine while knowledge is associated with the male divine (see Proverbs 8:1-11; 1 Samuel 23:23).

What might be “different ways” the spiritual gifts listed might be “administered”?

Teach the word of wisdom: teach wisdom in ways that only the wise can discern (1 Corinthians 2:4-7); receive wisdom from God (James 1:5); teach line upon line (2 Nephi 28:30); as a remedial vehicle when someone’s faith has failed them such that they can’t go to God directly for wisdom (D&C 88:118).

Teach the word of knowledge: through experience (Moses 4:11, 28; Isaiah 53:11; Alma 32:33-34); carefully (Proverbs 12:23; Alma 12:9); through the Spirit (Alma 18:35); through study (D&C 9:8).

Exceedingly great faith: by sacrifice (LoF 6:7; Hebrews 11:4, 17); through one’s actions (James 2:14-20); a principle of power (LoF 1:13-17; Moses 7:13; Ether 12;12); through trial (Ether 12:6); unto repentance (Alma 34:17); to be saved (3 Nephi 27:19).

Gifts of healing: through the verbal word or command (Acts 3:6); physical acts (2 Kings 5:14; John 9:14); touching (Matthew 14:36); bestowing virtue or the transfer of spiritual power or light or energy from the healer to the one being healed (Luke 6:19; Luke 8:43-48).

Work mighty miracles: to show forth God’s power (Exodus 3:20); to bless (Mark 1:34); to curse (1 Kings 18:18-40).

Prophesy concerning all things: through dreams (Genesis 37:6-9); through instruments (Genesis 44:2-5; Abraham 3:1-4); through visions (1 Nephi 1:5-6); through visitations (JSH 1:30-43); through ascending the fiery portal to heaven (Revelation 4:1-11).

Beholding of ministering angels and spirits: as if they were men (Genesis 18:2; Hebrews 13:2); to protect (1 Nephi 3:28-30); to call to repentance (Mosiah 27:11-17); to minister (Matthew 4:11); to teach (2 Nephi 11-12).

All kinds of tongues including interpretation of languages and tongues: to preach the gospel in the language of those who are listening (Acts 2:4-8); as a sign to disbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22); to speak to God in His language (1 Corinthians 14:2); to interpret for the edification of all (1 Corinthians 14:5-13).

 

READ Moroni 10:17-18

What does “they come unto every man severally, according as he will” mean?

Each person receives spiritual gifts, as they come with the light or Spirit of Christ which supports all life and is given to every person (see D&C 84:46).

They don’t all come to an individual (no one person has all the spiritual gifts) but “several” of them come to each person (see D&C 46:11).

While spiritual gifts “come of” or come “because of” Christ, they come to every person according “as he will” or “to the degree he or she wants them and seeks after them with their will or desire”; if this meant, “according to the will of God” it would have said “according to His will” (see also D&C 46:8; 1 Corinthians 12:31; D&C 11:10).

Implied is that the spiritual gifts we are given are the ones we seek after in faith and are our deepest desire (which helps to constrain the number of gifts given to each person – they get what they really want but can’t “wish for more wishes”).

 

READ Moroni 10:19, 24-25

Why might the power of God and spiritual gifts be done away?

Because of unbelief – or believing in things that are wrong.

It is interesting that he doesn’t call out wickedness; it is because wickedness is by definition anything that is unaligned with God’s will and Eternal Law.

Believing things that are wrong or not believing the truth will lead you right to sin because you will not know enough to avoid sin, much less to be saved or to manufacture the faith required to part the veil receive a hope from Christ (TPJS 400:2; TPJS 245:2-246:1; TPJS 388:3). 

However, the fact that we all have the light of Christ given to us means that just because one was taught “unbelief” or things that are wrong by their parents or church or society doesn’t mean that they are unaccountable or absolved – they have still betrayed themselves in turning away from the Spirit which whispered quietly to them that something was wrong with what they were being taught.

The bottom line is that if people refuse to listen to the Spirit and believe things that are wrong, they will act in ways aligned with their beliefs and as a result, they will not come unto Christ and the power of God and spiritual gifts which accompany a connection with God will no longer be manifested among them. 

What kinds of unbelief might lead people to lose the gifts and power of God?

Belief that God has changed and given His power or the “keys” of His power unto men (see 2 Nephi 28:5).

Belief that outward performances controlled by men with earthly authority can substitute for an association with heaven (all the way from the mighty change at the receipt of the baptism of fire to receiving the Second Comforter and being sanctified and purified as Christ is pure).

Belief that one is chosen when one has only been called; that there is no additional revelation needed, that we are already Zion or could easily build it as soon as we are commanded to do so by our leaders, and as long as we “stay in the Good Ship Zion” until we are “safely dead”, that the “odds are that we’ll be exalted” because they “can’t be led astray”.

What is Moroni’s definition of “good”?

His definition of “good” is being filled with and displaying or working by the power and gifts of God.

 

READ Moroni 10:27-29, 34

Whose words are Moroni speaking?

God’s words; not just God’s concepts or Moroni’s ideas about God’s concepts – these are quotes from God via the Holy Spirit or direct visitation.

Let there be no doubt about it; because at the judgement bar of God, it will be confirmed to you by Moroni and likely by God Himself.

How will the Judgement Bar of God be “pleasing”?

If you have already been told the positive outcome of the Judgement Bar by He to whom judgement is given – Christ, then it will be pleasing.  In other words, if you have received a hope or promise of salvation (see LoF 6:2-6) and lived valiant to the testimony Christ gave to you. 

 

 

Perfect in Christ

READ Moroni 10:20-23

Why must there also be hope if there is faith?

Because true faith leads inextricably to receiving a hope or promise of salvation from Christ!  It’s not that it might lead there if you’re lucky or have a high calling or the Lord feels the need to give you a “cherry on top” spiritual experience – faith in Christ leads to receiving a hope or promise from Christ in the flesh (see LoF 2:54-56; 2 Nephi 32:1-7; D&C 132:21-26), as Moroni is telling us here.

Why can’t you be saved in the Kingdom of God without faith, hope and charity?

To be saved in the kingdom of God requires that you are precisely like Christ, the prototype of the saved being (see LoF 7:9); becoming like Him is to be filled with charity (see Moroni 7:48).

One cannot obtain a fullness of charity unless one becomes a Son of God (see Moroni 7:48); this relationship is sealed upon you by Christ when He gives you a promise or hope of salvation.

And one cannot receive the Second Comforter or this hope of salvation unless you sacrifice all things in faith unto Him in covenant which you abide by, so that your standing before Him is pleasing to Him (see LoF 6:2-7).

If you have not received a hope or promise of your salvation from Christ during your mortal life, why are you in despair?

You will not be able to manufacture the faith required to be saved, as you will have sufficient doubt in your mind as to your standing (see LoF 6:8-12).

You will fear entering, unprepared and without knowing you are forgiven, into the presence of God and will rather wish you were extinct than face Him (see Alma 36:12-17; Mormon 9:2-5); you will despair.

Why have you not received a hope?

Iniquity.

Lack of faith caused by unbelief or believing things that are not true and/or not believing things that are true.

The sad thing is that all of us have iniquity within us – we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – but unbelief or believing things that are not true have will divert us (if we don’t overcome them through humbling seeking after the guidance of the Spirit regarding what is true and then repenting) from truly repenting of that iniquity and seeking after receiving a hope or promise from Christ in the flesh, and if we don’t actively seek after Christ, we won’t come unto Him – it won’t happen based on luck and He won’t violate our agency by appearing to us unbidden or unlooked for.

What things are expedient unto Christ?

Expedient = being urged because it is profitable and quick (see Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).

That we receive a hope of our salvation from Christ.

How can we do what is expedient for us to do, at Christ’s command, and part the veil to receive a hope or promise from Him of our salvation?

We must exercise faith in Christ unto salvation (see Ether 3:13); faith that He can save even fallen and lost souls such as us, faith that leads to action, as if it was a 100% certainty.

The action is: come unto Him and rend the veil in faith, offering our whole souls to Him and believing that He will save us because He loves us and has attained to the atonement and resurrection – even though when the veil is parted and we see Him, His glory will overpower us and we will want to recoil in fear. 

What good news is implied by this?

That Christ wants us to part the veil and receive this hope.

That we can do it if we exercise faith in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

That many in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures have done this and entered into the Rest of the Lord or fullness of His glory; and if they have and His Way is unchangeable, then we can to – and we must if His work and glory is to be accomplished.

This is the fullness of the gospel which has never changed and He has offered it to us from the beginning, free of charge – all are free to come, who will come.

 

READ Moroni 10:30-33

What does it mean to come unto Christ and by so doing lay hold on every good gift?

Moroni is exhorting or begging us all to exercise the faith in Christ required to part the veil and know Him for ourselves, that He may bless us with the choice blessings of exaltation that He has prepared for us!

Every good gift comes through the one gift which is our immortality and eternal life. 

What is the evil gift or unclean thing?

Any other gift than Christ’s gift of exaltation.

Like the Aesop’s Fable of the Dog and his reflection – having obtained a prize (meat), he sees his reflection in the water as he crosses a bridge and wants the meat that the “other dog” he sees is holding so he opens his mouth to seize the other piece of meat and loses his own prize in the river – we can only “lay hold” to one kind of gift, either they are good or they are evil and unclean; if we try to grab the unclean we will lose the good gift and end up with less than we could have received; this is particularly sad when the good gift was given to us in grace (it is undeserved by us) but we did not care enough about it to prize it and keep it safe.

Why does Moroni raise the alarm to the House of Israel to “awake and arise”?

They are still asleep – they cannot see – they are dreaming and think they are awake!  They are laying down in the dirt unconscious, unaware of the blessings that are theirs to claim if they will just awake and get up and “put them on”.

Why does Moroni use the metaphor of the clothing and tents?

Both speak to covering what needs to be covered to protect something valuable within.

Beautiful clothing or garments are “glorious” but also provide life sustaining protection from the elements.

Tents protect those within from the elements but need to be big enough to accommodate all those who would seek refuge within them.

Clothing is for a single person; tents cover a family who live together – they provide a “house” (in this case, a house of God); but the body is also a covering or “clothing” which provides a “house” for a spirit – which can also be a temple or “house of God” which He has promised to come to.

The Wedding Feast requires a “garment” for each individual to wear, given by the Host, to enable them to be dressed appropriately as a member of the family (adopted through covenant) to enter the “House”, for the celebration (see Matthew 22:2-14).

What is the connection between coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him, and putting on the beautiful garments?

The Lord prepared the beautiful garments to cover your nakedness from the skins of beasts that sacrificed themselves at His hand.

But rams are not always found in thickets, and the “skins” of the beasts used to create the wedding garment for you is the light Christ gained by sacrificing Himself for you in Gethsemane!  For you are clothed in His light to cover your sins in the presence of God or in other words, you are “perfect in Christ”.

You must come unto Him in the flesh to be clothed with light so that you can enter the presence of the Father and be sealed up to eternal life (see 2 Nephi 32:6; D&C 88:75; Mosiah 5:15). 

Why does Moroni say “be perfected in Him” rather than “perfect yourself in Him”?

Christ does the perfecting.

It is His garment – he “wove” the fabric and sewed the cloth when He wrought the atonement.

He is the one who clothes us in it.

We need only come unto Him in faith and to receive the gift.

What does it mean to be “perfect in Christ”?

Perfect means to wear the Wedding Garment of light, provided to us by the Lord through His sacrifice.

He has declared us clean, through His merits, not our own (see D&C 88:75).

It enables us to abide the glory of God – to be “perfect” from God’s perspective because we are one with the Lord, whose glory we have borrowed or been clothed in, until the day that we might follow Him in all things and attain to the resurrection ourselves.

What does it mean to be “perfected in Christ”?

Perfected means that through our experience and His succor, He will see us perfected or become precisely as He is (see Alma 7:11-13; D&C 122:7-9; LoF 7:9, 15-16; TPJS 390-393).

Joseph implies that this will not all happen in this life and that there is a world/life or worlds/lives to come (see D&C 130:18-21; TPJS 391-393; D&C 132:24-25).

What is the end result of sanctification?

That we become holy, without spot (see Alma 13:11-12).

That we become precisely like Christ (see 3 Nephi 12:48; LoF 7:9, 15-16).

Christ is our example in all things, how did He become perfect?

He continued from grace to grace and from exaltation to exaltation until He received a fullness (see D&C 93:12-14; TPJS 391:2).

He did what His Father did – He atoned for the sins of “His children” during a mortal probation and attained to the resurrection Himself (see TPJS 390-391).

What must we do to be perfected in Christ?

Deny ourselves ALL ungodliness.

Love God with ALL our might, mind and strength.

In NOWISE deny the power of God.

Repent and work righteousness (see Alma 13:7-10).

Sacrifice all things and learn from suffering – becoming sanctified in the process (see Hebrews 2:10; LoF 6:7; 1 Peter 5:10; Alma 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:12; Helaman 3:34-35).

Overcome our weakness by coming unto Christ in humility (see Ether 12:27; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Keep His commandments and continue from grace to grace that we may also be received into His presence to be called a Son or Daughter of God, that we might be one or perfected or like Him and able to abide the Eternal Law that He abides by (see D&C 93:12-14, 20; Ether 3:20; Ether 4:6-7; John 17:21; 3 Nephi 19:23, 29; John 17:23; D&C 88:22, 34; LoF 7:9, 15-16; TPJS 390-393).

  

In conclusion, the grace of God, through the atonement of Christ, provides us a covenant from the Father through which we will BECOME holy, without spot or precisely as He and Christ are, not that we ARE holy and without spot now.  We have a covenant that we must exercise faith in.  He promises us that He will make us precisely as Christ is, but the only Way is for us to do precisely what Christ did.   Christ is now our Father and we must eventually progress from eternity to eternity until we, ourselves, are able to lay down our bodies and take them up again, or in other words, attain to the resurrection of the dead and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, so that we tread in the tracks of our new Father, Jehovah, and inherit what He did before, and Jehovah and Ahman are thus glorified and exalted in the exaltation of others of their children – meaning us (see TPJS 390-393). 

 This is the doctrine and covenant taught over and over again in the Book of Mormon that the Gentile Church is under condemnation for taking lightly.  Now the question for each of us is this: will you lay your whole soul on the altar and come unto Christ in this life or not?  He knocks at the door, inviting us to open to Him – calling after us as a shepherd, seeking to gather us as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings - in His embrace as He did each Nephite at the Temple in Bountiful.  Will you leave your life of sin and unbelief behind and come?

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