Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Law of the Lord (D&C 4 & 42) QUESTIONS

 READ D&C 38:32 and D&C 42:2-3

Why is God giving the Saints His Law?

 

 

The Lord’s First Commandment: Missionary Work to the Lamanites

 

READ D&C 42:4-9

Why is the Lord’s first commandment that the Saints go spread the gospel?

Those preaching the gospel are commanded to lift up their voices “as with the sound of a trump;” what is the trumpet a symbol of in scripture?

 

READ D&C 28:8-9, D&C 45:64-71 and Ether 13:6-12

Who is to build the New Jerusalem in America?

Where is the New Jerusalem to be built?

 

READ D&C 42:11-17

Why is authority to teach so important?

What is the alternative if a teacher or leader has not received the Spirit?

Why were the missionaries unsuccessful in converting or even finding the Remnant?

 

 

The Law of Consecration

 

READ D&C 42:29-34, 38-39, 53-55

What does consecrate mean?

To whom do our resources belong?

What does the Lord ask us to consecrate?

What is the purpose of consecration?

How was the Law of Consecration instituted in the 1830s?

Tithing took the place of the law of consecration; when do you think the Church will reinstitute consecration in our day?

So, how should we live the law of consecration today?

What is the relationship between the Law of Consecration, the “Golden Rule” (see Matthew 7:12) and the “Second Great Commandment” (see Mark 12:29-31)?

Who is our “neighbor”; who should we be consecrating our substance and time to help?

To whom do we make such consecrations, as the Church will not currently use them in the way laid out in these scriptures?

Why is it important that what we give for the support of the poor be consecrated?

What is a surplus; how much of your resources should you righteously use for yourself/family and how much should you dedicate to helping others?

How do we consecrate our surplus to support others?

Why does the Lord want us to sacrifice all things?

Why would we want to consecrate all things?

 

READ D&C 4:2-7

What is the “work” to which we are called?

What do these verses describe?

 

READ D&C 42:42

What does this verse imply about those who receive support?

Before the twentieth century, there was no such thing as the “idle poor” because they would not have been able to survive without some kind of labor (i.e. begging would count as labor in this instance), so what did “idle” refer to when this revelation was given in the 1830’s?

 

 

The Laws of God

 

READ D&C 42:18-26

These verses mention three sins: lying, lust, and adultery; what is the relationship between these three sins?

 

READ D&C 42:43-52

Does the Lord wish that everyone had the faith to be healed?

What promises does the believing person who lacks faith (in this case, to be healed), but receives a blessing from the elders, have from the Lord?

What does it mean to die “in me” and is that different than dying “unto me”?

What does it mean that those who die “in Christ” shall not “taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them”?

 

READ D&C 42:61

What is the relationship between revelation and eternal law?

Why must we ask to receive these things?

 

READ D&C 42:59-60, 65-66

What is the relationship between obedience to eternal law and salvation?

 

READ D&C 42:78-93

What is the punishment for those who break the commandments?

What is the relationship between the Law of Consecration and the other Laws of God laid out here?

 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Gospel & The Church (D&C 20)

This section of the D&C was composed by Oliver Cowdery prior to meeting with Joseph Smith, then adjusted to reflect the restoration of a New Testament model church being sought after the LDS Campbellite converts like Sydney Rigdon. 

 

READ D&C 21:1, 4-5

What do these verses teach about how we should regard the words of the prophet Joseph Smith?

Receive the words of JS as if they were right from Christ’s mouth…because they were; Christ gave Joseph the words to say and he dictated them.

It does not say to receive anyone else’s words that way and it doesn’t say to receive anyone else who is the Church President that way – it says, “Joseph Smith”.

But the commandment is bounded: “give heed unto all his words…as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me”; in other words, we are to give heed to the words Joseph receives directly from Christ, which he is enabled to receive while he is walking in holiness”; it doesn’t say we should believe as gospel truth every single thing that Joseph Smith said.

 

READ D&C 20:2-4

Why was Joseph Smith called the first elder?

To the degree that an organization, with its inherent hierarchy, was required in order to establish a church, you had to have someone who was called to be an elder first.

The Lord established an order which gave Joseph Smith preeminence over all others; this is due to Joseph’s being called to be a dispensation head, someone who had a “dispensation” (that which is dispensed or bestowed; the act of dealing out to different persons, including God to His creatures – Websters 1828 Dictionary) of knowledge to give to mankind which was grander than others had been given at the time and which contradicted the apostate traditions of traditional Christianity.

Likely, this was because Joseph had been in the presence of God and angels, was receiving the oracles or revelations of God, and was a true prophet; and to enable the most truth to be revealed and accepted by the Gentile saints, who love a strongman “benefactor” model (see Matthew 20:20-28; Luke 22:24-27), the Lord ensured that His prophet was at the top of the org chart (see D&C 28:2); this is not to say that others couldn’t have stepped up (which was what Joseph was trying to do with the restoration of the High Priesthood, the School of the Prophets, and after Nauvoo the restoration of the “ancient order of things”) but only Hyrum really ever did and not until after Liberty jail. 

Why was Oliver called the second elder?

Like with Moses, after the children of Israel had failed to ascend Mount Sinai to know God for themselves, and the Lord called Aaron to be a spokesperson to Moses, Oliver was called to be a helper to Joseph but one with a role as a witness of angels and the plates of the Book of Mormon (see D&C 28:1-7; Testimony of the Three Witnesses), not of God Himself.  But again, that’s due to his failure to ascend, not because of God’s love of hierarchy or organizational structure. 

That being said, God’s house is a House of Order and people are given roles to perform (usually for their own edification) by Him due to the amount of light they had previously gained and the needs God may have for servants in a particular time and place to enable His will or work and glory to be manifested and accomplished. 

To what does the word “this” refer in the first phrase of verse 4?

The calling of “weak” people to assist in the work of the Lord and receive glory and blessings for so doing, particularly Oliver, as the “and” in verse 4 which seems to refer to the preceding verse which documents Oliver’s calling.

These callings to serve are given to the weak by the grace of Christ, meaning that they are undeserved by us but given to us by Him regardless; again, we think of them as honors, but God sees them as development opportunities.

What does it mean to say that something is “according to the grace of our Lord”?

Grace = undeserved blessings.

If something is done or a gift is given according to the grace of the Lord, it is undeserved and unfair or unearned; it is a gift or “boon” or favor given by a Lord to His undeserving but loved vassal or servant.

What does the phrase “to whom be all glory, both now and forever” mean? What does that phrase tell us?

We are the weak things of the earth and mankind is “nothing” (see Moses 1:10).

The glory or praise for any good thing on this earth, including the fact that we even have an earth with life on it, should all go to Christ who elements these are, and who is sustaining us from moment to moment (see Mosiah 2:21-25).

When Christ redeems this world and presents it to His Father, the glory that was earned here will also be His, up to and including the souls to became “sons and daughters of God” and were saved.

 

 

The Gospel of Christ

 

READ D&C 20:5-12

What does it mean to receive a remission of sin?

Remission = abatement, relaxation; diminution of intensity; release or discharge or relinquishment of a claim or right; forgiveness or pardon; the act of sending back.

Remission of sin implies that the punishment affixed to a broken law (which is a definition of sin = the breaking or contradicting of eternal law, i.e. to be misaligned with or contrary to God, who perfectly lives eternal law) is paid.

It does not mean that the individual was exonerated or proven to be falsely accused or wrongly convicted.

What does the phrase “vanities of the world” mean?

The world prizes “vain” things or things that are empty, worthless, ineffectual, petty or trifling but appear to be valuable, and perhaps are helpful in attaining success, as defined by the world, but have no value eternally.

Do we know to what angelic visitation verse 6 refers?

Traditionally, this refers to the visit of Moroni to Joseph Smith in 1823 (see JSH 1:28-35).

Both The Times & Seasons (vol 3 p749, 753), which Joseph Smith edited, and the 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price says it was Nephi (son of Lehi) who visited Joseph Smith in 1823, not Moroni. 

What does this teach us about how the Lord calls people to His holy work?

He sends angels with verbatim messages from God, calling people to specific tasks which enable the fullfillment of His work and glory (see 20:6-7, 11-12).

He inspires people with commandments (the mortal embodiment of eternal laws) and gives them spiritual power from heaven which passes through the veil or is enabled by physical tools prepared by God, and enables them to perform tasks they would not otherwise be able to accomplish. 

How can commandments inspire us?

If the commandments are the codification to what it means to be like God (i.e. keeping the commandments means abiding by the Eternal Law, as Christ kept all the commandments during His mortality and was deemed perfect and did not warrant death), and acting in alignment with them brings light to our spirits, then commandments inspire us or infuse us with light (see definition of “inspire” in 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).

Commandments set the expectations we must meet to become like God; they can inspire us to a higher level of righteousness.

What does it mean that Joseph was given power to translate “by the means which were before prepared”?

The Urim and Thummim was prepared by God and given to the ancient Nephite prophets for inclusion with the golden plates.

But several years before receiving the Urim and Thummim, Joseph found a seer stone while digging a well; this was not by chance and the Lord allowed Joseph to hone his skill in using the stone before He gave him the Urim and Thummim; in fact, he was so comfortable and effective with its use that he translated the majority of the book with the seer stone, not the Urim and Thummim.

The Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is contained within the Book of Mormon; what is it?

It is the path from “awaking” to the reality of our awful fallen state, having faith in Christ to save you, repenting of your sins and turning to God, entering the Gate back to God’s presence through the covenant of baptism and being baptized by fire as a result of successfully offering the sacrifice of one’s whole soul, and abiding in that covenant to the end, who is Jesus Christ (see 2 Nephi 31-32), after which He will teach you what you must do next.

What are the purposes of the Book of Mormon?

To teach and testify of the true Fullness of the Gospel of Christ.

To prove that the other scriptures are true; i.e. to be a measurement against which the words in the Bible (or any other revelation you might yourself receive) can be judged to ascertain truth.

To show that God continues to reveal truth to people in the modern day and calls people as His servants to do His work.

To illustrate that God is the same throughout time and to imply that if you are not receiving the same kinds of experiences and having the same relationship with God as were those who you read about in the Book of Mormon, you’re doing something wrong!  Really it means that you are not living the Fullness of the Gospel of Christ, as contained in the Book – you are taking it lightly and under condemnation because of this (see D&C 84:54-58).

When verse 10 says the Book of Mormon was given by inspiration, is it referring to the inspiration the Lord gave the Book of Mormon prophets or to the inspiration He gave to Joseph Smith in the translation process?

Both.

The book was written by the Nephites under inspiration – Mormon, Moroni and Nephi all saw our day and wrote with us (really they wrote to the remnant of their seed) in mind.

Joseph Smith, a Nineteenth Century farm boy with 3 years of formal education, used seeric tools to translate an ancient record, clearly under the inspiration of heaven.

How did the coming forth of the Book of Mormon prepare the way for the restoration of the gospel?

It was the tool or vehicle through which the Fullness of the Gospel was restored to the earth – its pages detail the Gospel in truth and clarity. 

The restoration of the Fullness of the Gospel is contained in the Book – not in the person of Joseph Smith;

When the verse says the Book of Mormon “is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels,” of whom is it speaking?

The 3 Witnesses – Cowdery, Whitmer and Harris.

Anyone else to whom angels minister in our day to confirm the truth of the book – either through visitation, dream, or inspiration through the Holy Spirit to their soul.

Who is it that declares the Book of Mormon to the world?

Ministering angels declare the Book of Mormon, through the Holy Spirit.

What proves to the world that the scriptures are true?

The Book of Mormon proves the Bible to the degree that it testifies of it and provides another witness of its teachings and testimony.

The angels who declare the Book of Mormon to people prove that the scriptures are true by either a) testifying to that fact or b) testifying to the truths found in the Book of Mormon, which then confirm the truth of those same elements in the Bible.

Verse 12 tells us that something mentioned in the sentence (verses 5–12) shows the Lord is the same God yesterday, today, and forever; what shows us that?

That God has always, does now and will always follow the same pattern with regards to mankind: He will send angels to those who have faith and repent, will reveal His will to them, and will call them to His work, initially as servants but ultimately as Sons and Daughters of God or family members – it is His work and glory to do this.

 

READ D&C 20:13-16

Those who receive it and work righteousness will receive a crown while those who don’t receive it will be condemned; what is “it”?

The word of God found in the Book of Mormon = the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What has God spoken?

The promise that those who receive the Book of Mormon AND follow its teachings so that they find the Lord or come unto Christ themselves (which is the Fullness of the Gospel of Christ), will receive eternal life.

 

READ D&C 20:17-28

By what things do the “elders of the church” (v16) know there is a God in heaven?

They heard the words of God and bear witness to us that they heard Him speak; knowledge is experiential - they know He lives because they’ve heard His voice.

Joseph Smith and any other “elder” who follows the Fullness of the Gospel of Christ will know there is a God in heaven because they will experience the gifts and powers of God in their lives, as did the Saints at the time of His mortal ministry (v 26).

How do the things they have seen and heard testify not only of God’s existence but that He is the Creator, that we are made in his image, and that He gave commandments for us to love and serve Him and to worship only Him?

He offers proof of who He is and what He has done, which leads naturally to our worshipping Him for His grace, mercy and love (see 3 Nephi 11:10-17).

He shows to those with faith the revelations and visions of heaven including the books of commandments, which if we follow, we will become like Him (see 1 Nephi 1:11-15).

What does “from everlasting to everlasting” mean?

“From” and “to” imply a transition from one state or place or time period or existence to another.

This is a very similar phrase to “from eternity to eternity” (see Mosiah 3:5; Moroni 8:18; D&C 76:4; Moses 6:67) or “from exaltation to exaltation” (see TPJS 390-91; D&C 132:22-24) and means the same thing.

It implies that we are on a long journey which spans multiple eternities, exaltations or states/places/periods but if navigated successfully will enable us to grow in light and truth until we receive a Fullness, as Christ did (see D&C 93:12-14).

What does the phrase “He created man, male and female, after His own image and in His own likeness” imply?

That God is both male and female…

Meaning that “He” should be translated as “They”.

And that “God” should be translated as “Elohim” which is a plural word signifying “gods”.

That Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are two personages, with different talents/capabilities and roles in a godhead, but who are one in all things to such a degree that they are referred to in a singular tense.

How does transgression of holy law make mankind fallen?

Transgression of holy law is not permitted by those beings who are “just and holy” by definition BECAUSE they adhere perfectly to that law.

Others who are not holy cannot be in the presence of a just and holy being without either a) being forgiven by them and “covered” by an atonement, or b) wishing to be extinct.

Being cast out or separated from God’s presence is spiritual death and those who experience spiritual death are animated by another spirit – they are “natural men and women” and are selfishly carnal, sensual and devilish by nature.

Transgression of the laws (commandments) mentioned in verse 19 caused the fall; specifically, which of the laws mentioned were transgressed and how?

That we should love and serve Him, the only true God…by keeping His commandments including not partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge out of season or while it was forbidden to do so.

Because if we love God, we will keep His commandments (see John 14:15).

The word “wherefore” means something like “because of this;” because of what?

Transgression of the “holy laws” or eternal law.

Mankind’s fall meant that they could never return to God’s presence again.

The Almighty God gave His Son as a sacrifice to atone for our sins and save us from our fallen state.

What does it mean to “suffer” (allow, permit) temptation, if He gave it no heed?

He was tempted in all things as we are (see Hebrews 4:15) but because He had the Spirit without measure (unrestrained) and was not “given” weakness, His temptations and afflictions were much more intense than ours (see John 3:27-36 and Ether 12:27).

However, He was perfect in abiding by the requirements of eternal law while living His mortal life; He gave temptation no “heed” or attention.

Verses 23–28 are one long, complex sentence; how would you paraphrase it?

Christ’s condescension to come to earth to be sacrificed in the meridian of time and then His resurrection and ascension again into heaven, having won the victory over death and hell…

Enables as many as have or will follow the Doctrine of Christ (faith, repentance, baptisms of water and fire, endure to the End/Christ) to be saved with eternal life…

And testify to that fact, adding their witness to those of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

What does it mean to say that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God?

They are one in purpose – our immortality and eternal life is their work and glory (see Moses 1:39).

They are one in Spirit – the Father’s Spirit dwells in Christ, Christ’s Spirit can dwell in us and make us holy, and the Holy Spirit witnesses of the power of the Father and the Son, when you are filled with it.

They are “one God” meaning that Jehovah is a Father and a Son (see Mosiah 15:1-5); and Ahman is a Father and a Son, as He, too “came to be God” and was “a man like us… dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus did” (see TPJS 390-391) and Christ did only those things that He had seen His Father do (see John 5:19-20).

What does it mean to say that God is infinite, eternal, without end?

Infinite and eternal are names of God (see D&C 19:8-12; Alma 34:14).

Without end refers to the fact that God has always existed and that He (now) has life in Himself (see TPJS 396:2; 349:4; 391:1).

Given these facts, it does not mean that God has always been a god, and it introduces the ironic possibility that if God chooses to stop abiding by the eternal laws that He lives by, He would cease to be God.

 

READ D&C 20:29-36

Are verses 17 through 36 a creed?

A creed is a formal statement of beliefs.

Joseph Smith insisted that the Church should have no creed; he said, “the creeds set up stakes, & say hitherto shalt thou come, & no further. —which I cannot subscribe to” (Ehat and Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 256).

While these verses represent a summary of part of the beliefs of the faith, they are not exhaustive by any means – the premortal life, the birth of the spirit, the Second Comforter, celestial marriage, resurrection, kingdoms of glory, and theosis are either completely missing or only alluded to, for instance, so these verses do not constitute a creed (and should not be used as one).

What does it mean to repent?

Repent = to change the mind (see 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).

Repent = To confess and forsake (see D&C 58:42-43).

Repentance follows faith in Christ (otherwise no one would do it) and requires an attitude (the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit; a complete turning from one’s own will and submitting completely to God’s) as well as the corresponding actions (confession and forsaking of sin).

What does it mean to believe on Jesus’s name?

Believe, without a sure knowledge, that Jesus will live up to the names or titles which He claims: Savior, Redeemer, God of Israel, etc.

Believing that He can do what He says He can do.

What is worship? 

Worship = reverence, honor, respect, veneration and homage paid to someone; to adore (see Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).

To serve, to think about, to love, to be the center of one’s attention, to submit to, to do the will of, to do another’s bidding or fulfill their commands, to look to for salvation, to prostrate oneself before, to perform rites in honor of, to seek to please, to emulate, to praise, to adore.

What does it mean to endure to the end? What does it mean to endure in faith?

Endure = to bear, sustain or support without breaking or yielding to force or pressure; to bear with patience or without sinking under pressure; to undergo; to continue in (see 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).

Christ is the omega or the end; He is the prototype of the saved man; He is the one we must look to for salvation; redemption is to be brought back into His presence.

We must exercise faith in Christ, which implies work and in this case means enduring this dark world and the sins and temptations that beset us here by offering our whole souls to Christ because He can save us if we do what is necessary to find Him here.

What is justification?

A legal term used to describe one’s relationship with God.

To acquit, to vindicate, to pronounce innocent, free from sin, not guilty.

What does it mean to say that justification is just and true?

Just = full, exact, regular, proper, proportioned, complete, true, upright, honest, conforming exactly to the law, equitable in the distribution of justice, righteous, living in exact conformity with divine will, innocent, blameless, merited, impartial (see 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).

True = being in accordance with the actual state of things, genuine, pure, real, faithful, loyal, free from falsehood, honest, exact, straight, rightful (see 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).

Justification or to be pronounced innocent, conforms exactly to the law, is equitable in the distribution of justice and is in accordance with the actual state of things.

This is a crazy statement to make with regard to our mortal state; it should be absolutely the opposite.

Justification is only “just and true” through the grace of the Lord.

How does justification occur through grace?

His unjust suffering in the garden and death on the cross enabled Him to win the victory over hell and death.

Grace is an undeserved or unearned gift or blessing.

Through His merits, Christ earned the right to decree whomever He wills as “justified” or innocent; this gift (justification) is completely unearned by all those fallen mortals who are given it.

What is sanctification?

The process of becoming precisely as God is.

The process of refinement whereby the naturally occurring tendencies of mortality are preferentially purged from our soul through the atoning blood of Christ and by our voluntarily yielding our agency to God.

As a consequence of the Fall, all mortals inherit “natural” or “carnal” effects and proclivities (see Mosiah 3:19); these must be removed through the process of sanctification, which happens through cleansing and purification.

This process is similar to how metals are extracted from ore and refined through water, heat and various chemical processes which remove or purge the metal of all undesirable impurities that occur naturally in the elements; which is why sanctification is likened to a “refiner’s fire” (see 3 Nephi 24:2-3).

The “fire” referred to is the introduction of the Holy Spirit into our souls (see 3 Nephi 27:19-20) to “spiritualize” or “quicken” or raise the frequency (vibration) of our spirits and temporal bodies (see Romans 8:11; D&C 33:15-16; D&C 67:10-13; D&C 88:11-13, 49-50; Moses 6:61-68).

We must “yield our wills to God” by opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit and allow it to sanctify us (see Mosiah 3:19), as God will honor our agency and a hard heart will provide a barrier that the Holy Spirit will not penetrate through; we must choose to be sanctified by submitting or surrendering the desires of our whole hearts to God’s will (see Omni 1:26).

This process is only possible because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

What does it mean to say that sanctification is just and true?

Sanctification or the process of becoming precisely as God is by submitting our whole souls to God so that we can be refined or purified or quickened by receiving the Holy Spirit is in conformity with divine will and is in accordance with the actual state of things, as Christ Himself enabled it through His atonement because it is the Father’s work and glory to accomplish it.

How does sanctification occur through grace?

While we must open or soften our hearts to receive sanctification through the Holy Spirit, and choose to be obedient to His commandments, and accept His succor and teachings…

The opportunity for sanctification would not be available if it were not for Christ’s creation and sustaining of our lives from moment to moment through His Spirit, His enabling atonement, resurrection and victory over death and hell, and His suffering that He might learn how to succor us in our afflictions.

Why does the phrase “to all those who love and serve God with all their might, mind, and strength” refer to sanctification and not justification?

While justification is to receive a “sentence” of “not guilty” or “innocent” in a judgement setting…

Sanctification is to become precisely as Christ is.

We will not become precisely as Christ is unless we love Him enough to sacrifice what He sacrificed and follow His example of submitting His own will completely to the Father’s.

We will not become precisely as Christ is until we do His works, which requires that we serve Him – not just with our strength but with our might (will) and mind (having become like Him by sharing His Holy Spirit, which is the mind of God – becoming one with Him in this way).

What does it mean to fall from grace?

It is to have received, undeservedly by definition, a gift or blessing (grace) but then to have shunned the gift by sinning willfully (rebelling).

This leads to forfeiting that grace (see Hebrews 10:26-31; Galatians 5:4) or no longer being in a saved state but falling “into the hands of the living God…”, which is a fearful thing because it implies that you have spurned or rejected God knowingly.

What does the phrase “fall into temptation” mean?

Fall = to drop or descend from a higher place; to depart from one’s faith or belief system; to sink into disrepute or disgrace; to decline in power; to pass into a worse state; to decrease or diminish.

To “fall” into temptation implies that a) one condescended to an act that they were not planning on performing, and b) which was viewed negatively by them.

A fall (in this case, into temptation) is a result of a lack of vigilance in not seeing something that causes the fall but probably could have otherwise been avoided.

What should we pray for to avoid falling into temptation; of what should we take heed?

That one gives heed to the word of God – including the principles just laid out in v 17-34, which are found in more detail in the Book of Mormon.

Implied is that without prayer and the Lord to expound the scriptures to us (after we’ve asked), we cannot give heed enough (i.e. we will not know enough or will not be filled with enough light to comprehend enough) to avoid falling into temptation.

Further implied is that sin is not a question of willpower but is a result of not knowing enough; and that if you did know enough, you would not sin (you would “know better” than to sin) – unless you decided to rebel against that knowledge and lose all glory that you had gained up to that point (see TPJS 246:1; 400:2).

That the sanctified also have to take heed seems to indicate that verses 32 and 33 are primarily about those who are not sanctified; who is being referenced here?

They are members of the Church who have not yet been sanctified.

But they have been given grace in that they have been justified or proclaimed “innocent” with regards to their sins because of Christ’s atonement and the covenant relationship they have entered into with Him via baptism.

Implied is that one can be justified but not sanctified.

Also implied is that Church membership won’t save you.

Verse 35 is a testimony of something—what and how is the Revelation of John relevant here?

The testimony is being borne by Joseph Smith of the truths that have been shared in the previous 34 verses.

As witnessed in the scriptures and as proclaimed to him by the Holy Spirit, the voice of God and the ministry of angels.

The reference to the Book of Revelation is relevant due to its curse that anyone who adds to or takes away from that prophesy will be plagued by God (see Revelation 22:18-19); Joseph is saying that these words do not add to or take away from what is given to us in Revelation or the Bible in general, as those verses have been used to “prove” that God no longer speaks to man and that additional scripture is, by definition, impossible to receive from God – but that is misapplication of John’s prophesy.

What has the Lord spoken and how do we render honor, power and glory to his name?

God has testified that these principles of the gospel are true.

In other words, God is vouching for the testimony of Joseph Smith and Joseph is not invoking the curse spoke of by John upon himself.



The Church of Christ

 

What is the difference between the Gospel and the Church?

The Gospel is the “good news” - it’s Christ’s saving work of Atonement with its associated covenants and ordinances which lead us back to stand in the presence of God and inherit Eternal Life.

The Church is an institution that administers the saving covenants and ordinances through priesthood keys (authority) from God to mankind.

Why does the Lord have a Church?

To administer the ordinances of salvation (see D&C 20:75).

To minister/serve each other as Christ did in His mortal ministry.

To teach each other what we have learned from our experience as dictated by the Lord (see D&C 20:68; Alma 12:9).

To fellowship or friendship with people who have common beliefs and experiences.

Why is ministering to others so important?

It humbles you.

Done right it enables/requires you to be filled with charity.

Focuses you on others - extending grace to them - to relieve their suffering.

Grow in grace as you extend grace (undeserved blessings) to others.

In other words, Church service presents many opportunities to act as Christ did, under difficult circumstances – to be a type of Christ or do the works He did.

 

If you have any ability to relieve the suffering of another person, it is your responsibility to do so.  These opportunities enable us to sacrifice, to require charity, to humble ourselves, to act as a “savior on Mount Zion” by helping others come unto Christ, and prepare a Zion people for the Second Coming of the Lord.

 

What is the Lord’s objective with regards to any Church He commissions to be built on earth?

The establishment of Zion.

Which can be just one family…but is preferably a gathering of Saints.

What is Zion?

The Pure in heart (D&C 97:21).

One heart and one mind (Moses 7:18, 4 Nephi 1:17).

Love of God in the heart of the people (4 Nephi 1:15).

Dwelt together in righteousness (Moses 7:18-19).

No contention among them (4 Nephi 1:2,13,15).

No poor among them (Moses 7:18).

All things in common (4 Nephi 1:3).

All were “partakers of the Heavenly Gift” (4 Nephi 1:3).

See God when He visits ((D&C 97:16).

 

READ D&C 20:1

Why was the Church first called the Church of Christ?

In April of 1830, it was Christ’s church (see 3 Nephi 27:1-8; D&C 1:1).

The true church in the Book of Mormon was called the Church of Christ or the Church of God (see Mosiah 18:17; 3 Nephi 26:21).

Why was the name of the church changed?

In 1834, the name of the Church was changed to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints”; according to David Whitmer, it was Sidney Rigdon who promoted this change (see Joseph Smith Papers – footnote 1 from May 3, 1834 Minutes; David Whitmer’s “Address to All Believers in Christ” p 73).

In 1838, the name was changed again – this time to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”; this change was made by revelation to Joseph Smith (see D&C 115:3-4).

Given 3 Nephi 27:1-8, it is interesting to think about why the Lord would have “revealed” this name for His Church given the statement that it is no longer the Church of Christ if it is known by any other name;  in this case the name shows the prominence of the Saints or men in the running of the church organization (2 Nephi 28:5); it may speak to the fact that the Lord honors our agency above all things and if we want to put our own will before His, He will allow it and even “sanction” it (see D&C 3 and 10), but perhaps it will be to our condemnation. As Church apologist and general authority B.H. Roberts noted, the last name change shows a “beautiful recognition of the relationship both of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Saints to the organization”… (History of the Church, vol 3, p24).

 

READ D&C 20:38-45

What reasons might there be for why the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred by the laying on of hands?

The physical touching by one who has the gift of the Holy Ghost seems to enable the conferral of that gift (see 3 Nephi 18:36-38; Moroni 2:1-3; Alma 31:36; D&C 76:52); implied is that the admonition to “receive” the gift of the Holy Ghost by an elder who has just confirmed someone a member of the Church is not the same thing.

Physical touch, whether it is one’s body or an item of clothing or even mud or a river, particularly in the giving of healing blessings, seems to facilitate the conferral of spiritual effects from one person to another; while it could be that mortals need physical aids to enable their faith, it could also be an indication of how Holy Spirit is exchanged from one person to the next – that there is less “loss” if the elements are directly touching; it would be interesting to understand this in terms of the unified field and the principle of “entanglement” in quantum physics, which would suggest that everything is electrically connected anyway, even at “distance” from each other.  Again this could speak to the faith or lack thereof of the people involved.  It could also speak to the spiritual connection or lack there of between the two people, which provides the vehicle through which the Spirit is shared or transferred. 

This gift is not always given in this way, however; Joseph Smith received the gift of the Holy Ghost before he received the laying on of hands (see JSH 1:69-74) and the Lamanites received the birth of the Spirit (gift of the Holy Ghost) before they were even baptized (see Helaman 5:32-45).

Is there a difference between confirming someone a member of the Church by the laying on of hands and giving the gift of the Holy Ghost?

Confirming someone a member of the Church gives one membership into the mortal organization or institution, on this earth.

Giving the gift of the Holy Ghost enables one to receive the mind of God, which if they listen to it and align their behavior with its promptings, they can become one with God and be offered membership in His Church of the Firstborn, in heaven.

What is “the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost”?

Is the beginning of the process of sanctification discussed earlier – it is the “Gate”.

It is the receiving within one’s spirit, the Holy Spirit, which enacts a mighty change or quickening of the “heart” or their desires, disposition and capabilities.

It is the vehicle through which the natural man within the spirit or “ghost” of the person is refined or purified or sanctified by God’s Holy Spirit, making one’s own spirit “holy”.

 

 

Roles & Responsibilities in the Church

 

READ D&C 20:46-52

Why is there so much structure with regards to the duties of the members vis-à-vis the offices in the Church?

The Church is a mortal institution with objectives or “missions” to perform.

All institutions or organizations must have policies, structure and processes if the people within them are to work together to achieve the Church leaders’ objectives.

Within an organization, each role should be clear about the tasks each is responsible for, the decision rights they have, the linkage mechanisms between roles or units, the way success will be defined and measured, and how each will be held accountable for results.

It is interesting to think of the differences (and purposes) of the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ taught during His mortal ministry or previous to Moses in scripture; the Law was a very structured “school master” designed to guide hardheaded students in their behaviors to the end that a mighty change (i.e. baptism of fire) could be facilitated in time so that the individual graduates to live a higher law requiring spiritual judgment and a direct connection to God.  Perhaps the mortal Church organization and the heavenly Church of Christ follow a similar pattern. 

Why are priests to visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray?

The degree to which we repent of our sins and adhere to the commandments of God, we will be filled with more light and knowledge.  Prayer helps us to experience godly sorrow and repent, and enables us with spiritual power and insight to live commandments we once thought impossible for us to live.

We must connect to heaven through prayer for us to have revealed to us our standing before God and what His personal commandments to each of us are; and ultimately to be sealed up to eternal life by Him, personally.

Thus, we have a responsibility to visit the house of each person who has joined the Church to exhort them to connect with God and to serve them by administering ordinances, teaching and blessing them, and watching over their needs (v42).

 

READ D&C 20:53-59

Why do Church members need strengthening at the hands of other members?

While going to God directly for all our needs is preferable, the great majority of us lack the faith to do so (see D&C 88:118).

Given that, we have a responsibility to each other to bear testimony of what we know through our own experiences to be true – to guide others back to God by pointing out the way that we have walked and attesting to the fact that the path leads back to Him (see LoF 2:54-56), because that has been our personal experience.

We have a responsibility to relieve the suffering of others because we love them, so that they might have the physical, mental and emotional strength to follow the path back to God’s presence and not be too weighed down by the afflictions of the flesh – we must act as saviors on Mount Zion and learn (in time) what it means to be precisely like He is by being a little bit like He is now – and serving gives us this opportunity.

What does it mean to “warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite” people to “come unto Christ”?

We have a responsibility to help each other to “awake and arise”.

We must warn each other of the awful consequences of not coming unto Christ in the flesh (see D&C 132:21-25).

We must expound the scriptures to each other with the light and knowledge that God has given us into them through the Holy Spirit; God hides truths in plain sight in the scriptures which means that there is a need to “open” the scriptures if one is to truly comprehend what God wants us to understand (see Alma 12:9-11; Luke 24:27-32; JSH 1:74); the ultimate example of this is the phrase “come unto Christ” which we have redefined as some kind of calculus to mean anything other than what it really means – which is to actually come unto Him now, so that we can know Him and He can seal us up and save us! 

We must exhort or encourage and give strength to each other, to motivate and advise and assist each other in the journey back to Christ, wherein we will be tested and tried “at all hazards” and asked to sacrifice all things to gain the faith necessary to come unto Him (see LoF 6:2-7).

We must teach each other the principles of the gospel that we have been taught by revelation through the Holy Spirit, or during our own life experience, or from the ministry of angels and visions of heaven we have seen.

We must invite each other to come unto Christ – we cannot compel or control but we must persuade and entice and invite saying, “come and see what I have seen and know for yourself what I now know with a surety!”  (see 3 Nephi 11:14-17).

 

READ D&C 20:60-67

What is the Law of Common Consent?

Vote of the membership to sustain the individual in the priesthood ordination or calling.

It is how the Church operates.

Why are licenses to perform the duties of a calling and certificates for ordination voted on by the Church members?

Because in the Church, callings (duties) and ordinations (the right to perform those duties) are bounded within the group that sustains or votes for those callings and ordinations; that’s why “general” authorities are sustained in a Church-wide conference.

Everything in the Church is done by the common consent or the vote of the members of the Church; that way the Church members retain control of who is doing what and are also accountable if they voted for or sustained someone who is not worthy or does not live up to the assigned duties.

 

READ D&C 20:68-70

What is a “member”?

A calling in the Church, which has associated duties.

What are some of the duties of Church members?

Partake of the sacrament (see D&C 20:75).

Demonstrate a “godly walk” in holiness before the Lord (see D&C 20:69).

Conduct meetings by the Holy Ghost (see D&C 20:45).

Pray always (see D&C 20:33).

What does verse 68 tell us about missionary work?

It should not be done in haste.

But converts should have time to truly understand all things concerning the Church.

If this is not the case, the conversion of that individual has not been done “in order”.

What is a godly walk and conversation?

Conversation = general course of manners, behavior or deportment, especially as it respects morals; familiar or intimate fellowship or association (see 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).

Godly walk and conversation (demonstrate moral behavior and fellowship) means to be righteous (to do what God does) and to be virtuous (to align with commonly agreed upon moral behavior).

How can our works and faith be “agreeable” to holy scripture?

A person’s faith (beliefs that motivate action) and works (the acts that then result) are agreeable to or consistent with or in conformity with the expectations for a true follower of Christ, as laid out in the examples of those found in the scriptures.

How do we walk in holiness before the Lord and why do you think the metaphor of walk is used so much to describe our life in the Church and/or the Gospel?

Holiness signifies being perfectly pure or refined; it is to be set apart from the profane or “natural”; it is to be filled with a fullness of glory (see Mormon 9:5) or intelligence (see 2 Nephi 9:20).

To “walk in holiness before the Lord” is to conduct one’s life in a hallowed or consecrated or way that is set apart – both the way is holy (the path and destination) and the walk is holy (the journey or how one must proceed to stay on that holy way).

The metaphor of “walking” is used so much because we are on a journey that requires movement; we are seeking to find the Lord and to come unto Him in this life so that we can ultimately walk back into the presence of God the Father in Heaven, passing the angels that stand as sentinels (see Discourses of Brigham Young, p 416) along His Way.

It is interesting, though, that like a certain recently written parable teaches, many of us are as “busy young people” who are “on our way” when we encounter a man sitting under a tree on the side of the road who asks us to come and help him braid rope; when we pause from our haste to help him and then when we return again and again to the tree for years to assist him in the braiding of rope and then the tying of a net, we will find in our labors that the man is He whom we have been seeking all along and we will know Him by the tokens or marks He carries on those hands, albeit that they may be hard to see at first because of the callouses caused by the labor of braiding and tying, and we must labor with Him in His work long enough to finally be able to make out the signs that were there all along!  So, sometimes the “walk” is aided by stopping to help a compelling stranger to braid and tie a net…because the work (of becoming like Christ by doing His will and work) IS the walk.

 

 

Ordinances in the Church of Christ

 

READ D&C 20:37

How does one humble themselves before God?

Being humble is a choice – either one can choose to humble themselves before God or they will be compelled to be humble at some point in the future.

Humbling yourself before God requires that we obtain the truth from God regarding who we are, who He is, what He has done for us, our desperate need for it, and how undeserving and unprofitable we are to receive it; to obtain this hard truth we must a) ask for it and b) be open or soft-hearted with regards to it – rather than being defensive or in denial.

The truth about our standing before (and relationship to) God is inherently humbling to us; He is a just and holy being of light while we are filled with darkness and cannot change our state without an incredible amount of help from Him – not only do we require a physical body and earth outside His immediate presence on which to be proven and then must be supported in our lives from moment to moment, we also merit death and hell from our performance in mortal life and cannot extricate ourselves from that state once our mortal life has run its course; and even after all of that, while the dust of the earth obeys God, in our pride and arrogance, we do not obey Him.

So, if we realized the truth, it would humble us; and at some point in the future, that truth will be revealed to us, as we stand in God’s presence, unprepared, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt and a clear understanding of how we failed to effectively use this probationary state which was created and sustained for us at such great cost – and that will be humbling, indeed.

Why should people “witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins” if God is the only one who can grant forgiveness?

Neither the Church nor its leaders has any right to forgive sin (although they must each forgive all who sin against them personally, as we all must) – that is completely in the Lord’s hands because of the atonement which He alone performed (see D&C 64:10; Mosiah 26:22-24).

Witnessing before the Church that one has truly repented is an act of humble contrition that only those with broken hearts are willing to perform – it is an outward sign (to God, to the individual, and to others) of an inward desire and transformation.

It is not or should not be a “box to be ticked” by some local “authority” as a requirement for baptism or a temple recommend; rather, it is something that happens naturally when one has experienced godly sorrow and is willing to do whatever it takes to be clean.

Another reason to make this witness public is to inspire others to seek after the same godly sorrow experience to gain the same relationship with God; the gospel is experiential and anecdotal – if no one shares then very few people will even conceive of what is possible (see LoF 2:54-56). 

What is a broken heart and contrite spirit?

It is the result of experiencing the spiritual gift of godly sorrow or seeing oneself in one’s true condition and relationship with God.

It is the deep and personal realization of what one’s sins and general fallen mortal situation has cost the Lord to redeem you from.

How does one take upon themselves the “name” of Christ?

It is to become Christ’s child, through an adoption covenant, such that He becomes our spiritual or “Heavenly” Father and we become His sons and daughters or family; we begin to enter this covenant at baptism but we must wait until we hear the words from Him to know that the covenant is truly in force (see Psalms 2:7).

Through His redemption of our souls, we become “Christ” during the judgement – meaning that when He is judged (as perfect), we are judged as perfect, too because we are one with Him or we are “called” at the judgement by His name – our finite sins plus His infinite grace equals perfection for all parties (see Mosiah 5:7-10).

How do they witness that they “are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ”?

By offering to the Lord the required sacrifice: our whole souls, a broken heart and contrite spirit, all our sins (see Omni 1:26; 3 Nephi 9:19-20; Alma 22:15-18).

How do they show that they have “a determination to serve Him to the end”?

By serving Him at every opportunity, usually be ministering to others on His behalf (see Matthew 25:34-40) by following the promptings of His Holy Spirit until you have actually become like Him.

The real key, though, is to show the Lord, not the Church, one’s determination to serve Him (see 3 Nephi 13:1-4) – this is one place where anonymous service is demonstrated. 

It should be obvious from the scripture but that the verse doesn’t read “a determination to serve the Church to the end”; there is a temptation to expand D&C 1:38 to mean that serving the Church and its leaders is the exact same thing as serving Christ, but that is wresting the scriptures and is untrue. 

What works manifest “that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins”?

How they treat others.

How they react to stress, affliction or disappointment.

What they choose to do in their free time.

If they “bury their swords” to better ensure that they will be less likely to sin again (see Alma 24:10-18).

If these are the qualifications for baptism into Christ’s Church, what does this imply?

That offering the required sacrifice of one’s whole soul or broken heart and contrite spirit before baptism, is needed.

That they have already received the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins and manifest this by their works, prior to baptism; implied is that this reception of the Spirit of Christ is not dependent upon baptism.

That perhaps the Church of Christ is really the “Church of the Firstborn”.

 

READ D&C 20:71-74

What does this revelation and current Church practice require us to say “having been commissioned of Jesus Christ” while the Lord told the Nephite disciples to say “having authority given me of Jesus Christ” (see 3 Nephi 11:25; Mosiah 18:13)?

When someone has received power to baptize directly from heaven, the words should be “having authority given me of Jesus Christ”.

Commission = something committed, entrusted or delivered given as a warrant for exercising certain powers or the performance of any duty (see 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).

A commission can be handed from one person to another; in the case of the LDS church, that commission was received in the 19th century and has been relied on by every priesthood holder performing baptisms ever since.

Using a commission from Christ to baptize is effective as long as the candidate for baptism meets the required conditions of faith and repentance (see D&C 20:37), however it is not effective if the conditions are not met.

 

READ D&C 20:75-79

Why do the sacrament prayers follow immediately after the discussion of baptism?

The sacrament is a regular renewal of the covenant made at baptism.

It aids us in “remembering” the Christ, who we have covenanted to always remember, to be willing to keep His commandments and take upon ourselves His name by entering into a familial relationship with Him via covenant.

Why should we all kneel (priest and Church) when the sacrament is blessed?

Out of reverence for the Lord whose body and blood we are “partaking” of when we participate in the ordinance.

Kneeling is the position the body takes in worship.

What does the sacrament prayer have to do with “justification” and “sanctification” as mentioned in verses 30 and 31 of this section?

We are justified or pronounced innocent if we have taken upon ourselves the gospel covenant through baptism, and then abide in that covenant to the Lord, which we “always remember” in part through partaking of the sacrament on a regular basis.

We are sanctified or become holy and precisely like Christ is as we are purified and refined by the Holy Spirit, learn to be like Him by sharing His mind and will through that Spirit, and do His works; we have the promise of His Spirit to be with us through the covenant laid out in the sacrament prayer.

What does it mean to bless and sanctify something “to the souls” of those who eat or drink it?

The soul (spirit plus body), is required of man to be exalted or even to share in any kingdom of glory.

The soul must be blessed and sanctified or quickened, transformed and set apart as something holy, if it is to reside in the presence of God.

Christ’s body and blood were sacrificed to buy us a chance to be redeemed and resurrected, if we will become one with Him – which is symbolized in the sacrament rite by partaking of the emblems which represent His flesh and blood.

Why might the blessing on the bread use “partake” instead of “eat”?

Partake = to have part in, to share; to participate (see 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).

Eat = to consume; to bite, chew and swallow.

The word “partake” better symbolizes how we should consider Christ’s death and resurrection = we have a part in it; and we can participate in it through our own repentance and holy walk towards others.

What does it mean to eat or drink in remembrance of something?

The eating and drinking is not (solely) to sustain our lives but is to bring certain principles to our remembrance by participating in an active ritual.

The prayer on the wine asks that only those drinking it will remember Jesus; the prayer on the bread asks that they also are willing to take his name on them and keep his commandments; why that difference?

The prayer on the bread says that if we are willing to remember Christ, take His name, and keep His commandments, we will always have His Spirit to be with us.

The prayer on the wine says that to the degree we do always remember Christ, we will have His Spirit to be with us.

The first is a covenant to be willing to make an offering; in return for that willingness, we will always have His Spirit to be with us in the form of a mighty change of heart or baptism of fire which changes our very disposition (see Mosiah 5:2); the second is a cause and effect relationship after we have received the mighty change – it says that to the degree that we always remember Christ because we love Him first and foremost in our hearts and our deepest desires are to serve Him, that we will have His Spirit to be with us because it will not be grieved by our lack of attention or love for Him, given everything He has done for us.

Does the fact that one of these prayers is always said before the other explain any of the differences between them – how?

The first prayer symbolizes “entering in by the Gate” or the covenant we take upon ourselves in baptism by water through which we receive the baptism of fire.

The second prayer shows how we must abide in that covenant or endure to the End – that we must get to the point that we always remember Christ at all times so that we can retain His Spirit with us and become one with Him, which is critical to our ability to come unto Him in mortality and not be utterly wasted because through Him we are purified even as He is pure and can abide His presence because we have His Spirit or glory within us.

Why should we use water instead of wine?

Water is a symbol of life – without water we would quickly die.

It is within us as Christ’s Spirit is, although we do not see it or notice it – 60%-70% of our body is composed of water.

It is the means by which we and the earth are cleansed.

It is a primary element in the renewal and growth of plants and animals; dehydration kills while water revives.

If it comes straight from a spring, it is pure.

The Lord doesn’t mind what is used as long as the ordinance is performed with an eye single to His glory (see D&C 27:2).

It is less likely to be poisoned by one’s enemies (see D&C 27:3-4).

Why should we use wine instead of water?

Wine is the symbol of Christ’s blood which was shed for us.

It is bitter, to symbolize the bitter dregs of the atonement’s “cup”.

It is manufactured by crushing the grape.

It is then fermented or left to “rot” or “decay” for a time.

It then experiences a change in its molecular structure or nature.

It becomes something new that can “gladden the heart”.

We were commanded to use wine in the Book of Mormon and D&C; the Lord used wine in the New Testament.

Wine is commercially available now so is not likely to be “poisoned by one’s enemies” as it was in the 1830s; and the Lord’s sacrament prayers in both the D&C and Book of Mormon use wine instead of water.

 

READ D&C 20:81-84

Why does the Lord want a list of names of Church members kept?

The records of this life stand as a witness of the deeds done here, both good and bad.

The records of the Church show a pledge on the part of the member, to live the gospel of Christ offered by the Church and to serve their fellow Church members as opportunity arises.

In the same vein, the scriptures are the “standard works” or covenant accepted by the Church members, against which the Lord will judge the world.

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