Joseph Smith’s Liberty Jail Plea and the Lord’s Reply
READ D&C 121:1-4
Where is God?
He is in heaven, in a Celestial Kingdom.
God’s kingdom could be located in space if you knew where (which direction in the sky) to look from the earth (see Abraham 3:2-13); albeit it is so far from here so as not to be visible to the mortal eye, however the light that proceeds from Him to fill the immensity of space is visible.
Alternatively, His kingdom could reside “outside of time” in another dimension altogether; this makes a lot of sense given the way God interacts with time but it doesn’t explain how visible light emanates from Him to fill the immensity of space.
Because of the unified field of energy which He holds together from moment to moment to create the physical universe we live in out of the chaos that would otherwise be “unobserved energy”, He is also literally all around us and within us. His focus is directed toward us and this entire creation, to uphold it or to keep it organized from moment to moment; if it were not so, the subatomic particles (without an Observer) would devolve back into chaos or “super position” where they behave like waves rather than particles (see Mosiah 2:21).
If this scripture is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, His ministry continues to us upon the earth (see John 14::18, 21-23), as He only finished His preparations to us during His atonement (see D&C 19:19); He stands at the door and knocks, hoping we will exercise our agency to invite Him down from heaven into our lives that we might know Him with a surety (see Revelation 3:20; 2 Nephi 32:6; 3 Nephi 11:14-15); Christ may be a lot closer to us than we realize, as He continues to minister to us personally.
Does Joseph not know where God is?
By this point (1839), Joseph Smith knows the Father and the Son as well as anyone since the time of Christ’s ministry and the early Apostolic period; he has interacted with the Father on at least 3 occasions and seen Him in vision more than that (the First Vision, the chamber of old father Whitmer, the school of the prophets’ room above the Whitney Store in Kirtland; he saw him in vision and bore testimony of Him when receiving D&C 76); he has interacted with Christ on all those occasions plus the Kirtland Temple dedication and doubtless many, many more times receiving countless revelations in the D&C before 1839.
But perhaps the Lord and the Father had not yet “taken up their abode” with Joseph at this point; Liberty Jail was referred to as a “temple prison” by BH Roberts (due to the fact that Joseph did a lot of praying and meditating there and received revelation – and a temple is a “house of prayer”); regardless, the depth of the knowledge of God Joseph shared in Nauvoo (i.e. the temple endowment, the doctrine of godhood from the King Follett discourse, the law of adoption and return to the “ancient order of things” etc.) was clearly received by direct revelation from God and was not taught prior to 1839.
So, it is possible that Joseph didn’t know where God was “hiding” as a personage, although he clearly understood the fact that God’s Spirit was within him and His elements and light were all around Him.
Alternatively, the language may not be literal – in other words, Joseph may know exactly where God abides (where heaven is actually located) but is using the language metaphorically; for Joseph, it’s like he’s saying: “Where are you? We used to hang out ‘reasoning together in plain humility as one man speaks with another’ all the time, but now that I’m in big trouble and really need your help and comfort, you have left me!”
It is interesting to reflect on the fact that for many of us, having God’s spirit within us is enough but not for Joseph Smith – one who had spoken to the Lord face to face on many occasions; Joseph expected a more personal relationship than we expect to have; in other words, he had greater faith in the reality, character and love of the Lord than most of us do – otherwise we would also know God the way that Joseph Smith did.
How long does God stay His hand before intervening in the lives of people?
He is a “fourth watch god” (see Matthew 14:22-25; Mark 6:46-48) because there is a degree of “toiling” that we must do, to learn what we are here in a “tabernacle of clay” (or within a veil and outside of God’s presence) to learn, before He comes to us to save us from the trial or from ourselves.
We don’t know how long Joseph prayed this prayer (this revelation was given in March 1839 and Joseph, Hyrum and the rest were imprisoned in November 1838) but if he began it shortly after his incarceration (when the saints were driven from Missouri during the extermination order), it had been over 4 months.
The exception to this rule is when we are repenting - then He is a “first watch god” and will “immediately” come to us to provide relief (see Alma 34:31-32); or in situations where we are obedient to His commandments and He blesses us for so doing (see Mosiah 2:24).
What is the relationship between Joseph Smith’s plea and God’s answer?
If Joseph hadn’t asked for knowledge and relief, God could not have granted them; He will not violate our agency by intervening into our lives or the lives of others unless or until we invite Him to.
READ D&C 121:7-8 and D&C 122:7-9
Why are God’s first words to Joseph: “My son, peace be unto thy soul”?
When uttered by the Lord, the phrase “my son” connotes that the person has already risen up to receive the third order or High Priesthood – they have been told that they are, or promised that they shall be, a “Son” by God or a “Son of God”.
The phrase “my son” is an intimate, familiar phrase, evoking a close familial relationship, which is comforting to the person; there is an inherent assurance that a parent will not forget or fail to help their child, and particularly assuring if that “parent” is the Lord (see 1 Nephi 21:16).
But God also “chastens” those He loves (see Revelation 3:19-22) – as His work and glory is their immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39) which requires their becoming precisely like He is (see LoF 7:9) which can only be done by following His example and doing His works (see TPJS 390-393) which were hard and required the ultimate sacrifice – the “Son” must be sacrificed (see D&C 19:15; Alma 34:10, 14).
The phrase “peace be unto thy soul” does not mean “don’t worry about things – I’m going to sweep in and take care of it”; it is a phrase that is a blessing (see John 14:27) of strength to finish what must be done (see Luke 22:43-44, John 18:11).
But the phrase is also an assurance that the Lord is in command – that the outcome will be positive (see D&C 122:7, 9), which is not the same thing as promising that it won’t hurt (see D&C 19:15, 18) or that it won’t stop or can’t be avoided (see Mark 14:36).
The word “soul” makes one think of the eternities, but it also applies to life on this earth (a soul being a spirit tabernacled in a body), so the promise applies to both – peace for now and peace for later, if the trial has been overcome by abiding in the Lord and following it through to its end, in faith (see John 19:28-30).
Why are we told to “endure” trials “well”?
Enduring a difficult trial well requires faith; the default (or it wouldn’t be a difficult trial) is that we may not be able to endure it at all or if we do, it won’t be “well”.
To endure a trial well, we must seek for and obtain divine intervention including knowledge to put the trial in perspective, strength that we didn’t have or didn’t know we had to overcome it, or divine assistance to actually overcome it or end it early because we’ve learned the lesson (gained the required light).
Any kind of trial we are called to go through pales in comparison to the pain of the atonement; however, any trial that is “endured well” becomes a preparation for the eventual atonement that we will have to perform to become precisely as Christ is; it is unlikely that Christ never suffered before Gethsemane – He was prepared in all things before the foundation of this world, and He is our example in all things.
How can these terrible experiences “be for our good”?
We learn to trust God in the extremity of our experiences, in a place where suffering is real; that is why we are down here on earth, otherwise we could have learned all that was needed conceptually in heaven and it would have been enough.
And trusting God or aligning our wills and behaviors with eternal law (His commandments), in the face of opposition or temptation to not do so, is what gives us further light, which is also knowledge, truth, glory, intelligence, spirit (see D&C 130:18-21).
To become like God is, we must ascend the highest heights and comprehend the darkest pits; but that knowledge requires experience to comprehend – so we must experience terrible experiences so that we can one day become precisely as God is and be able to know all truth because we can comprehend all things.
So, terrible experiences will “be for our good” ultimately, if we finish the course which has been offered to us, albeit not without great effort on our part (see TPJS 390-393; Alma 42:27) and God’s.
Some people’s trial last their whole lives and others seem to go from one heartbreaking trial to another; why does God minimize these trials by referring to them as lasting only for a “small moment”?
Christ descended below us all and experienced infinite and eternal suffering (see Alma 34:10-14), so relative to His experience, our trials here, even if they were to last our entire (finite) lives, are but a small moment compared to experiencing an infinite trial.
All trials are tailored to the capability of the individual and can be for our good, if we choose to come unto Christ as a result of them; so, for those who live a lifetime of trial, somehow they are capable of enduring and even triumphantly overcoming them in Christ, if they will (see 1 Nephi 3:7; 1 Nephi 17:3, 50; Philippians 4:12-13).
This life is but a “small moment”; the veil of our flesh makes us forget everything else, so it all seems to be the entirety of our existence (and so relatively, it is “all there is”), but this particular life is but a “small moment” in the existence of an infinite being…you and I.
Even in our extremity, Christ is watching us and when we have learned as much as we can from the experience, He will come to us with kindness and mercy (see Isaiah 54:7-8; Isaiah 25:8-9; Revelation 7:14-17) in the “fourth watch”; most times that happens during mortality (and usually many times during this life) but for some, it may happen upon death or beyond.
How much greater were Christ’s burdens than ours?
Christ suffered all that a God can suffer – an infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:10-14; D&C 19:4-12).
Our suffering is to build faith in Christ, to enable us to choose obedience in the face of adversity so that we can obtain light, and to build up our capabilities from a small one to a great one so that one day we can follow in the example set by our Lord (see TPJS 390-393).
What does it mean to “hold thy way”?
Exercise faith in Christ and endure to the end – do not ever give up on Christ and His ability to help you overcome your trials (which is His work and glory to do).
If your one constant is the existence of Christ (with an understanding of His true character and attributes – LoF 3:2-5), then you must believe (and act accordingly), that Christ knows exactly what is happening to you and it is for your good - that it is either a means to enable you to come unto Christ or, if you already have, to teach you some additional principle that will enable your spiritual progression to become precisely like Him (which is salvation).
“To the end” can mean the end of the trial or the end of your mortal life; but the “end” also refers to Christ as the “Omega” or “End” who is the gatekeeper to heaven.
Even if the trials are the consequence of your own mistakes or sins, they can be turned to your good if you “hold your way” with regards to your relationship with Christ.
What words of peace does God offer Joseph?
His first words are, “my son” – He reiterates the relationship before anything else.
He bounds the trials and afflictions in time – a “small moment” with a finite end.
He gives a promise or hope of salvation: if you endure it well, the Father will exalt you on high and you shall triumph over your enemies (it is interesting to wonder if Joseph ever had a “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” moment).
He gives Joseph a true perspective on the current situation (i.e. your friends have not yet abandoned you – this would happen later in Nauvoo with the Expositor newspaper incident and again when he and Hyrum tried to leave for the West and were called cowards by their “friends”; these betrayals led directly to his death); He lets him know that things can (and will) get worse…but there is a time appointed for the death of each man and God knows these things – their bounds are set and they cannot go beyond them (they are not capable of doing so, even with the full use of their agency) to upset the plans of God.
He gives him a promise of future knowledge, such as has been withheld since the world was (v26-27).
He teaches him the principles about how to effectively use his Priesthood or association with heaven (v34-46).
Will God exalt Joseph Smith on high as a result of the trials he suffered in this life?
He received a promise or hope of salvation (see D&C 132:49-50), as further evidenced by being called to be a “Son” (or Son of God, v7), and having stood in God’s presence (First Vision).
However, Joseph (obviously) has not attained to the resurrection of the dead himself (see TPJS 390-393) and was not precisely like Christ while in mortality (see LoF 7:9), so while the trials he suffered in this life were extremely difficult, Joseph Smith has (many) additional trials to overcome before he is exalted on high as Christ has been; ditto for us.
READ D&C 121:26-32
What knowledge, through the Holy Spirit, is being promised in the “last times”?
The true natures of God and man as Joseph would teach five years later in the King Follett discourse: that God is an exalted man and we can become like Him but it will require us going from “grace to grace” through many exaltations to do so, until we also attain to the resurrection ourselves – that is the path Christ also trod and He is our example, the prototype of the saved being; (see TPJS 390-393; LoF 7:16).
The plurality of Gods as taught by Joseph in the June 1844 discourse in the Nauvoo Grove – his last public address (see TPJS 416-424).
The law of adoption and the future coming of Elijah to seal the children on earth to the “fathers in heaven” preparatory to the Second Coming of Christ (see TPJS 359-364; 371-374; 377-385).
The “ancient order of things” or the gospel of Adam which resulted in the establishment of the Zions of Enoch and Melchizedek, and the visit of Christ to the seven patriarchs at Adam-ondi-Ahman (see D&C 107:53-57).
A correct understanding of the signs or prophesies written in the stars of the heavens.
And much more still yet to come…!
If we are only saved as quickly as we gain knowledge (intelligence, truth, light, glory), then why has some knowledge (necessary for salvation) not been revealed since the world was, until the last days?
Moses was told that there were certain things he could not be taught at that time or it would actually transform his soul to the point that he could not remain on the earth – he would have gained too much light and knowledge and would have been transfigured to a higher state (see Moses 1:4-5); for some reason – either for Moses’ good or the children of Israel, it was important that he not yet attain to that level of knowledge but remain on earth in his current condition (although it is interesting that he was later translated and did not die – so likely received more of the knowledge he was seeking, see Alma 45:19).
If some knowledge (light, intelligence, truth, glory) is such that receiving it will change or transform your soul so that you cannot reside on a telestial earth, perhaps this knowledge is required to live on a Terrestrial earth, which will be the state of the earth during the Millennium, so it must be taught prior to that great day but not earlier or no “Zion saints” would be left on the earth – all would “flee” to heaven as did Enoch and Melchizedek and their people.
The question begs another question: is some of this knowledge from God not necessary for salvation? This begs another question: what is meant by salvation? Ultimately, salvation is becoming precisely as Christ is (see LoF 7:9) as He is the prototype of the saved man, so the knowledge spoken about here by the Lord IS necessary for our salvation – it’s not titillating “woo woo” knowledge for the “goosepimple gang” to get excited about.
What do the sun, moon and stars with their various revolutions and appointed days have to teach us?
God created the heavens to be precisely how they are for a reason: to bear a testimony that cannot be changed by man.
It is not coincidence that from the surface of the earth, the sun occupies a place in the sky exactly the same size as the space occupied by the moon (despite their actual massive size differences), and that they are both located on the ecliptic, making it possible for both an eclipse of the sun and of the moon, and allowing God to share prophesies and knowledge, particularly when overlaying those events on the constellations of the Zodiac and the various planets that cycle through them; God is telling us things that we are ignoring when we fail to seek after the knowledge He has placed overhead (see Adrian Larson’s seven part blog series “Scripture Overhead: Blood Moon Warnings” from May 2015 to January 2016, on the website totheremnant.com, as an example of what we might be missing).
It is not a coincidence that the orbit of Venus (the “morning and evening” or “day” star – symbolic of Christ, see 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16) tracks a pentagram or tetragrammaton or five-pointed star in the sky over its eight-year cycle (see Val Brinkerhoff’s “The Day Star”); it shines as the “evening star,” goes “under the earth” (see Moses 6:63) symbolizing Christ’s death and then reappears again as the “morning star”, symbolizing His resurrection (see John Pratt’s “Venus Testifies of Christ”).
What does it mean that these things are still as much a mystery today as they were back in 1839, when Joseph Smith was quiet about the rest of what he knew – particularly what he learned from the Book of Abraham?
There is still MUCH revelation to be looked forward to receiving in the days of the dispensation of the fullness of times.
The argument that “we have a great body of revelation, that we don’t need much revelation, but instead we just need to pay more attention to the revelation we’ve already received” sounds like a very hollow and uninspired argument (see President Gordon B. Hinckley, San Francisco Chronicle interview, April 13, 1997 by Don Lattin); in fact, it’s false.
Power in the Priesthood: Handling the Powers of Heaven
READ D&C 121:34-35
What is priesthood?
A fellowship or association or relationship among and/or between heavenly beings and mortals through which God’s work is done in heaven and on earth, via the transfer of His power in perfect conformance with eternal law, while honoring the agency of those affected.
How does priesthood have power?
Heavenly beings assist mortals in performing “miracles” by teaching them further light and knowledge regarding the eternal laws that govern the particular sphere where those mortals are living (in our case, a cold, dark telestial realm), so that they can comprehend and abide by those laws ( or truths – things as they really are, not just things as scientists, philosophers, or religionists think they are), and impact spirit and element (the subatomic energy that all things are composed of) here on earth, in line with God’s will, through their faith (which is now augmented, since they have insights into how things “really” work – i.e. understanding energy at the subatomic particle level from quantum physics and the fact that its nature can be changed based on the will and focus of an observer like God).
They also enable power or light/glory to pass through the veil from heaven to earth; priesthood holders on earth are a conduit for the spirit or glory of heaven to pass through the veil from heaven to earth without violating agency (as those priesthood holders are asking to be tools in God’s hands – as in the Lakota medicine man Fools Crow’s “hollow bone” principle for healing – see Thomas Mails’ book Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power).
Those in heaven approve or seal works done on earth so that they are also efficacious in heaven, in time and in the eternities.
What does it mean to be “called”?
Given an authorized invitation to receive via covenant.
Ordained by the laying on of hands; it is interesting that Indian spiritualists teach that the hands are energy vortexes – that through the hands energy or light can be passed from one entity to another.
Invited by God to receive or accept a blessing (see Alma 42:27).
What are they being called to?
To receive the priesthood, which is to gain an association with gods and angels through the veil – to gain a brotherhood or sisterhood or fellowship between mortals and spiritual entities (light or dark) or between groups of mortals (an Elder’s Quorum, for instance) or groups of spiritual entities (i.e. the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn).
The priesthood after the Holy Order of God (see D&C 84:18).
Who calls them?
If “many” are called (and this is in 1839, so way before the internet…) it is not just the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that calls them.
Angels call people to rise up and accept priesthood or a fellowship with God, with its associated power to do His work on earth (see Moroni 7:22, 25-26, 29-31; Alma 19:34; Alma 32:23; 3 Nephi 28:23-32; D&C 77:11; Revelation 7:1-4).
What does it mean to be “chosen”?
To actually receive that priesthood or fellowship with its accompanying power and authority (ultimately, the High Priesthood is received from the Father through an oath and covenant).
Is it possible to be ordained to the Priesthood (receiving authority) without having power in that Priesthood?
Yes. Many are “called” or invited to have an association with heaven but few are “chosen”; few have done what is required to gain and maintain such an association with gods or angels.
Ordination or the laying on of hands by a man in authority does not guarantee sufficient faith to gain power in the priesthood – it is only an invitation to go on and receive the real thing from God.
Power in the priesthood must be obtained directly from heaven; this is particularly obvious when priesthood is understood to be an association between mortals on this side of the veil and gods and angels on the other side, and is the means to “pull” spiritual power through from heaven to the earth, in line with God’s will. Pulling spiritual power through the veil which is not aligned with God’s will is a good definition of the “dark arts” but is no less real.
What is priesthood authority without power in the priesthood?
It is nothing – without power or an association with heaven, the “priesthood holder” has no real priesthood; it is worthless vanity – it is a meaningless title, an empty authority.
It is actually more dangerous than having no authority or ordination at all, because the priesthood holder can exercise priestcraft (holding themselves up as a light to gain wealth) or control (threatening people to conform to their will or face eternal consequences via excommunication or the withholding of temple blessings); those who do not realize that the priesthood holder has no power in the priesthood can be abused and the priesthood holder themselves can be damned.
Their hearts are set so much upon the material things of the world, their control over others, and the prideful honors of men which they think they can gain from “presiding” in a Church organization with “authority” from God to do whatever they feel “inspired” to do.
READ D&C 121:36
What are the “rights of the priesthood”?
The ACTUAL authority and ability to use God’s power (see Helaman 10:4-17).
What are the “powers of heaven”?
It does not say the “power in heaven” or even the “power of heaven”; so it is not referring to some mystical “power of God” or “magic” that can perform miracles.
The “powers of heaven” are the hosts of heaven who have power there – the gods and angels of heaven.
In the same way all LDS Melchizedek Priesthood holders from new missionaries to General Authorities are referred to as “Elders”, all those who have authority on the other side of the veil are called “Powers” (whether they are angels, archangels, principalities, powers, dominions, thrones, cherubim, or seraphim) – it is a proper noun referring to the whole group.
What does “inseparably connected to the powers of heaven” mean?
An “inseparable connection” is to be one with (connected in a way that cannot be separated) the “powers” of entities of heaven through having received the “mind of God” or Holy Spirit or Spirit of Christ; to have one’s eye single to God’s glory or be filled with His light and glory.
God alone controls the conferral and use of this power or connection to heaven.
What does “the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon principles of righteousness” mean?
Men cannot “handle” or “control” God’s power or the Powers of Heaven (angelic host of heaven) – they cannot “conjure” them or command them to do the will of the mortal.
Men have to completely submit themselves on the altar of the Lord and seek to be strictly obedient and repentant (which together constitutes the “principles of righteousness”) to be allowed to be a tool in the hand of the Lord through which He makes His arm bare, with regard to His power (because you will “not ask amiss”).
READ D&C 121:37-40
What does “though they may be conferred upon us, it is true” imply?
That man can CONFER the Priesthood through the laying on of hands.
But that conferral of priesthood is NOT the same as actually having priesthood (power).
Conferral of priesthood is an authorized invitation (or “calling”) to go RECEIVE priesthood at the hand of God (to be “chosen”).
What kinds of behavior will cause priesthood to depart?
Covering our sins = make it seem as if the sins are not there by appearing to be something we are not with the purpose of deceiving those who do not know the truth; paradoxically, this is exactly what the Lord does for us when He forgives us – however, 1) in the near term He requires our repentance (see 3 Nephi 9:19-22), and 2) ultimately, His goal is to help us to become precisely like He is one day – and He does not save us in our sins but from our sins, which means that at that future day, we must be without sin (see Alma 11:37; 3 Nephi 12:48).
Gratifying our pride = pride is enmity or pitting ourselves against others so that we can beat them or be perceived as being better than them; ultimately it means following our own will instead of submitting to God’s – implied in which is that we are openly rebelling against God or pitting ourselves against Him, believing we know better than He does or doubting His character and attributes (that what He does is for our ultimate good) or wanting what He has at His expense, as Satan did (see Isaiah 14:12-15; D&C 29:37), instead of being willing to share it with Him, but on His terms (see D&C 76:50-70).
Exercising control or dominion or compulsion = to force another to comply with your will (regardless of whether or not your will is actually “good” or “evil”) through any kind of punishment or threat of punishment; it is to violate someone’s agency – which is a violation of God’s “prime directive”.
Who is D&C 121 a warning to?
Only those who occupy the seats of authority over others would be able to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon anyone else; if a regular member tried that on another regular member, the victim would take it immediately to the Bishop to be resolved or would just ignore it all together.
Only those who claim the right to lead are warned against persecuting the saints who believe and practice the religion (and so can be coerced, thinking their eternal life is at stake unless they comply with and are obedient to the Authority).
What does “ANY degree of unrighteousness” mean?
The bar is high!
You cannot have a fellowship with heaven if you exercise control, dominion or compulsion in any degree of unrighteousness – and since God honors agency so highly, any time anyone uses priesthood authority (or Church callings, which, while not the same thing in reality, are treated as the same thing by the Church…) to compel anyone to do anything, they have lost their priesthood or association with heaven.
Is priesthood “perishable”?
One can have it conferred upon them (the invitation or “authority” to receive it) and one can actually receive power in the priesthood (a legitimate fellowship or association with the powers of heaven), but retaining that fellowship with gods and angels is dependent upon the behavior of the mortal; priesthood power or the association with gods and angels can easily be severed.
All degrees of priesthood are perishable (the High Priesthood is an association with Elohim and makes one a Son of God, see D&C 121:7, Alma 13:9; D&C 107:3; the second order is an association with Jesus Christ; the third order or Aaronic Priesthood is an association with angels – hence it holds the keys to the ministering of angels; but the Aaronic is more robust than the other two, as it enables people to reobtain the other two if they’ve been lost, even when under condemnation (see D&C 84:19-27; D&C 124:27-28); however, if one rebels once one has received the High Priesthood (because that is what it would be at that point – open rebellion or sinning against the light one knows), they will not receive forgiveness in this world or the next (see D&C 84:41).
You cannot have a fellowship with heaven where no unclean thing can enter, if you are mired in sin (see D&C 1:31; Moses 6:57; 1 Nephi 10:21).
You cannot have a fellowship with heaven if you pursue your own agenda (see Helaman 10:4-5; John 8:29; John 15:10).
What does “amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” mean?
They have NO priesthood power or authority, regardless of any ordination or calling.
The Church may still recognize “authority” but God does not.
This gives us a view into how much of what the Church requires in callings can be done via the talents of the fallen man without the need for the spiritual gifts and miracles of God because there are many people who successfully carry out the requirements of a calling but have no association with heaven or power in the priesthood they purportedly hold.
How does that loss of priesthood manifest itself?
The heavens (or powers of heaven, or gods and angels) withdraw themselves from the person.
When the Powers of Heaven withdraw themselves, you are left to yourself - you have NO PRIESTHOOD (power OR authority) at that point (without the powers of heaven) because you have no association with gods and angels.
You are alone, as the Spirit of the Lord has been grieved – you are filled with darkness instead of light or holy spirit.
This means that you have no power – no connection with heaven.
What does “ere he is aware” imply?
Particularly with the lower orders of the priesthood, where the connection to heaven via angels is more tenuous or periodic anyway, the individual can lose their priesthood and not realize it right away.
It may take them awhile before they realize that they are alone – without angelic ministrants, without the Spirit, etc.
Implied also is how easy it can be to grieve the Spirit – how subtle, like gossamer, the “tuning” mechanism is and how easily and quickly we are distracted from it and lose the right frequency.
Why do people who have lost their priesthood “kick against the pricks” and what does this mean?
When we behave like the "gentiles" (Luke 22: 24-26), we are left without authority or power. This solitary state of being alone, without God in the world (Mormon 5: 16) or being "left to himself", has a natural progression.
The progression that follows, once our priesthood is gone, is that we "kick against the pricks"--meaning we then oppose the will of God, and it will harm us.
It is a natural law or consequence we are following. We cannot help ourselves. We must thereafter oppose the will of God and bring harm upon ourselves by so doing. We will naturally "persecute the saints"-- meaning that when this route is taken, we will look for and oppose those who have remained in contact with the Lord. It is a natural result, and it is irresistible. If this is the chosen course, anyone who follows it must seek out and oppose those who follow God's will, because they "fight against God" when they are in this gall of bitterness.
What can be implied from “almost ALL men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will IMMEDIATELY begin to exercise unrighteous dominion”?
Among men, it is the EXCEPTION not the rule to have priesthood power.
Almost all men “suppose” they have authority, but they don’t.
They fall into unrighteous dominion immediately - it is not a slow, subtle fall from grace (this implies that our definition of “unrighteous dominion” and the Lord’s may not be the same - ours is much more lenient).
THIS MEANS US - we really need to examine ourselves personally; if we do not have an association with the angels of heaven, at a minimum, we do not currently have priesthood.
So, who really has priesthood on this earth?
Almost no one, as it is the disposition of almost all men, when they have been ordained to a priesthood and “gain a little authority” as they suppose, to fail to do what is required to have the actual association with heaven; seeing priesthood (particularly the High Priesthood) in this fallen sphere is a rare thing indeed (see Mormon 8:33-41).
It is not hard to discern; look for either the behaviors listed in D&C 121:37-39 or look for the absence of the power and gifts of the spirit that result from a true association with heaven (see Helaman 10:4-11; JST Genesis 14:29-32; Jacob 4:6; Mormon 8:24; Mormon 9:19-21, 24).
Hence, many are called but few are chosen.
READ D&C 121:41-46
What are the “principles of righteousness” that govern the exercise of God’s power or association with the powers of heaven or priesthood?
Persuasion - this is the key.
Long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love; because persuasion is not compulsion - it is about mindset, intent and tone as much as content.
Using pure knowledge - this is the “content” of your message; what you teach/say and do must be “true” - i.e. things as they were, are, will be - which is only gained and understood via strict obedience to the commandments, so that you are filled with the Holy Spirit or mind of God.
Only the Holy Ghost can call you to reprove another, after which you must legitimately feel and show an INCREASE in love towards them - and you were already supposed to be feeling a great deal of love to begin with.
You MUST have charity - the pure love of Christ, for ALL MEN.
In particular, you must love your fellow Church members (household of faith).
Let virtue defend or cover (garnish) your thoughts UNCEASINGLY.
When is the ONLY time “reproving” with sharpness (which means “with surgical focus” and not “with unfettered enmity”) is acceptable to the Lord?
When it is instigated by the Holy Spirit.
Which is not the same as saying “I can reprove as long as I do it ‘with the Spirit’”.
It is the Lord using you as a tool of feedback – He reveals His words to someone else through you – you are only the tool.
This is another reason why the Lord requires an “increase of love” be felt and shown because a) He feels that love for His child and is hopeful for their repentance or improvement and b) He is aware that the individual may not be able to discern if it is you talking or the Lord, so He requires an outpouring of love, over and above whatever level had been displayed previously, to ensure that the individual takes the feedback or reproof in the spirit of love with which it was truly intended by God; and as His tool, you must show forth the love of God, as well.
What does charity tell you about yourself?
Those who are resting secure (exercising faith) in the knowledge (promise or “hope”) of their future state are not worrying about their eternal welfare; instead, they can love, minister to/serve, and intercede on behalf of others without condition -it is unconditional love.
God is love so if you have charity, His image is reflected in your countenance or face because you are becoming one with Him (see John 14:9; Alma 5:14).
What does it mean to let “virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly”?
In this world, we only have the ability to do or even think about one thing at a time.
Garnishing one’s thoughts unceasingly means to “always remember Him” (see Moroni 5:2) – to seek after Him and to watch and wait for Him; it means to have His Spirit within us as a constant companion, to share His mind or Holy Spirit – which is to be one with Him and have our eyes single to His glory and work; to converse with Him continually, as you talk to yourself now.
Satan does not need to make us “bad”; he only needs to distract us from the things of God that are of “great import” but which require “time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts” to find them out; we must “stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity”; in a nutshell we “must commune with God” (see TPJS 156:3-157:1).
Instead, Satan distracts us with things ranging from the good but not great, through to meaningless entertainment, and on down to insidious vice; to the degree that our religious meetings, social interactions and one-on-one conversations are “too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God” (see TPJS 157:2), we are wasting the precious probationary opportunity we have to gain more light and truth while on this earth – an opportunity afforded to us through the sacrifice of a god.
What are the results of obtaining and exercising God’s priesthood power?
You will have CONFIDENCE standing in the presence of God.
Because that is what the priesthood is - particularly the highest order: the association referred to is really a Sonship with God the Father.
The Holy Ghost will be your CONSTANT COMPANION - in effect, your own “Ghost” or spirit has been made “Holy” or sanctified - you can receive the Mind of God (Holy Ghost) and be one with God.
“Dominion” will flow to you WITHOUT COMPULSION, as it does to Christ and the Father – i.e. we love them (we offer them our love and keep their commandments and do their will) because they first loved us.
How does God govern the universe?
God governs without compulsory means.
He is the “Observer” in quantum physics; He “acts upon” the elements through His will, organizing them from chaos to structure.
He moves all things by His power but permits anything with existence the freedom to choose.
He invites, entices and persuades.
Eternal law is what it is; we break ourselves against it if we choose to act unaligned to its truths, but we are free to do so (see Alma 42:27; D&C 130:20-21; Revelation 3:20).