The first section of this post is a small part of the “Epistle to the Church” written by Joseph Smith while in Liberty Jail, Clay County Missouri, on March 25, 1839, not long before his release or escape. Other sections of this letter were canonized in the D&C as sections 121-123 (see those lessons in the D&C). See TPJS standard edition page 137 or 156-157, in the edition I use (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith).
The second discourse used in this post was given by Joseph Smith at the organization of a school of instruction, on January 5, 1841. See TPJS standard edition pages 180-182 or pages 205-206, in my edition.
The third is an excerpt from an editorial Joseph Smith published in the Nauvoo newspaper “The Times and Seasons” on April 1, 1842, called “Try the Spirits”. See TPJS standard edition 204-208 or 232-236, in the edition I use.
The fourth is a discourse given by Joseph Smith to a large assembly of the Saints at the unfinished Nauvoo Temple site on June 11, 1843, almost a year before his death. See TPJS standard edition pages 307-312 (and the “bag of sand” reference on page 314 or 352 in mine), and pages 343-350, in the STPJS version.
The fifth was a sermon Joseph Smith gave at the demise of James Adams on October 9, 1843. Standard version pages 324-326 or 364-367 in STPJS.
A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.
How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world! We are called to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation of the world until now. Some have tasted a little of these things, many of which are to be poured down from heaven upon the heads of babes; yea, upon the weak, obscure and despised ones of the earth. Therefore we beseech of you, brethren, that you bear with those who do not feel themselves more worthy than yourselves, while we exhort one another to a reformation with one and all, both old and young, teachers and taught, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female; let honesty, and sobriety, and candor, and solemnity, and virtue, and pureness, and meekness, and simplicity crown our heads in every place; and in fine, become as little children, without malice, guile or hypocrisy.
How do you commune with God?
You must stretch your mind by seeking after and considering all truth.
It requires mighty prayer, where you silence your mind and allow your spirit to commune with God; remember that the Kingdom of God is within you to the extent that the Holy Spirit is with you.
This includes receiving revelations regarding the highest heaven (not just reading the accounts of others, because these things must be experienced firsthand) so that you understand all facets of it that are necessary for your salvation – the broad expanse of eternity.
It also includes searching into and contemplating the darkest abyss; this includes not only the depravity and cruelty of man but also the world of devils and demons.
Are we to study the “dark arts”?
Not on our own or following your own course of study; the Lord will guide you, sending you true messengers and coming Himself to instruct you, although He may also allow the Adversary to attempt to deceive you (see 1 Nephi 8:4-9).
The way both the heights and depths are to be understood is through communion with God; He will teach you through visions and experience, what you need to know to overcome all things.
It is interesting to note that a knowledge of evil is as important as a knowledge of good, to follow the Son of God; Christ likely knew more of the devil’s kingdom than any Satan worshiper who has ever lived; the Lord’s followers will come to the same knowledge.
Sadly, you will become experienced in defending yourself against the dark arts through coming to know God; as there is opposition in all things, the Lord allows the Adversary to test and try you; his minions feed on fear but your faith in Christ will see you through (see JSH 1:15-17) because the light is so much stronger than the dark (see Moses 1:12-25) and the Lord will instruct you in defense against the dark arts.
Contemplating the darkest abyss usually requires personal experience, so while we are not to study the dark arts, we will gain a deep understanding of them through our experiences defending ourselves against them.
There is Only One Priesthood
“Answer to the question, Was the Priesthood of Melchizedek taken away when Moses died? All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.”
What does it mean that “all priesthood is Melchizedek”?
There is only one priesthood or power of God or association with God; it is called the Priesthood After the Holy Order of the Son of God; it was renamed the “Melchizedek Priesthood” after the great king of Salem – but as Melchizedek means “king” and “priest”, it is not a first name but a title which is synonymous with Christ, who is the true King and Priest.
If the priesthood is an association or oneness between mankind and others so that power can be transferred from heaven to earth to enable God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven as a result of our agency by inviting Him through the veil, the fact that there is only one priesthood implies that the only association that counts is between you and God Himself (as Christ is one with God, He is also included in that association – particularly as He is the Father of your spiritual rebirth).
Why are their different portions or degrees of priesthood if there really is just one priesthood?
Because mankind will not rise up and come to know God and align our behavior and our desires with His commandments and will; as a result, we cannot have a direct association with God but must work through mediators who possess less glory and intelligence (as we are lacking in glory and intelligence).
However, the lesser orders of priesthood are designed to lead the bearer into higher orders, until they regain that which was lost to them; angels minister to bring men and women into Christ’s presence, and Christ ministers to bring them into the Father’s.
This is exactly what happened to the children of Israel when they refused to come up on to Mount Sinai and enter into God’s presence but sent Moses instead – they lost their opportunity to know God (which is eternal life) and were given a lesser priesthood with a lesser association – in this case, the Aaronic Priesthood with its associated ministry of angels (see D&C 84:19-27).
This same experience was replayed again when the Church came under condemnation in 1832 for taking lightly the opportunity to come unto Christ (as taught in the Book of Mormon, see D&C 84:49-59); the Church subsequently lost the High Priesthood and as the terms for receiving it back were never met (in the building and accepting of the Nauvoo Temple by God, see D&C 124:27-50), the Church remains under that condemnation to this day, and only functions with the lesser Aaronic Priesthood – at all levels.
What is implied by the fact that all prophets are ordained by God Himself?
All true prophets and prophetesses from Adam and Eve to today were directly ordained to the High Priesthood by God.
If your prophet has not seen Christ, they have not been ordained by God Himself and he does not hold the Melchizedek priesthood, regardless of his line of authority.
All lines of authority for Melchizedek priesthood is direct to God Himself – there is no middle man (see JST Genesis 14:27-31) because it cannot be passed from man to man regardless of what earthy “keys” men think they hold; the “heavenly gift” cannot be passed to man except directly from God.
The Nature of Element, Spirit and Godhood
The elements are eternal. That which has a beginning will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beginning or end—cut it for a beginning place and at the same time you have an ending place. A key: Every principle proceeding from God is eternal and any principle which is not eternal is of the devil. The sun has no beginning or end; the rays which proceed from himself have no bounds, consequently are eternal. So it is with God. If the soul of man had a beginning it will surely have an end. In the translation “without form and void” it should be read, empty and desolate. The word created should be formed, or organized.
That which is without body, parts and passions is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones. John 5:26. As the Father hath life in himself, even so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself. God the Father took life unto himself precisely as Jesus did. The first step in salvation of man is the laws of eternal and self-existent principles. Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present, and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it. We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man, and when cast out by the Savior he asked to go into the herd of swine, showing that he would prefer a swine’s body to having none. All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power. This earth will be rolled back into the presence of God, and crowned with celestial glory.
What can we learn from Joseph’s statement that the elements are eternal?
The First Law of Thermodynamics teaches us that in a closed system, we can’t create something out of nothing.
Implied is that the cosmos and eternity within which these elements reside is a “closed system”.
Even at the quantum level, while particles seem to appear out of nothing, they are actually waves that have left a “superposition” and have become located in a certain time and place, but they have always existed as energy in one form or another.
And since spirit is just more refined matter (see D&C 131:7), the statement that “spirits are eternal” also makes sense.
If something will exist forever more, it means that it has always existed; the difference lies in the form that it is occupying, which can change or transform over time.
This changes the definition of God from being our “creator” to what Joseph describes as our “organizer” – a being at a much higher level of intelligence and light who, through Their work, facilitated our progression from intelligence to something more, but we always existed.
Even principles are eternal; this is where we get the idea of Eternal Law, which God lives perfectly or He would cease to be God.
If “that which is without body, parts and passions is nothing” but Satan does not have a body, then does he exist?
Satan exists, so he has a body, parts and passions but his body is not of the same nature as God’s or even mankind’s.
To say that Satan doesn’t have a physical, mortal body is an accurate statement.
His body lacks the glory, light or intelligence that Christ’s and the Father’s body have (see Moses 1:1-22).
Does the statement “there is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones” mean that there is not a plurality of Gods?
No, but it means that all of the Gods in heaven have perfected, glorified, resurrected bodies of flesh and bone.
It speaks to the fact that to abide in heaven with God, you must be clothed in a body of some kind, and might be the reason that those spirits in paradise saw the separation from their bodies as a punishment – they could not go back into the presence of God but were stuck; and if that state was to last forever, they would be stuck as “angels to a devil” (see 2 Nephi 9:4, 15; D&C 138:14-18, 50-51; 2 Nephi 9:9).
How did the Father take life unto Himself and what is implied?
He took life unto Himself the same way that Christ did; i.e. through attaining to the resurrection Himself and inheriting a perfected, physical body of spirit (refined matter – perfected flesh and bone), glory (light, intelligence, truth) and power (by faith in oneself as a God, to do all things in line with eternal law), see TPJS 390-393.
And as Christ was given to have life in Himself by the Father, so also the Father must have been given life in Himself at the hands of His Father.
Although Christ (and before Him, the Father) “trod the winepress alone” (lived a perfect life, suffered an infinite and eternal atonement, offered Himself in an unjust death, and triumphed over death by attaining to the resurrection, so that He could present His perfected body before God in the Celestial Kingdom), Joseph’s statement speaks to the power displayed by a Father God to enable His Son to gain life in Himself; it speaks to how Christ can promise us exaltation – either because He knows all things into future eternities or because He plays a key role in making our exaltation as a Son or Daughter of God happen, despite our treading that “winepress” alone.
READ TPJS 349:4-5
As the Father hath power in Himself, so hath the Son power in Himself, to lay down His life and take it again, so He has a body of His own. The Son doeth what He hath seen the Father do: then the Father hath some day laid down His life and taken it again; so He has a body of His own; each one will be in His own body; and yet the sectarian world believe the body of the Son is identical with the Father’s. Gods have an ascendency over the angels, who are ministering servants. In the resurrection, some are raised to be angels, others are raised to become Gods.
What does having power in oneself enable you to do?
Have life in yourself; not depend upon any other being for life.
Lay down your life and take it up again.
To gain a body of your own, meaning not a body gifted to you by the grace of a God (see TPJS 391).
When you combine this teaching with Joseph’s statement that all spirit is eternal and we have always existed (implied is that we can’t cease to exist), it modifies the meaning of the word “life” to mean more than just to exist (see D&C 132:21-25).
What does the phrase “body of your own” imply?
That before you lay your life down and take it up again, your body is not your own.
But after you have attained to the resurrection yourself, your body IS your own; at that point your body can never be laid aside again.
Implied in this is that your body could be laid aside before you personally attain to the resurrection of the dead – this is what Christ did when He condescended to come to earth in a mortal tabernacle; He laid aside a body of great glory (where He had risen to be called a Son of God) He had previously been given.
What does it mean that “each one” will be in His own body?
The Father and the Son each have their own bodies, earned the same way, by each attaining to the resurrection themselves.
That anyone who wants to become precisely as Christ is must also, each, do the same.
What is implied by the fact that the Father also laid down His life and took it up again?
That the Father performed the role of the Savior in a prior eternity.
That while Christ’s atonement and resurrection fulfill all of the redemptive needs for all things created by God and Christ in the cosmos, there was a need for the Father to do the same in a prior eternity and a different cosmos.
Implying that there were “prior eternities and other cosmoses” - and for every eternity and cosmos, there must be a different or unique Savior (or the Father’s initial sacrifice would have sufficed for this eternity, too) – a Son of God who can lay down His glory and life and condescend to enter a “tabernacle of clay” to save the creation.
READ TPJS 348:5-349:2
There is much said about God and the Godhead. The scriptures say there are Gods many and Lords many, but to us there is but one living and true God, and the heaven of heavens could not contain him; for he took the liberty to go into other heavens. The teachers of the day say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and they are all in one body and one God. Jesus prayed that those that the Father had given him out of the world might be made one in them, as they were one [one in spirit, in mind, in purpose]. If I were to testify that the Christian world were wrong on this point, my testimony would be true. Peter and Stephen testify that they saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Any person that had seen the heavens opened knows that there are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all.
What does “Gods many and Lords many” mean?
Gods = the role of the Father.
Lords = the role of the Son.
Our Father (Ahman) is a Father or God now, but was a Lord or Son in a prior eternity; however, He is not the only one who has played these roles as there are “many” Gods and Lords in heaven.
This again speaks to the need that every new creation has for a Son of God to redeem it from its fall and the sins committed upon it by those experiencing a probationary state.
What does it mean that although there are many Gods and Lords in heaven, that there is only one “living and true God”?
While the statement says that there are Gods and Lords many, it doesn’t say that they reside in the heaven to which we are native, nor does it say that They are worshiped as the “true and living God” of this cosmos and eternity.
Implied is that in each heaven and eternity, one is worshiped as the “true and living God” and presides over all others.
To preside, one must be deferred to; in heaven this deferral happens because of the amount of glory that each entity possesses; so to preside over all implies that the one has more glory (intelligence, light, truth, spirit) than the others in that heaven – although Christ’s relationship with the Father shows that two Gods can reside in the same heavens if one is more glorious than the other – as a Father is to a Son; since we know that the Father had to also have a Father, this implies again that there are multiple heavens (dimensions?) for the multiple Gods.
Another possibility is that in a heaven of Gods (a “heaven of heavens”), where all are precisely alike in their Godhood, that all preside and yet none preside because they are “one God” despite being multiple personages – remember Elohim is a plural word but that doesn’t mean it just refers to two people (a father and mother god, for instance – it could refer to a host or council of Gods who are one with each other).
What does it mean that the heavens could not contain God and that He took the liberty to go into other heavens?
Implied is that there are multiple heavens; this is not referring to multiple degrees of glory or kingdoms within heaven, but multiple heavens that a God could visit; perhaps they are found in other dimensions that vibrate at different frequencies.
If there are other heavens that our God was not native to, it could make sense that each is the creation of a different God.
To become a God means to become one with all others who are also a God (to be precisely like the rest and nothing else – including the attributes of love, etc.), so this passage should not be read to mean that God invaded other heavens, just that He traveled among them.
The fact that God could not be “contained” implies that perhaps He had advanced to such a level that He could go between heavens via the “heaven of heavens”, where before He could not do this but was contained within His native heaven.
If Joseph Smith saw “two personages” in the Sacred Grove, the Lectures on Faith teach of only two personages, Orson Hyde is shown as being the one to introduce the false doctrine of the Holy Ghost being a personage (see D&C 131), and the Temple never mentions the HG, why does it say here that any person who has seen into the heavens knows there are three personages who hold the keys of power?
The third personage in heaven who holds the keys of power but is presided over by one could refer to Heavenly Mother; however, if the word “one” is really Elohim, then it includes Father and Mother – however, it does say three “personages” not three “Gods”.
The third personage could also be “Michael” as a proxy for all of the Sons of Man that rise up to become Sons of God, as is depicted in the Temple endowment ceremony.
This scripture seems to support D&C 130:22-23 which the Joseph Smith Papers show was a doctrinal error taught by Orson Hyde, which Joseph corrected; but years later, when D&C 130 was canonized, and Hyde was a leading apostle, he put his original doctrine back in the text as if it was from Joseph Smith (see lesson on D&C 130 for more detail); as Orson Hyde has demonstrated on several occasions, there is precedent for Church leadership after Joseph Smith’s death to augment, change or delete some of the words of Joseph Smith; it would be interesting to know if this passage can be completely proved to be authored by Joseph Smith.
READ TPJS 232:2-333:1
Every one of these professes to be competent to try his neighbor’s spirit, but no one can try his own, and what is the reason? Because they have not a key to unlock, no rule wherewith to measure, and no criterion whereby they can test it. Could anyone tell the length, breadth or height of a building without a rule? Test the quality of metals without a criterion, or point out the movements of the planetary systems, without a knowledge of astronomy? Certainly not; and if such ignorance as this is manifested about a spirit of this kind, who can describe an angel of light? If Satan should appear as one in glory, who can tell his color, his signs, his appearance, his glory, or what is the manner of his manifestation? Who can detect the spirit of the French prophets with their revelations and their visions, and power of manifestations? Or who can point out the spirit of the Irvingites, with their apostles and prophets, and visions and tongues, and interpretations, etc. Or who can drag into daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day Saints? We answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood, and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God, so no man knows the spirit of the devil, and his power and influence, but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysterious operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious windings. A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power and baneful effects. Long pilgrimages have been undertaken, penances endured, and pain, misery and ruin have followed in their train; nations have been convulsed, kingdoms overthrown, provinces laid waste, and blood, carnage and desolation are habiliments in which it has been clothed.
What does it mean to “try a spirit”?
To detect where a spirit hails from – is it a spirit of light or darkness or some gradation between the two.
To understand if you are being influenced by another spirit external to yourself (either from God or not).
To comprehend the magnitude of light (or darkness) that your spirit is comprised of.
Why do we have such difficulty “trying our own sprits”?
We have no accurate criteria with which to judge.
Most people don’t even realize they are a spirit – they think of themselves as a mind and a body; the spirit is a “subtle” body – hard to discern at first with all of the distractions of a physical world to get in the way.
What descriptors does Joseph use to differentiate one spirit from another?
Manner of his/her manifestation.
Garb or clothes.
If one was differentiating one human from another, we would use height, weight, gender, skin color, eye color, muscle mass, attractiveness; the traits Joseph is describing are ones that spirits use to differentiate each other.
Why is it so hard for mankind to tell what kind of spirits are influencing them?
Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.
The more light you possess, the more you will be able to discern.
God reveals Himself and the things of the heavenly realm (by revelation and giving light to those who obey Him); without these revelations and light, we remain almost completely blind to the spiritual realm.
The devils do their best work with subtly; they don’t want to be found out; this works very well for them, because the spiritually blind never suspect that they are being influenced by the dark, which makes the work of the Adversary that much easier.
Those who awake and arise to the truth of the heavenly realm see who is influencing them and binding them down and how it is done, and seek to shake off the bonds by repenting of their old behavior and mindset and coming unto Christ to be healed, that they may fully see (and protect themselves).
Why is being under the influence of a false spirit when you think it is the Spirit of God so damaging?
You are so zealous and sure in your “rightness”.
You never think to check – you assume that you have “The Spirit” with you, and whatever it leads you to do and say is right; and that if you make a mistake, God will stand by you regardless – this is a lie that Brigham Young and many other Church leaders have taught and believe, as they were influenced by evil spirits.
If it is a false spirit, it will damn you (teaching you that you have no real need to repent for “all is well in Zion”) and negatively influence others at the same time (through control and compulsion, using religion as a weapon, in many cases).
READ TPJS 233:2
As we have noticed before, the great difficulty lies in the ignorance of the nature of spirits, of the laws by which they are governed, and the signs by which they may be known; if it requires the Spirit of God to know the things of God; and the spirit of the devil can only be unmasked through that medium, then it follows as a natural consequence that unless some person or persons have a communication, or revelation from God, unfolding to them the operation of the spirit, they must eternally remain ignorant of these principles; for I contend that if one man cannot understand these things but by the Spirit of God, ten thousand men cannot; it is alike out of the reach of the wisdom of the learned, the tongue of the eloquent, the power of the mighty. And we shall at last have to come to this conclusion, whatever we may think of revelation, that without it we can neither know nor understand anything of God, or the devil; and however unwilling the world may be to acknowledge this principle, it is evident from the multifarious creeds and notions concerning this matter that they understand nothing of this principle, and it is equally as plain that without a divine communication they must remain in ignorance. The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves “in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,” and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.
How can you discern the spirits that influence you?
You must understand the nature of spirits, the laws by which they are governed, and the signs by which they may be known.
But it requires the Spirit of God to know the things of God – to know the truth about the things of the heavenly and spiritual realms.
So, if you do not have the Spirit of God with you, you will not have the understanding required to discern spirits, nor will you have the ability to see or comprehend them either.
Why does the world always mistake false prophets for true ones, and think that true prophets are false?
It’s not so much that the world can’t tell the difference, it’s really about what the world values – and they value the doctrines and works that the false prophets deliver to them; the message that all is well in Zion; that their prosperity is a sign of God’s favor; that they are really very good people with no real need to repent; etc. It’s a feel-good message of success and comfort where they tell stories of charitable acts and expected heavenly rewards.
The things people value in this world are the exact opposite of what is valued in heaven; we don’t realize how different the culture and values of heaven are, despite how deeply we hold on to our values and consider them not merely “ours” but that they are “correct” or “right”, and apply in heaven as much as they do on earth; in fact, religious people feel that their values come from heaven.
True prophets always have a message directly from God, and as God’s work and glory is our immortality and eternal life, and as that requires us becoming precisely as Christ is and nothing else (see LoF 7:9), the message that God gives His messengers is that we must repent and change or we will not like the consequences. This is never a comfortable or appreciated message; as it causes even the righteous to experience godly sorrow, and the wicked take these truths to be hard and cuts them to the very center; as a result, they try to stop the message by casting out or killing the messenger.
READ TPJS 345:4-346:1
Many men will say, “I will never forsake you, but will stand by you at all times.” But the moment you teach them some of the mysteries of the kingdom of God that are retained in the heavens and are to be revealed to the children of men when they are prepared for them, they will be the first to stone you and put you to death. It was this same principle that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ and will cause the people to kill the prophets in this generation. Many things are insoluble to the children of men in the last days: for instance, that God should raise the dead, and forgetting that things have been hid from before the foundation of the world, which are to be revealed to babes in the last days.
There are a great many wise men and women too in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore, they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake.
How can men and women who have been prepared to receive further light and knowledge and proclaim that they will never forsake it, be the first to attempt to put you to death?
Like some angels, they put up stakes or limits to what they will allow themselves to believe.
They “fall in love” with the understanding they have gained and are uncomfortable with the possibility that it may be incomplete and in some cases or instances, wrong.
Their pride in the level of knowledge they have blinds them to the idea that they might not know all things; this is particularly pronounced when the think that the person bringing the new knowledge is not credible.
They think they understand God so well that they can tell Him (in affect) how to behave – “God’s will is that we…” or what He can or cannot reveal “That is not of God because…”
Others feel so strongly about certain virtues (which may, ironically, be of God) but because they are not led by the Spirit, they also put constraints on God – “the God I believe in would never…”
These people find God’s messengers especially threatening; they have an overwhelming need to shut them up – either by discrediting them, chasing them away so they can’t hear them, or in extreme cases, killing them – all in the name of God and protecting what they “know” to be true (or protecting people with “weak testimonies” from deception and apostasy).
It is interesting that Joseph could see the seeds of his own death at the hands of the Saints (forget the Missouri or Illinois mobs – they were just the tool) being sown by their reaction to the doctrine he was teaching while in Nauvoo – this is a year before his murder.
READ TPJS 235:2
In tracing the thing to the foundation, and looking at it philosophically, we shall find a very material difference between the body and the spirit; the body is supposed to be organized matter, and the spirit, by many, is thought to be immaterial, without substance. With this latter statement we should beg leave to differ, and state the spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that it is more pure, elastic and refined matter than the body; that it existed before the body, can exist in the body; and will exist separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the dust; and will in the resurrection be again united with it.
What are the similarities and differences between the spirit and the body?
Both spirit and body (or element) are substance or material.
Both are eternal.
The spirit is more refined matter than the body.
The spirit can exist outside of the body.
Although the elements making both are eternal, the spirit existed as a being to act before the body was created and can exist separate from the body.
The body is a tabernacle to be acted on; while it is also made up of eternal elements, it can be destroyed and cease to exist as a body and devolves back into “clay”.
In the resurrection, the body and spirit are joined or fused together and the body will become more refined, like the spirit, and at that moment, the elements that compose the body will become an eternal body of light and glory (to one degree or another).
READ TPJS 236:1-2
Without attempting to describe this mysterious connection, and the laws that govern the body and the spirit of man, their relationship to each other, and the design of God in relation to the human body and spirit, I would just remark, that the spirits of men are eternal, that they are governed by the same Priesthood that Abraham, Melchizedek, and the Apostles were: that they are organized according to that Priesthood which is everlasting, “without beginning of days or end of years,”—that they all move in their respective spheres, and are governed by the law of God; that when they appear upon the earth they are in a probationary state, and are preparing, if righteous, for a future and greater glory; that the spirits of good men cannot interfere with the wicked beyond their prescribed bounds, for Michael the Archangel dared not bring a railing accusation against the devil, but said, “The Lord rebuke thee, Satan.”
It would seem also, that wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed or controlled, and know their future destiny; hence, those that were in the maniac said to our Savior, “Art thou come to torment us before the time,” and when Satan presented himself before the Lord among the sons of God, he said that he came “from going to and fro in the earth, and from wandering up and down in it;” and he is emphatically called the prince of the power of the air; and, it is very evident that they possess a power that none but those who have the Priesthood can control, as we have before adverted to, in the case of the sons of Sceva.
What can we learn from the fact that both wicked spirits and good spirits have their bounds?
While both good and evil spirits continue to have agency, neither are allowed to impact the agency of mortals beyond a certain point.
In addition, while they can engage in battle between each other, they are also bound in their interactions in the spirit world (see Daniel 10:12-13).
Just as gravity and other laws of physics constrain what can be done in the physical world, other laws exist in the spiritual realm which prevent certain behavior. [note: in the garden of Eden, Satan was told he could bite Adam’s heel, while Adam could crush Satan’s head; meaning that while Satan has some power to afflict, Adam retains control and can banish Satan all together through the light acquired in righteousness]
What does the fact that the Devil’s minions know their fate teach us about them?
They have no veil of forgetfulness drawn over their minds (which makes sense, as the veil of forgetfulness is the flesh of the mortal body).
They are miserable and angry with the knowledge of their upcoming torment and lash out in hatred on mortals – trying to make as many of us as miserable as they are if they can tempt us to follow them
Their experience on earth now, even though they do not have bodies, is much better than the “torment” that is waiting for them after this life is over and the judgement comes.
READ TPJS 346:3
I will say something about the spirits in prison. Thee has been much said by modern divines about the words of Jesus (when on the cross) to the thief, saying, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” King James’ translators make it out to say paradise. But what is paradise? It is a modern word: it does not answer at all to the original word that Jesus made use of. Find the original of the word paradise. You may as easily find a needle in a haymow. Here is a chance for battle, ye learned men. There is nothing in the original word in Greek from which this was taken that signifies paradise; but it was—This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits: then I will teach you all about it and answer your inquiries. And Peter says he went and preached to the world of spirits (spirits in prison, 1 Peter, 3rd chap. 19th verse), so that they who would receive it could have it answered by proxy by those who live on the earth, etc.
It always has been when a man was sent of God with the priesthood and he began to preach the fullness of the gospel, that he was thrust out by his friends, who are already to butcher him if he teach things which they imagine to be wrong; and Jesus was crucified upon this principle, I will now turn linguist. There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me. I will criticize a little further. There has been much said about the word hell, and the sectarian world have preached much about it, describing it to be a burning lake of fire and brimstone. But what is hell? It is another modern term, and is taken from hades. I’ll hunt after hades as Pat did for the woodchuck. Hades, the Greek, or Sheol, the Hebrew, these two significations mean a world of spirits. Hades, Sheol, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one: it is a world of spirits. The righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection. “I do not think so,” says one. If you will go to my house any time, I will take my lexicon and prove it to you. The great misery of departed spirits in the world of spirits, where they go after death, is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves, and they are their own accusers. “But,” says one, “I believe in one universal heaven and hell, where all go, and are all alike, and equally miserable or equally happy.” What! where all are huddled together—the honorable, virtuous, and murderers, and whoremongers, when it is written that they shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body? But St. Paul informs us of three glories and three heavens. He knew a man that was caught up to the third heavens. Now, if the doctrine of the sectarian world, that there is but one heaven, is true, Paul, what do you tell that lie for, and say there are three? Jesus said unto His disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come and receive you to myself, that where I am ye may be also.”
What does Joseph Smith teach us here about the world of spirits?
That “prison” and “paradise,” as we have defined them, may be different.
There is only one “world of spirits”.
What we don’t know is, despite their being one world of spirits, if they were divided somehow before the resurrection of Christ (see D&C 138; Luke 16:19-30) because Christ didn’t go to the spirits in prison and they couldn’t come to Him when He died and went to paradise.
But clearly, according to Joseph, they are more alike than maybe we’ve taught the doctrine – more like two neighborhoods in the same city may be very different but still have basic things in common, rather than a heavenly place of glory and a burning hell of fire and brimstone; for instance, it is interesting to note that when Peter was asked what one thing he would like from the Lord he said he wanted to skip the spirit world all together and go to the resurrected heaven where Christ was, instead.
What does Joseph’s statement, quoting Christ, about “many mansions” in heaven imply?
Either within each heaven or degree of glory there exist differences – even within the three levels Joseph describes as existing in the Celestial Kingdom (see D&C 131:1-4)…
Or there are more than 3 heavens or degrees of glory – including higher order of kingdoms above the Celestial Kingdom (see D&C 130:10-11).
READ TPJS 364:7-365:3
All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject. Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam, on the relation of man to God and angels in a future state, we should know very little about it. Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject. We are only capable of comprehending that certain things exist, which we may acquire by certain fixed principles. If men would acquire salvation, they have got to be subject, before they leave this world, to certain rules and principles, which were fixed by an unalterable decree before the world was. The disappointment of hopes and expectations at the resurrection would be indescribably dreadful.
How can we truly understand why we chose to leave the presence of God to come down to this telestial world?
While studying the topic day and night is important to be able to gain as much knowledge from the experiences of others as possible, as is experience with the ordinances of God which teach us and point to the mode of our deliverance through their symbolism and as an invitation to act…
This knowledge is gained only by experiential revelation directly from God to you; you must gain your own promise or hope of salvation directly from Him.
Why does “gazing into heaven five minutes” give you more knowledge than by reading all that was ever written on the subject?
Because heaven and spiritual things must be experienced; partly because we lack the ability to accurately convey what it is like (it is impossible to even describe what Moses saw of the earth, see Moses 1:27-28), and also because comprehending it requires an infusion of light or quickening of your frequency or mighty change in your spirit and heart without which you lack the intelligence to understand the things of God.
In addition, some of what has been written about heaven was not written by those who have been there; they are religious scholars or leaders who study but do not actually know anything from their own experience; so with them, anyone who has gazed into heaven is going to know more than this group of religious scholars and organizational leaders will.
What is Joseph implying by saying that we need our own revelation regarding our condition?
That we can (and must) actually receive such a revelation.
Joseph is trying to help us to live up to our privileges – to accept the invitation to come unto Christ that the Lord has extended to all – but especially to His Saints (those He has offered a covenant to).
Joseph is saying – “the fact that I’ve been saved, or the people in the scriptures you read about have been saved, doesn’t help YOU! But as God wants to save you, too, He is inviting you to participate in the ordinances and then go forward and rend the veil and experience the real thing for yourselves. Gaze into heaven and come unto Christ!”
The act of receiving such a revelation directly from the Lord is part of us progressing in our salvation (see Ether 3:13); in fact, it is an absolute requirement – a signpost of towards our salvation.
What does it mean that we must be subject to certain rules and principles before we leave this world?
The Lord has made it clear that baptism is required for salvation, which is why He authorized the Saints to perform baptisms for the dead.
The law of restitution says that we will have restored unto us in the next life what we desired in this one, and it would make sense that if our desires were genuine, that we would have acted in accordance with them to the degree we knew what to do and had the ability to do it; so if our desires and works were good in this world (as per the light of Christ we had within us), we are raised to a state of happiness (see Alma 41:3-8).
D&C 76 and 137 state that unless you have received the testimony of Jesus in this life (Jesus’ testifying to the Father and you regarding the promise of your salvation, see D&C 88:75) or would have received it if permitted to live long enough, you cannot achieve celestial glory, but can receive terrestrial (see D&C 76:51, 74; D&C 137:5-9); the testimony of Jesus is having your calling and election made sure.
READ TPJS 365:4-366:1
The organization of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, and of spiritual and heavenly beings, was agreeable to the most perfect order and harmony: their limits and bounds were fixed irrevocably, and voluntarily subscribed to in their heavenly estate by themselves, and were by our first parents subscribed to upon the earth. Hence the importance of embracing and subscribing to principles of eternal truth by all men upon the earth that expect eternal life.
The heavenly worlds are “organized” around the principles of Eternal Law.
All those who live there subscribe to it voluntarily because those laws are as constant and determining there as the laws of science are on earth – they are the “way things are” or in other words, they provide fixed “limits and bounds”.
Subscribing to these laws is what enables the soul to grow in light – as they are obedient or align themselves with these laws, even in the face of opposition, they gain intelligence and light or glory (see D&C 130:18-21).
What is our opportunity with regards to eternal law?
To live our mortal lives aligned to the same eternal laws that determine the heavenly realm; and by so doing, bring the heavenly realm into this telestial world.
To gain light by living true to eternal law while facing opposition to that law in this fallen world where living those laws does not result in an immediate reward, but rather are contrary to the laws of natural selection and competition that enables success here; and in some cases, aligning with eternal law on a fallen earth will result in persecution and suffering – but that is part of the test.
Ultimately, it is to gain eternal life – by becoming the person who embodies a fullness of eternal law (and is filled with a fullness of light) regardless of what sphere they are residing upon or in what condition they find themselves.
READ TPJS 366:2-4
I assure the Saints that truth, in reference to these matters, can and may be known through the revelations of God in the way of His ordinances, and in answer to prayer. The Hebrew Church “came unto the spirits of just men made perfect, and unto an innumerable company of angels, unto God the Father of all, and to Jesus Christ the Mediator of the new covenant.” What did they learn by coming to the spirits of just men made perfect? Is it written? No. What they learned has not been and could not have been written. What object was gained by this communication with the spirits of the just? It was the established order of the kingdom of God: The keys of power and knowledge were with them to communicate to the Saints. Hence the importance of understanding the distinction between the spirits of the just and angels. Spirits can only be revealed in flaming fire and glory. Angels have advanced further, their light and glory being tabernacled; and hence they appear in bodily shape. The spirits of just men are made ministering servants to those who are sealed unto life eternal, and it is through them that the sealing power comes down. Patriarch Adams is now one of the spirits of the just men made perfect; and, if revealed now, must be revealed in fire; and the glory could not be endured. Jesus showed Himself to His disciples, and they thought it was His spirit, and they were afraid to approach His spirit. Angels have advanced higher in knowledge and power than spirits.
Why did the Hebrew Church members part the veil and come into the presence of Gods and angels?
To receive the “keys of power and knowledge”.
If priesthood is an association between mankind and gods or angels, then “power in the priesthood” is had by understanding how those heavenly beings affect this mortal world and then enabling them to do so by using one’s agency to invite them to influence it through the veil with their power and glory – it is through these interactions or associations through the veil that the sealing power (or God’s will in heaven is done on earth) comes down.
What is the implication that “spirits of just men” and angels are different?
Angels have “advanced further” in knowledge and power (light or glory or intelligence, which comes by keeping God’s commandments or aligning oneself more fully with eternal law) than the spirits of just men.
Spirits of just men imply that they were “just” in a mortal tabernacle; in other words, that these are disembodied spirits not “pre-earth life” spirits who have never been born into a mortal body, because they chose righteousness and were “justified” or proclaimed innocent by their Redeemer during their mortal lives.
The fact that angels’ glory is “tabernacled” and can be hid from mankind and that they appear in a “bodily shape”, or we would say in a tangible body (as spirit “bodies” are also created in the image of God), implies that they have been resurrected or translated.
The only way that angels would be resurrected today is if they were born before the resurrection of Christ and were resurrected following His resurrection; but when you happened to be born doesn’t make you more “advanced” – was Elisha more advanced than Joseph Smith just because of when he was born? So, Joseph using the word “advanced” here connotes that these angels were resurrected because their righteousness (either on this earth or in a “first place” or prior mortal probation) was such that they had “advanced” passed others who had not been resurrected because, although they were justified by the Lord, had not risen up to the level of righteousness meriting a resurrection or at least an early resurrection (see Alma 13:3-5); this opens up the question about when (and why) people will be resurrected when they will be and is further evidence that it may be much longer than we assume, which was why Peter and most of the Nephite disciples chose to go “immediately into God’s kingdom” and not be stuck in the spirit world.
What can we learn from the fact that spirits of the just can only be revealed in flaming fire and glory?
Ironically, those who love and follow the living God, and have been justified by Christ, are beings of such light (albeit with a veil of flesh drawn over their minds to help them forget the fact), that they would not be able to endure the presence of their own spirits while in a mortal tabernacle.
That a tabernacle of flesh, both mortal flesh and glorified/perfected flesh, has the ability to shield the glory of the spirit that resides within it; it does not inherently do so, especially for a God who has attained to the resurrection of the dead – His “true” form is a “soul” (body and spirit, in His case, inseparably connected) of “spirit, glory and power” but He or She can condescend to appear in a way that hides that glory, if He or She chooses; it’s like a transformer which powers down a high voltage to a lower one.
READ TPJS 367:1-4
Concerning Brother James Adams, it should appear strange that so good and so great a man was hated. The deceased ought never to have had an enemy. But so it was. Wherever light shone, it stirred up darkness. Truth and error, good and evil cannot be reconciled. Judge Adams had some enemies, but such a man ought not to have had one. I saw him first at Springfield, when on my way from Missouri to Washington. He sought me out when a stranger, took me to his home, encouraged and cheered me, and gave me money. He has been a most intimate friend. I anointed him to the patriarchal power—to receive the keys of knowledge and power, by revelation to himself. He has had revelations concerning his departure, and has gone to a more important work. When men are prepared, they are better off to go hence. Brother Adams has gone to open up a more effectual door for the dead. The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith. Flesh and blood cannot go there; but flesh and bones quickened by the Spirit of God, can. If we would be sober and watch in fasting and prayer, God would turn away sickness from our midst. Hasten the work in the Temple, renew your exertions to forward all the work of the last days, and walk before the Lord in soberness and righteousness. Let the Elders and Saints do away with lightmindedness, and be sober.
Why can light and darkness not be reconciled?
Because they are inherently opposite.
Because they deflect each other like magnets; light cleaves to light but deflects darkness.
Light is “real” or “substantive” and darkness is just the absence of light; truth is things as they really are and error is anything else; good is perfect alignment with eternal law while evil is any degree of misalignment.
What happens when a being of light walks among beings of darkness?
Despite the inherent amount of unconditional love that a true being of light should have within them, the nature of light “blinds” or deflects or chases away or makes extremely uncomfortable beings with less (especially significantly less) light (see Mormon 9:3-5; Alma 36:14-15).
As a result of that level of discomfort, beings of more darkness will try to protect themselves from beings of light by casting them out from their presence, running from their presence themselves, or killing them.
Why are men better off to go to the spirit world if they are prepared to go?
Because there they can enter into the rest of the Lord to stay; their probationary state is over.
For the rest of us who remain in a mortal condition, we are in jeopardy every hour of failing in our mission (see 1 Corinthians 15:30).
I do think it is interesting, though, that the Lord gave the greatest praise to John and the Three Nephite disciples who chose to stay and minister on the earth; and that the other disciples preferred to go to where Christ was (i.e. Celestial Kingdom) rather than wait in the spirit world (see 3 Nephi 28:1-3).
How involved in our lives are those in the spirit world?
They are nearby and watch us.
Some are called to minister to us.
They can sense our thoughts and feelings.
When we invite them into our lives, by praying to God for assistance, they can actually perform labor in the spirit realm which will impact us here in mortality.
Dark entities try to entice us to sin, so it would make sense that light entities entice us to do good.
What is the nature of the veil that separates the mortal world from the spirit world and heavens?
The veil is our mortal body with its unrefined or “crude matter” which enables us to come face to face with darkness and evil and even be attracted to it.
Our bodies shape our reality – like “The Matrix” movie, we buy into what we think is reality but it is all a temporary “probationary state” (a type of simulation) held together by God the “Observer”, to give us an opportunity to really exercise our agency in a way that can affect the lives (mortal and eternal) of our fellow beings.
But our bodies also protect our now fallen spirits from the destruction that would ensue if we were to come into direct contact with the fiery glory of those who live in the heavens and in the spirit world (which is close in proximity), unprepared.
To enter the spirit world or walk back into the presence of God in heaven while in the flesh, our bodies must be transfigured (temporarily changed or shielded) or translated (inherently and permanently changed) to enable us to enter their world; however, it is very possible – but our physical bodies must be quickened (our vibration or frequency must be raised) by the Spirit of God; interesting that it doesn’t say that we can’t quicken our own bodies, it just says that to do it correctly (in a way pleasing to God), the Spirit of God should do the quickening – we can ask and then must wait upon the Lord.
The Ordinances of the House of the Lord
The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.
A royal “house” or family.
The building within which the ordinances of that house are revealed is a necessary structure, but it is not God’s work and glory. But it is necessary because the things being taught are holy or set apart or not of this profane world, and require a sacred or heavenly space to share them – a physical place which exists within two worlds or a place of connection between the mortal world and the heavenly world.
If the Saints in Nauvoo were not willing to build the physical house or temple in the allotted time (see D&C 124:27-50) but would rather spend their time and resources in other pursuits (like the businesses and brick homes that they built instead), it was an indication to the Lord of where their hearts were – in the world and not focused on entering His presence now and becoming Sons and Daughters of God.
Why are ordinances needed to build a house or family of God?
Earthly ordinances, including those performed in temples, are outward, symbolic performances that mirror the “real thing” and invite the person receiving them to take upon themselves the associated covenant with God and receive the “real thing” from God.
For example, baptism of water is the outward ordinance while baptism by fire is the “real thing”; the temple endowment and the sealing are the outward ordinances while actually entering into the presence of the Lord in the flesh and being sealed up to eternal life with your spouse by the Father is the real thing.
In our current state and standing, we cannot be Sons and Daughters of God but must be adopted into that relationship and given the associated “new heart” or “new spirit” and requisite glory or light and knowledge; all of these happen by covenant and require ordinances to teach us what we must do to form such a relationship with God.
READ TPJS 344:4-345:1
It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did everything to gather the people, and they would not be gathered, and He therefore poured out curses upon them. Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.
It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings, etc. One of the ordinances of the house of the Lord is baptism for the dead. God decreed before the foundation of the world that that ordinance should be administered in a font prepared for that purpose in the house of the Lord. “This is only your opinion, sir,” says the sectarian.
Why is exaltation (which is to join the family of God as an heir) predicated upon gathering groups of people rather than individuals?
Exaltation requires becoming like Elohim, or Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother as One God; so at a minimum, there must be two, a man and a woman.
The Patriarchs had a line of 10 generations from Adam to Shem (with four more from Abraham to Joseph), each of whom held the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God, which made them each a Son of God – and their wife a Daughter of God; that Priesthood is an association with the Father, hence the Sons and Daughters of God.
So, not only is exaltation a family affair within a marriage, it is also an inter-generational thing with a “welded link” from father to son (either biological or adopted, as was Abraham by Melchizedek/Shem) – this is what Joseph Smith called the Law of Adoption, as all of these couples had to be “adopted” back into the family or House of God, as well as being sealed to each other in an unbroken family chain; this is how all of the people of the earth would be blessed (see Genesis 17).
Why did Christ pour out curses on those who would not be gathered?
If you do what is required (either in this life or the former one) to receive an offer to come unto Christ and you reject that opportunity, there must be a consequence.
Light is never static; it is either growing within you as you embrace what is offered to you or it is diminishing because you reject the additional light that has been offered – which, unless you repent, will end up losing you all that you had previously gained (see Alma 12:10-11).
We live in the moment – while what has come before and our choices there have created who we are now, and while we may have promises of a bright future, we live in the moment and the openness we have right now to the light will determine what we will receive later; so in effect, we are cursing ourselves if we close our hearts to receiving more. Christ voiced the curse – the consequence for not accepting His invitation – but we do it to ourselves.
Why are the ordinances not to be altered?
Because they were not created by man but by God.
Because they predate the creation of the world; they have existed in the same way from eternity to eternity.
Because salvation is consistent – from the foundation of this world and in past eternities; and all must be saved on the same principles.
The reason it is consistent is because it is what it is - you must become precisely what Christ is now and nothing else (see LoF 7:9), as all other Gods have done before Him (see TPJS 390-393), or you cannot be saved; to be anything different from Christ is to not be saved.
And the ordinances point the way to what must be done to become precisely what Christ is (symbolically) and they provide an authorized invitation from heaven to covenant with God, which covenants enable the change to become as Christ is.
READ TPJS 345:2
If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.
How does one get a fullness of the Priesthood, which allows you to stand in God’s presence (see D&C 84:19-22)?
The same way that Christ received it.
By keeping all of the commandments.
By obeying or entering into and staying faithful to all of the ordinances of the House of the Lord.
Which will enable you to enter God’s presence and receive this priesthood from Him, as this is the only way you can receive it (see TPJS 205:2; JST Genesis 14:27-29).
One does not get this priesthood from man, so the ordinances that man administers in a temple, while important in enabling us to make the required covenants with God, are only that – God Himself must accept our offerings (He must accept our part of the terms of the covenants) and personally ordain us to this priesthood or association with Him (see TPJS 367:1)).
What is interesting to note is that the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s mortal life was presided over by corrupt men and only administered Aaronic ordinances; so, Christ must have received His ordinances in another place – either the heavenly temple (during the Mount of Transfiguration experience where He ascended through a portal to heaven or perhaps during His 40 day fast in the desert?) or some other place (a mountain like Sinai or Gerizim) prepared for the purpose.
READ TPJS 349:6-350:2
These things are revealed in the most holy places in a Temple prepared for that purpose. Many of the sects cry out, “Oh, I have the testimony of Jesus; I have the spirit of God; but away with Joe Smith; he says he is a prophet; but there are to be no prophets or revelators in the last days.” Stop, sir! The Revelator says that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; so by your own mouth you are condemned. But to the text. Why gather the people together in this place? For the same purpose that Jesus wanted to gather the Jews—to receive the ordinances, the blessings, and glories that God has in store for His Saints. I will now ask this assembly and all the Saints if you will now build this house and receive the ordinances and blessings which God has in store for you; or will you not build unto the Lord this house, and let Him pass by and bestow these blessings upon another people? I pause for a reply.
Joseph Smith gives this challenge to the Saints in Nauvoo two years and five months after receiving D&C 124 when the Lord commanded them to build a Temple in which to receive back the High Priesthood that had been lost to them, but gave them a deadline in which to do it; what does this statement by Joseph tell us?
Almost 2.5 years later and the Saints had not built the Temple.
But, in 1843, they still had a chance if they would throw everything into the effort to build the Temple, thereby sanctifying themselves through the sacrifice of building a temple before constructing businesses and brick homes, if they would choose to do so.
Like the Children of Israel, the Lord was giving His “chosen people” an offer to come up and know Him (actually, this is a second chance – so He’s been even more gracious than He was with ancient Israel).
But also like the Children of Israel, they have not taken Him up on His invitation and are in grave risk of missing the “appointment” and being cast out of Nauvoo.
That the Lord has another people upon which He will bestow these Temple blessings (of ascending back into His presence as a people – basically, of building Zion) in case the Saints in Nauvoo failed, which they did, (as Joseph would be dead in 12 months and the temple was still not to the second floor, much less dedicated and accepted by the Lord via His presence in a similar fashion to Kirtland) is very interesting. It’s like the Lord knew the Gentile Saints would reject the Fullness of the Gospel and He already has a backup plan (see 3 Nephi 16:10-11).
READ TPJS 352:3-4
So far we are agreed with other Christian denominations. They all preach faith and repentance. The gospel requires baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, which is the meaning of the word in the original language—namely, to bury or immerse.
We ask the sects, Do you believe this? They answer, No. I believe in being converted. I believe in this tenaciously. So did the Apostle Peter and the disciples of Jesus. But I further believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Evidence by Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:38. You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Why is baptism by water alone but half a baptism?
Baptism by water is the performance of the outward ordinance.
But without the offering of the terms of the covenant (one’s whole soul, a broken heart and contrite spirit, willingness to keep the commandments and take upon oneself the name of Christ and always remember Him, giving away all one’s sins to know Him), you might as well baptize a bag of sand because the baptism is of NO effect.
The whole reason to perform a baptism is to covenant with God that you are willing to enter into a relationship with Him – it is the Gate by which you walk back into His presence in the flesh (see 2 Nephi 31-32), but it is the birth of the spirit or baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost that is the actual “baptism” – that is what makes you clean and sanctifies or changes your whole soul; the baptism by water shows the Lord that you are willing to offer Him your heart and soul – but there is no magic in otherwise being immersed in a body of (living) water; without the baptism of fire, it’s as if the baptism by water never happened. The baptism of fire is the Lord’s acceptance of the covenant entered into through the ordinance of the baptism by water.