Saturday, July 30, 2016 0 comments

The Survival of Coriantumr As a Type

I was thinking about Ether’s prophecy that the Jaredite king Coriantumr would survive all his people and witness their entire destruction, and I realized it was a type of Christ. Except it is sort of a what-if type that reveals the eternal consequences of not repenting.

Ether requires the king to repent to save the whole kingdom, so it is as if the king is responsible for all the sins of his people.  We know personal responsibility is not like that, so it should tip us off that it is a type of how Christ was required to take all the sins of the world upon himself to save them from destruction.

In the Jaredite story, Coriantumr chooses to not repent, so everyone else ends up dead except for him, and this shows us that if Christ had not taken our sins upon him, He would be the only alive one and everyone else would be dead forever.  (That's where the what-if part comes in. It's a "What if Christ hadn't died for us?" type that shows us what would have happened.)

On the way to Jaredite destruction, there is another incident where Coriantumr’s enemy Shiz offers him a chance to save the people if he will only give up his own life. (Coriantumr again refuses.) The type represented in Shiz’s offer is a little more obvious.

I think the type in the Jaredite destruction helps increase our gratitude for the Atonement of Christ.
Thank goodness for it!
Thursday, July 28, 2016 0 comments

Some interesting ancillary material gathered while preparing my talk on the First Vision

When preparing my talk on the First Vision of Joseph Smith, I went searching all over the place. I looked on for conference talks. I also used the Citation Index app to look at what had been said in the Journal of Discourses about the First Vision as well.  I gathered a lot of interesting quotes that in some way touched on Joseph Smith's experience, and I used hardly any of them in my talk, but they are so interesting that I felt they were worth sharing here.  So I will put them here and discuss.

Conditions of camp meeting revivals

Elder Daniel H. Wells JD 12:71  (an apostle)
“The days of my youth were days of religious excitement—the days of revivals…—and I can well apprehend the effect these things must have had on the mind of Joseph; he was a young man, I was but a boy, and I know how those revivals affected young minds…. Some of those preachers would hold their protracted meetings for days and weeks, and sometimes for a month, one meeting after another, every day and every evening, getting around the young with their influences, and concentrating their prayers, perhaps, on a single individual, and praying for no other, until he would say he had got religion and was converted. Suffice it to say, that I was disgusted with it, and did not believe in any of it, and rested my chance, so far as religion was concerned, on trying to do that which was right as near as I could, and running the risk.”

 No wonder it was such religious excitement. Elder Wells eventually joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, so he found what he was looking for, and it didn't involve emotional manipulation or social pressure tactics.
-->  --> -->
Sterling W. Sill:  (1956)
[Christendom] is divided into some 250 contending sects, all claiming to accept the Bible as the inspired word of God and the only authoritative rule of faith and doctrine. Their confusion on even the most simple points of doctrine is indicated by the report that some seventy-eight of these baptize by immersion, many sprinkle, sixty-eight have optional forms, sixty-seven practice infant baptism, many have no baptism. Thirty-nine require no adherent to creed or doctrine of any kind.
Almost every Protestant church came into existence because of “a protest” or an “argument.” The division of opinion caused by the Civil War was responsible for the formation of many new churches. The Church of England was organized because the Pope refused to give Henry VIII a divorce. There are many “state churches.” It was Emperor Constantine, not the servants of the Lord, that made Christianity the church of the Roman Empire.(Conference Report, April 1956, First Day—Morning Meeting 16)

The Bible says there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. 

Brigham Young (JD 14:109)
“I read the Bible, diligently and faithfully, and if I could have found a church and people organized according to the pattern contained in its pages I should have been satisfied that that was God’s Church and people, and that would have been witness enough for me. But I will give you a little of my experience in my early days with regard to the religious sects. From my youth up their cry was, “Lo, here is Christ; lo, there is Christ;” no, “Yonder is Christ,” “Christ is not there, he is here,” and so on, each claiming that it had the Savior, and that others were wrong. I used to think to myself, “Some one of you may be right, but hold on, wait awhile! When I reach the years of judgment and discretion I can judge for myself; and in the meanwhile take no course either with one party or the other.” When I would make known my views and feelings with regard to their confused state they would call me an infidel. I would say to them, “All right, I am an infidel in a great many things.” I read the Bible, and especially the New Testament, which was given as a pattern for the life of Christians, whether as a church or individuals, and this was my inward inquiry, "Is there a church on the earth organized according to the pattern Jesus left?” No. Is there an Apostle left on the earth? Not one. Is there a prophet, which the Scriptures inform us were placed in the Church for its edification? Not one. Is there an evangelist? No. Is there the gift of healing? We cannot find any such thing, with all their cries of “Lo here, lo there, and lo yonder.” “Are there any who speak with tongues?” No. Any that prophesy? No, we do not believe in prophecy. Any one who has received the Holy Ghost, and speaks and preaches by its influence? “Why the Holy Ghost is not given in these days,” say all those who say, “Lo, here is Christ,” and “Lo, there is Christ!” Well, I used to say, “I am an infidel, for I do not believe anything of this; when you bring me a people built up and believing according to the New Testament I will believe that they are right. When you find such a people you will find the people and the Church of God, with all the gifts and graces of the Gospel in their midst; and you will find the kingdom of God on the earth.” They labored with me, but finally declared that I was an infidel, for I could not believe in their doctrines and principles. Yet I have been at many of their meetings and seen their modes of conversion.”
 Brigham Young and others, by reading the Bible could compare its teachings and practices with that practiced by churches in their day and see plainly that the true church was not on the earth at that time.  And yet, they had to wait for the truth to appear.  Joseph, did not read hardly any of the Bible, and he was confused by the things people said.  So he took the extraordinary step of asking God to tell him which church was true.   

I also note that Brigham Young didn't let the label "infidel" intimidate him; he would not bow to social pressure to join a church he didn't believe in. He had the courage of his convictions.

This also gives me a sense of how socially alienating it might have been to join no church in those days. 

Men would try to excite the public mind against Joseph Smith

Mrs. Palmer:

"I remember the excitement stirred up among some of the people over Joseph's First Vision, and of hearing my father contend that it was only the sweet dream of a pure minded boy. One of our church leaders came to my father to remonstrate against his allowing such close friendship between his family and the "Smith Boy," as he called him. My father defended his own position by saying that Joseph was the best help he had ever found. He told the churchman that he always fixed the time of hoeing his large field to that when he could secure the services of Joseph Smith, because of the influence that boy had over the wild boys of the neighborhood, and explained that when these boys, or young men, worked by themselves much time would be spent in arguing and quarreling, which often ended in a ring fight. But when Joseph Smith worked with them, the work went steadily forward, and he got the full worth of the wages he paid.
I remember the churchman saying, in a very solemn and impressive tone, that the very influence the boy carried was the danger they feared for the coming generation, that not only the young men, but all who came in contact with him, would follow him, and he must be put down." (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 2)

Priesthood authority needed

John Taylor:
“Supposing a man was to come here as Governor or Secretary, or holding any other office under the government of the United States; he comes in the name of the United States, or by the power or authority of the United States, does he not? Yes. But supposing some of you were to set up here as Governor, they would want to see your credentials and know by what authority you came here and whether you were appointed by the legitimate authorities of the United States or not. If not, they would pay no attention to you; they would look upon you as a very commonplace, foolish individual, and moreover, they would also look upon you as a fraud. Well, then, if God does not send men, of course they cannot act under the authority of God; if they do, they act fraudulently. Now, how can men go in the name of God when they tell you that God has never spoken for the last eighteen hundred years, and that he does not now reveal himself? That being the case, how then can they go forth in the name of God? I do not know; it is a mystery to me.” (JD 21:155)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has priesthood authority. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ordained by John the Baptist, and by the ancient apostles Peter, James, and John, who appeared to him as resurrected beings. 

Fear of revelation and priesthood?

George Q. Cannon:

“…if a man comes forward claiming that he has this authority he is met with the accusations: “You are deluded, you are an imposter, you preach false doctrine, we will have none of your teaching. Men who believe in prophecy and revelation are liable to be deceived, and we are afraid of you, we do not know but you will deceive us. Jesus said there should be false prophets, we believe you are one of them.”
And thus they fortify and encase themselves in their unbelief and reject the word of God, and if Paul or Peter were to rise from the dead, and go amongst them and proclaim the principles they taught anciently, they would close their churches and chapels, and would say, “We will have none of you, you will deceive us, you are one of the false prophets spoken of,” forgetting that, if there are false prophets, there will, in all probability, also be true ones;” (JD 14:163)
I have also noticed this even today. When I share the story of the First Vision with people of other faiths or talk to them about how we can receive personal revelation, they invariably ask me questions like, "How do you know you won't be deceived?"  Easy answer from the Bible: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself." The question then becomes whether someone is willing to try the experiment to do God's will or not. 

Prejudice of the people

George A. Smith:

“Elder Parley P. Pratt, before receiving the Gospel, was a minister of the Reformed Baptist, or Campbelite, Church in Ohio. This sect had a brick meetinghouse in Mentor, Geauga, now Lake Co. The people who owned this house had prided themselves on their great liberality, they would give everybody a chance to preach. Bro. Pratt, wishing to preach to them went there but found the door shut against him, and the congregation assembled outside. He preached on the door step. Quite a number of his former Christian brethren had gone to a neighboring grocery and qualified the inner man with something stimulating, and having supplied themselves with eggs, and procured a drum and fife they marched backwards and forwards in front of the speaker, throwing their eggs at him until their supply—five dozen—was exhausted. Elder Pratt kept on preaching and bearing testimony of the truth of the Gospel. Among those present who seemed to enjoy the scene was a Campbellite, a grave looking deacon, to whom a young man, a stranger, who happened to be present said, “Is this the way you worship God in this country?” “Oh, no Sir!” answered the deacon, “that man is a ‘Mormon.’”  The stranger then remarked, “his talk is very reasonable.” “Yes,” said the old gentleman, “but he is a ‘Mormon,’ and we do not intend that he shall preach here.” “He appears very cool,” remarked the stranger. “Yes,” said the deacon, “he is used to it, he has been in such scrapes before.”
This circumstance illustrates the manner in which the Elders were received when they went forth to preach the Gospel, and it required the testimony of the Holy Spirit, a strong sense of duty, and revelation from the Almighty to stir them up to go forth under such circumstances. Not only did this persecution extend to those who preached the Gospel, but to all believers, for, although the Saints were industrious, peaceable, and virtuous, every kind of falsehood was told against them, their houses were torn down, their property destroyed and every species of injustice and cruelty was heaped upon them.” (JD 12:332)

Daniel H. Wells:    (back in 1882)
“When a person embraces the everlasting Gospel—which, by the way, seems to be very unpopular now, as in other ages; whether it will continue to be so I do not know—it requires a good deal of moral courage to sacrifice his associations in life, his property, social standing and good name, and everything that pertains to this life that is considered worth having. Still there are those spirits in the flesh that have the courage to do it; those that have the honesty of heart to receive this testimony and to stand up and bear it in the face of every opposing obstacle and every opposing foe.” (JD 23:303)

BY had to overcome fear to preach

Brigham Young:
“About the time I was preparing myself to embrace the gospel, there were great reformation meetings, and many professed to be converted. Those were very stirring times. The cause of religion was the great topic and theme of conversation, and preachers were full of zeal to bring souls to Christ through repentance and faith in his name. I recollect very distinctly that if I permitted myself to speak in any of their meetings, the spirit forbade me mentioning or referring to the testimony of Jesus, only in a superficial way. A few who believed in the everlasting gospel which had been revealed through Joseph, the prophet, testified in their meetings that they knew by the spirit of revelation that God had done thus and so, and they were hooted at immediately by those reformers. If I spoke at all in their meetings, I had to guard every word I uttered, lest I should offend those who professed to understand the gospel of life and salvation, but who did not. Gradually we broke through this fear, and ventured to utter the sentiments of our hearts, in faith before God, delivering that to the people which the Lord had revealed to us….Unless we are willing to be guided by the revelations of the spirit of the Almighty, by obeying and living up to the principles of His gospel, we are as apt to believe one thing as another, and to be influenced by, and follow the dictations of a bad spirit as a good one.” (JD 12:99)
Need for personal revelation

Elder L. Aldin Porter :
“Some years ago I enjoyed a stake conference assignment as a junior companion to Elder LeGrand Richards, who had, under the influence of this directing Spirit, reorganized a stake presidency. We were driving home; he was very pensive. After a rather long period of silence, I asked him if there was something he would like to teach me. Quietly he said, “We have too many in the Church who deny the spirit of prophecy and of revelation.” That was it—he said no more about it. As I reminisced about the calling of the new stake president that day, it occurred to me then that this Church could not function for even one day without the spirit of prophecy and revelation.
But ours is a day of dwindling faith and increasing skepticism about sacred things. Our time reminds me of the period just prior to the coming of the resurrected Savior to this continent. They were very dark days.
Mormon recorded the roots of the problems that beset the Nephite society when he said, “And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation.”
Later Mormon continues: “And because of their iniquity the church had begun to dwindle; and they began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.”….
When the appointed servants of this Church speak under the influence of the Holy Ghost as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ, their words are carried by the power of the spirit to those whose hearts are open to revelation.
When, with heavenly power, that witness comes to a person, he or she will soon understand that personal sacrifice is its constant companion. The spiritual witness of these sacred things and the demands of sacrifice inevitably walk the road together. In time, one comes to understand the necessity of this and is filled with gratitude that it is so.” (1996 October conference)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 0 comments

From my talk on the First Vision

The following is my talk that I gave on Sunday.

When I hear the story of the First Vision, the novelty-loving part of me is like, “Oh, that again.” But as I keep my heart open, I am inevitably struck by how amazing this event was. I invite you to keep your heart open as I go through this story and share some things that can be learned from it.

Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people.  (JS-H 1:5)
[Joseph Smith observed that] ..that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.  (JS-H 1:6)

Note the lack of sincerity, lack of clarity, lack of charity. There was lots of contention and competition.

I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia. (JS-H 1:7)

Many seem to be making do with what was available.

During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. (JS-H 1:8)

He studied and observed the different faiths and was very confused.

11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
 12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. (JS-H 1:11-12)

Bruce R. McConkie on James 1:5 :

This single verse of scripture has had a greater impact and a more far-reaching effect upon mankind than any other single sentence ever recorded by any prophet in any age… these simple words …led to the opening of the heavens in modern times. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 247)

So Joseph Smith decided he would do as scripture advised and pray for wisdom, asking God which church was true.
So he went to a grove of trees and prayed there, a place we now call The Sacred Grove.
And at first he was seized by some power that tried to bind his tongue keep him from praying and caused him to feel he was doomed to destruction.
But he prayed anyway—prayed for deliverance.

I invite you to close your eyes now and try to imagine the scene.

…just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
 17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
 18 My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
 19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”  (JS-H 1:16-19)

(you can open your eyes now)

This message about there not being a true church on the earth was the big payload of the vision that Joseph Smith meant us all to know in his account, though he was told many more things that he said he couldn’t write at that time.

21 Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.
 22 I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me. (JS-H 1:21-22)

I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until the twenty-first of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision. (JS-H 1:27)

Joseph had to stand alone as a one witness against the world for some time.  How interesting this was, even though we know the Lord follows the law of witnesses, He allowed Joseph to face the scorn of the world alone for a time.

--Joseph’s faithfulness to his testimony after the visit encourages us to trust him. Even though many people wanted him to deny it happened, he didn’t. This trust becomes fundamental to our testimony in Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet.   He would not deny it because he knew that to do so would offend God.

Joseph Smith is a wonderful model of someone who withstood so many forces tugging at him and so much emotional conflict and differing opinions about the subject of how to obtain eternal salvation. 
My Personal Experience at the Sacred Grove and Hill Cumorah

I’ve been there and it is peaceful. I went there perhaps when I was 11 or 12 on vacation with my family.  I remember being in awe that here was the place that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in the flesh.  I looked around wondering if I would know the exact place if I saw it.  It could be anywhere—at that tree, or near that one.  I decided that because we don’t know, that could be another reason why the whole place is sacred.

I’ve been to the Hill Cumorah as well. It’s steep to climb, but it was neat to think that that was the place where the plates lay deep in the earth so secretly for so many centuries until the angel Moroni could tell Joseph where to find them.

Because he had the first vision
--We learn about the designs of Satan
--We know much more about the character and nature of God, which deepens our faith.
--We have an opportunity to learn what a witness of the Holy Ghost feels like
--We learn something about prophets
--We learn about the revelatory process

I will elaborate on each of these.

From reading the Joseph Smith story, we learn about the designs of Satan.
--There is an actual being from the unseen world who tried to destroy Joseph Smith and prevent him from praying.
--We see that he tries to create and maintain confusion about what the truth is.
--We see that he likes to see families divided over what is true. Joseph Smith’s family certainly was.
--We see that he would prefer people to profess faith and yet not act on it and to contend with others about and create a war of words and destroy good feelings (if real) and create hypocrisy.
--We see that it pleases him to cause people to lose confidence in the scriptures when they try to settle questions.
--We see that he tries to prevent people from praying and that he will even go so far as to make them feel unworthy to pray and doomed to destruction to daunt them from prayer. 
--We see that once people have had a great spiritual experience, Satan tries to make them question it or doubt its authenticity or source. 
--He tries to make us think that the heavens are closed, and that miracles have ceased.
--We learn he tries to stir people up against the truth and those who teach it.

How does learning about the First Vision deepen our faith in God?
--It is another witness that the Father and the Son live.
--Their brightness and glory defy description. Their presence chases away Satan’s darkness.
--It gives us information about their physicality and separateness and that man was created after their image.
--Spiritual unity of the Godhead. We learn this from Heavenly Father referring Joseph to listen to His Beloved Son Jesus, which He would not do if He had not complete confidence that Jesus would say all that Heavenly Father would say.
--It reassures us that they know us by name, and are interested in the affairs of us their children.
--It is evidence that they hear our prayers and answer. Therefore, prayer works and revelation continues.
--God reveals great and important things.

All this enables us to develop true faith in God.  Without this knowledge, true faith in God would be impossible for the rest of us, (Faith in things which are not seen, which are true, so to have faith in something, it has to be true, and previously the truth about God had not been known, or it had been forgotten or twisted.

The First Vision gave a new witness to the earth, something in addition to the Bible.  The Bible was traditionally accepted, but the story of the First Vision would have to be accepted completely on the basis of a witness from the Holy Ghost.  Thus, relating the story gives a chance for the Holy Ghost to testify with power. 

On feeling the power of the witness
Elder Charles W. Penrose  (an apostle) said:
“The Gospel came to us in the various nations of the earth, some belonging to the various religious sects, and some belonging to no sect whatever, and when we received and obeyed it a power took hold of us superior to anything we have ever experienced before, and witnessed to us in an unmistakable manner the truth of this work. It is not a phantom. It is not something imaginary, but it is a solemn fact, as certain as the fact of our existence. No one can reason us out of it, or force us out of it. Why? Because it is stamped upon our spiritual nature, it is a part of our very being. God Almighty has revealed this truth to our souls, and we know it as we know we live. That is why we are here.
Now, our business is to live this religion, to learn further of the ways of God, and to do his will in all things.” (JD 21:80)

From the First Vision we learn about the importance God sees in churches and their influence, both for good and evil:
Because Christ told Joseph Smith that all the churches were wrong and he should join none of them, we learn:
--The importance of a true church. The absence of it or the counterfeit of it receives the divine label of abomination.  No matter how sincere their followers might be, the precepts of men are insufficient to teach the right way.
--We know that there was an apostasy from the truth.
--We know the right way had to be restored.  (The next question that would come from that was “Now what do I/we do?”)
 --Because Jesus advised Joseph Smith to join none of the churches at the time, we need not judge those who do not go to a church.  They may be looking for greater light and knowledge. 

It can also be said that the First Vision paved the way for real hope in the world. The Book of Mormon defines hope (loosely speaking) as anticipation of a better world and to be raised by the resurrection.  We have to have the Holy Ghost to feel this hope, because the Holy Ghost is the earnest of our salvation, it is like a down payment on heaven. 

From our perspective as members, we also learn something about prophets:
--We see there is such a thing as foreordination.  This is the only explanation for this 14-year-old boy receiving a vision among all 14-year-old boys at any period in the world.
--God chooses the method of revelation best suited to His purposes. He could have given impressions or dreams, but He chose to reveal Himself.
--We see youth, lack of experience, and low education level are no bar to a prophetic call.
--We see prophets’ witnesses are based upon experience—hearing & seeing—which teaches more in 5 minutes than anything one could ever read on the topic.
--We see prophets don’t necessarily tell all they know and experience.  Joseph Smith said Christ told him many other things that Joseph couldn’t write at that time.

More was needed after the first vision

To paraphrase Orson Pratt, if Joseph Smith had had the first vision and then translated the Book of Mormon and published it and stopped there, what good would it have done the world?  Seeing the truths of the Book of Mormon would not by itself give the power to organize a church or the authority to run it.  We would still be shut out of the kingdom of God. That would be like putting the hungry man at a table full of food and forbidding him from eating. It would simply be aggravating. 

How happy we are that, in addition to the First Vision and the Book of Mormon, we have the restored keys of the priesthood that authorized the creation of the kingdom of God on the earth and enabled us to partake of all the spiritual blessings of belonging to it!  

Other results from the First Vision that opened the dispensation:
--The Book of Mormon was received, translated, and printed as another witness of Christ.
--The priesthood authority to perform saving ordinances was restored, including the sealing powers of the priesthood and the gathering of Israel.
--The Church was organized on the earth as the kingdom of God.
--Revelations came to Joseph Smith about how to build the kingdom of God on the earth, including the salvation of mankind, both the living and the dead.
--Keys, principles, and powers were restored for preaching the gospel, perfecting the Saints, redeeming the dead.

What are you going to do because of what you know?

Elder Carlos H. Amado (April 2002 conference) pointed out:
The story demonstrates five principles, which will help us come to know God, as they did for Joseph Smith
1) Have a sincere desire to know the truth and act on it. – Joseph Smith had an intense desire to know God and do His will. When we have this same desire, we will do all we can to live the truths we know.  From Joseph Smith we learn the necessity of seeking the truth and seeking the Lord with real intent.  Seeking with real intent is the opposite of being casual or apathetic.  We can’t afford to become casual in our study of the scriptures or in our prayers.  If we do we will start to drift. The fire we felt will start to die down.
2) Learn the importance of reading the scriptures – His prayer came from learning truth about prayer in the scriptures and his determination to experiment on the word.  Also, he received many additional revelations as a result of reading the scriptures.
3) Learn the value of prayer – Just like Joseph Smith we can also testify that we have received answers to our prayers.
4) Discover the blessing of meditation – Joseph Smith pondered often. His mother observed that he wasn’t a great reader of the Bible, but he thought very deeply.
5) Experience joy from going to church – Joseph Smith went to various denominations and he observed what they taught and what they did. While he was in the sad position of not finding the truth church, we are blessed to have that today!  We can know that we are part of the kingdom of God!
Everyone goes through a Joseph Smith experience

Bruce R. McConkie:
“….every investigator of revealed truth stands, at some time in the course of his search, in the place where Joseph Smith stood. He must turn to the Almighty and gain wisdom from God by revelation if he is to gain a place on that strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 247)
Every investigator into the church will be in the same position of Joseph Smith, having to grapple with the cries of “Lo here” and Lo there” and need to decide for themselves which of all the churches is right.  After hearing the doctrine and testimony and reading the scriptures, they must do what Joseph Smith did and ask God for wisdom about which church is true.  The Lord will reveal that this work is His work. 

Everyone who is born into the church sooner or later must also do the same. No one can live forever on borrowed light.  But whether you have a gift of knowing or the gift of believing the truth from others, you must be given that gift from God.

When we come to know this work is the Lord’s, we must muster the courage and integrity to embrace it and forsake the world.  If we continue to grow and receive truth in the pattern of line-upon-line, we will have peace and joy and satisfaction here in the world and chart a course to salvation.

Though we have not been destined to open a dispensation of the gospel, we also must make decisions and sort through confusion and cut through a war of words in a whole host of subjects that affect our lives.  The world is full of difficult decisions that make us face our ignorance, or our age, or our infirmities, or our fears.
Experience how testimony of Joseph Smith is a shield of faith:

On Monday for FHE we watched a TV program that sounded good, but turned out to present arguments that would deeply disturb a person’s faith in a particular story of the Bible.  But because of my testimony of the prophetic call of Joseph Smith, and in particular my testimony in his work on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, I was able to withstand something that otherwise would have shaken my faith.   I don’t know the answers are to the questions that TV program raised, but I found places to question their connections and conclusions.  I can wait for more light and knowledge on the matter.

I’ve had a number of challenges to my faith throughout my life, but I have overcome a great number of them by thinking back to the First Vision.  I believe in that First Vision.  I believe Joseph Smith’s testimony.  And so, I keep my faith that this is God’s work.

Lessons on praying 

President Eyring:
“When I was a little child, my parents taught me by example to pray. I began with a picture in my mind of Heavenly Father being far away. As I have matured, my experience with prayer has changed. The picture in my mind has become one of a Heavenly Father who is close by, who is bathed in a bright light, and who knows me perfectly.” ("Exhort Them to Pray," Ensign, February 2012,
It seems to me that President Eyring has made the First Vision a model for how he should pray. It suggests to me that when he closes his eyes to pray, he tries to imagine that God is there in the room with him, standing above him in the air, listening to his prayer. 

This is an invitation for us to do the same in our prayers, no matter where or when they are.

My testimony of Joseph Smith is based upon the following:
1)   He never denied his witness.
2)   He translated the Book of Mormon, and I have a testimony that book is true.
3)   From my learning about Joseph Smith’s life, I am convinced that he was not just a good man, but a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.

Sunday, July 24, 2016 0 comments

Seeing Astronomical Bodies is like Seeing God

45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.
46 Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?
47 Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.
48 I say unto you, he hath seen him; nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehended. (D&C 88:45-48, emphasis added)

In what way is seeing astronomical bodies like seeing God moving in His majesty and power?

It’s a strange irony that the further away a planet is, the less awesome it seems. The moon is the closest other astronomical body to us, and yet we take it for granted. The further we are, the less we see of all the fascinating individual features and the more likely we are over-simplify our understanding of it.  But the closer we get, the greater it becomes in our view until we get so close that our finite minds can no longer grasp its vastness and all its characteristics.

It’s the same with God. The further we are from Him spiritually, the less we understand of Him, the less awesome He seems (to the point He seems not awesome at all), the less we see of His character. Thus, we greatly oversimplify His idea, and that distorts our knowledge even more.  But the closer we draw to God, the greater and more majestic His perfections become until our finite minds simply explode, unable to comprehend Him fully.

Another case in point: we’re so close to this earth we stand on, and can we fully comprehend its size and complexity and elegant systems? No. In the same way, mortal man was completely unable to grasp the full majesty and power of Christ during His mortal ministry among them.

 (Scroll down to see some related animated GIFs)


Friday, July 22, 2016 0 comments

To be Quickened by a Portion of Glory

28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received. (D&C 88:28-32)

This has been hard for me to wrap my mind around, but some things I have learned about the fiction-writing process have helped me gain a better understanding of how this happens.

I’ve learned that there are certain kinds of stories that excite me. When I read their back blurbs, I recognize them as something I would want to read. When I write my fiction, I try to put in my current work-in-progress the kinds of things that give me that zing of excitement. What gives me a zing is not going to automatically give a zing to everyone else.

D&C 88 talks elsewhere about how everything is given a law and that which keeps the law is sanctified by it.  There are celestial, terrestrial, and telestial laws.  And I think that the level of laws we choose to follow are like the laws that we want to give us the zing of excitement.  We are striving to live the celestial law so that it gives us the zing, so that becomes the thing that most resonates with us and who we are.  Then it will be the glory that quickens us in the resurrection. 

Once upon a time, the idea of service did not get me excited.  Now it does, though certain kinds of service zing me more than others.  A decade ago, family history used to leave me cold, but since then I’ve definitely warmed up to it.  I can see I’ve made some progress, but I have more to do.

What if we’re not zinged by all the celestial principles?  Obviously that means we still have changing and repenting to do, sanctification to undergo.  And that’s what the Atonement is for. None of us are stuck where we are unless we give up. 
Wednesday, July 20, 2016 0 comments

Christ as the power by which the Sun was made

Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. (D&C 88:7)

If we look at this only scientifically, it seems absurd. Suns form with gravitation that pull all that hydrogen together, and suns shine because of nuclear fusion.

But looking deeper, I think I can see spiritual principles hiding in the science.

What is gravity, but greatness attracting others into itself over greater distances? The spiritual force of gravity comes from the commandment to “Love the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength” and “draw near unto God.”

What is fusion, but the process of achieving unity between two separate things in such a way as to produce synergistic energy?  That sounds to me a lot like reconciliatory atonement. It says something about what marriage could be too.

Not that all the mathematical details are revealed in above verse, but in its masterful summary, it gives a way we can orient the science toward the gospel, according to a divine pattern.

Also we get this little statement—“which truth shineth.”  To me, this says something about truth as information, and how it acts.  It shines. It also says to me that the shining is the medium or way truth is transmitted.  To communicate truth, you need the message and the medium.  Truth is the message, light is the medium, and it acts so as to increase the energy of the destination system by little packets.  With reference to suns, light is the medium that gives us the message that that fusion is taking place there.  Light is the sign (or message) of energy release.

But what about other truth? We get truth from little marks on a page. The medium is the marks—their shape and order—and the message is the thing they communicate. If it increases the energy and edification in your system, it’s truth.

All of this can get very philosophical pretty quick and go over our heads. Explanations can get more difficult to follow than the plain words of the scriptures. (Heck, when I read over what I wrote above, my mind is a bit boggled too.) But I think we each have a duty to try to unpack the meaning for ourselves and test how far the patterns fit or don’t. 

And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; (D&C 88:11)

Just like light comes in little packets (quanta), we are enlightened in packets of truth, which eventually show us patterns of how things are.  Everything we read, everything we see adds or diminishes our knowledge of how things are. Every word on the page adds up to a thought that enlightens us or darkens us.  And it seems that is why God wants us to learn so many things—so we can grasp the underlying patterns and learn the laws of nature and choose to live the celestial laws so we can receive celestial glory.
Monday, July 18, 2016 0 comments

Tried so as by fire

This is a part of a larger section of the JST about Melchizedek.

34 And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;
35 And hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire. (JST Genesis 14:34-35)

I was struck in particular by v35. In what ways might the heavens and the earth come together, and how does this try the Sons of God?

The context makes me think of the day when Zion will come down out of heaven to Zion on the earth, but that seems like it would be a glorious day, not one that would try the Sons of God as by fire.

And trying “so as by fire” evokes mental imagery of the second coming of Christ, but that time should be a reward for faithfulness, not necessarily a trial. So somehow my assumptions must be off.

It may be that heaven and the earth coming together describes the test of the latter days to live side by side among people of the world and still live God’s laws. So many times in history the Lord has separated the righteous from the wicked in order to preserve His people. But when the church is mixed among everybody else, living true to our faith is a challenge. It’s a test of our integrity and our charity. The more wicked the world is, the more it tests us. In order to stay faithful, we have to be fully committed to following the Lord. In the experience of living out that decision and letting the consequence follow, the wrong desires have to be consumed, almost as if it were burned out of us.

And too, the heaven and the earth coming together could just as easily describe continuing revelation.  Continuing revelation tests us as more of heaven’s ways are revealed to us. Can we meet the challenge to keep the commandments given? Can we choose the ways of heaven over that of the world? Will we choose to attain to more than the modicum of social niceness that the world calls goodness?

And it also may be that I still don't really know what this is talking about. But the above is what I think until I learn more.

Meantime, each of us has some aspect of our lives that is trying our faith. Let’s choose heaven’s ways over the world’s.
Saturday, July 16, 2016 0 comments

Thinking about D&C 27: Revelation on the sacrament

Historical background on D&C 27 from History of the Church 1:106:
Early in the month of August Newel Knight and his wife paid us a visit at my place in Harmony, Pennsylvania; and as neither his wife nor mine had been as yet confirmed, it was proposed that we should confirm them, and partake together of the Sacrament, before he and his wife should leave us. In order to prepare for this I set out to procure some wine for the occasion, but had gone only a short distance when I was met by a heavenly messenger, and received the following revelation, the first four paragraphs of which were written at this time, and the remainder in the September following:
1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful.
2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.
3 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies;
4 Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth. (D&C 27:14)

This is so interesting to me that Joseph Smith was told that it didn’t matter what was used for the sacrament as long as it was done with an eye single to the glory of God in remembering Christ’s sacrifice.   It’s a good thing this was given by angelic to Joseph Smith, otherwise the church would have changed the ordinances and would be in danger of the same penalty as Cain, who tried to offer a sacrifice with the fruits of the ground instead of the firstlings of the flock.

I remember sitting in a seminary class when the teacher asked the students if they’d ever had unusual things used in place of bread and water. One person said watermelon and root beer had been used. 

While I’m sure part of the priesthood responsibility is to ensure that proper ingredients for the sacrament are provided, it is nice to know that we are not kept from partaking of the sacrament in the event of an unavoidable scarcity.

5 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim;
6 And also with Elias, to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days;
7 And also John the son of Zacharias, which Zacharias he (Elias) visited and gave promise that he should have a son, and his name should be John, and he should be filled with the spirit of Elias;
8 Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron;
9 And also Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse;
10 And also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, your fathers, by whom the promises remain;
11 And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days;
12 And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them;
13 Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;
14 And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world. (D&C 27:5-14)

Next we are told there will be a great culminating sacramental feast to be given when Christ comes, when a great number of prophets and Saints will partake of the sacrament together. This fits very well with the account in 3 Nephi when Christ instituted the sacrament among the Nephites and had it distributed to the multitude on two separate occasions.

Can we read of the prospect of taking the sacrament with Christ, Moroni, Elias, John the Baptist, Elijah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Adam, Peter, James, and John, and all those the Father has saved from the world without feeling this sacrament will be a grand and solemn experience?

I think by telling us this, the Lord elevates the sacrament’s importance by showing us it is something the ancient prophets would not hesitate to participate in. Perhaps we take for granted the ordinances and priesthood rites we have and think the old ways of the Old Testament would be more solemn and significant and awake our awe better.  But if the ancient prophets will appreciate the sacrament for what it is, then we must strive to do the same.

And isn't that event something to look forward to and work toward? Wouldn't it be a tragedy if we were unable to attend and partake because we felt unworthy?

15 Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand.
16 Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you;
17 Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;
18 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. Amen. (D&C 27:15-18)

These verses seem to review the admonition from Thessalonians to take upon us the armor of God, as all the parts of the armor are listed. 

Why put this here?

I believe it is to show us that taking the sacrament worthily allows us to put on the armor of God. All the parts of the armor are spiritual blessings I can trace back to taking the sacrament. It describes how the Spirit can help us if it can always be with us as we keep our part of the covenant.

I know when I take the sacrament, I feel more spiritually prepared to live the gospel, I feel ready to exert my faith, I feel shielded from the temptations that so easily beset me before.

In what ways do you feel the armor of God in your life from taking the sacramant?