Friday, June 30, 2017 0 comments

Kings and Queens as Nursing Fathers and Mothers

In 2 Nephi 6, Jacob discusses some verses of Isaiah in the context of prophesying about the future of the house of Israel, and he paraphrases Isaiah in an interesting way as he discusses. First the Isaiah quote:

6 And now, these are the words: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.
7 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me. (2 Nephi 6:6-7)

In these verses, the Gentiles seem to have a kind character, even humble, as they carry members of the house of Israel in their arms, nourish them, and bow to them. But Jacob’s reworking shows a different side:

Wherefore, they that fight against Zion and the covenant people of the Lord shall lick up the dust of their feet; and the people of the Lord shall not be ashamed. For the people of the Lord are they who wait for him; for they still wait for the coming of the Messiah. (2 Nephi 6:13)

Jacob interprets the dust-lickers as those who fight against Zion. It is possible he gets this from the similar language to how God cursed the serpent in Eden that it would eat dust all its life. Eating dust is a metaphor for sampling and consuming the gross filthy stuff that isn’t nourishing.

I think that the Isaiah verses describe a mixed set of behaviors—some of the Gentiles helping the house of Israel, and some others of the Gentiles fighting against Zion and ending up licking the dust off their feet.

A very interesting thing I noticed in Isaiah’s verses that I hadn’t seen before is that there is a mutual feeding going on, but the quality is not the same going each way. The Gentiles are nursing the house of Israel (mothers milk = nourishing), but licking the dust of the feet of Israel (gross, filthy, dirty = not nourishing).  The dust-lickers have perverted taste.

In what ways does that image describe reality? If we teach Christianity and the restored gospel, but then get excited about other philosophies and nature worship or some other –isms, that’s an unequal exchange.  Or, if we try to teach the gospel and write books on it, but all anyone ever wants from is the fiction we’ve written, then there’s some dust-licking going on there too. 

I think there lesson for us in these verses is we need to think carefully about the quality of what we nourish our minds and spirits with. Are we getting a good daily diet of milk and meat of the gospel, or are we eating dust?
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 0 comments

The Father of Lies

17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil. (2 Nephi 2:17-18)

I noticed as I was reading these verses that Lehi has just given us a little about premortal life, and even more interesting, he says some of this is according to what he has read. So the brass plates had some info on them about premortal life, particularly the origin of the devil as 1) once being an angel of light, 2) had fallen from heaven, and 3) his fall made him miserable forever, and 4) his goal became to make mankind miserable as well.

Lehi emphasizes the devil is the father of all lies, and reiterates the arguments used to get Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. It’s sort of an interesting challenge to think about where the lies are.

“ye shall not die” – It is true Adam and Eve did not physically die immediately. Their lives were prolonged so they could repent. But they did die spiritually at once. Did Adam and Eve know that? They may not have, in which case Satan was exploiting terminology and lying in a way they would not have understood yet.

“ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil” – What did Satan mean by “know” here? Know intellectually? If so, Adam and Eve already knew they should not eat the fruit, and Satan was trying to convince them they didn’t really know. Did Satan mean “know by experience”? But you don’t have to do evil to experience it. Sooner or later it will be done to you. Know by doing evil? Does God get to be God by doing both good and evil? By doing good, yes.  By doing evil, no.  Jesus hasn’t done evil, and He is part of the Godhead. So that’s a lie about what it takes to become like God.

In Genesis there is an additional wrinkle thrown in, an implication that God knew eating the fruit would open their eyes, implying He forbade it to keep them out of godhood. The lie there is a malicious slander against God’s motives for forbidding the fruit.

I can see Satan was already attacking what must have been a very visible desire in Adam and Eve to become like God. He was trying to turn them out of the right way.

Another thought I had is about that title “father of lies.”  I wondered who first thought of it, and how they came up with it. In what way was Satan a father of lies? I realized they were comparing how Satan works to the conception process. Satan injects little thoughts/lies in our minds. If we believe those lies, sin conceives in our hearts.  

So now I’ll ask you: how does knowing this help us?
Monday, June 26, 2017 0 comments

Lehi’s argument for the existence of God

And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away. (2 Nephi 2:13)

I think it is interesting how Lehi argues for the existence of God with a series of negated circumstances. “Take away this, and you don’t have this other thing, which removes this other thing.”

I’m going to go through his reasons with the positive side, because there is at least one step that I’ve had troubles with that required me to fill a wider gap and follow Lehi’s reasoning. 

Looking at the beginning and the end points, Lehi argues that the existence of a law (by which I think he means moral law) leads him to believe in a God.

If there is a law, then there is righteousness and sin. Some will follow the law, and some don’t.

If there are some that follow the law, then there must also be some that have mastered the law, who keep it in every particular and use it to benefit others. These must be what we would call God(s).

Also, if there be righteousness and sin, then there must also be consequences—reward and punishment. Otherwise there is no significance and meaning to either righteousness or sin.

If there is a Master of the law, then it would make sense for the Master to have a hand in reward and punishment. (In fact, we require our earthly dispensers of justice to be as morally upright as possible, and we are terribly annoyed and distrustful when they are not.)

Then there is a bit of a leap between laws with consequences and the creation. If there’s no righteousness or sin, then there is no God. Stated slightly differently and adding steps, If there is no law to master, then there is no Master of it, thus no God.  If God is not, then we and the earth are not.  So it implies there is a link between moral mastery and the powers of creation. One who keeps the moral laws will certainly find out and follow all the laws of the elements and material existence and follow these too, prolifically creating new things to benefit others, and perhaps being so clever as to streamline things such that creations create more of themselves.

The practical side of this is that laws exist, and we can either find out what they are through trial and error, or we can learn from the Master and make faster progress.  If we learn quickly and follow, we are promised righteousness and happiness proportional to our obedience.  Moral laws have been given to us, and we have the opportunity of learning about the laws of nature through experimentation. 

Probably this line of reasoning would not satisfy relativists. People versed in philosophy might have troubles with definitions and say this is all intuiting too far, but to me Lehi’s argument is satisfying.  In an extremely brief way, it points out our conscience is one of the best indicators that there is a God. I think C.S. Lewis gave  a more extended version of a similar line of reasoning in his book “Mere Christianity” that is also worth reading.

Monday, June 19, 2017 2 comments

All the ways of saving the righteous and destroying the wicked in 1 Nephi 22

In 1 Nephi 22, Nephi takes some time to give some very general reassurances about the latter-day struggle.

13 And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood.
14 And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.
15 For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned.
16 For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.
17 Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.
18 Behold, my brethren, I say unto you, that these things must shortly come; yea, even blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke must come; and it must needs be upon the face of this earth; and it cometh unto men according to the flesh if it so be that they will harden their hearts against the Holy One of Israel.
20 And the Lord will surely prepare a way for his people, unto the fulfilling of the words of Moses, which he spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that all those who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.
21 And now I, Nephi, declare unto you, that this prophet of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel; wherefore, he shall execute judgment in righteousness.
22 And the righteous need not fear, for they are those who shall not be confounded. But it is the kingdom of the devil, which shall be built up among the children of men, which kingdom is established among them which are in the flesh—
23 For the time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.
24 And the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall, and the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power, and great glory.
25 And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.
26 And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth. (1 Nephi 22:13-26)

This section has seemed rather ambiguous to me because it is hard to pin down exactly what is meant about how the righteous would be saved from the wicked and how the wicked would be destroyed. In some places it seems the righteous will be saved by power, other places they are saved by the destruction of their enemies by fire, other places they are saved as their enemies are cut off or as Christ executes righteous judgment.

Similarly, the wicked are destroyed or tumble to the dust in a great fall, or they fall into the pit they digged for the righteous, or they fight each other and destroy each other, or they suffer the fullness of God’s wrath, or they are cut off, or they are burned as stubble with fire, or suffer with blood and vapors of smoke, or they are brought low.

In the past I have automatically assumed this all happens at the coming of Christ. But now I’m not so sure if it all happens then. Some of the events seem mutually exclusive ways of being destroyed or saved. For instance, if the wicked kill the wicked, then their destruction isn’t at the Lord’s coming; it’s earlier. And while the wicked will be burned at Christ’s coming, that doesn’t stop the wicked from burning each other earlier.

Eventually I decided this is a case when Nephi lumped it all together. One or other of these different ways will be true at some time, so ti is sort of a multi-purpose prophecy. Its not linear like the Book of Revelation. It’s sort of like saying, “The righteous will be saved by option1/ option2/ option3 /option4 /option5 while their enemies will be destroyed by optionA /optionB /optionC /optionD /optionE.”

Of course I could be wrong.  What do you think?

Saturday, June 17, 2017 0 comments

The Fall of the Great and Abominable Church

13 And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood.
14 And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it. (1 Nephi 22:13-14)

These aren’t the only verses that speak of the consequences of fighting against Zion. Verses 15-16, 18, 22-23 say more, so they are worth examining as well. But I’m going to look at the above verses today.

First, I notice the entities that are referred to by the different names who will be punished—the great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, every nation which shall war against thee O house of Israel, all that fight against Zion, that great whore, that great and abominable church. There’s a chiasmus there in the order they are mentioned.

the great and abominable church,
the whore of all the earth,
every nation which shall war against thee O house of Israel,
all that fight against Zion,
that great whore,
that great and abominable church

The entities that are victimized in these verses are the house of Israel, the people of the Lord, and Zion. 

How are these good entities attacked? What is done to them that must be stopped, according to Nephi?
--The house of Israel is warred against.
--The people of the Lord are being ensnared with pits dug for them.
--Zion is being fought against.
--As a bonus, “the right ways of the Lord” are also being perverted, so apparently the gospel path suffers too from being disrupted, obscured, diverted, neglected, avoided, slandered, etc.

These verses also describe how judgments catch up with the great and abominable church, the whore, and nations that fight against Zion. It comes in different forms:
--They fight among themselves (unity among the wicked can’t continue. They will offend each other and turn against each other)
--They are drunken with their own blood (apparently they will get so obsessed with the fight against each other that it clouds their judgment)
--They shall fall into the pit they digged to ensnare others in (they are found guilty of the very accusations they bring against the people of the Lord. Hypocrisy is exposed, since they project their own sins onto others.)
--They will be destroyed (their own violent and destructive tendencies will be turned against them)
--They will “tumble to the dust” with a great fall (Evidently all their previous ascendency and status will be lost)

I think we are told this so that we know the consequences and judgment for fighting against Zion and the Lord are real, and so we will recognize it when it happens. (Apparently it comes in at least five forms.) We will pass through narrow times because of the great and abominable church, the whore, and nations and all who fight against Zion. We’ll wonder if there will be an end to it. Here we are told there will be.
Thursday, June 15, 2017 0 comments

How 1 Nephi 21 (Isaiah 49) pertained to the Nephites, and how it can help us

1 Nephi 21 is a quotation of Isaiah 49. The chapter heading says, “The Messiah will be a light to the Gentiles and will free the prisoners—Israel will be gathered with power in the last days—Kings will be their nursing fathers—Compare Isaiah 49.”

This gives the important points of the chapter from a modern LDS perspective about gathering Israel, but to me it misses the context for why Nephi quoted it and why it would be encouraging to him and his brothers.

I think verse 1 hints at the concerns they had:

And again: Hearken, O ye house of Israel, all ye that are broken off and are driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors of my people; yea, all ye that are broken off, that are scattered abroad, who are of my people, O house of Israel. Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye people from far; the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

Nephi and his family knew they’d been broken off from the house of Israel because of the wickedness of the leaders and the rest of the people too, and there would be this sense of, “Well, now what do we do? Who will lead us?” (By the way, the part of about them being broken off because of “the wickedness of the pastors of my people” is not in the Bible’s version of Isaiah. It doesn’t reflect well on the Jews of that time, so it isn’t surprising that would be redacted.)

What this chapter of Isaiah does is speak to all those of the house of Israel in any age who have been led away by the Lord, who wonder what to do and whether they are forgotten. All the concerns that are associated with that situation are addressed.

To righteous leaders who feel their efforts to gather Israel have been wasted (v4), they are told in v5-6 they will be a light to the Gentiles instead.

To those who wonder who will lead them now, they are told the Lord will give them “my servant for a covenant of the people” (v8), meaning one of their own will be given the power to lead and guide them with revelation to show they are still part of the covenant.

To those who feel like they are now wandering in the wilderness away from the main body of Israel, the Lord promises,

They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted” (v9-11).

So even though these branches of Israel are broken off and it feels like wandering, the Lord will make a way for them and nourish them, and the “wandering” will become a sanctifying and refining experience and benefit not just them, but future generations. (Consider how Nephi’s records of his journeys and experiences benefits us today.)  This is pretty awesome.

To those who feel like the Lord has forgotten them, there is are two great lines to address this. “He will show that hath not” (v14) and “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (v16) It immediately evokes Christ’s crucifixion and the scars as memory aids, but also promises that the Lord will show He has not forgotten us. (Which means we have to look for how He shows us and record it so that we remember.)

And then finally, all these broken off scattered bits of Israel will be gathered together again in a way so surprising that the main part of Israel that wasn’t scattered would wonder, “Where have they been?” (v21)

When I consider the above, I think that makes the chapter a lot more useful and valuable than just as an instance of prophecy of the gathering of Israel that we are a part of.  There’s something about it that speaks to some deep worries we might have today, even if we are part of the Lord’s kingdom.

Righteous leaders still wonder if their efforts are doing any good. At one time or another we may be away from the main body of the Saints, or maybe our life doesn’t look anything like what we imagined it would be and we’re feeling our way trying to figure out what to do, which can seem like we are wandering in the wilderness. Or maybe everything is passing us by and we feel forgotten by the Lord.

Again, I think this chapter does a great job of addressing those concerns.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 2 comments

Nephi’s workings in the Spirit

For behold, I have workings in the spirit, which doth weary me even that all my joints are weak, for those who are at Jerusalem; for had not the Lord been merciful, to show unto me concerning them, even as he had prophets of old, I should have perished also. (1 Nephi 19:20)
The thing that impresses me about this verse is how Nephi continues to think of those people he knew and left behind at Jerusalem. It must have been a solemn thing to know the people one knows have either been killed or carried away captive.

And he doesn’t think of them with any kind of scorn here; you can tell that he sees that he might have been one of them, and it was the Lord’s mercy that saved him from suffering the same fate.  And too, he realized that if he didn’t stay faithful, he could still perish. You get a sense that he felt the precariousness of spirituality that required continual nurturing.
Sunday, June 11, 2017 0 comments

An interesting topic shift in Nephi’s record

5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.
6 Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.
7 For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels. (1 Nephi 19:5-7)

I am struck by these verses for a few reasons. First, because I am a writer myself, I know what it is like to write about the scriptures and then feel like others may not appreciate those things how I do. Even in the church I think we struggle against an inner lassitude about it. I wonder if it is common to not quite appreciate something in the scriptures unless you are in quite the right frame of mind or dealing with a challenge that a particular text touches on. Then there is an “Aha!” moment, and ever after it means something special.

Second, the way Nephi shifts from thinking about how his own writing might be rejected or set at naught to thinking about how the Messiah would suffer and be set at naught. He shifts pretty quickly between those two topics and spends so much time writing about that that I wonder if that was what he meant to spend time on in the first place or whether his thoughts were pulled there so strongly that he had to go at length. (Because he does go on for six more verses about the Messiah.)

At any rate, when I read this section and what follows, part of me starts thinking, “How did we get on this topic of prophecies of Christ from the topic of record-keeping?” But it shows how Nephi uses his own experiences and worries as jumping-off points to think about Christ, and that is a mentally sanctifying skill, I think. As we go through life, if in our trials we can think about how Christ experienced or suffered something similar, we can gain a greater sense that we can ask for Christ’s atonement to be applied in our behalf.

Third, I notice Nephi says he will give an account of making those plates, but I’m not sure he ever gets around to including that, just like we don’t get an extended account of how he builds the ship to get to the promised land. But the fact that he wanted to include an account of making the plates says that it must have been spiritually faith-promoting to him, with challenges to overcome, revelation gained, the way prepared by the Lord, and so on. He certainly couldn’t go out and buy them at the corner drugstore. He had to find ore (or buy it), melt it out, beat it into plates, pierce them, make rings to connect them, and engrave them.

Friday, June 9, 2017 2 comments

Nephi’s different revelations

1 And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship.
2 Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.
3 And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.
4 And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord. (1 Nephi 18:1-4)

I’m impressed about what these verses say about the revelations Nephi received.

Verse 1 says the Lord showed Nephi from time to time how he should work the timbers of the ship. I think this is cool because it describes a process of continual, specific revelation to solve mechanical problems. How did the Lord show Nephi? It could have been in open daylight vision. It could have been in dreams. It could have been a combination of the two. But however the Lord showed, it got the job done.

I wondered why Nephi didn’t describe in more detail what the Lord showed him when other spiritual experiences he had he gets pretty specific about. Eventually I realized that while it would expand on that pattern of revelation, all it would teach us beyond that was how Nephi built his ship. That might interest archeologists, but its value for salvation is very low. We don’t have to build ships to be saved in the kingdom of God.

Even if we know next to nothing about the ship Nephi built, we can extrapolate a few of the constraints on the design. 1) It had to be a ship for a non-seagoing people, so it had to be easy to learn and easy to use. 2) It had to be something that could be built with the materials available at that location.

Verse 2 says Nephi didn’t work the timbers like how men had learned, nor did he build the ship like men built, but he did it the way the Lord showed him. It implies Nephi had some idea of what ships should look like and what he was doing looked different. It seems he also had a little bit of knowledge (but perhaps not all) about how ships were made, and the Lord’s directions were different there too. It takes faith to follow the Lord’s directions when they are different from our own previous notions, so Nephi’s observation and obedience says a lot about his faith.

That phrase “not after the manner of men” and “after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me” seems to hold a more generally applicable lesson. Man has a small amount of wisdom gained over time, but aren’t there things we’ve learned to do after the manner the Lord has shown us, which is different from the manner of men?  Some examples I think of immediately are, “no power or influence ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood” or “he who is greatest among you shall be your servant” or “love your enemies and pray for them.”  There’s a bit of a risk when you go differently, following the Lord’s way for the first time; you wonder if it will work better or not. It takes faith.  (What other things can you think of that we know to do which are not after the manner of men?)

Verse 3 tells of Nephi going to the mount oft and praying oft and the Lord showed him great things. It seems Nephi wasn’t just receiving revelation about how to build the ship, but was getting other revelations as well—things he called “great.” He doesn’t tell us what they are, but we at least know he valued them. To me this teaches the blessings that can be ours if we will pray “oft” instead of just at the obligatory times of meals, church meetings, and morning and evening.

Verse 4 tells of how once the ship was finished, Nephi’s brothers saw it was good and they humbled themselves. If the boat building had been up to them, they would never have started since even if they got past murmuring, they would have had a hard time catching the vision of what to do. If you can’t start a project until you can tell it is good, and it doesn’t look good until the end, you will never start. Humbling oneself at the end instead of the beginning is too late.

I get down on Laman and Lemuel here, but I think far too often I have some of the same problems. I’m thankful for Nephi’s great example to show what I should do instead.

Thursday, June 1, 2017 0 comments

Warnings against Hypocrites, with Attention to Spiritual Manifestations

D&C 50 was given in response to Joseph Smith’s inquiry about various spiritual manifestations and phenomena among the new members in Kirtland. The strange and indecorous nature of these things caused members to wonder what was of God and what was fake.

6 But wo unto them that are deceivers and hypocrites, for, thus saith the Lord, I will bring them to judgment.
7 Behold, verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some, which has given the adversary power; but behold such shall be reclaimed;
8 But the hypocrites shall be detected and shall be cut off, either in life or in death, even as I will; and wo unto them who are cut off from my church, for the same are overcome of the world.
9 Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness before me. (D&C 50:6-9)

This gives us part of the answer from the Lord—there were some members who were faking spiritual manifestations, and their performance was deceiving others and giving Satan power. There were also false manifestations (from a source not of God).

The Church’s publication, “Revelations in Context” has a chapter called “Religious Enthusiasm Among Early OhioConverts,” and it gives some historical perspective on how the religious culture of the day contributed to the problem.

As part of the Second Great Awakening, people thirsted for more from religion than was in their churches, so there was a surge in religious zeal, and revival meetings were part of that, with great interest in spiritual manifestations. People responded to preaching passionately, with prophesying, shouting, crying, dancing, shaking, rolling, etc. Christians at large were divided over these manifestations—some were suspicious and others saw them as genuinely from God. The Mormon message about spiritual gifts appealed to many people who were taught in Ohio.

The story of Levi Hancock can help illuminate the problems and worries these manifestations created in the church. Levi heard news of the Mormon missionaries, and a bare recitation of what they were preaching gave him a wonderful feeling such that he decided to go listen because he could feel it was the truth. He was baptized, but he and the other converts in Kirtland were soon left without experienced leadership. They had no experience in the church, few Books of Mormon, and no exposure to Joseph Smith’s previous revelations about church order. Some started to introduce elements of enthusiastic worship.

Then three elders of the Church came, and their manner of doings in worship services was very strange (See the linked article for more details). Levi was perplexed and worried he was not as pure as them because they seemed honest and sincere, but Levi’s manifestations were very different from theirs.

So we see one problem with false (wrong sourced) or faked manifestations is that they make sincere and worthy members feel insecure about their own spiritual status and worthiness. When this sort of thing persists and isn’t corrected, it causes sincere members to expect manifestations of a false type and overlook the true manifestations. That is exactly what Satan would like. He would love church members to miss the true manifestations and look for something else so he can suggest all sorts of crazy, dramatic, non-edifying things and have people accept them uncritically.  He would also like to convince members it is okay to pretend they had a manifestation when they haven’t. And the more dramatic, the better, especially if it is to prove how pure and Spirit-led they are and increase their status and reputation in the church. The lie Satan would tell is, “There’s no way anyone can tell whether you are faking it or telling the truth. They are predisposed to think you’re telling the truth anyway, so go ahead.”

Thus, the above verses directly address the issue of hypocrites pretending to spiritual manifestations. The Lord knows who is faking it or pretending and who is not. He warns that hypocrites will be detected, which crushes Satan’s lie of “no one can tell.” The Lord also warns hypocrites they will be cut off and brought to judgment. Someone who prefers to pretend to spiritual manifestations or listens to manifestations from a false source will definitely miss the real ones that would guide and warn them. Eventually they will do something so obviously wrong they must be corrected and receive discipline, but by then it may be very difficult for them to humble themselves and repent, since they will have built their self esteem, worth, and ego on their “enhanced spirituality.”  That’s what brings them to be cut off from the church, if they can’t humble themselves.

What about those who were fooled by the hypocrite and false manifestations? Verse 7 says, “such shall be reclaimed.” The rest of D&C 50 gives helpful principles about how the Spirit preaches the truth, edifies, brings light, is understandable, and many other principles to help increase discernment so that members can chase darkness away.

Verse 9 has a warning for everyone to beware, lest they do something “not in truth and righteousness.” Thus we are to be completely honest and upright and never to pretend to spiritual manifestations and share nothing that does not shed light and edify. We may have manifestations that are for our own edification alone and which are not meant to be shared.

Having had some experience with these things, I am personally grateful for these verses.