Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Show Me That in the Scriptures"

When we receive something from God, when communication comes from the still small voice, (the whisperings of the Holy Ghost,) a deceiving spirit may immediately ask, "IS THAT FOUND IN THE SCRIPTURES?" The deceiving spirit encourages us to receive the things of God with doubt and unbelief. The question, "Is that found in the scriptures?" is designed as a deflection of the evil one to destroy our confidence in communication that comes from God to us. If the evil one can successfully encourage you to doubt and question new ideas, precepts, and truths given by the Holy Ghost, then he can sever the lines of communication God has established to teach us. The question, "can you show me that in the scriptures?" comes from a premise of doubt and unbelief.

Nephi prophesied that the latter day people would adopt the idea and attitude that "We have received, and we need no more!" (2Nephi 28: 27) Nephi warned that we would be inclined to say,  "We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!" (2Nephi 28: 29) Nephi suggested there would be those "who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall." (2Nephi 28: 28) 

Joseph Smith said that if he made known all that he knew from God, many would be angry and would want to kill him. Much of what Joseph received from God, he never recorded because the people were not prepared to receive it. Much of what Joseph received cannot now be found in the scriptures. What he received, but was not allowed to record as scripture, was and is nevertheless from God. Many do indeed become "angry and tremble" when truths are revealed from God that don't seem to fit their little view of the world and eternity. When this happens, the deceiving spirit will encourage us to ask, "IS THAT FOUND IN THE SCRIPTURES?" Often, communication from God to you will not be "found in the scriptures." However, if you record what you receive from the Holy Ghost, even if it is not found in the scriptures, it may become scripture for you and your life. 

Our Father teaches us by the whisperings of the still small voice of the Holy Ghost. He promises, "I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, (if it is not found in the scriptures we will not accept it!,) from them shall be taken away even that which they have." (2Nephi 28: 30) He has said, "By the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of ALL THINGS." (Moroni 10: 5) "All things" are not contained in the scriptures we have been given. 

The words of the Book of Mormon itself tell us the precious record is incomplete. The Lord's own words from the Book of Mormon teach us:

"And when they shall have received this, (the Book of Mormon,)  which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, (the Book of Mormon) then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people." (3Nephi 26: 9-11)

In other words, we have been given the Book of Mormon for the very reason it is incomplete. He will "try the faith of His people" with what has been given in the Book of Mormon. If we fail to believe and accept the words of the Book of Mormon, we will then be kept from "the greater things" He desires to make manifest to us. The "greater things" cannot be found in scripture presently because we are being "tried" with the words we have been given. How tragic it would be if, when the Lord attempted to give us "the greater things," we would not accept them because they could not be proven by our existing scriptures. 

The scriptures, even if they are incomplete, are treasures given us by God to lead us into all truth. We cannot get by without the instruction and truth contained in them. Especially indispensable to us is the precious Book of Mormon. But the scriptures do not of themselves contain "all truth." Only the Holy Ghost is the receptacle of "all truth." Joseph Smith understood this better than anyone, he said, "We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." (9th Article of Faith) Those "great and important things" pertaining to the kingdom of God that are "yet to be revealed" are not found in the scriptures presently. Otherwise, to make a statement of the obvious, they would already have been revealed and recorded as scripture. The Lord said, "For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times." (D&C 124: 41) Those things that have been "kept hid" from the foundation of the earth are not yet recorded anywhere in scripture. You will not find such treasures in the scriptures, but the Holy Ghost may teach you of them "in your heart and in your mind" (D&C 8: 2-3) if you ask to know.

Alma taught, "What natural man is there that knoweth these things? I say unto you, there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent. Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed;" (Alma 26: 21-22) Things which "never have been revealed" cannot be found written anywhere in the scriptures.

We must believe and accept the whisperings of the Holy Ghost as the only sure guide. Even if the communication we receive from the Holy Ghost "cannot be found in the scriptures." It is the Holy Ghost that has the charge and the ability to "teach us all things what we should do." (2Nephi 32: 3-5) When Nephi was commanded to slay his cousin Laban while he laid inebriated and helpless on the ground before him, he received something from the Hoy Ghost that could not be found anywhere in scripture. To the contrary, if Nephi had imposed the requirement on the Holy Ghost to, "show me that in the scriptures," the Lord's purposes in obtaining the brass plates might have been frustrated. Nothing more contrary to that which is written in scripture could have been asked of Nephi by the Holy Ghost. It could be found nowhere in the scriptures. Nevertheless, the communication Nephi received from God was authentic and needful as God attempted to lead Nephi along as He desired.

The Lord needs us to be as little children. (3Nephi 11: 37-38) Little children are able to believe naturally. They do not begin with a new idea from a premise of doubt and unbelief. When a little child is told by their mother something they have never thought of before, they do not begin by saying, "prove that to me by something that is established and accepted of men." Instead, they believe and accept and act as though the new idea was real and right. Then, as they put the idea to the test, (faith) it is revealed to them that the thing is true or not. (Alma 32: 21-43) The faith of a child, the ability to believe as a little child, precludes statements like, "show me that in the scriptures." 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Believing the Words of Christ (Not Optional)

A young man who recently returned from a mission for the church asked me why the prophecies contained in the Book of Mormon are important for him. He asked, "If the objective of my life is to make my calling and election sure and to receive the Lord in this life, then why should I be concerned about the prophecies in the Book of Mormon? What do they mean to me? How do those prophecies about Gentiles and a remnant of Israel affect me personally finding and coming to Christ?" It's an interesting question. One perhaps we could all benefit by considering.

Joseph Smith said, "The Book of Mormon [is] the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion. A man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." For anyone desiring to get "near to God," abiding by the precepts found in the Book of Mormon is a key. One is never nearer to God in this life than when one's calling and election is made sure through the more sure word of prophecy, which is the Lord’s own voice and testimony to a person regarding their assured eternal life. (D&C 131: 5-6) Or, when one succeeds in receiving the second comforter, which is the personal, ministering presence of the Lord by which one is "redeemed from the fall." (John 14: 18-23 and Ether 3: 13) If Joseph Smith is right, (and he is) then abiding the precepts of the Book of Mormon will do more to advance us in the process of finding the Lord’s holy presence than by any other precepts from any other source.

Speaking to the Nephites, the Lord Jesus pointed out the absolute necessity for every person who desires to be a part of His covenant to "believe" His words found in the Book of Mormon. (3Nephi 21: 11)

"Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant." 

"Belief" in the words of Jesus Christ that are to be delivered to the Gentiles, (the Book of Mormon,) is required in order to retain a status "among (His) people who are of the covenant." Whosoever will not believe His words in the Book of Mormon will be "cut off" from "among (his) people who are of the covenant." It turns out that "believing" the prophecies in the Book of Mormon that comprise "the words of Jesus Christ that the Father has caused to be brought forth unto the Gentiles," has very much in deed to do with any person receiving the Lord and His covenant.

"Having a testimony" of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon will do little to bring a person closer to God. Joseph said it would be by "abiding" the book's precepts that we would come closer to God. Precepts that are not known, not understood, not believed, can't possibly be abided by. Generally, the Book of Mormon is much too neglected and ignored (taken lightly according to the Lord (D&C 84: 54, 57)) by latter day saints to be properly abided by. How can words that are not first known, be either believed, or abided by? The words of the Book of Mormon must be intensely searched (2Nephi 9: 51, 2Nephi 31: 20) and carefully considered under the direction of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10: 4-5) Then those words must be believed. 

Failure to do what is necessary to become intimately familiar with the precepts of the Book of Mormon after it is received is itself failure to believe. The result of such slothfulness will not simply be the delivery of a few halfhearted stripes then a quick introduction into the kingdom of God where it is safe. (2Nephi 28: 8) If the Lord is good for His word, such "unbelief" will result in being "cut off" from among the people of the covenant just as Moses said it would be. (3Nephi 21: 11) The Lord's words are: "whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ...they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant." These are perhaps the very first words we should believe from the Book of Mormon. After all as Nephi said, "the nations who shall possess them (words of the Book of Mormon) shall be judged of them according to the words which are written." (2Nephi 25: 22) Something in all of this behooves us to both "know" and "believe" intimately that which is written in the Book of Mormon.

For example, here are some of the words of Jesus Christ from just one verse of the Book of Mormon that must be "believed" in order to avoid being "cut off" from among the people of the covenant.

"And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them." (3Nephi 16: 10)

There is a tremendous amount contained in these words of the Lord Jesus Christ that must be "believed" in order to avoid being "cut off from among the people of the covenant." If we break down these words of Jesus to the Nephites, it requires us to believe:

1. The Gentiles will sin against His gospel.

2. The Gentiles will reject the fullness of His gospel.

3. The Gentiles will be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all the people of the earth.

4. The Gentiles will be filled with all manner of lyings

5. The Gentiles will be filled with all manner of deceits

6. The Gentiles will be filled with all manner of mischiefs

7. The Gentiles will be filled with all manner of hypocrisy

8.  The Gentiles will be guilty of all manner of murders

9. The Gentiles will be filled with all manner of priestcrafts

10. The Gentiles will be filled with all manner of whoredoms

11. The Gentiles will be filled with all manner of secret abominations 

12. The Father will bring the fullness of His gospel from among the Gentiles.

It would be so much less threatening, it would be so much more comfortable and soothing, to approach this list of condemning prophecies about the Gentiles from the mouth of the Lord with the traditional view of the church that teaches none of these accusations of the Lord have anything to do with the church at all. But that would require "unbelief" of words from the Lord's own mouth.  And the resulting promise of being "cut off" from His covenant. Little wonder then, the Lord accused the church of "unbelief" and having taken the precious Book of Mormon "lightly" and placed the church under condemnation as a result. (D&C 84: 54-59)

The Book of Mormon is written in wonderful plain language. We could avoid all of the problems the latter day Gentiles are accused of by the prophets and the Lord in the Book of Mormon by simply believing what the words say. There is no point in, or need to, "transfigure" the holy word of God. (Mormon 8: 33) We should allow the words to mean what they say. The plain and precious words of the Lord in the Book of Mormon say our covenant status depends on us believing what is written. (3Nephi 21: 11) But we don't even believe that. Instead, we believe our baptism and membership in the church assures our covenant status with the Lord regardless of what we do or don't believe from the words of the Book of Mormon. 

The Book of Mormon has become largely irrelevant to members of the church. Most members have a favorite verse or two that they quote at the right moment. But mostly the Book is ignored, misunderstood, and not believed. It has been reduced in the minds of most members to a collection of stories, and a few discourses about the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Nothing more. It would be interesting to know what percentage of members of the church even know there are prophecies concerning Gentiles and a chosen remnant of Israel in the Book of Mormon. The ones that are aware of the prophecies most likely believe the traditional view that "Gentiles" are all "non-members" of the church. In that tradition of their fathers, (D&C 93: 39) "belief" in the words of the Lord Jesus from the Book of Mormon is rendered "unbelief." It is as clear as it can possibly be, unless the holy words are "transfigured," (Mormon 8: 33) that the Gentiles spoken of in the Book of Mormon prophecies are the latter day church established by Joseph Smith. (D&C 109: 60)

It is a deception of the evil one to teach or believe that we can find or maintain a status among the "people of the covenant" while conducting ourselves in "unbelief" of the words of the Lord from the Book of Mormon. The prophecies concerning the Gentiles and the remnant of Israel together with every other word spoken by the Lord in the Book of Mormon must be learned, accepted, and believed. Otherwise we run the risk of being "cut off" from covenant status with the Lord. 

So, my young friend, the answer to your question, "what do the prophecies in the Book of Mormon have to do with you making your calling and election sure and finding the presence of the Lord?" Only one thing, EVERYTHING!