Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gnats and Camels - The Sacrament

The Lord Jesus told the Pharisees of his day they were "blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." (Matt. 23: 24) The name of their office or position, "Pharisee," is the root of the derivative word "pharisaical." The adjective "pharisaical" has come to describe a person, or people, who are outwardly very particular and precise about conspicuous public religious performances and conduct without regard to the spirit. They advocate strict observance of external forms, rules, and ceremonies of religion or conduct without regard to the deeper meanings and requirements that might bring one closer to God. To be "pharisaical" is to be self-righteous, hypocritical. Our righteousness, according to the Lord, needs to exceed that of the Pharisees. If not, we "shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5: 20)

The phrase "straining at gnats," conjures up images of someone holding their throat while choking on a little bug called a gnat. (Has this ever happened to you?) “Straining at gnats” was a phrase used by the Lord to teach that we can focus, or place unrighteous emphasis or importance on the wrong things. Sometimes, we focus on certain right and good things to an excess that is wrong. Alternatively, we sometimes place emphasis and importance on certain things that just aren’t important or right. Often this “straining” is done at the expense of "weightier" principles, (camels,) that are overlooked or passed over and swallowed easily by us, as we are busy “straining at gnats.”  Though a principle or practice may appear in the law, if given too much emphasis or attention, we may "strain ourselves" on that "gnat." Some things are small things. Other things, (camels,) are “weighty” and of great import.  These should be attended to instead of spending wasted time and effort "straining at gnats."

The Pharisees had a skewed sense of what is important. They "omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith," (Matt. 23: 23) while observances and performances of minute details of the law took on a paramount but fake importance. The deeper meanings and wonderful symbolism built into the law that might have pointed them to Christ and His redeeming power if they were understood, simply did not rise to a level to be noticed by the Pharisees. Their religion, what they thought pleased God, was memorized, rote, repetition of practices set out in the law. If the prescribed performances were done with precision, especially if that precision and exactness of performance could be demonstrated in the public eye, so much the better; in this, the Pharisee's job, they thought, was complete. The observance itself and the public notice of the performance was the important thing. Jesus pointed out, "all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. (Matt. 23: 5-7)

Nothing was done by the Pharisee but to make him appear publicly as the strict observer of the law. The public perception of the Pharisee as strictly observant and religious was the objective of every performance. Jesus observed they "outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within (they) are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matt. 23: 28)

Like the Pharisees, our religious observances have us regularly "straining at gnats" while huge camels are regularly swallowed whole by us in one great gulp. In many respects, the lessons of the Pharisee, and the perils of pharisaical conduct, have been missed by us. We, like them, too often believe our outward performances of a few rules and traditions will lead to celestial reward. We tend to believe our weekly attendance at church, partaking of the sacrament, the performances we do regularly, in a rote manner, are the things that will save us. Likely, our rote performances will do us no more good than the Pharisee’s did them. Unless we find the deeper meanings in the things we do, unless we are literally led to Christ by what we do, we, like the Pharisees "will in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5: 20)

Our observance of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is done with a great deal of attention paid to some details that are perhaps important. If a priest administering the sacrament stumbles on his words while blessing the bread or water, we all expect the prayer will be re-attempted until repeated correctly. I have been in attendance when the sacrament prayer needed to be repeated up to five times before it was delivered correctly. We are very sure this is done right every time. And it should be. This is a good thing. However, while straining at this "gnat," we simultaneously swallow a couple of camels that most of us never consider or think about.

Our family recently discussed and studied the ordinance of the sacrament. We discovered, or were reminded, of some "camels" that we swallow each week as we participate in that sacred ordinance. I constructed an email to my children concerning some of the things we had learned. I include the contents of the email here since I think it points out some of the "camels" we have become accustomed to "swallowing."

Here's the email:

The real question concerning the emblems of the sacrament arises when we consider the sacrament the Lord administered himself to the Nephites. We are told,

"And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his Disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him." (3Nephi 18: 1)

We have to assume there was plenty of water available; if water were the preferred emblem, the Master would have asked for that instead of wine. He specifically sent people to get wine for the purpose of administering the sacrament.

After blessing and administering bread to the people, the record shows:

8 And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his Disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.
9 And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled. (3Nephi 18: 8-9)

After administering the bread and wine the Lord pointed out the importance and strictness of what the people had just done. He characterized it as a "commandment." He said:

"Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you." (3Nephi 18: 10)

His commandment, for which they (we) are blessed, is that they (we) should partake of bread and wine as a witness and testimony to the Father. 

After teaching the multitude the importance of what they had just done in partaking of the sacrament of bread and wine, the master issued this commandment to the people and to us by way of their record:

12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.
13 But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them. (3Nephi 18: 12-13)

Sounds like pretty serious business to do "more or less" than what we were specifically taught by the Master. The same law and commandment is still effective. It never changed. Men changed it. We "swallow" it. (This is a camel of the kind the Lord was referring to.)

Joseph Smith said the same thing the Lord said about changing ordinances and doing "more or less" than the lord gave us. Joseph said:

"Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles." (HC 5:423-424)

The church used wine for the sacrament for decades before and after Joseph Smith died. Brigham Young established vineyards and wineries in St. George that were for the specific purpose of producing wine for the sacrament for the church. The wine was produced in huge 500-gallon casks through the fermentation process, and then was divided into 40-gallon kegs that were delivered for consumption in the sacrament around the church. 

On the day Joseph and Hyrum were killed, Joseph sent Stephen Markham  to purchase wine to bring back to the jail for their use. Stephen Markham delivered the wine to the jail but was not allowed to re-enter the jail himself. This likely saved his life. On his dying day, Joseph desired to use wine. 

Section 27 of the D&C informs us:

2 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;

Joseph was about to purchase wine from those that were his enemies. The Lord told Joseph it would be better to use something else for this particular occasion, (orange juice, milk, water, whatever, water is not specifically mentioned as being the preferred replacement for wine) rather than buy wine from those that would like to kill him.

The Lord then instructed Joseph that they should make the wine they should use so it would be safe for them. The lord never said or commanded that wine should not be used for the sacrament. Nor did he command or suggest water should be the preferred replacement for wine. To the contrary, the Lord implied wine should be used. 

"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: 4)

The Lord then suggested the day is coming when He will return and partake again of wine Himself in a sacred ordinance. (D&C 27: 5)

The "word of wisdom" implies that wine is to be used for the sacrament:

5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make. (D&C 89: 5-6)

Both places the sacrament prayer appears in scripture, Moroni 5, and D&C 20: 79 the indicated emblem of the blood is "wine." 

Why don't we do this as instructed by the Lord? Joseph Smith was the one who received these revelations. I assume he knew what the Lord meant. He used wine for the sacrament until the day he died.

Later, after decades of keeping the commandment of the Lord in using wine for the sacrament, leaders of the church decided to change the ordinance (primarily because Heber J. Grant was a tea totaler and decided everyone else should be also.) His radical view of the "word of wisdom" resulted in him changing and altering the sacred ordinance.

Heber J. Grant was a man who by his own admission never had the heavens opened to him. According to his own words, he never saw or received an angel. According to him, he never saw or received God the Father or His Son. Yet, because he lived long enough to become the senior "apostle," and because he had a personal bent for tea totaling, he felt it was his right because of "keys" he held, to impose his view on the entire church. And despite the Lord's warning, during his (Heber J. Grant’s) watch, the church began to do "more or less" than what the Lord commanded for the sacred sacrament.

As a side note, perhaps the "word of wisdom" that was first given "not by way of commandment or constraint" (D&C 89: 2) but was subsequently declared a "commandment" by Heber J. Grant has itself become a "gnat" that we as a people "strain" at? Tremendous importance is placed on this polite suggestion the Lord first gave as a word of "wisdom." 

The "camels" we swallow as we strain at the gnats surrounding the sacrament are weighty, not to be taken lightly. We swallow at least two camels every time we partake of the sacrament.

Camel #1. "…they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." (2Nephi 28: 14)

Camel #2. "Ordinances  instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved  on the same principles." (HC 5:423-424)

We partake of the sacrament as prescribed by the church. We are members of the church and we ought to abide by the rules and laws laid down by those who preside over the church. However, we ought to recognize and understand the "weightier" meanings of the sacred ordinances. It should be clear to us where we are with respect to these things, and why we are where we are. We ought to desire, and pray for righteousness wherever we recognize error.

If the only legitimate excuse for our conduct is, "because the brethren said so," and it seems to contradict the word of the Lord, then we can be sure things will be set right at some point in time. We ought to be sure in the knowledge that no man, regardless of title or position, has the right or power to ever contradict the word of the Lord. The church belongs to Him. Our faith is in Him. We follow and love Him. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Beggars Petition

Whenever three of God's servants declare the same principle, using nearly identical words in scripture, we should pay extremely close attention. Nephi, Paul, and Moroni, all said the absence of charity reduces a person to "nothing." (2Nephi 26: 30, 1Cor. 13: 2, Moroni 7: 46)

It is good from time to time, (certainly much more often than we actually do,) to be reminded that no matter what great doctrines we learn or know, what level of knowledge we attain to, what hours of study and temple attendance we log; Regardless what miracles we may be involved in, what gifts of the spirit are bestowed on us, no matter what position, office, or title we hold, if we have not acquired the attribute of charity, all else, EVERYTHING else, is for naught. (1Cor. 13: 1-3)

My daughter and her fiancĂ© were recently at the church office-building complex in downtown Salt Lake City.  While there, they watched as several security people detained, and turned over to police, a homeless man who had been found on the premise. There happened to be another homeless man standing nearby. My daughter made an offering to the man named Joel and struck a conversation with him. He said, "Did you see what just happened there?" referring to the arrest of the first homeless man. My daughter acknowledged they had witnessed the arrest.

The homeless man told a story of his own experience. He said he was in the church office-building lobby one day waiting for a man who worked in the building. The man, who worked there, had offered to buy the homeless fellow some lunch but needed to go to his office upstairs for his wallet. While waiting for his friend to go upstairs and retrieve his wallet, the homeless man was approached by security people. He tried to explain he was waiting for his friend to go to lunch. Against his protests he was summarily escorted out and away from the building.

The man was embarrassed and infuriated by the treatment he received. He told my daughter he could never be a part of, or have anything to do with, a "religious" organization that was so heartless and rude to a person in need. Meanwhile, a good man inside the tower, the man's friend, would have fed the poor man.

As I listened to my daughter relate these events I was compelled to ask, who among all these was neighbor to the man? (Luke 10: 36)

Does an institution, particularly one claiming to be the Lord's have the same requirement to have and administer charity? Can an institution be rendered "nothing" by a lack of Charity?

We live in a mean and merciless day. The accepted and prevailing attitude toward the less fortunate is, "the man has brought upon himself his misery," I have no obligation toward him, "his punishments are just." (Mosiah 4: 17) Paul saw in our day a people who would be lovers of their own selves, unthankful, without natural affection, fierce, high minded, despisers of those that are good. (2Timothy 3: 1-5) We live in a place and time when it is viewed as weak and gullible to think with mercy of others and their needs before our own. We do not believe that a merciless existence on our part will result in judgment from our God without mercy for us. (James 2: 13) It would horrify us if we actually believed and understood this truth.

Those that give alms to homeless persons outside the temple or on the church office complex are often despised for their acts of charity. They are viewed as foolish and naive. We are taught instead to give to humanitarian funds or other donated funds managed institutionally by others. Thereby, it is supposed, the poor among us will be discouraged from bothering us as we enter the house of the Lord full of intentions to beg for the Lord's mercy and blessing upon us poor creatures. (Mosiah 4: 19-20) We “adorn ourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by us, and notice them not.” (Mormon 8: 39) Those are Moroni's words in scripture.

This modern lyric by Phil Collins says the same thing.

She calls out to the man on the street
"Sir can you help me?
It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep.
Is there somewhere you can tell me?"

He walks on doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

She calls out to the man on the street
He can see she's been crying
She's got blisters on the souls of her feet
Can't walk but she's trying

Oh Lord, is there nothing more anyone can do?
Oh Lord, there must be something you can say. 

Phil Collins "Another Day in Paradise"

The poor, even the unthankful, (Luke 6:  35-36) or those that may take advantage of us in our giving, are to be served whenever they put up their petition to us. (Luke 6: 30) We should learn that in being charitable to those that put up their petition to us, it is us we are blessing, not them. (1Peter 4: 8) Since this is the case, it should matter little to us what the beggar does with what we give them. It simply doesn't matter what they do after the alm is given. That is not any of our concern either before or after the gift is given.

On a trip to California recently, our family encountered an enterprising beggar. He set himself up at a stop light in the median of a major roadway. As we approached the traffic light the beggar held up a sign that made us all laugh. His sign said, "Not going to lie - Just need to buy beer." Because he had put up his petition, he was given a small token. It was not much, certainly not enough to buy a lot of beer if that was the man's intention. But, perhaps he could have purchased a few beers if that was what he needed. The man was grateful. We felt grateful and blessed for having kept the commandment. I don't know if he bought beer or went to McDonalds for some food with what he had received. I don't care. It doesn’t matter. He was blessed and so were we. 

Since we may bestow all our goods to feed the poor and still not have charity, (1Cor. 13: 3), we ought to carefully consider our motives in providing for the poor. (1Cor. 13: 4-7) Charity is, as we all know, the "pure love of Christ." (Moroni 7: 47) Therefore, we should understand and apply the meaning of the Lord's commandment to love one another "AS I HAVE LOVED YOU" as the only acceptable standard when giving alms. (John 13: 34) This standard precludes any judgments by us beforehand of the recipient of our alms. It also allows for no pretenses or self-serving on the part of the giver. (Mark 12: 41, 44) 

Great and huge sums are "cast into the treasury" for the poor by institutions and men alike. Rarely is as much cast in as is required by the Lord, though they that are rich "cast in much." (Mark 12: 41) Rarely is any alm (or all of our alms together) by men, or by institutions, sufficient to meet the standard of the widow's mite. What more could, perhaps should be done but for selfishness, concerns for personal or institutional gain, and unwillingness to hear and obey the counsel of the Lord?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Purpose of Prophecy

I want to repeat something that was posted on another blog recently. I have decided to post it here and discuss it since we have spoken alot on this blog about prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled. The statement below, strikes me as true, and something I need to adhere to. I encourage all to do the same as you read or re-read that which I have written. The following principle from the other blog ought to be our guide. Here it is:

"Prophecies are not given to enable us to understand details of the Lord's plans in advance. They are not designed to allow you to parse apart God's plans and know what He plans beforehand. They are only meant to be understood after they have happened. Then, when they have happened, you will understand what God was saying and that He was in control all along.

You should be very careful about settling on a final interpretation of any prophecy because they were not given with that in mind."

In our attempts to understand the words of the Book of Mormon, it is easy to want to put things together to try to explain what the future might hold. Some of what we attempt to "put together" might simply not "go together." I recognize, as tempting as it is to look for explanations, it is wise to simply allow fulfillment of prophecy to teach us what is meant by the prophecy.  Thereby our God is glorified in His work and our faith is increased in the wonder of it. He is in control. He knows the end from the beginning. We simply don’t, and don’t need to. What we need is faith in Him and His word. Every one of His words will be fulfilled. It is not required we know how.

Instead of looking to find "final interpretation" of the prophecies we have considered in the things I have written, I plan to use the information to be informed in order that I can wait and watch for the prophecies to be fulfilled in whatever manner the Lord decides. I encourage all to consider the suggestion quoted above and do the same.

The Holy Ghost will, and does, teach all truth. If we ask, even about future events, we may be taught, or we may be denied in our request. Regardless what we are taught, the above guideline ought to remind us of the purpose of prophecy. I plan to follow the counsel quoted above.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Remnant of Israel - "He Will Set His Hand Again The Second Time"

After prophesying about Christ, (the stem and root of Jesse from Isaiah 11: 1 and 10), and His servant, (the rod that will "come out" of the stem which is Christ - Isaiah 11: 1) and their central roles in the establishment of the latter day Zion and the gathering of Israel, (see prior posts), Isaiah then prophesies: 

11 And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11: 11-12)

If the Lord "shall set His hand again the second time" to recover the remnant of his people, then what event identifies as the "first time" he set his hand to recover them? I have a note (from a long time ago, probably from an institute teacher who didn't know jack) in the margin of my scriptures next to these verses we are now considering, that says:

"first time was Moses and Egyptian bondage and exodus."

There is a problem with the conclusion that "the first time" the Lord set His hand to recover the remnant of his people was Moses and the Egyptian exodus. It is true, the Lord did indeed lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. The problem with identifying the Egyptian exodus as "the first time" the Lord set his hand to recover "the remnant" of his people, is that "the remnant" of his people did not even exist until after the great scattering of Israel that happened much later in history after the Exodus.

In other words, the "remnants of scattered Israel" did not exist (obviously) until after Israel had been scattered. One could not say (as Isaiah did in his verse eleven that we are now considering) that those of Israel who had been left all around the world including "the isles of the sea" were recovered in the Egyptian exodus. It doesn't fit.

When then, was the "first time" the Lord set his hand to recover the scattered remnants of Israel? Not until the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. 

Joseph said:

"All that the prophets that have written, from the days of righteous Abel, down to the last man that has left any testimony on record for our considerstion, in speaking of the salvation of Israel in the last days, goes directly to show that it consists in the work of the gathering." (Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 190-91)

Joseph said every prophet who ever wrote "speaking of the salvation of Israel in the last days" was speaking about the work of the gathering. "In the last days" is the key phrase; Joseph is the prophet and the head of the dispensation of the fullness of times in the last days. Joseph was given charge of the beginning gathering of the remnants of Israel. Joseph's attempts to "gather," mark the "first time" the Lord set his hand to attempt to recover the remnants of scattered Israel and to establish Zion. This, according to the prophets of the Book of Mormon, was to be done by the Gentiles. 

Nephi recounted the teachings of his father Lehi that further confirm it would be after Joseph Smith and the restoration that the remnants of Israel would eventually be gathered. 

13 Wherefore, he (Lehi) said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
14 And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer. (1Nephi 10: 13-14)

According to Lehi, it would only be after Joseph Smith and the Gentiles "had received the fullness of the gospel," that the remnants of the house of Israel would be grafted in. But this, according to Isaiah, will require that the Lord "will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people."(Isaiah 11: 11)

The Lord Jesus teaches the same sequence of events as Lehi did for the latter days. He says:

"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.

And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them.

And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel." (3Nephi 16: 10-12)

The "second time" the Lord's hand is set to recover his people in the last days, he will be personally involved. This is why Isaiah prophesied the root of Jesse (Christ Jesus) (see prior post) "shall stand for an ensign of the people." (Isaiah 11: 10) Joseph Smith, in his interpretative revelation, said of the root of Jesse, (Jesus), to Him "rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days." (D&C 113: 6)

It will be the Lord Jesus that will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnants of Israel from all across the world including the isles of the sea. As He said to the Nephites,

"And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst. And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem." (3Nephi 21: 25-26)

The work of the Father to recover scattered and lost Israel "which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea," (Isaiah 11: 11) will not even "commence" according to the Lord, until the Lord Himself comes down with His power to dwell among the people. This will be after the fullness of the Gentiles, the remnant of Israel receives the fullness of the gospel, and the remnant of Israel (Lehi's seed) builds the Holy city New Jerusalem. (3Nephi 21: 23-24 also Ether 13: 8-10)

We await the Lord to set his hand again the second time. The first time he set his hand, the day and the fullness of the Gentiles, has fulfilled every prophecy concerning it in the Book of Mormon. Now, after the passing of "three to four" generations, (D&C 124: 50), there begins to be stirrings anew.


This will be the last entry for a while concerning the remnant of Israel. 

I spent a couple of evenings talking with my family about the things I have included in the series of recent blogs related to the remnant of Israel from the Book of Mormon. I got the sense from those discussions, there is a "remnant fatigue" going on. (At least with my kids) So I am going to leave the remnant for a while after this entry. There is enough in the Book of Mormon about the remnant of Israel that we could go on perhaps indefinitely. I have come to see through the exercise of writing this little series that there is so much to this topic and doctrine that it would take a good size book to do anything close to a comprehensive treatment. 

My purpose in writing has always been to teach myself, my children, my posterity, and those I love, light and truth in order to bring us closer to Christ. We have had enough revealed by the Lord and included in this blog concerning the remnant of Israel, that the record we have here provides enough of a foundation for any of my posterity to understand and know the key elements of the doctrine. From what has been written, any of you can make an inquiry with the Lord to continue and complete your understanding of the remnant of Israel and the latter day Gentiles. I plan to continue my personal inquiry in the Book of Mormon for further understanding on this topic. It is vast.

Those Gentiles (that means you if you are my blood) who have been, or may be asked to participate in the Lord's great unfolding of His strange and wonderful act in the latter days, will be placed at great advantage to know as much as can be learned about themselves (the Gentiles) and the remnant of Israel from the words and precepts of the Book of Mormon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

""Moved Out of Their Place" Perspective on Pioneers

The high council speaker in our sacrament meeting yesterday was accompanied by a twenty two year old neighbor from the Ogden Valley who suffered a terrible freak accident four years ago that left him paralyzed from the neck down. The young man's talk was inspiring. He related how his experience in dealing with sudden paralysis had helped him draw closer to the Savior. His terrible adversity had given him a new and healthy perspective of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord. His testimony was born of real and relevant circumstances of adversity. I felt inspired by this young man's turning to the Lord because of his adversity.

The high councilman then spoke and recounted the experience of the Stillman Pond family. President James E. Faust told about the Pond family in a conference talk given in April 1979. During the exodus west from Nauvoo, Stillman Pond buried nine children and his wife over the winter of 1846 and 1847. What happened to brother Pond was horrible beyond our capacity to comprehend. What happened to the Pond family also happened in varying degrees to many other early LDS families and people as Nauvoo was abandoned and the Saints moved to the west.

My own family suffered hardship and adversity in the migration west. My great great grandfather, Martin Horton Peck ran over and crushed the leg of his son Edwin under a tremendously heavy wagon wheel. The leg was crushed and useless. The story in our family records tells that Edwin was administered to by my grandfather and was miraculously healed. My own people suffered much on the treck west. And the suffering did not diminish a great deal for several years after the arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.

It is estimated that some 6,000 people perished in the Mormon westward migration. This number likely does not Account for those that died in the Salt lake Valley and outlying locations from starvation and disease over the first couple of years after arrival.

Over the next couple of weeks as the 24th of July commemoration of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley approaches, we will hear many recountings of the terrible things that happened to the Mormon pioneers after they left Nauvoo. Stillman Pond and others like him have risen to the status of heroes. Any man who buries nine children and his wife and responds in a way to draw closer to God and uses the adversity of his life to become humble and more responsive to God is a good example as far as I am concerned.

Some will say it is a sacrilege to suggest what happened to my own family, what happened to the Pond family, and all others of the early latter day saints who suffered so tremendously in the western migration, should never have happened. A growing number of people, myself included, have begun to realize the hardships and afflictions of the early saints directly resulted from choices and actions (or inactions) of the people themselves contrary to the directions of God. What happened to the people of Nauvoo, my own family included, came after very clear forewarning from the Lord.

The traditional history and stories of the westward migration ignore and never discuss the invitations, promises, and warnings Given by the Lord to the early Saints that may have prevented so much suffering and upheaval to lives as the Saints were "moved out of their place." Those invitations, promises and warnings are found in section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Among the stipulated promises from the Lord, was the promise that the people would not be "moved out of their place" if they would "hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people." (D&C 124: 45) 

I have concluded for myself by careful study and much prayer, that the early church and the saints, including my own family were in fact "moved out of their place" of Nauvoo and suffered the terrible consequences promised by the Lord for their failure to adhere to His word. The Lord said to them:

46 But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them.
47 And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
48 For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me, saith the Lord. (D&C 124: 46-48)

As the high councilman spoke and recounted the terrible afflictions that befell the Stillman Pond family, I was inspired by Stillman Pond's stalwart reaction to the horrible adversity inflicted on him and his family. He showed extraordinary courage and determination to continue on despite the loss of his children and wife. However, my thoughts were filled with the warnings of the Lord from section 124 that seemed to be fulfilled in the experiences of the Pond family, my own family, and the families of all the others who were in fact "moved out of their place."  Not only were they moved out of their place, but also what they experienced in the exodus from Nauvoo, in my judgment, fulfilled the promise of the Lord that  "instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me." (D&C 124: 48)

Others have done a magnificent work in recounting and reconstructing the failure of the saints to complete the Nauvoo temple in the allotted time allowed by the Lord as set forth in section 124. I simply add my testimony that the failure of the saints to construct and complete the Nauvoo temple in the allowed period of time, (D&C 124: 31-32) resulted in Joseph Smith forfeiting his life, the fullness of the priesthood never being restored again by the Lord after it was lost, (D&C 124: 28) and the saints being "moved out of their place." (D&C 124: 45)

Despite claims by Orson Hyde that the temple was completed and dedicated "by the skin of our teeth,"  the promise of the Lord to "consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy" (D&C 124: 44) was never realized. Instead, although it was hastily dedicated, the temple was never fully completed. It was burned by an arsonist and the remains were further destroyed by a tornado. Not one stone was left atop another the destruction was so complete. There is no record that God or angels ever came into the incomplete Nauvoo temple.

Stillman Pond was a good man I don't doubt it. He reacted in an inspiring way to the adversity he and his family experienced. What happened to the Pond family, what happened to my own family, and all of the Nauvoo residents who were promised by the Lord that they would not be moved out of their place if they would hearken to His voice, was completely avoidable. The people were invited, they were given conditional promises, they were warned, they made the choices they made and they were moved out of their place. 

We are told and taught that it was mob violence and persecution that led to the saints abandoning Nauvoo. I personally believe the Lord was fully capable of keeping his promise to the saints that they would not be moved out of their place if they would hearken to His voice. I conclude instead it was no failure of the Lord's that led to the people being moved out of their place. I conclude that all the suffering, the cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments experienced by the Nauvoo pioneers were just what the Lord promised would follow failure to obey Him. (D&C 124: 48)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Remnant of Israel - The Root of Jesse

"And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and his rest shall be glorious." (2Nephi 21: 10, Isaiah 11: 10)

Joseph Smith gives the following interpretation of this verse:

"What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter (of Isaiah)?

Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days." (D&C 113: 5-6)

After learning from verse one of Isaiah chapter 11 (in the last post) about a servant that will "come out" of Christ, we are now told by Isaiah of a "root" of Jesse in verse ten. The "root of Jesse" according to isaiah will: 

• stand for an ensign "of" the people.

• to it (the ensign, the root) shall the Gentiles seek

• and "his" rest shall be glorious.

Did you notice from Joseph Smith's interpretation in D&C 113, that "the servant" that will "come out" of Christ, spoken of in verse one of Isaiah chapter 11(as discussed in the last post) is a partial descendant of both Jesse and Ancient Joseph through Joseph's son Ephraim. Now, in verse ten, the "root of Jesse" is described by Joseph Smith as being descended from both Jesse and Joseph as well. Unlike "the servant," that will come out of the stem of Jesse, (Christ,) the "root of Jesse" is not called a servant. The "root" is in fact THE very root of  Jesse.

An angel delivered the words of Christ to the beloved apostle John on the isle of Patmos. John was so taken with the message he attempted to worship the angel. The angel rebuked John and said, "...See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God." (Rev. 22: 9) Strangely, the angel then begins to speak in the first person to John as if he (the angel) were Christ. John does not say that the angel who just rebuked him was replaced by Christ. He (the angel) declares, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." (Rev. 22: 13) Then, as if stepping back to the second person the angel says, "Blessed are they that do his commandments..." (Rev. 22: 14) Then back to the first person, the angel says, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David,and the bright and morning star." (Rev. 22: 16) 

By His own confession to John, Jesus is the root of David (Jesse).

The Lord is called "the root" in one other place earlier in John's revelation. While being shown the book with the seven seals John records:

"And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." (Rev. 5: 5)

Interesting isn't it, that Joseph Smith says the root of Jesse "is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph?" Here, it is good to be reminded that Moroni told Joseph Smith in 1823, this prophecy of Isaiah's "is about to be fulfilled." As of September 23, 1823, the root of Jesse, (Jesus,) had not yet appeared as a descendant partly of Jesse and partly of ancient Joseph. His appearance as prophesied by Isaiah will be "in that day." "In that day" refers to the day just spoken of by Isaiah in verses 6 through 9. Verses 6-9 (of Isaiah  chapter 11) are Isaiah's description of the millennial day. The millennial day will be preceded by tremendous upheaval and terrible destruction upon the earth - and the establishment of the Holy City, Zion, the New Jerusalem, by the remnant of Joseph's seed, the remnant of Israel. (Ether 13: 8-10)

In the words of Jesus:

23 And they (repentant Gentiles) shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.
24 And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem.
25 And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I (the root of Jesse, Jesus) also will be in the midst.

In another place Isaiah speaks of the day when the Lord, (the root of Jesse), will dwell among His people and provide for them an ensign. That ensign will be Him:

6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold,it is I.
7 ¶ How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when theLord shall bring again Zion. (Isaiah 52: 6-8)

Joel also spoke of this day when the Lord, the root of Jesse will personally be the ensign of the people. It will be in His Zion established by the remnant of Israel. Joel said:

"And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else; and my people shall never be ashamed...And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call." (Joel 2: 27 and 32)

According to Joseph Smith's interpretation in D&C 113, the root of Jesse, (Jesus) is the one:

• "unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood,"

In fact, He IS "the power of heaven" that will "come down among them." (3Nephi 21: 25) The rights of the priesthood after all, are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven. (D&C 121: 36) The priesthood "rightly belongs" to Him.

• "and the keys of the kingdom,"

Jesus loaned these keys of the kingdom to Peter (Matt. 16: 19) and to Joseph Smith (D&C 81: 2). He could never have bestowed the keys of the kingdom on His servants had they (the keys of the kingdom) not first "rightly belonged" to Him. 

• "for an ensign,"

The best definition of "ensign" that fits the manner the Lord Jesus is an ensign is: "a sign, token, or emblem" (how fitting) He is the ensign to whom, like the children of Israel, if one will look, he may be healed. (1Nephi 17: 41)

• "and for the gathering of my people in the last days." 

 "And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem. And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I (the root of Jesse, Jesus) also will be in the midst. (3Nephi 21: 24-25)

Do you remember that Isaiah prophesied in verse one of chapter 11 that:  "there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." By what we have learned it should become clear to the inspired reader the meaning of the "branch" that will grow out of "his" roots. Do you see it? Ask for understanding. 

This amzing prophecy of Isaiah, quoted by Moroni to Joseph Smith, is all about the gathering of  Israel. It is all about the remnant of Israel and the building of Zion the holy city. Jesus, the root of Jesse, the Lord and King, will do this work. 

"and his rest shall be glorious" (Isaiah 11: 10) for those "who dwell therein, (Zion the holy city) for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel." (Ether 13: 10)

Next, we will go back and discover what we can about the servant upon whom is laid "much power." (Isaiah 11: 1 and D&C 113: 3-4)