Friday, January 29, 2010

A Primer on Principles of Priesthood Government

This week as I was studying the material for my Institute class on Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, I literally stumbled upon a resource that I want to share.

The information is taken from excerpts of a talk given at a training session of the General Authorities at general conference, April 1992, by Elder Boyd K. Packer. It was later published in the Ensign Magazine in February, 1993. It is titled, “What Every Elder Should Know- and Every Sister as Well: A Primer on Principles of Priesthood Government.”

I love the opening statement of the address, “Because elders cannot receive the fulness of the blessings of the priesthood without the sisters, it was thought the sisters, too, could benefit” from the information contained in the training session.

I (with the help of my mom and her fancy printer) actually made this talk into a “scripture” size pamphlet so it could be easily added to a set of scriptures. My hope is that my students will use it as a reference, or guide, whenever the need might arise. I plan on adding it to my own scriptures as “modern day scripture” from a modern day prophet.

I hope you find the information helpful too.

Click here for the link.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Our Heavenly Father Is In Charge

Isn’t it marvelous that our Heavenly Father is in charge?

There are times when we do not understand things as they unfold around us, but just knowing He does gives me peace and comfort in times of turmoil and distress.

There are so many evidences in the scriptures that show that our Heavenly Father has a plan for us, and that His plan unfolds line upon line, right before our eyes. In the process of the restoration of His Church upon this earth, He laid out many things so beautifully years before Joseph Smith even knew what He had in mind.

Perhaps I might give just two examples of what I mean:

Prior to the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830 Joseph Smith received a revelation that is known today as Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In this revelation the Lord outlined the organization and government of the Church itself. I like to refer to Section 20 as the “Blueprint” for Section 19.

In Section 20 the Lord gave instruction regarding a group of men known as the “high council”:

Section 20: 65 No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church;

66 But the presiding elders, traveling bishops, high councilors, high priests, and elders, may have the privilege of ordaining, where there is no branch of the church that a vote may be called.

67 Every president of the high priesthood (or presiding elder), bishop, high councilor, and high priest, is to be ordained by the direction of a high council or general conference.

It is interesting to me that the instruction on the organization of the High Council is not received until February, 1834, in Section 102 of the Doctrine and Covenants, nearly four years after the mention of them in Section 20.

Another example of this can be seen in the calling and organization of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Even before the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored, a revelation was received by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery giving specific instruction about the Twelve Apostles and the manner that they should be called. This instruction is given in Section 18 in June of 1829:

Section 18:26 And now, behold, there are others who are called to declare my gospel, both unto Gentile and unto Jew;

27 Yea, even twelve; and the Twelve shall be my disciples, and they shall take upon them my name; and the Twelve are they who shall desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart.

28 And if they desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart, they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature.

Section 18:37 And now, behold, I give unto you, Oliver Cowdery, and also unto David Whitmer, that you shall search out the Twelve, who shall have the desires of which I have spoken;

38 And by their desires and their works you shall know them.

39 And when you have found them you shall show these things unto them.

40 And you shall fall down and worship the Father in my name.

It was not until February 14, 1835 that the fullness of this instruction was realized. On that day a meeting was called by Joseph Smith for all the brethren who were part of Zion’s Camp, and other brethren and sisters who were asked to attend. According to the account in History of the Church, the prophet had seen in vision, and by the Holy Spirit, the order of the Church organization. It states, “It was doubtless in this vision also that the Prophet saw the manner in which the Twelve should be chosen.”

The account given of choosing of the Twelve apostles is as follows:

“President Joseph Smith, Jun., after making many remarks on the subject of choosing the Twelve, wanted an expression from the brethren if they would be satisfied to have the Spirit of the Lord dictate in the choice of the Elders to be Apostles; whereupon all the Elders present expressed their anxious desire to have it so.”

A hymn was sung, President Hyrum Smith prayed, and the meeting was dismissed for one hour.

When they returned the meeting continued:

“President Joseph Smith, Jun., said that the first business of the meeting was, for the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon to pray each one, and then proceed to choose twelve men from the Church, as Apostles, to go to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.

The Three Witnesses, viz., Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, united in prayer.

These Three Witnesses were then blessed by the laying on of the hands of the Presidency.

The Witnesses then, according to a former commandment, proceeded to make choice of the Twelve”

(In Section 18 only two of the three witnesses were mentioned by name for this sacred job. It is mentioned that at the time of the revelation Martin Harris was wavering in his commitment to the Lord by hesitating to dispose of his land to meet the obligations that were entered into with the printer who was contracted to print the Book of Mormon. Thankfully Harris repented and was found worthy of continued fellowship in the Church, and given this sacred privilege.)

On March 28, 1835, these Twelve Apostles which were spoken of as early as 1829 received instruction which is known as Section 107. It is the same instruction the Twelve Apostles follow today.

The Lord had a plan for His Church and the organization of it. He outlined it, and followed through with that plan. The Church leaders were given instruction for the Church which was pertinent to it years before the instruction was actually to be implemented.

The Lord has a plan for His children too. I believe we too are given information, sometimes years before we may need it, to help us to prepare, to help us follow that plan.

Thank goodness our Heavenly Father is in charge!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nakedness and the Clothing of Adam and Eve

I finally did it.
I ordered a copy of Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s book, In God’s Image and Likeness.

I have been contemplating this addition to my library for some time, but the following snippet from the book made it a sure sale!

The Nakedness and the Clothing of Adam and Eve

Moses’ account depicts Adam and Eve as naked and without shame in the Garden,”’ and clothed by God in coats of skin only later, after the Fall.”` However, many of the earliest artistic depictions of the story show a surprising reversal of the situation, portraying Adam and Eve clothed in regal glory within Eden, and naked after their expulsion. How can this be?

Recalling the parallels between the Garden of Eden and Israelite Houses of God, Anderson points out that “the vestments of the priest matched exactly those particular areas of the Temple to which he had access… Each time the high priest moved from one gradient of holiness to another, he had to remove one set of clothes and put on another to mark the change”:

(a) Outside the Tabernacle priests wear ordinary clothes. (b) When on duty in the Tabernacle, they wear four pieces of clothing whose material and quality of workmanship match that of the fabrics found on the outer walls of the courtyard. (c) The High Priest wears those four pieces plus four additional ones-these added garments match the fabric of the Holy Chamber where he must go daily to tend the incense altar.

In Eden a similar set of vestments is found, again each set suited to its particular space. (a) Adam and Eve were, at creation, vested like priests and granted access to most of Eden. (b) Had they been found worthy, an even more glorious set of garments would have been theirs (and according to St. Ephrem, they would have entered even holier ground). (c) But having [transgressed], they were stripped of their angelic garments and put on mortal flesh. Thus, when their feet met ordinary earth-the realm of the animals-their constitution had become “fleshly;’ or mortal.

Consistent with this schema, each stage in the sequence of changes in Adam and Eve’s status in the book of Moses is marked by a change in their appearance. The imagery of clothing is “a means of linking together in a dynamic fashion the whole of salvation history; it is a means of indicating the interrelatedness between every stage in this continuing working out of divine Providence;” including “the place of each individual Christian‘s ordinances within the divine economy as a whole.” Note the chiastic structure of the sequence, which begins and ends in glory:

1. From glory to nakedness. Though “naked” because their knowledge of their premortal state had been taken away by a veil of forgetfulness, Adam and Eve had come to Eden nonetheless “trailing clouds of glory.”‘” While the couple, as yet, were free from transgression, they could stand “naked” in God‘s presence without shame, being “clothed with purity’ in what early commentators called “garments of light“ or “garments of contentment.“ In one source, Eve describes her appearance by saying: “I was decked out like a bride, And I reclined in a wedding-chamber of light”

In the context of rituals and ordinances based on the experiences of Adam and Eve, Nibley explained: “The garment [of light] represents the preexistent glory of the candidate… When he leaves on his earthly mission, it is laid up for him in heaven to await his return. It thus serves as security and lends urgency and weight to the need for following righteous ways on earth. For if one fails here, one loses not only one‘s glorious future in the eternities to come, but also the whole accumulation of past deeds and accomplishments in the long ages of preexistence.’

1. From innocence to transgression.’”‘ Rabbinical tradition taught that, following his transgression, “Adam… lost his heavenly clothing-God stripped it off him.. “ and similarly that Eve “was stripped of the righteousness in which [she] had been clothed..” Likewise, the Discourse on Abbaton records that both Adam and Eve “became naked” upon eating the forbidden fruit. According to the Life of Adam and Eve, God then “sent seventy plagues upon us, to our eyes, and to our ears and as far as our feet, plagues and portents laid up in his treasuries.“ Anderson takes this to mean that “Adam has exchanged an angelic constitution for a mortal one,” in other words that he has been “clothed with flesh” Shamed by their loss of glory, Adam and Eve covered their earthly bodies with fig leaf aprons.

Rabbinical writings describe how, in likeness of Adam and Eve, each soul descending to earth “divests itself of its heavenly garment, and is clothed in a garment of flesh and blood; the prior glory being, as it were, “veiled… in flesh” The various “afflictions” of mortality initially given to Adam and now bestowed upon “all… generations” frequently number seven rather than the seventy mentioned above: “They are against the ‘seven natures: the flesh for hearing, the eyes for seeing, the breath to smell, the veins to touch, the blood for taste, and bones for endurance, and the intelligence for joy’; or against life, sight, hearing, smell, speech, taste, procreation”‘” Though Adam and Eve were protected from fatal harm at the time of extremity, ancient texts recount that Satan had been allowed to hurt them, and the “wounds;” foreshadowing the later wounds received by Christ at His crucifixion, “remained on their bodies”” Nibley sees the wounds of nature and of Satan to various parts_ of the body as figuratively corresponding to the “blows of death” taught by Satan to Cain.’” He describes their enactment in Jewish ritual as follows: “The wages of sin is death, and the dead body is chided at an old-fashioned Jewish funeral because its members no longer function, and each one is struck an impatient and accusing blow. This is the chibut ha-keber. `On the third day the departed is treated with increased rigor. Blows are struck on his eyes because he would not see, on his ears because he would not hear, on his lips because they uttered profanities, on his tongue because it bore false testimony against his neighbor, on his feet because they ran toward evil doing”‘

Thank you David J. Larsen, from Heavenly Ascents for sharing these great insights.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Thought Christ Would Be Our Judge?

I had an experience I want to remember, which dealt with the power of personal revelation.

One Sunday evening I was discussing some principles contained in the Book of Mormon with a young friend. She had several concerns and wanted to discuss them with me. Her questions were both in depth and well thought out.

In 1 Nephi, chapter 12, Nephi relates what he sees in vision regarding the Twelve Apostles:

12: 8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the Twelve Disciples of the Lamb, who are chosen to minister unto thy seed.

9 And he said unto me: Thou rememberest the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb? Behold they are they who shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, the twelve ministers of thy seed shall be judged of them; for ye are of the house of Israel.

10 And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood.

Her question was, “I thought Jesus Christ would be our judge?”

Mormon 3: 20 And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore I write unto you all. And for this cause I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam; and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil;

Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Instantly it was revealed to my mind and heart, with perfect clarity, how both could be possible. I used the analogy of a High Council.

In a High Council there are twelve High Councilmen who sit in judgment to “settle important difficulties which might arise in the church”. Although the twelve members are there to act both in behalf of the accused, and in behalf of the Church, to “prevent insult and injustice”, ultimately the judgment call, or decision on the outcome of this proceeding is made by the President alone. At once I better understood how the councils on earth were patterned after the councils in Heaven.

In application to this example, if the House of Israel was to be considered as a whole or individual body, they would be judged by the Twelve “Councilors” but the ultimate decision would rest with the President, or Jesus Christ. Both would play a part in this “courtroom” scene of judgment.

Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Doctrine and Covenants 29:12 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, and it hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else.

The very next day after our conversation, I went to look at the topic I would be discussing in my upcoming Institute class ... it was Section 102...or what might be known as the “Constitution of a High Council”.

FYI I think the best information to be found, in one place, on the history of the High Council can be found at this link.

I know... Don’t judge!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Garments of Light

In my recent studies I came across a Blog post that quoted a section from a paper written by Ronald A. Heiner. I found it of great interest so I wanted to share.

A. F. J. Klijn (Biblical scholar and author) states that the idea of preexistence comes from Judaism, where the idea of the heavenly robe "may be taken from the description of Adam and Eve in paradise." Of course, he refers to the tradition that Adam's nature was like bright light before the Fall, even as the garment is a garment of light, but after the Fall Adam lost his preexistent glory. J. Rendel Harris (another biblical scholar circa 1850) points out that the Odes of Solomon also contain the ideas of "the pre-existent soul that has to leave heaven for earth, and that of the unfallen creation of God, whose environment is changed from a coat of light to a coat of skins." The "garment of skins" became the "garment of light" possibly because the Hebrew [word for] (coat of skins) so closely resembles [Hebrew word] meaning "coat of light." Even so, the Apocryphon of James tells us that when the spirit returns to its heavenly treasure it will become "as you were first, having clothed yourself, you become the first who will strip himself, and you shall become as you were before removing the garment."

The garment also represents the treasure laid up in heaven awaiting the soul's return, and, in this context, the glory of the resurrected body. An ancient Christian writing known as the Ascension of Isaiah states, "The saints will come with the Lord with their garments which are now stored up in the seventh heaven, with the Lord will come those whose spirits are clothed upon." The Book of Enoch is replete with references to garments. In connection with the resurrection the Book of Enoch says, "And the righteous and elect shall have risen from the earth, and ceased to be downcast in countenance. And they shall be clothed with garments of glory, and they shall be the garments of life from the Lord of Spirits." The Manual of Discipline, found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains a concept very similar to that of the Book of Enoch:

And as for the visitation of all who walk in this spirit [of truth] it shall be healing, great peace in a long life, and fruitfulness, together with every everlasting blessing and eternal joy in life without end, a crown of glory and a garment of majesty in unending light.
(The Necessity of a Sinless Messiah by Ronald A. Heiner Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 22 (1982), Number 1 - Fall 1982, p.17-)

I can’t help but wonder if this “garment” that our “spirits are clothed upon” is none other than the gift of our physical bodies which clothe our spirits.

Abraham 3:23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.

If our first estate was the pre-existence, than the reward for righteousness was the physical body which was added upon our spiritual body. Those who chose unrighteousness did not receive that same glory, or the gift of a physical body. It is such a beautiful teaching showing us that our bodies are glorious. When we show our obedience, and sacrifice our will for the will of the Father in this second estate, our physical bodies of glory will be changed to that of glorified resurrected bodies of light, with the power to produce light.

In our fallen world, the power to keep our second estate is only made possible by the sacrifice made willingly by one who did keep His second estate perfectly. He made a sacrifice of the “glory” that was added upon Him so that we all could have the potentially same “glory” He has. We need our bodies.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Fall, Fig Leaves, Fake Coverings....

Our life on this earth is a constant reminder of the Fall.

This Telestial world, full of “thorns and thistles”, is simply the “fake covering”, or apron of fig leaves, that covers the earth waiting to whither away with the heat of the Son. It is important that we focus on the Fall, and understand the doctrine of it, so we don’t forget the need for the “coats of skin”, or sacrifice of the lamb that provided them. The Temple garment worn by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that constant reminder given to us of the need we have to be covered by the Atonement.

In the Book of Moses, Chapter four it explains the symbolism of the “fig leaf” apron which was used as an attempt to “hide nakedness”:

Moses 4:12 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.

13 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons.

14 And they heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

This self made “covering” was an attempt to cover their own sins or nakedness. Notice it was only useful “in the cool of the day”. In the Temple Endowment, the “fig leaf” apron is always worn as a reminder of the Fall and how ineffectual it would be to try and cover our sins by ourselves. It helps us remember the need we have of our Savior.

Contrasting the self made apron, the "gift" given to our first parents in the Garden of Eden pointed directly to the need of a better covering to make it through “ the heat of the day.”

In the Old Testament in the Book of Genesis it is recorded:

Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

22 ¶ And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Notice the additional clarity given by adding the account in The Book of Moses:

Moses 4: 27 Unto Adam, and also unto his wife, did I, the Lord God, make coats of skins, and clothed them.

28 And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten: Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil; and now lest he put forth his hand and partake also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever,

29 Therefore I, the Lord God, will send him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken;

30 For as I, the Lord God, liveth, even so my words cannot return void, for as they go forth out of my mouth they must be fulfilled.

31 So I drove out the man, and I placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.

It is so beautifully recorded in The Book of Moses that the Father himself gave them the skins to cover their nakedness. This record shows two distinct persons, the Father and the Son, and points directly to the sacrifice made by both; the Father who offered up His Son, and the Son who was the offering made to provide the skins themselves. We are taught that the Atonement is infinite and eternal, and was effectual even before the “last and great” sacrifice was made.

In the Second Book of Nephi of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Jacob explains how the Atonement ransoms man from the fall and uses the imagery of clothing to show how it covers us.

2 Nephi 9:14 Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness.

Although the “robes of righteousness” are placed on only after we have been covered by the “coats of skin”, they are also used to show our dependence on the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is interesting to me that the “fig leaves” are always there to remind us too.