Thursday, February 25, 2010

Elias and The Gospel of Abraham

Joseph Smith described the third vision that he and Oliver Cowdery witnessed in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836 in a more cryptic manner. It simply states:

Doctrine and Covenants 110:12 After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.

Many people get side tracked at this point with who Elias is, the opinions on this are varied and diverse, but I feel it is more important to talk about what Elias did. It is interesting to me that there is no mention of “keys” in this portion of the vision, the word “dispensation” is used to describe the interaction that took place. A definition of dispensation is “a general state or ordering of things; specifically: a system of revealed commands and promises regulating human affairs.” I love this definition because when I hear the word order, I automatically think of ordinance.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explains how the gospel is dispensed:

“Whenever the Lord reveals the plan of salvation anew so that men do not have to rely solely upon prior dispensings from heaven of the same glories and wonders, it is called a dispensation of the gospel. This may or may not involve a restoration of keys and powers and priesthoods. It did when Jesus came to replace the Mosaic dispensation, for instance, but not when the dispensations of Enoch and Noah were ushered in.

We do not know how many dispensations there have been, probably dozens or scores; nor can we be certain how long each lasted, or how one dispensation blended into another. For the present we know only that a gracious God has made his saving truths available at those times and under those circumstances, when men were prepared to receive them.”

I believe that Elias came to reveal, or show, the order of Abraham, or more fully instruct them on the Abrahamic Covenant, here referred to as the gospel of Abraham.

Perhaps at this point it might be interesting to note some historical events that took place immediately preceding the visit of Elias. Just prior to the completion and dedication of the Kirtland Temple, an unusual experience happened in the community where the Saints lived. A man by the name of Michael H. Chandler arrived at the home of Joseph Smith with three papyrus scrolls, which he found in the caskets of four mummies he had acquired from a distant relative. Again, rather than discuss the details and validity regarding Chandler and his possession of these mummies, I would like to focus on the timing and the content of what these scrolls contained.

The scrolls were purchased and Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps, acting as scribes, went to work with Joseph Smith to translate them. Joseph Smith commented, “And much to our joy we found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt.” Oliver Cowdery, in a written letter to a friend stated that the language of the ancient record was very comprehensive and the hieroglyphics exceedingly striking. He noticed that the writers of the scrolls were acquainted with the creation, the fall of man, and their creator. He wrote, “The representation of the Godhead, three, yet in one, is curiously drawn to give simply, though impressively, the writer’s views of the exalted personage.” He went on to describe this information as “an inestimable acquisition to our present scriptures, fulfilling in a small degree the word of the Prophet: ‘for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’” Today we have some of this work recorded in The Pearl of Great Price, known as The Book of Abraham.

Isn’t it interesting that as the saints were busy working on completing the temple, the Prophet was busy learning about the Gospel of Abraham as recorded by Abraham himself?

In the words of Abraham:

Abraham 1:2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.

4 I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.

This must have sounded hauntingly familiar to Joseph Smith because this was about the same process that happened to him.

What comes next is priceless:

Abraham 1: 18 Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priesthood of thy father, and my power shall be over thee.

19 As it was with Noah so shall it be with thee; but through thy ministry my name shall be known in the earth forever, for I am thy God.

If that isn't filled with Temple symbolism, I don't know what is!

Elder Bruce R. McConkie described the gospel of Abraham as:

The authorization to use the priesthood to perfect eternal family units, even as this commission and covenant was had by Abraham and those who followed him (Millennial Messiah, 119).

Obviously it was the commission, the mission, the endowment and power, the message of salvation, given to Abraham. Thus the gospel of Abraham was one of celestial marriage. And as a consequence, the righteous among all future generations were assured of the blessings of a continuation of the seeds forever, even as it was with Abraham of old (D&C 132.). (Mormon Doctrine, 219-20).

I think I like how Phillip Allred summed it up:

"In sum, the gospel of Abraham amounts to having access to the blessings of exaltation that he and his immediate posterity have already achieved (see D&C 132:29, 37). This gospel, interestingly named after this mortal model (see Abraham 1:18-19), has the power to perfect its adherents and exalt them. Much like the Melchizedek priesthood bears its name (D&C 107:2-4), this gospel of Abraham is none other than the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

The keys of the Melchizedek priesthood had already been restored by Peter, James, and John, which allowed access to the blessings of the Gospel of Abraham or the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe the return of Elias simply showed Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and each one of us vicariously, where and how we fit into that Patriarchal lineage or plan of salvation.

With that in mind... perhaps Elias is really a title. Perhaps Joseph and Oliver were so cryptic about this “Elias” because it was a combination of individuals sent to reveal the order, or place that Joseph holds as a dispensation head. For me it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that this Elias restored the Patriarchal order or revealed our right to our “endowment” from the Fathers. This was the promise made to them and to us.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Moses Keyholder Of The Gathering of Israel

The second vision out of the four received in the Kirtland Temple is recorded as follows:

Doctrine and Covenants 110:11 After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

With the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth, in this dispensation, the gathering of scattered Israel began. As early as 1828 the Prophet Joseph Smith received Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants outlining the qualifications needed for one to be gathered, baptism being one of them. This gathering theme became a thread throughout the rest of the revelations received from the Lord, and culminates in the restoration of actual keys in Section 110.

There are many reasons for gathering which I have explored in a previous post called, “The Gathering of My People”. You might want to refresh your memory and go and read that one now before you continue with the rest of this post.

Why was Moses the key holder for the gathering? Sidney B. Sperry explained, "The first gathering of Israel was done under the direction of Moses and resulted in the exodus from Egypt. Moses therefore holds the keys of the gathering of Israel. The Lord set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people by sending Moses to confer the keys of his authority upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836."

Moses was the instrument the Lord used to free the Children of Israel from the bonds of slavery. Throughout his entire ministry he attempted to introduce this unruly group into the “promised land” to no avail. They simply would not be gathered in the same manner that Enoch had gathered his people. I believe that Moses was taken out of their midst holding the keys to this gathering only to return during a time when they would be committed to the “one true God.” It is appropriate that Moses would be the one to commit the keys of the gathering of Israel to the restored Church. Moses had come to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration and there had bestowed upon them the same priesthood keys in their day.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote about the role of Moses in the latter-day gathering of scattered Israel as follows:

How shall Israel be gathered? First will come the conversion and gathering of the tribe of Joseph. Then Joseph [Ephraim and Manasseh] shall gather the other tribes. It will not be an easy work. Every lost sheep must be taught the gospel; every new convert must believe the Book of Mormon; all must repent and forsake the world and come voluntarily, often in the face of great opposition, into the latter-day kingdom of the God of their fathers. Missionaries must labor with zeal and in the face of great odds. They must "push the people together." And who shall do this work? Moses says: They are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh." (Deuteronomy 33:17.) And such is an apt and accurate definition of the missionary force of the great latter-day kingdom. Moses — mighty, mighty Moses — acting in the power and authority of the holy order, gathered Israel once. What is more fitting than for him to confer upon mortals in this final dispensation the power and authority to lead latter-day Israel out of Egyptian darkness, through a baptismal Red Sea, into their promised Zion? (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 528-29).

What does the return of the keys for the gathering of Israel mean to us individually?

“Why is it that you are here to-day? and what brought you here? Because the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four quarters of the earth have been committed to Joseph Smith, and he has conferred those keys upon others that the gathering of Israel may be accomplished, and in due time the same thing will be performed to the tribes in the land of the north. It is on this account, and through the unlocking of this principle, and through those means, that you are brought together as you are to-day” (John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 25:179).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Under His Feet Was A Paved Work of Pure Gold

Continuing in the theme of the glorious visions that occurred in the Kirtland Temple, I again add another post today on the first of the four visions.

By retiring to the pulpit of the temple, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had separated themselves from the “world” and had allowed the “veil to be taken from their minds”. This transfiguring moment led to the magnificent experience of seeing the Lord himself, as he accepted the offering the Saints had made by building the Temple. They described what they saw as follows:

Doctrine and Covenants 110:2 We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.

3 His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun;

John the Revelator described what he saw when he had a similar experience with these words:

Revelation 1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace;

In the Sacred Grove, Joseph Smith had also described the Lord the first time he had seen him, in what we as LDS refer to as the First Vision, with the explanation that “his brightness and glory defy all description”.

In contemplating all the various accounts given by those who have seen the Savior, the one word that comes to my mind that is similar in all of them is light. This light is so pure and complete it has the power to dispel all darkness. Not only is the light perfectly bright it is full of energy, with power enough to drown out even the memory of darkness, or in other words an energy with the power to cleanse. I believe the process of what these witnesses had experienced is best explained by the Lord.

Doctrine and Covenants 50: 24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

In this Kirtland Temple experience, not only did Joseph and Oliver see the Lord, He spoke to them as well. They described his voice as “the sound of the rushing of the great waters.” It is interesting to me to analyze some of the things he said, and the order he said them in.

First of all the Lord introduced himself, or as I like to call it, he gave them his credentials.

110:4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.

In this brief introduction we learn so much about Jesus Christ. We learn that he is not only the creator, being the first, but he is our Savior and Redeemer, being the last. Because he lives, he proves that he holds the keys for power over death, or the ordinance of resurrection. These keys have been turned on our behalf so that we too may live beyond this life. Because he was slain, he answered the demands of justice from the law which was broken because of the fall. Basically, he has been obedient to the full extent of the law, which in turn allows him all blessings predicated upon that law. One of the blessings attached to that law is us. He paid the price to have the job as our advocate with the Father. He is the great mediator. This job as advocate allows him to not only speak to the Father on our behalf, but also allows him to speak to us for the Father.

Why did Jesus Christ need to explain all this to Joseph and Oliver, and to us? I believe it is because it gives assurance, or makes his word sure, for what he then says next.

110: 5 Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.

His statement of authority or credentials allows us to have faith that he can do what he says he can do. In this case it proves he has the authority from the Father to actually forgive sins, and he exercises that authority. It shows that he has permission to accept the Temple for the Father, and place his name there. It explains that he can extend mercy to us and show himself to those who keep his commandments. It shows that he is the answer to the prayers that have been given concerning the Temple.

His words of farewell are ones of prophecy and instruction.

110:9 Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.

10 And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen.

He has told us that because of faithfulness, we can be endowed with power from on high. It started with Kirtland in this dispensation, and continues today in each of the LDS Temples around the world. We can believe this, we can experience it for ourselves, and we know it to be true because his word is sure. His credentials prove it.

He is the light that dispels all darkness and sin.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Visions of the Kingdom

As Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had the veil of their minds removed, and had their eyes open to understanding I believe that they moved, or progressed, from that which was Material, or Physical creation, to the world of the Spiritual or Hidden. They were literally transfigured during these Heavenly manifestations. This process is so beautifully described in a post I found on a Blog called Visions of the Kingdom. The post is called “The Veil, that is to say, his flesh”, go and read it now. You will not be sorry you did.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Veil Was Taken From Our Minds

As I was studying the great visions that were received by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as recorded in Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants, I could not help but contemplate the simple logistics in which they were received. It is recorded that the two men “retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped, and bowed... in solemn and silent prayer.” This description is loaded with symbolism in itself.

The Kirtland Temple has a completely different construction from any of the other LDS Temples in operation today. In its simplicity, I believe it is arranged similarly to that of the tabernacle that Moses constructed. The tabernacle was organized in a way to reveal the progression necessary to come back into the presence of the Lord. The Kirtland Temple also teaches this theme through the placement of the pulpits and veils.

Originally the Kirtland Temple had four pulpits which stood, one above another, in the centre of the building, from north to south, both on the east and west ends; those on the west for the presiding officers of the Melchizedek priesthood, and those on the east for the Aaronic; and each of these pulpits was separated by curtains of white painted canvas, which were let down and drawn up at pleasure. In front of each of these two rows of pulpits, was a sacrament table, for the administration of that sacred ordinance.

The outer courtyard of the Tabernacle, with the brazen alter and brazen laver, represented the steps necessary to be able to enter in at the door. I believe that these first steps could be correlated with the first four principles of the gospel, which are, faith, repentance, baptism, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. This laying on of hands also was required to “set apart” or ordain those who would become priests, allowing for entrance into the door, to administer in further ordinances.

Floor plan of the Tabernacle of Moses

The saints in Kirtland had proven themselves worthy of the blessing given in the outer courtyard and were prepared to enter into the door, or second gate. Viewing the layout of the Kirtland Temple it is visible that upon entrance one must pass through the Aaronic priesthood side and walk forward to the Melchizedek priesthood side. The veil of the Tabernacle that separated the inner sanctuary from the Holy of Holies symbolically would have been similar to the veil drawn between the congregation and Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery when they received their visions.

Original floor plan of the Kirtland Temple

The veil in itself is very significant; it was a symbol of separation or of “setting up bounds or stakes”. It was symbolic of a separation from the world. Likewise the wording used by Joseph Smith to describe their experience of viewing the Lord behind this literal veil involved another type of veil, and is as follows:

110: 1 The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.

Joseph Smith taught, “Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go and no farther. Did Abraham when called upon to offer his son? Did the Savior? No. View him fulfilling all righteousness again on the banks of the Jordon, also on the Mount transfigured before Peter and John there receiving the fulness of the priesthood or the law of God, setting up no stake but coming right up to the mark in all things.”

The veil of unbelief was removed from their minds, thus allowing the transfiguring process to occur which allowed the “eyes of their understanding to open.” I believe this veil was removed by faith.

“Transfiguration is a special change in appearance and nature which is wrought upon a person. This divine transformation is from a lower to a higher state; it results in a more exalted, impressive, and glorious condition” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 803)

Likewise, we too can have this transfiguring experience by exercising faith in all righteousness and therefore the Lord will not be able to with hold his presence from us. In the Book of Mormon Ether describes a similar experience had by the brother of Jared.

Ether 3:6 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

7 And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?

8 And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.

9 And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?

10 And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.

11 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?

12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.

13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.

The prophet Moses described his experience this way:

Moses 1:11 But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

I love the simplicity with which Joseph Smith described his experience, The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.” For me, his simple explanation makes this process seem attainable for all. We simply need to remove the “stake” of unbelief, allowing us to come right up to the mark, and let the Lord open our eyes in faith.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Kirtland Temple An Answer to Prayers

I love Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is such a beautiful illustration of how the Lord specifically listens to, and answers our petitions.

In Section 109 during the dedicatory prayer, the prophet Joseph Smith pointedly asked for three things concerning the House of the Lord:

1) for the Father to accept the house as His

2) for the house to be a place where He could put his name

3) for His house to be a place where He could manifest himself to his people.

All three of these requests were answered one week later during the Sunday service held on April 3, 1836 in the Kirtland Temple. The Lord appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and answered them saying:

Doctrine and Covenants 110:6 Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name.

7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.

8 Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.

This is such a great illustration of what my friend Donna so beautifully shared on her Blog:

Matthew 7:7- Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

The first word of Matthew 7:7 is a handy key for the memorizing of the entire verse: the word is "ASK"; and the three phrases of that verse begin, respectively, with A (ask), S (seek), and K (knock).

Section 110 is a record of four different visions that take place in the Kirtland Temple during that day. My next few posts will deal directly with each of those visions individually.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

From Kirtland to San Diego- LDS Temple Dedicatory Prayers

My last post was a comparison of the dedicatory prayers that were offered at the dedication of both the Temple built during the reign of King Solomon, and the one which was given by Joseph Smith in dedication of the Kirtland Temple built by the Latter Day Saints in Ohio. In my study I decided to look at another dedicatory prayer to see if I could find any similarities to either of the previously mentioned prayers. I chose to look at the San Diego Temple dedicatory prayer simply because of the proximity of this beautiful temple. I believe that you could compare any dedicatory prayer offered and find similarities of interest... try it on the temple location nearest you.

I focused primarily on Kirtland and San Diego.

It is interesting to note that the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer was a prayer of “asking”. In contrast, the majority of the San Diego Temple dedicatory prayer was offered by way of “thanking”. When I noticed this, I decided to see if any of the thanking going on in San Diego was a direct result of the asking that took place at Kirtland. The results are stunning.

Some “asks” that were requested in Kirtland are as follows:

-to accept the Temple

-that glory might rest upon the Temple continually

-that all who enter might feel of thy power, and acknowledge it as a place of holiness

-that all who worship may be taught words of wisdom

-that all may “grow up in thee”, receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, become organized according to thy laws, and become prepared to obtain every needful thing

-that those who transgress will speedily repent and return to thy House

-that servants may go forth from this House armed with power, with thy name put upon them, bearing glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth

-that a people might be established to honorably hold a name and standing in this House, for all generations and eternity

-that no weapon can be formed against this people and all lying reports against them be given shame and confusion

-to bless those nations who uphold the constitution

-to soften the hearts of the rulers of the world that they may allow the message of the gospel to be preached in their lands

-to appoint other stakes for the gathering of the Saints

-to have mercy upon Jerusalem, and return Judah to his lands of inheritance and become converted to the gospel

-Bless the prophet, leaders of the Church, and families of the Church individually.

It is apparent to me that many of the requested blessings that were asked for in Kirtland at the opening of this great outpouring of the Spirit, have been granted by the Lord. By observing this simple pattern it is easy for me to see the “hand of the Lord” in all things.

Some of the “thanks” given at the San Diego dedication are as follows:

-for the consecrated tithes of the saints across the earth that have made this Temple possible

-for the “fullness of the priesthood” which will be exercised therein

-for the eternal plan, including the ordinances that will be performed in the holy house, for the living and the dead of all generations

-for the spread of thy work across the world and the power to open the doors of nations to thine ordained messengers

-for remembering the ancient covenant made with Father Lehi and for the faithfulness of his posterity from whose eyes the shackles of darkness are now falling

-for the work moving forward to dedicate more temples across the earth

-for this nation under whose inspired Constitution we enjoy the freedom to worship

-for the Atonement of Jesus Christ making all these blessing possible

I believe that these blessings are a direct result of the obedience and sacrifice given by those who offered their consecrated efforts by building the Kirtland Temple as directed by the Lord. They are a gift to us as their posterity. When I then looked at the "asks" given in the San Diego Temple dedicatory prayer, I could not help but wonder if 100 years from now my posterity would be thanking the Lord for the blessing given them as a direct result of the requests made in my generation.

It is with great humility that I desire to concentrate on the final request given at the San Diego Temple dedication:

“In accepting thy gospel we have become a covenant people. We have taken upon ourselves the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and have promised to keep His commandments. Strengthen us in our resolutions and guard us against failure in observing the obligations we have accepted. In thy sacred temples we make further covenants with thee. Give us the will to live above sin and selfishness. Save us from pride and arrogance. Smile with favor upon us we humbly pray thee. Bless us with a spirit of benevolence toward all who are in distress wherever they may be or whatever their circumstances... On this day of dedication may a new spirit of consecration come into our hearts that we may serve thee more acceptably through service to they sons and daughters- those who dwell upon the earth and those who have gone before.”

I hope that my grandchildren will be able to see the realization of the blessings given, that are attached to these requests because of my obedience and sacrifice, like I now enjoy the blessings given as a result of those who consecrated themselves in Kirtland.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dedicatory Prayers- Solomon's Temple and Kirtland

As the Kirtland Temple was nearing completion, Joseph Smith was given the task of composing the Dedicatory Prayer. Can you even imagine being given an assignment like that? What steps would you take to begin the project?

I believe I would do a little research before I even started. Perhaps that is exactly what Joseph Smith did. The only other Dedicatory Prayer for a temple that could have been used for a reference at that time, was the one given by King Solomon. The Dedicatory Prayer offered to the Lord regarding Solomon’s Temple was recorded twice in the Old Testament, in 2 Chronicles Chapter 6, and 1 Kings Chapter 8.

It is interesting to note that both of the Dedicatory Prayers, Solomon’s and Kirtland, started in a similar fashion.

1 Kings 8:23 And he said, Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:

Doctrine and Covenants 109:1 Thanks be to thy name, O Lord God of Israel, who keepest covenant and showest mercy unto thy servants who walk uprightly before thee, with all their hearts—

Not only are the words similar, but they are similar in form too. The very beginning of both of the prayers reminds the Lord of the promises that He made to them for obedience to His command to build the Temple. They prove their worthiness by way of sacrifice to “bind” the Lord to bless them further.

1 Kings 8:24 Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day.

25 Therefore now, Lord God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me.

26 And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father.

Doctrine and Covenants 109:2 Thou who hast commanded thy servants to build a house to thy name in this place [Kirtland].

3 And now thou beholdest, O Lord, that thy servants have done according to thy commandment.

4 And now we ask thee, Holy Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of thy bosom, in whose name alone salvation can be administered to the children of men, we ask thee, O Lord, to accept of this house, the workmanship of the hands of us, thy servants, which thou didst command us to build.

In other words, they basically say, we have done what you have asked, now fulfill your promise to us for doing it. This reminder, of the law of obedience and sacrifice, allows them to further petition the Lord for the promised blessings that are attached to that law. What would those blessings be?

Doctrine and Covenants 95:8 Yea, verily I say unto you, I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high;

1 Kings 8:27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

28 Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day:

29 That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.

Doctrine and Covenants 109:5 For thou knowest that we have done this work through great tribulation; and out of our poverty we have given of our substance to build a house to thy name, that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people.

The Lord instructed both groups of people to build a house. This house would be a place that they would be “endowed” with additional power from on high. It would be a place for the Lord to “put His name” and a place for Him to manifest himself to his people. These blessings, and many more, were desired because of the consecrated efforts and sacrifices they had made to build the house.

Another thing I thought was interesting was the similarity that Joseph Smith had with King Solomon in regard to giving the actual prayer.

2 Chronicles 6:12 And he stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands:

13 For Solomon had made a brasen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven,

It is recorded that Joseph Smith also delivered the prayer with both of his hands raised toward Heaven.

This brief discussion of the comparison of the two prayers is simply the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to similarities. I believe that by studying both of these inspired Dedicatory Prayers, side by side, insights of beauty unfold right before one’s eyes. How grateful I am to have them recorded so that I can do just that.

Have you seen any other similarities in these Dedicatory Prayers? If you have...please share them in the comments.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Very Patient Lyman Sherman

Although the Gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect, the application of it by members of the Church is, at times, less than perfect. Perhaps it is simply my “wicked” disposition shining through but I can see a wonderful lesson being taught to us by the Lord in Section 108 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Section 108 is a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to a member of the Church named Lyman Sherman. After doing some further research on Lyman Sherman, I have decided he is a man I would love to actually meet someday.

Lyman Sherman was living in Kirtland during the period of time when the Kirtland Temple was being built. He was a faithful member of the Church who, in my estimation, was just that, faithful. In attendance at the general priesthood meeting of the Church in which the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Quorum of the Seventies were organized in this dispensation, Lyman was called to be a President of the Seventies. Unfortunately, he had previously been ordained to the office of high priest, so he was of necessity released from that position of authority as President.

That meeting was held in March of 1835. The men who received their calls proceeded to serve in the capacity of missionaries and were sent on their way to preach. These were the “big dogs” in the Church, the men with callings of “substance”. Yet, Lyman Sherman was left behind in Kirtland.

Perhaps being “left out” began weighing heavy on Lyman Sherman’s mind because he became “vexed” over the situation. For as long as nine months he may have been plagued by this feeling because finally in December he approached the Prophet Joseph Smith and stated, “I have been wrought upon to make known to you my feelings and desires, and was promised that I should have a revelation which should make known my duty.”

Was he questioning his standing with the Lord because he was “passed over” when the callings were given? Did he have a cause to question or even lament his fate? Could a tiny corner of doubt be given place in his mind concerning the inspiration of his leaders? Did he feel a tinge of jealousy which perhaps may have even give way to prideful imaginations?

In response to Lyman's query the Prophet received Section 108.

108:1 Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Lyman: Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed.

2 Therefore, let your soul be at rest concerning your spiritual standing, and resist no more my voice.

3 And arise up and be more careful henceforth in observing your vows, which you have made and do make, and you shall be blessed with exceeding great blessings.

4 Wait patiently until the solemn assembly shall be called of my servants, then you shall be remembered with the first of mine elders, and receive right by ordination with the rest of mine elders whom I have chosen.

5 Behold, this is the promise of the Father unto you if you continue faithful.

6 And it shall be fulfilled upon you in that day that you shall have right to preach my gospel wheresoever I shall send you, from henceforth from that time.

7 Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.

8 And behold, and lo, I am with you to bless you and deliver you forever. Amen.

The first thing that stuck out in my mind was the fact that the Lord was pleased with Lyman for obeying the prompting of the spirit and going and talking to Joseph about his concerns; so pleased in fact, that all of his sins were forgiven him and he was assured of his worthy standing before the Lord. As I thought about this situation, I wondered how hard it must have been for Lyman to humble himself enough to bring his concerns to the Prophet. Human nature, as it is, oft times takes a much lower course of action I am afraid.

Next the Lord’s directions to Lyman were simple. He was told to be more “careful” in observing his covenants. The word “exactness” comes to my mind when I think of this counsel. He was counseled to “wait patiently” and his time of leadership would come if he did do just that. The Lord also instructed him regarding his relationship with his brethren, counseling him to “strengthen” them by prayer, and by the way he spoke of them and their duties in “all his doings”. There was to be no jealousy, or comparisons made, no speculation as to why they were serving and not him, simply support. I believe that though this counsel is simple, it is still the harder path to follow.

Something else seemed to stick out in my mind as I studied this exchange between the Lord, Lyman Sherman, and Joseph Smith. Could it be possible that Joseph Smith needed to be reminded of Lyman himself? After all, the Prophet was just a man, a very busy man at the time. He was involved in projects as varied as translation of the book of Abraham, to the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants itself, all the while supervising the building of the house of the Lord. Perhaps the faithful servant, Lyman Sherman, was not the first thing on his mind. I believe there are so many modern day applications that can apply to this scenario, don’t you?

So, you may wonder, what happened to Lyman Sherman? Lyman Sherman was called to serve on the Kirtland High Council, and later when forced to move to Missouri, served on the Far West High Council too. His call to the apostleship was given to him in a letter received January 16, 1839, from Joseph Smith while he was incarcerated in Liberty jail. He was to be on the Quorum of the Twelve, replacing Orson Hyde. Unfortunately that ordination never took place because eleven days later he died at the age of thirty-four.

Perhaps he is still“waiting patiently”.