Monday, March 29, 2010

Official Proclamations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Upon arrival in Nauvoo, Illinois the Prophet Joseph Smith received Section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants wherein he was given specific instructions.

Look for what he was instructed to do, and why he was instructed to do it, in the following:

Section 124:2 Your prayers are acceptable before me; and in answer to them I say unto you, that you are now called immediately to make a solemn proclamation of my gospel, and of this stake which I have planted to be a cornerstone of Zion, which shall be polished with the refinement which is after the similitude of a palace.

3 This proclamation shall be made to all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof, to the honorable president-elect, and the high-minded governors of the nation in which you live, and to all the nations of the earth scattered abroad.

4 Let it be written in the spirit of meekness and by the power of the Holy Ghost, which shall be in you at the time of the writing of the same;

5 For it shall be given you by the Holy Ghost to know my will concerning those kings and authorities, even what shall befall them in a time to come.

6 For, behold, I am about to call upon them to give heed to the light and glory of Zion, for the set time has come to favor her.

7 Call ye, therefore, upon them with loud proclamation, and with your testimony, fearing them not, for they are as grass, and all their glory as the flower thereof which soon falleth, that they may be left also without excuse—

8 And that I may visit them in the day of visitation, when I shall unveil the face of my covering, to appoint the portion of the oppressor among hypocrites, where there is gnashing of teeth, if they reject my servants and my testimony which I have revealed unto them.

9 And again, I will visit and soften their hearts, many of them for your good, that ye may find grace in their eyes, that they may come to the light of truth, and the Gentiles to the exaltation or lifting up of Zion.

10 For the day of my visitation cometh speedily, in an hour when ye think not of; and where shall be the safety of my people, and refuge for those who shall be left of them?

11 Awake, O kings of the earth! Come ye, O, come ye, with your gold and your silver, to the help of my people, to the house of the daughters of Zion.

Two years had passed since Joseph Smith had received official revelation from the Lord which would be recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. Breaking this silence the Lord gave instruction regarding the building up the Church in Nauvoo, but previous even to that he desired that a “solemn proclamation” be given to the rulers and kings of the world explaining the significance of what was about to take place there. This proclamation was to serve as not only a prophetic warning for them, but as a testimony of truth.

The term “proclamation” was specifically used to describe the discourse that would be given. It is interesting to note that in English law, a proclamation is a formal announcement, made under the great seal, of some matter which the King in Council or Queen in Council desires to make known to his or her subjects. I believe that the Lord did not choose this word lightly. The word in and of itself is very symbolic. Using this definition it is to be understood that the King of Heaven and Earth desired a great matter to be declared, and sealed by his power. It also testified of his place of eminence over all other dominions as King of Kings.

There have been other declarations and testimonies given officially by the leaders of the Church over the years but there have been only five “official proclamations”.

The first proclamation was given just a few days previous to the reception of Section 124, on January 15, 1841. The focus of the Proclamation was directed toward the members of the Church scattered abroad. It described the state of the Church in Nauvoo and urged the member to gather there to receive the ordinances of the soon to be finished Temple.

The Proclamation which the Lord required at the hands of the Saints spoken of in Section 124 was not officially written until 1845. It was published in two different pamphlets, one in New York City on April 6, and one in Liverpool, England, on October 22. This Proclamation was written after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. On October 3, 1975 during General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson quoted portions of this proclamation in his address:

“To the rulers and peoples of all nations, we solemnly declare again that the God of heaven has established his latter-day kingdom upon the earth in fulfillment of prophecies. Holy angels have again communed with men on the earth. God has again revealed himself from heaven and restored to the earth his holy priesthood with power to administer in all the sacred ordinances necessary for the exaltation of his children. His church has been reestablished among men with all the spiritual gifts enjoyed anciently. All this is done in preparation for Christ’s second coming. The great and dreadful day of the Lord is near at hand. In preparation for this great event and as a means of escaping the impending judgments, inspired messengers have gone, and are now going, forth to the nations of the earth carrying this testimony and warning.

“The nations of the earth continue in their sinful and unrighteous ways. Much of the unbounded knowledge with which men have been blessed has been used to destroy mankind instead of to bless the children of men as the Lord intended. Two great world wars, with fruitless efforts at lasting peace, are solemn evidence that peace has been taken from the earth because of the wickedness of the people. Nations cannot endure in sin. They will be broken up, but the kingdom of God will endure forever.

“Therefore, as humble servants of the Lord, we call upon the leaders of nations to humble themselves before God, to seek his inspiration and guidance. We call upon rulers and people alike to repent of their evil ways. Turn unto the Lord, seek his forgiveness, and unite yourselves in humility with his kingdom. There is no other way. If you will do this, your sins will be blotted out, peace will come and remain, and you will become a part of the kingdom of God in preparation for Christ’s second coming. But if you refuse to repent or to accept the testimony of his inspired messengers and unite yourselves with God’s kingdom, then the terrible judgments and calamities promised the wicked will be yours. . . .

“When the voice of warning goes forth it is always attended by testimony. In the great declaration issued by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1845, this is the testimony which was borne, and we who are the apostles today renew it as our witness:

“‘We say, then, in life or in death, in bonds or free, that the great God has spoken in this age.— And we know it .

“‘He has given us the Holy Priesthood and Apostleship, and the keys of the kingdom of God, to bring about the restoration of all things as promised by the holy prophets of old.— And we know it .

“‘He has revealed the origin and the Records of the aboriginal tribes of America, and their future destiny.— And we know it .

“‘He has revealed the fulness of the gospel, with its gifts, blessings, and ordinances.— And we know it .

“‘He has commanded us to bear witness of it, first to the Gentiles, and then to the remnants of Israel and the Jews.— And we know it .

“‘He has also said that, if they do not repent, and come to the knowledge of the truth, . . . and also put away all murder, lying, pride, priestcraft, whoredom, and secret abomination, they shall soon perish from the earth, and be cast down to hell.— And we know it .

“‘He has said, that when . . . the gospel in all its fulness [is] preached to all nations for a witness and testimony, He will come, and all Saints with him, to reign on the earth one thousand years.— And we know it .

“‘He has said that he will not come in his glory and destroy the wicked, till these warnings were given and these preparations were made for his reception.— And we know it .

“‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of his revealed word shall fail to be fulfilled.

“‘Therefore, again we say to all people, Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins; and you shall receive the Holy Spirit, and shall know the truth, and be numbered with the house of Israel.’ ”

Two other proclamations were given, one in 1865 emphasizing the established order of the Church and the process for receiving doctrine, and one in 1980 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the organization of the Church.

The last official proclamation was given on September 23, 1995, and is better known as the Proclamation to the Church and to the World on Marriage and Family.

I believe that by the limited number of Proclamations that have been given, it shows the importance the Lord places on the instruction contained therein. These truly show how His kingdom is to be established and be directed on the Earth. As they have been labeled “official” it also shows the King has placed His “seal” on them too.

I have provided links to all of the Proclamations individually. If you have not taken the time to read them for yourself I recommend doing it. The instruction contained in each of them is unique and important.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Patriarchal Priesthood

Section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants is the longest section in the book and filled with tons of great information, just there for the taking. One of the “nuggets” I discovered has to do with Hyrum Smith and his calling to the office of Patriarch.

Section 124:91 And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as counselor unto my servant Joseph, in the room of my servant Hyrum, that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right;

92 That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people,

93 That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

94 And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph;

95 That he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery;

96 That my servant Hyrum may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him, that his name may be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever.

Joseph Smith Sr. was the first Patriarch of the Latter Day Church and was ordained to that office on December 18, 1833 in Kirtland, Ohio. In Nauvoo in 1841, Hyrum Smith was called by the Lord to fill the office of Patriarch which was left vacant by the death of his father. I believe that there is great symbolism to be discovered when one considers the role of the Patriarch.

First let us consider the term Patriarch as synonymous with the word Father. Think of the symbolism that occurs in just that alone; Father Smith being the type and shadow for the Father, and Joseph Smith being a type and shadow for the Son. Recognizing this symbolism helps us gain added insights into the separate nature of the Godhead.

Next, it is interesting to see the description that is given to the powers that coincide with the Patriarchal office as those which “bind in Heaven that which is bound on earth”. These powers are associated with the sealing keys. Hyrum Smith was given this authority, as was his father before him, long before the sealing power was officially being used in the Latter Day Temples. I believe it takes the blessing of the Father to “seal” that which is entered into on this earth.

Finally, Joseph Smith termed the priesthood as “three grand orders”, Aaronic, Patriarchal, and Melchizedek. As we consider the ascension pattern taught through our Temple ordinances, I believe we see that the progression goes from Aaronic to Melchizedek, and then finally to the crowning authority of Patriarchal Priesthood, which is given as a couple is “sealed” in the Temple. This Patriarchal Priesthood is given to both man and wife, authorizing them to “create” families, or worlds, of their own. This is the essence of Eternal Life or “the perpetuation of powers of creation and procreation” known as eternal increase. The father of this union is the holder of the Patriarchal key for his family and becomes a type and a shadow for our Heavenly Father. United in obedient love, with the Lord, this new unit is given power, by covenant, to become a king and queen, rulers united in their own kingdom.

The Patriarchal Priesthood was outlined by the Lord as the ultimate goal that could be reached; it was the “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow. The teaching of it is contained in all four of our standard works, but more concisely is given in Section 2 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Section 2:1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

2 And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.

3 If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

The “fathers” that are referred to above are the grand Patriarchal line of Fathers that our priesthood blessings are received through such as Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham etc. When we enter into the Temple and become sealed to our spouse, we enter that grand order, or Patriarchal line, and receive the same blessings and promises they did.

I believe that just as we refer to the “Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God, as Melchizedek Priesthood out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being”, the Patriarchal priesthood is one referencing the sacred nature of the priesthood which is after the Order of the Father. It only seems natural to me. In fact, as a couple is sealed in the Temple it is done by the “power of the Holy Priesthood”(the title Melchizedek is missing from this pronouncement) and is one of two covenants entered into in the name of all three members of the Godhead separately, the other being baptism.

It is amazing to me that with this understanding our Patriarchal Blessing become a literal “Father’s Blessing”, sealed upon our heads by His authority. This teaching provides one with a greater reverence for the office of Patriarch, whether he is ordained to that position as an official calling, or given that position by rightful lineage as head of the family unit, it still represents the Priesthood of the Father and is highly sacred.

We can come to better understand the qualities and powers of our Heavenly Father as we learn more fully about Him through the teachings and symbols He has provided for us to do just that. I am grateful for this Patriarchal order and the insights we can receive from it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen- Section 121

I believe that there are still many more insights that can be gained from the correspondence received and given to the Prophet Joseph Smith while in Liberty Jail. Another one of my favorite teachings is found in Section 121, starting at verse 34, wherein the Lord describes those who are “called and chosen.”
At the time the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote the letter from Liberty Jail to the Saints who had fled to Quincy, Illinois, there were many people, in and out of the church, which were of questionable character. Some of the most seemingly loyal followers of the Prophet were exposed as bitter enemies to the Church. It was a time when the Saints had to exercise much caution when deciding who to follow in the absence of their beloved leaders. I believe that those in jail were trying to discover who might still be on their side or who might have fled with the opposition.
Joseph writes: We feel to inquire after Elder Rigdon; if he has not forgotten us, it has not been signified to us by his writing. Brother George W. Robinson also; and Elder Cahoon, we remember him, but would like to jog his memory a little on the fable of the bear and the two friends who mutually agreed to stand by each other. And perhaps it would not be amiss to mention uncle John Smith, and various others. A word of consolation and a blessing would not come amiss from anybody, while we are being so closely whispered by the bear.
It is apparent that loyalties were being questioned from all angles. It is also a time when decisions were required in Quincy to facilitate the gathering of the Saints into one body. This lack of trust among the leaders and the Saints, and the necessity to press forward nonetheless, was the basis for the instruction given on distinguishing who was “called and chosen.”
Again Joseph writes: We have a fervent desire that in your general conferences everything should be discussed with a great deal of care and propriety, lest you grieve the Holy Spirit, which shall be poured out at all times upon your heads, when you are exercised with those principles of righteousness that are agreeable to the mind of God, and are properly affected one toward another, and are careful by all means to remember, those who are in bondage, and in heaviness, and in deep affliction for your sakes. And if there are any among you who aspire after their own aggrandizement, and seek their own opulence, while their brethren are groaning in poverty, and are under sore trials and temptations, they cannot be benefitted by the intercession of the Holy Spirit, which maketh intercession for us day and night with groanings that cannot be uttered. We ought at all times to be very careful that such high-mindedness shall never have a place in our hearts; but condescend to men of low estate, and with all long-suffering bear the infirmities of the weak.
This information was a precursor for the instruction starting in Section 121, verse 34, explaining how to recognize one who is actually chosen to lead.
Section 121:34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sin, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
First, it might be important to understand exactly who was “called” to be holders of priesthood authority, and when and where they were called. We sometimes refer to this calling to priesthood with the term “foreordained.”
The prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon explains this doctrine beautifully in Alma Chapter 13. Look for who, when, and why they are called.
Look for how they choose, or choose not to accept.
1 And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.
2 And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.
3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
5 Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—
6 And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—
7 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—
8 Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—
9 Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.
It appears to me that each individual who was given the opportunity to come to earth and gain a body chose “good” in their first estate. Having chosen “good” they were called and “ordained” into the holy order of the priesthood, this presupposes their earthly experiences and is referred to as “foreordination” to earth life. This ordination occurred because of their faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and because they did not harden their hearts, or in other words, were humble and teachable. These same individuals now have a chance to “choose” again in this life whether they will accept the “call” that they have previously been given. The same requirements of faith and humility are required. Unfortunately because of the “hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds” many reject this great privilege that they have been called to, thus, “many are called but few are chosen.” Ultimately the choice belongs to each individual.
We can recognize those who have made the choice to “receive” the priesthood ordination with which they have been foreordained to receive, by their actions and intentions.
The Lord gives us a standard by which to judge in Section 121:
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
I believe that our choice to be righteous priesthood holders in this life, allows us to be “Kings” and “Queens” in training, receiving our call or “foreordination” for that great event to come, which will be given to us by our own “free will and choice.”
Many are called, but few will be chosen. What will we choose?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Enduring Well- Section 121

The heartache and grief that was caused by the persecution of the Saints, and the incarceration of Joseph Smith at liberty jail, prompted the petition of the prophet to the Lord found in Section 121. The Lord answered his plea with these consoling words:
Doctrine and Covenants 121:7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
This reply can be restated in the form of a principle; if we endure our times of trials well, then we will triumph over all our foes and gain exaltation.
To comprehend the full meaning of this principle we must understand what it means to endure “well”.
What is enduring “well”?
Elder Holland gives several suggestions in his talk, Lessons From Liberty Jail.
May I remind us all that in the midst of these difficult feelings when one could justifiably be angry or reactionary or vengeful, wanting to return an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the Lord reminds us from the Liberty Jail prison-temple that “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only [or ‘except’] upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). Therefore, even when we face such distressing circumstances in our life and there is something in us that wants to strike out at God or man or friend or foe, we must remember that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained [except] by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; . . . without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42; italics added).
It has always been a wonderful testimony to me of the Prophet Joseph’s greatness and the greatness of all of our prophets, including and especially the Savior of the world in His magnificence, that in the midst of such distress and difficulty they could remain calm and patient, charitable and forgiving—that they could even talk that way, let alone live that way. But they could, and they did. They remembered their covenants, they disciplined themselves, and they knew that we must live the gospel at all times, not just when it is convenient and not just when things are going well. Indeed, they knew that the real test of our faith and our Christian discipleship is when things are not going smoothly. That is when we get to see what we’re made of and how strong our commitment to the gospel really is.
Surely the classic example of this is that in the most painful hours of the Crucifixion the Savior could say, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). That is a hard thing to ask when we’re hurting. That is a hard thing to do when we’ve been offended or are tired or stressed out or suffering innocently. But that is when Christian behavior may matter the most.
Remaining true to our Christian principles is the only way divine influence can help us. The Spirit has a near-impossible task to get through to a heart that is filled with hate or anger or vengeance or self-pity. How I love the majesty of these elegant, celestial teachings taught, ironically, in such a despicable setting and time.
I believe the words given at the end of this marvelous discourse received from Liberty Jail also give us a way to endure “well”.
Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
Enduring means more than just waiting for a trial to pass, it involves an active process of doing all that we can to help ourselves. Doing our part allows us to call upon the powers of Heaven to make up the difference in our weakness. This is seen in the Book of Mormon teaching “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” Doing all we can cheerfully means that our attitude also plays a great role in that process of enduring “well”.
Elder Holland gives some added perspective to this teaching from Joseph Smith:
What a tremendously optimistic and faithful concluding declaration to be issued from a prison-temple! When he wrote those lines, Joseph did not know when he would be released or if he would ever be released. There was every indication that his enemies were still planning to take his life. Furthermore, his wife and children were alone, frightened, often hungry, wondering how they would fend for themselves without their husband and father. The Saints, too, were without homes and without their prophet. They were leaving Missouri, heading for Illinois, but who knew what tragedies were awaiting them there? Surely, to say it again, it was the bleakest and darkest of times.
Yet in these cold, lonely hours, Joseph says let us do all we can and do it cheerfully. And then we can justifiably turn to the Lord, wait upon His mercy, and see His arm revealed in our behalf.
What a magnificent attitude to maintain in good times or bad, in sorrow or in joy!
The great promise of enduring well is the reward of triumph over all our foes. These may be seen or unseen; these foes are anything that deters us from being back in the presence of the Father. They can be vices, habits, weaknesses, or even individuals or dominions. Understanding this promise, of the possibility of conquering all of these obstacles and allowing us to receive exaltation, is enough to bring a cheerful heart and attitude to any trial we may face. We can turn our own every day trials into a Prison-Temple experience just like Joseph Smith did, it is all up to us.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Many Lessons Learned From Liberty Jail

This week in Institute we covered the revelations Joseph Smith received while he was incarcerated in Liberty Jail. A portion of these revelations are found in the Doctrine and Covenants in Sections 121,122, and 123. The full transcript of the letter written by Joseph Smith to Edward Partridge and company, which contained these revelations, is found in The History of The Church, Vol. 3. It is very helpful to read the letter in it’s entirety to gain a better perspective on the recorded information in the Doctrine and Covenants. If you are looking for additional insights another great resource is a CES Fireside talk given by Elder Holland called, “Lessons from Liberty Jail”. My next few posts will cover some of this information.

After months of being unfairly imprisoned with unheeded appeals made to the judiciary officials of the state, Joseph Smith and his cell mates, through written communication, wrote an emotional letter to the Saints who had been driven from Far West and had begun to settle in Quincy, Illinois. The conditions of Liberty Jail were harsh and barely inhabitable. They had endured unbelievable hardships ranging from scarcity of food to unsanitary living conditions, but nevertheless, I believe that concern for the conditions of the Saints who were exiled from Far West was still foremost in their thoughts.

Joseph writes:

Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, we are the more ready and willing to lay claim to your fellowship and love. For our circumstances are calculated to awaken our spirits to a sacred remembrance of everything, and we think that yours are also, and that nothing therefore can separate us from the love of God and fellowship one with another; and that every species of wickedness and cruelty practiced upon us will only tend to bind our hearts together and seal them together in love. We have no need to say to you that we are held in bonds without cause, neither is it needful that you say unto us, We are driven from our homes and smitten without cause. We mutually understand that if the inhabitants of the state of Missouri had let the Saints alone, and had been as desirable of peace as they were, there would have been nothing but peace and quietude in the state unto this day; we should not have been in this hell, surrounded with demons (if not those who are damned, they are those who shall be damned) and where we are compelled to hear nothing but blasphemous oaths, and witness a scene of blasphemy, and drunkenness and hypocrisy, and debaucheries of every description.

And again, the cries of orphans and widows would not have ascended up to God against them. Nor would innocent blood have stained the soil of Missouri. But oh! the unrelenting hand! The inhumanity and murderous disposition of this people! It shocks all nature; it beggars and defies all description; it is a tale of woe; a lamentable tale; yea a sorrowful tale; too much to tell; too much for contemplation; too much for human beings; it cannot be found among the heathens; it cannot be found among the nations where kings and tyrants are enthroned; it cannot be found among the savages of the wilderness; yea, and I think it cannot be found among the wild and ferocious beasts of the forest--that a man should be mangled for sport! women be robbed of all that they have--their last morsel for subsistence, and then be violated to gratify the hellish desires of the mob, and finally left to perish with their helpless offspring clinging around their necks.

They practice these things upon the Saints, who have done then no wrong, who are innocent and virtuous; who loved the Lord their God, and were willing to forsake all things for Christ’s sake. These things are awful to relate, but they are verily true. It must needs be that offenses come, but woe unto them by whom they come. [HC 3:290­91]

As Joseph petitioned the Lord in the first six verses of Section 121, deplorable as his conditions were, he showed that thoughts of the Saints were in his mind and heart. Notice how he prays for “thy people” and then “thy servants” in verse 2.

Doctrine and Covenants 122:1 O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?

2 How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

3 Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?

Perhaps the worst torment for the captives was the unknown condition of their friends as told by their proclamation, “O that we could be with you, brethren, and unbosom our feelings to you?”

This actual correspondence (which became Sections 121-123) to the Saints was spurred on because of the consoling letters they received while they were in prison. The letters specifically mentioned were from Don Carlos Smith, Bishop Partridge, and Emma Smith.

(Sidebar: Something that I believe deserves comment is the fact that these letters came at a time when these men were at their lowest. Perhaps there are times when we offer consoling words to those who suffer and never fully understand that they were of such great worth. It is important to remember to simply offer those words of encouragement to others when prompted.)

Joseph comments on receiving this news as follows:

We were much gratified with their contents. We had been a long time without information; and when we read those letters they were to our souls as the gentle air is refreshing, but our joy was mingled with grief, because of the sufferings of the poor and much injured Saints.[HC 3:293]

Elder Holland, in his remarks as noted above, compares the Liberty Jail experience to a Temple experience for Joseph. Although he did not specifically mention this as part of that experience, I believe that the concern Joseph had for others was a prerequisite for him to experience this grand sanctifying process.

Just a few days previous to the reception of this revelation Joseph wrote a letter from jail to a Mrs. Norman Bull of Clay County, Missouri. I believe that we can gain wonderful insights into Joseph’s character from some of the excerpts. He wrote:

My heart bleeds continually when I contemplate the distress of the Church. O, that I could be with them! I would not shrink at toil and hardship to render then comfort and consolation.

But trials will only give us the knowledge necessary to understand the minds of the ancients. For my part, I think I never could have felt as I now do, if I had not suffered the wrongs that I have suffered.

I know that something will soon take place to stir up this generation to see what they have been doing, and that their fathers have inherited lies and they have been led captive by the devil, to no profit; but they know not what they do. Do not have any feelings of enmity towards any son or daughter of Adam. I believe I shall be let out of their hands some way or another, and shall see good days. We cannot do anything only stand still and see the salvation of God. He must do His own work, or it must fall to the ground. We must not take it in our hands to avenge our wrongs. [HC3:286]

I believe that Joseph felt love for the Saints in exile and compassion for those who persecuted them as well. It is apparent to me that the fact that he longed for justice to be served by the Lord illustrated the condition of his heart and his humble nature. He not only was willing to love “his neighbor”, which was part of the Mosaic Law but was willing to live the higher law as taught by Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Still in his petition for justice from the Lord, Joseph understood that vengeance only belonged to the Lord.

Deuteronomy 32:35 To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

Jeremiah 20:11 But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. 12 But, O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:5 Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs. 6 Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.

From these very few examples we can see the three lessons learned that Elder Holland speaks of very clearly.

1) Everyone faces trying times.

2) Even the worthy will suffer.

3) Remain calm, patient, charitable and forgiving.

Joseph Smith and those incarcerated with him showed “majesty” even while they were being held captive. I believe, as Joseph did, that he “never could have felt” the things he felt “had he not suffered the wrongs” he did. It is often during the hardest trials faced that we come to learn the lesson that “all things shall work together for good to them that love God.” Perhaps this knowledge will help us when trials come...because they will come.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tithing and Other Offerings, Our Choice

Isn’t it interesting how this little slip allows each one, individually, to live the Law of Consecration?
It is simply between you and the Lord.

I believe that initially when the Law of Consecration was given that the Lord provided a way that the Saints could live it during their time of pre-temple ordinances. This “way” was called the United Order.
When a person entered into the “Law” they did so by negotiating their financial standing with the Great High Priest, who acted as a mediator between the participant and the Lord. This system was very similar to the one used during the time period of the “tabernacle”. Once the individual could “enter in” to the Temple for himself, and become a “priest”, the system or “way” of consecration changed drastically. The Bishop no longer became the one who facilitated the conditions of the “Law”; it became the responsibility of the individual, through the “way” of the offering slip, to decide his portion and the Lords.
In other words, I believe the United Order has been replaced by the “Tithing and Other Offerings” slip, and the decision or accountability with the Lord rests on each individual personally. It is a wonderful way for each Saint to live the “Law” to the fullest, by their own choice. This allows each to live the Celestial Law, and enter in, one person at a time.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Consecration and "Divine Discontent"

Despite what some may believe, I have always had a firm belief that the Law of Consecration has never been rescinded, or taken away, and the command of the 10% tithe given instead. It is comforting to know I am not alone in my thoughts. A wonderful article written by Steven C. Harper, called “All Things Are the Lord’s: The Law of Consecration in the Doctrine and Covenants” shares many of the same observations I have had. I highly recommend that you read it in its entirety.

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that “the law of sacrifice and the law of consecration were not done away with and are still in effect.” Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated, “Many ignore consecration because it seems too abstract or too daunting. The conscientious among us, however, experience divine discontent.” I certainly believe both of these statements are true.

Steven C. Harper addresses an issue he calls “folk memory” among Latter-day Saints in the above mentioned talk. This “folk memory” allows for the teachings such as; “tithing is the lower law, while consecration is the higher law”, “tithing is the preparatory law for the law of consecration”, and “tithing is in force until we are asked to live the law of Consecration once again.” Harper explains, “No revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants rescind, suspend, or revoke the law of consecration. The Doctrine and Covenants never refers to a higher or a lower law, only the law. Indeed, the revelations do not speak of the laws of God as we do of bills before the legislature, as subject to passage, veto, or amendment. Rather, they speak of the laws of God as eternal. The law, in other words, was revealed to Joseph Smith in February 1831, but the law itself simply has been, is, and ever will be. Consecration is the law of the celestial kingdom, and section 78 teaches that no one will receive an inheritance there who has not obeyed the law (see D&C 78:7).”

The only place where one might receive the impression that tithing replaces consecration is found in the section heading found in the Doctrine and Covenants for Section 119. It states, “Because of failure on the part of many to abide by this covenant, the Lord withdrew it for a time, and gave instead the law of tithing to the whole Church.” I believe caution must be exercised when relying on this statement as sole instruction on the matter.

Likewise in the same section heading a definition of tithing is extremely pertinent to understand, as it applies to the amount required as a tithe. It states, “The law of tithing, as understood today, had not been given to the Church previous to this revelation. The term “tithing” in the prayer just quoted and in previous revelations (64: 23; 85: 3; 97: 11) had meant not just one-tenth, but all free-will offerings, or contributions, to the Church funds. The Lord had previously given to the Church the law of consecration and stewardship of property, which members (chiefly the leading elders) entered into by a covenant that was to be everlasting.” The previous statement, about the law of Consecration being “withdrawn”, compared with this statement describing it as “everlasting” causes a bit of a conflict for some.

When I read all the references to tithes in the Old Testament with the understanding that the Lord is referring to “free will offerings” of a consecrated nature, it sheds a new light on what is actually required for the “windows of Heaven to open”.

Perhaps some historical background on Section 119 of the Doctrine and Covenants may be of benefit at this point. When Section 119 was received the saints had just been removed from both Clay County, Missouri, and Kirtland Ohio to assemble in Far West. As they gathered, the Lord instructed the Saints that their first priority was to build a temple. He was very specific this time in His instruction regarding the money situation for building it.

Doctrine and Covenants 115:13 Verily I say unto you, let not my servant Joseph, neither my servant Sidney, neither my servant Hyrum, get in debt any more for the building of a house unto my name;

14 But let a house be built unto my name according to the pattern which I will show unto them.

This command, to be debt free, presented a dilemma for the Saints. On the one hand, they were to make building the Temple a priority, yet on the other, they needed to find a way to finance it, this time without going into debt as they did in Kirtland. They had come to Far West in an impoverished state, many left behind their land, and all their earthly possessions to gather. This state of poverty, which the Saints lived in, was not one in which there was “excess” or “surplus” of financial means. In an attempt to resolve the problem of raising money for the Temple, Bishop Partridge and a committee of men proposed that, a tax be imposed on the Saints which amounted to about 2% of each individuals total worth. In response to this proposal, the Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord and received Section 119.

Notice what the Lord requires and what he labels the requirement:

Doctrine and Covenants 119:1 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion,

2 For the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church.

3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.

I believe that “all their surplus” is another way of restating the Law of Consecration. If that is the case, then the “Law” is also referred to as a “tithe” like explained in the section heading. The problem herein lies that the Saints barely had enough to survive, consequently there was very little, if any, surplus.

The Lord very specifically states that after the required law is met then an added sacrifice is required:

Doctrine and Covenants 119:4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.

5 Verily I say unto you, it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of Zion shall be tithed of their surplus properties, and shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you.

I believe that the 10% is an additional requirement to the Law of Consecration, requiring us to “sacrifice” some of our “wants and needs”. Just think of this, Consecration is required of all, but is paid in times of abundance; tithing is the same amount for all, to be paid in time of need thus requiring all to sacrifice. For me, this sheds a different light on which offering could actually be labeled “higher or lower”. This understanding certainly raises some “divine discontent” for me.

“What, then, the conscientious covenant keeper wants to know, does the Lord expect? What does it mean in the twenty-first century to comply with the law of consecration? What is meant by ambiguous terms in the law, like residue, sufficient, more than is necessary, wants, and amply supplied? The carefully worded law clearly teaches principles, not dogma. It gives knowledge of the Lord's will without coercion or compulsion. It enables anyone to become "anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned" (D&C 58:27-29). Put another way, words like sufficient leave stewardship and therefore accountability where it belongs. Ironically, they compel us to exercise our agency and act for ourselves. We decide what they mean in terms of amounts of time or money, because we are the empowered stewards accountable to the Lord for our use or abuse of what is rightfully His.” Steven C. Harper

"In pondering and pursuing consecration," said Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "understandably we tremble inwardly at what may be required. Yet the Lord has said consolingly, 'My grace is sufficient for you' (D&C 17:8). Do we really believe Him? He has also promised to make weak things strong (Ether 12:27). Are we really willing to submit to that process? Yet if we desire fulness, we cannot hold back part!"

The only way I see tithing as a “preparatory” law is that it corresponds with the Law of Sacrifice. This starts us out on our journey to consecrate all. Both are required to enter His presence.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Kirtland Temple Endowment

I must add one last post to the “visions in the Kirtland Temple series I have posted over the last week or so. I found an interesting article written by Larry Barkdull, an author who has written a book titled “The Three Pillars of Zion”, which explains the blessings that are received because of this great endowment of power, given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in Kirtland, very succinctly. I have included a portion of it here.

Imagine Moses, Elias and Elijah laying their hands upon your head to give you a blessing. First, Moses blesses you with the ability to gather with your family to the Kingdom of God and the holy temple. Then Elias blesses you and your spouse and children to organize into an eternal family. He offers you the same covenant of the gospel that Abraham received-the New and Everlasting Covenant. When you agree to its terms, Elias blesses you with everything that was promised to Abraham: you and your posterity will have the eternal “right to the priesthood, the gospel, and eternal life.” Central to those blessings is “the marriage discipline of Abraham,” meaning the promise that your marriage will be eternal, through your faithfulness, and that you and your spouse will enjoy the blessing of eternal posterity. Additionally you are promised, as was Abraham, that you and your posterity will receive a promised land in this world and a promised inheritance in the celestial world to come.

Now that you have entered into the New and Everlasting Covenant, which includes eternal marriage, Elijah confirms these blessings with a seal that cannot be broken, a “welding link.” Then, as a final blessing, because you have proven faithful at all hazards, Elijah seals upon you the fulness of the priesthood, which in the ultimate sense means that he seals you up unto eternal life; that is, Elijah makes everything with which you have been blessed more sure.

Now, because of your righteousness, Elijah extends to you a promise for your children. The promise is this: As you turn your heart to your children, their hearts will turn to you and the Covenant that you have entered into. Elijah’s blessing guarantees to you that no matter what happens in time or eternity, these children are yours. Then, when Elias and Elijah finish their blessing upon your head, the Savior steps forward, and he receives you into his embrace. You are home at last, and your spouse and your children are there with you.

These blessings restored once again to the earth through the prophets, Moses, Elias, and Elijah are priceless gifts to all of Heavenly Father’s children. They start with the individual, and are then extended to their family. Ultimately, through the three fold mission of the Church, they will benefit the whole human family throughout all time.

“It is easy to see how all three of these manifestations have funded the Church's understanding of and authority to perform its mission. "The three-fold mission of the Church is to perfect the saints, proclaim the gospel and redeem the dead [and it] has one central goal, and this is to bring souls unto Christ" (Church News, October 10, 1987, 21; also Elder James E. Faust, Ensign, March 1988, 70). Moses' authority facilitates the gathering. Once gathered, Elias's restoration enables the perfecting. Once gathered and progressing toward perfection, Elijah's keys inspire us to serve our dead — "approach[ ing ] the vicarious sacrifice of the Savior himself" — by providing for them that which they cannot do for themselves. "For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers — that they without us cannot be made perfect — neither can we without our dead be made perfect" (D&C 128:15). It is in these glorious restored temples that all of the blessings our Father has seen fit to reveal to us can be received in their fulness.” Phillip Allred

The Kirtland Temple was the beginning of a great work that has rolled forth and become a fulfillment of prophecy.

Doctrine and Covenants 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.

How have you been blessed personally by the events that happened at Kirtland?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Elijah and the Sealing Keys

For as long as I can remember I have pondered the question, “Why Elijah?” I have never really figured out why Elijah was chosen as the prophet to be the Elias to the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ. I have wondered exactly why Elijah was given the responsibility of the keys of the Sealing power and the job of restoring them in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. Perhaps I will never really know for sure, but I have gained some insights through study that I would like to share.

The final vision that occurred in the Kirtland Temple was one that was anticipated from the very beginning of the restoration process. As early as September 21, 1823 the angel Moroni appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith and quoted the prophet Malachi who was referring to Elijah’s role in the latter days.

Joseph Smith History 1:38 And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

39 He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

This became the first recorded “official” revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants and is now found in Section 2 of that book. Placed only after the “Lord’s Preface” of the upcoming work, or Section 1, this revelation was a prophecy of landmark importance.

Jewish tradition also places an important emphasis on the prophet Elijah. An empty chair and a cup of wine are provided at each Passover celebration in anticipation of his return and he is known to them as the “angel of the covenant”. It is interesting to note that according to the actual Jewish calendar, Elijah did return when the Jews expected him to, during the Passover celebration, to the temple in Kirtland.

Doctrine and Covenants 110:13 After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:

14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—

15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—

16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.

I love the label given to Elijah as “angel of the covenant”. The covenant that is being referenced is the New and Everlasting Covenant, or the renewal of the Abrahamic Covenant. I more fondly refer to this covenant as the PPL because of the blessings promised in consequence of obedience to the conditions set by the Lord, which are eternal PRIESTHOOD, endless POSTERITY, and a LAND inheritance. To me, this is a beautiful description of becoming like God.

Just like the experiences Abraham had, which were progressive in nature, we too can “walk with God” and become like him. I believe this progression is seen in a pattern of prophet, priest, and finally king, semblance of order. Obviously the pinnacle of progression is that of king and queen, where one is ruler of their own kingdom. The “kingly” status is congruent with that of Godly status, when given by one with authority, or one who holds the keys to “seal or bind” those blessings to the individuals. The ancient Egyptians had a similar thought process, in that Pharaoh, who was their king, was also considered a God. Unfortunately they were acting out of order, or without the proper authority to confer those blessings on the individual, but you get the picture. I believe Elijah was the one chosen to temporarily hold the keys which would seal the ordinances of this life, and allow them to continue, or to be in effect, into our next estate allowing for the realization of the promised blessings of royalty.

Elder James E Talmage spoke of this process, “The patriarchal order is a condition where woman shares with man the blessings of the Priesthood, where husband and wife minister, seeing and understanding alike, and cooperating to the full in the government of their family kingdom. A man cannot hold this priesthood without a wife, and a woman cannot share the blessings of this priesthood without a husband, sealed in the temple.”

The sealing keys that revealed the “fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood” authorized the blessings attained in this life, the extended efficacy needed for the next life. They allowed for the fullness of temple covenants and ordinances to be performed, extending beyond the veil and linking the hearts of the children to their fathers who had gone on before. In this manner a “welding link” was placed in the long line, or chain of family, or royal birthright, through a priesthood line, linking back to Adam.

Elder McConkie wrote:

That same day (April 3, 1836) ‘Elias appeared, and committed the “dispensation of the gospel of Abraham,” meaning the great commission given to Abraham that he and his seed had a right to the priesthood, the gospel, and eternal life. Accordingly, Elias promised those upon whom these ancient promises were then renewed that in them and in their seed all generations should be blessed. (D&C 110:12-16.) Thus, through the joint ministry of Elijah, who brought the sealing power, and Elias, who restored the marriage discipline of Abraham, the way was prepared for the planting in the hearts of the children of the promises made to the fathers. (D&C 2:2.) These are the promises of eternal life through the priesthood and the gospel and celestial marriage.

But why Elijah...again I can only speculate... perhaps Elijah was the last prophet to preside during the Royal Davidic line, or worthy men who received the King/Priest status. Solomon was the last King who was also a priest, leaving an unrighteous posterity to rule in his place. Perhaps those keys to “Kingship” were then taken in a “chariot of fire” to be guarded until a rightful King/Priest would reign. This rightful heir would be Jesus Christ himself. These keys, rights, and powers would of necessity be bestowed once again on the Mount of Transfiguration. Once again Elijah has returned to herald the coming of the King/Priest who will rule and reign in glory this time. The one who made the realization of the blessings we have been promised, a possibility. I believe that this is the mission of Elijah. Our hearts have been turned.