Posted in Inspirational, New Testament, Symbolism

Caravaggio’s ‘The Martyrdom of St Matthew’.

Last year I posted about Caravaggio’s ‘Calling of St Matthew’ which we saw in a chapel in the San Luigi dei Francezi church while in Rome on holiday last year. In the same chapel there are two other Caravaggios – ‘The Inspiration of St Matthew’ and ‘The Martyrdom of St Matthew’. This post is about the ‘Martyrdom’ which was the first of the three to be displayed, having hung in the chapel since July 1600.

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The theme of the painting is triumph over death.

The painting is based on the tradition that Matthew was murdered at the behest of the king of Ethiopia, Hirticus, who wanted to marry his niece Iphigenia, the abbess of a convent. When Saint Matthew forbade the marriage, Hirticus had him killed.

In the painting we see  Matthew about to be stabbed to death. He is lying on the ground at the edge of a sunken baptismal font. Apparently, baptism by immersion was the norm in Milan during Caravaggio’s childhood rather than the baptism by sprinkling performed in Rome. Baptism by immersion symbolises death, burial and resurrection. Paul said:

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:3–5).

Matthew appears to cower at the feet of his executioner who is ready to strike the fatal blow. However, closer examination suggests that Matthew is not cowering in fear but is reaching up to grasp a palm branch thrust towards him by an angel. With its association with Palm Sunday, in Christian iconography the palm branch symbolises the victory of martyrs and the victory of the spirit over the flesh. This is not a moment of terror but a moment of triumph. Matthew’s body may die but his spirit will live on.

Matthew has already been wounded, there is a trickle of blood coming from his side, reminding us of the wound in the Saviour’s side. The juxtaposition of the blood and the baptismal font points towards the saving and cleansing power of Christ’s blood.

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The altar appears to have a Maltese cross painted on it – the Maltese Cross is said to be the symbol of the ‘Christian warrior’. Some commentators have interpreted the single candle burning on the altar as representing the all-seeing eye of God, ever present and aware of His martyr’s sacrifice or, perhaps, the fugitiveness of human life.

Just behind the assailant we glimpse a dark-haired bearded figure in dark clothing over a white loin cloth – this is a self-portrait of Caravaggio. British art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon wrote:

“The self-portrait, in this instance, reads like a mea culpa. If Caravaggio had actually been there, he suggests, he would have had no more courage than anyone else. He would have fled like the others, leaving the martyr to his fate. According to the logic of his own narrative, he remains unbaptized and therefore outside the circle of the blessed. He is a man running away, out of the church and into the street.”

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Posted in Faith, LDS Church History, Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley

Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley -Chapter 4: The Pioneer Heritage of Faith and Sacrifice

“Whether you have pioneer ancestry or came into the Church only yesterday, you are a part of this whole grand picture of which those men and women dreamed. … They laid the foundation. Ours is the duty to build on it.”
As the Church becomes an increasingly global organisation and overflows its Rocky Mountain home, an increasing proportion of its members will not have ancestors who crossed the plains or founded small communities in the desert. Many, however, will be gospel pioneers in their families, schools, work places and communities. We may not all have great ancestors, but we can all become great ancestors.

From the life of Gordon B Hinckley

President Hinckley speaks about his pioneering ancestors and then honours those who are gospel pioneers around the world today.

1 With vision, labor, and confidence in the power of God working through them, the early Latter-day Saint pioneers brought their faith to reality.

From the manual:
Behind us is a glorious history. It is bespangled with heroism, tenacity to principle, and unflagging fidelity. It is the product of faith. Before us is a great future. It begins today. We cannot pause. We cannot slow down. We cannot slacken our pace or shorten our stride.
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How do you feel when you consider the legacy of faith and sacrifice that pioneers and other Saints have given us?
Who are the pioneers of the Church in your area? (See my blog Saints ain’ts and complaints for some of the pioneers in my area of the church.)
How can we pass on this same kind of legacy to those who will follow us?
2 Early Latter-day Saint pioneers looked to the future with a grand dream of Zion.
From the manual:
I stood the other day on the old docks of Liverpool, England. There was practically no activity the Friday morning when we were there. But once this was a veritable beehive. During the 1800s, tens of thousands of our people walked over the same stone paving on which we walked. They came from across the British Isles and from the lands of Europe, converts to the Church. They came with testimony on their lips and faith in their hearts. Was it difficult to leave their homes and step into the unknown of a new world? Of course it was. But they did it with optimism and enthusiasm. They boarded sailing vessels. They knew the crossing at best was hazardous. They soon found out that for the most part it was miserable. They lived in cramped quarters week after week. They endured storms, disease, sickness. Many died on the way and were buried at sea. It was an arduous and fearsome journey. They had doubts, yes. But their faith rose above those doubts. Their optimism rose above their fears. They had their dream of Zion, and they were on their way to fulfill it.
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What dream or vision drives you forward and helps you to endure the difficult times?
The LDS hymn ‘Come, Come Ye Saints was written by English pioneer William Clayton on the plains of Iowa while concerned about his family back in Nauvoo. See: William Clayton and Come, Come Ye Saints in the Friend magazine.
‘Life isn’t always easy. At some point in our journey we may feel much as the pioneers did as they crossed Iowa—up to our knees in mud, forced to bury some of our dreams along the way. We all face rocky ridges, with the wind in our face and winter coming on too soon. Sometimes it seems as though there is no end to the dust that stings our eyes and clouds our vision. Sharp edges of despair and discouragement jut out of the terrain to slow our passage. Always, there is a Devil’s Gate, which will swing wide open to lure us in. Those who are wise and faithful will steer a course as far from such temptation as possible, while others—sometimes those who are nearest and dearest to us—succumb to the attraction of ease, comfort, convenience, and rest. Occasionally we reach the top of one summit in life, as the pioneers did, only to see more mountain peaks ahead, higher and more challenging than the one we have just traversed. Tapping unseen reservoirs of faith and endurance, we, as did our forebears, inch ever forward toward that day when our voices can join with those of all pioneers who have endured in faith, singing: “All is well! All is well!” (Hymns, no. 30).’ (M Russell Ballard, General Conference, May 1997)
3 The rescue of the Willie and Martin handcart pioneers speaks of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
From the manual:
My brethren and sisters, I would hope, I would pray, that each of us … would resolve to seek those who need help, who are in desperate and difficult circumstances, and lift them in the spirit of love into the embrace of the Church, where strong hands and loving hearts will warm them, comfort them, sustain them, and put them on the way of happy and productive lives.
What can we do to rescue and lift those who are in need today?

“I received a letter this morning. I think I would like to read it to you. I hope that you will not consider it egotistical for me to do so.

“What a wonderful Conference! Your closing remarks concerning Brigham Young’s rescue parties touched our family’s heart and we resolved to set out on our rescue mission without delay. We pulled out of the stake center [Sunday afternoon] and headed directly to the humble home of a struggling single parent mother of two who hasn’t been out to Church in years (and who has carefully evaded her visiting teachers). We happened to catch her in her driveway, and we told her that you and the bishop had sent us. Her heart was touched. She said that she works at a hospital till 2 A.M. most Sundays. When we asked if we could bring her children to Church with us, she explained that her ten-year-old daughter has no Sunday clothes and that her fourteen-year-old son had felt embarrassed to attend because he felt he didn’t fit in. We told the mom we would take care of the needed clothes. We then invited them to Sunday spaghetti dinner that took place thirty minutes later, introduced the boy to our nephew who is in his quorum, and arranged to pick the boy up for Mutual this week. The mom and sister promised to go to Church with us in two weeks when the mom has her Sunday off. (Don’t worry, we won’t let them forget!)’

“That is the whole thing, when all is said and done, to go out and get in our cars and drive from a Church parking lot to someone who has been neglected for a long time and needs a little attention, to lift and cheer and comfort and love and bless. ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matt. 25:40).” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 224.)

4 Each of us is a pioneer.
From the manual:
It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all, for each of us is a pioneer in his own life, often in his own family, and many of us pioneer daily in trying to establish a gospel foothold in distant parts of the world.
In what ways is each of us a pioneer?
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In a sense, each of us is a wanderer far from home, crossing a  wilderness in search of a promised land. This theme is repeated in the stories of the Jaredites, the family of Lehi, the children of Israel and Brigham Young and the pioneers. To get to our promised land we will each of us have to make sacrifices just as the pioneers did.
5 We honor the sacrifices and heritage of the pioneers by following their example and building on their foundation.
From the manual:
With so great an inheritance, we must go forward. We must never let down. We must hold our heads high. We must walk with integrity. We must “do what is right [and] let the consequence follow”
How can the examples of the early pioneers help us as we face challenges?

‘A major reason this church has grown from its humble beginnings to its current strength is the faithfulness and devotion of millions of humble and devoted [members]… He encourages us to “be not weary in well-doing, for [we] are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” May we be faithful in fulfilling the duties of whatever calling we have in the kingdom. Let us pay heed to the “small things” that make all the difference. Let us be faithful in keeping the commandments as we have made sacred covenants to do. As our heritage and our growth clearly show, we are, indeed, “laying the foundation of a great work.”

Let us dedicate ourselves to doing the Lord’s work to the best of our abilities. May we honor the faith of our fathers by giving our own faithful service to this great cause.’ (Joseph B Wirthlin, “Faith of Our Fathers,” Ensign, May 1996, 34)

Posted in Doctrine and Covenants, Gospel Doctrine 2017, Joseph Smith, LDS Church History, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2017 -Lesson 8: The Restoration of the Priesthood

1. Definition and purpose of the priesthood

D&C 107:8-12 Right to officiate

‘This high priesthood, we are told, has held the right of presidency in all ages of the world. But there is a difference between the general powers of the priesthood, and the particular office and calling to which men are set apart; and you, when I tell you, will understand it very easily; for instance, the presidency of the priesthood, or the presidency of the church, are high priests. The Twelve are high priests. The presidents of stakes and their counselors, the high council of a stake, and of all the stakes, are high priests. The bishops are ordained and set apart through the high priesthood, and stand in the same capacity; and thus bishops and their counselors are high priests. Now, these things you all know. There is nothing mysterious about them.

ALL PRIESTHOOD FUNCTIONS UNDER DIRECTION IN CHURCH CAPACITY.-There is another question associated with this matter. Because a man is a high priest, is he an apostle? No. Because a man is a high priest, is he the president of a stake, or the counselor to the president of a stake? No. Because he is a high priest, is he a bishop? No, not by any means. And so on, in all the various offices. The high priesthood holds the authority to administer in those ordinances, offices, and places, when they are appointed by the proper authorities, and at no other time; and while they are sustained also by the people… It is not because a man holds a certain class of priesthood that he is to administer in all the offices of that priesthood. He administers in them only as he is called and set apart for that purpose.’ (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom: Selections from the Writings and Discourses of John Taylor, selected, arranged, and edited, with an introduction by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1941], 202.)

2. The restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

D&C 13 Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

‘What a glorious day it was for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in May 1829 when they went into the woods to pray about the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins that they had read about while translating the Book of Mormon. There were many teachings about baptism being taught by different churches in the early 1800s, and Joseph and Oliver knew they could not all be true. They wanted to know about the correct manner of baptism and also who had the authority to baptize.

In answer to their petitions to the Lord, a messenger from heaven, John the Baptist, appeared to them. He placed his hands on their heads and conferred upon them the authority to baptize with these words: “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron”  D&C 13:1

What a marvelous day in the history of the world! The priesthood was restored to the earth.

When we receive the priesthood, we receive the authority to act in the name of God and lead in ways of truth and righteousness. This authority is a vital source of righteous power and influence for the benefit of God’s children on earth and will last beyond the veil. It was necessary for the priesthood to be restored before the true Church of Jesus Christ could be organized.’ (L Tom Perry, General Conference, October 2013)

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D&C 84:26-27 The children of Israel

‘If they had been sanctified and holy, the children of Israel would not have traveled one year with Moses before they would have received their endowments and the Melchizedek Priesthood. But they could not receive them, and never did. Moses left them, and they did not receive the fullness of that Priesthood…. The Lord told Moses that he would show himself to the people; but they begged Moses to plead with the Lord not to do so.’ (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6:100; Address delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, by Pres. Brigham Young; November 29, 1857)

D&C 107:14 The lesser priesthood

‘The fact that it is called the lesser priesthood does not diminish at all the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood. The Lord said it is necessary to the Melchizedek Priesthood. (See D&C 84:29.) Any holder of the higher priesthood should feel greatly honored to perform the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood, for they have great spiritual importance.

I have, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, passed the sacrament. I assure you I have felt honored and humbled beyond expression to do what some might consider a routine task.’  (Boyd K Packer, “The Aaronic Priesthood,” Ensign, Nov 1981, 30)

3. The restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood

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D&C 27:12-13 Priesthood keys

‘One of the remarkable evidences of the Restoration is the testimony of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery regarding the manner in which the priesthood and its directing powers were returned to earth. In each case, priesthood and priesthood keys were restored by divine messengers who had held them in earlier times. John the Baptist brought back the Aaronic Priesthood with the keys of repentance and baptism.See D&C 13  JS—H 1:68–72 Peter, James, and John restored not only the Melchizedek Priesthood but also “the keys of [the] kingdom.”See  D&C 27:12–13Moses and Elijah returned with the “gathering” and “sealing” keys.See  D&C 110:11–16 The events describing the return of the priesthood are remarkable in that they conform precisely with the biblical pattern of priesthood restoration in earlier dispensations. For example, consider the restoration and transfer of priesthood powers during the Savior’s time.

Near the end of His ministry, Jesus promised Peter “the keys of the kingdom,”See  Matt. 16:19 knowing that Jesus would soon leave and that priesthood keys were needed by the Apostles if they were to direct the work after His ascension. In order for them to receive the keys, Matthew records that Jesus took “Peter, James, and John … up into an high mountain” where He “was transfigured before them” and Moses and Elias “appeared unto them.”  Matt. 17:1–3 Shortly after this event, the Savior declared that the Apostles now had the keys to direct the ministry.  Matt. 18:18  D&C 7:7 The Prophet Joseph Smith states that “the Savior, Moses, and Elias, gave the keys to Peter, James and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him.” [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 158.]

The pattern of priesthood restoration described by Matthew is the same pattern followed in our dispensation. Apostles and prophets designated by the Lord to hold keys in earlier dispensations returned them to earth as this dispensation began.’ (Merrill J Bateman, General Conference, October 2003)

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D&C 84:19-22 The power of godliness

Our covenant commitment to Him permits our Heavenly Father to let His divine influence, “the power of godliness” (D&C 84:20), flow into our lives. He can do that because by our participation in priesthood ordinances we exercise our agency and elect to receive it. Our participation in those ordinances also demonstrates that we are prepared to accept the additional responsibility that comes with added light and spiritual power.

In all the ordinances, especially those of the temple, we are endowed with power from on high. This “power of godliness” comes in the person and by the influence of the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is part of the new and everlasting covenant. It is an essential part of our baptism, the baptism of the Spirit. It is the messenger of grace by which the blood of Christ is applied to take away our sins and sanctify us (see 2 Nephi 31:17). (D Todd Christofferson, Ensign, May 2009)

D&C 110:11-16 Elias

‘After Moses, came Elias. We know not who he was in mortality. There were many prophets who bore that name and title. One was Noah. Apparently this Elias lived in the day of Abraham, and may even have been Abraham himself. In any event he “committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” (D&C 110:12)—not, be it noted, the gospel of Christ, for that had already been received, but the gospel of Abraham, meaning the great commission which God gave Abraham in his day. That commission dealt with families, those of Abraham and his seed, who were and are promised continuance “in the world and out of the world … as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them” (D&C 132:30).’ (Bruce R McConkie, “This Final Glorious Gospel Dispensation,” Ensign, Apr. 1980, 22–23)

D&C 107:18 The keys of all spiritual blessings

“Priesthood is given us for two purposes, first, that we may ourselves receive exaltation, and, second, that we may be the means of helping others to obtain like blessings” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection [1932], 221–22).

Posted in Doctrine and Covenants, Faith, Gospel Doctrine 2017, Jesus Christ

Gospel Doctrine 2017 -Lesson 7: “The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel”

1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel.

D&C 19:23 Learn of me, and listen to my words

‘These words give me the feeling of such closeness to, such intimacy with the Savior, looking at him, listening to him, learning from him, walking with him, and feeling his peace like his very arms around me. Within each of us is an intense hunger for this intimacy with and closeness to him. I think we all want to feel his spirit around us.’ (Chieko N Okazaki, Lighten Up! [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 199.)

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D&C 88:118 By study and also by faith

‘As a partial self-appraisal of our spiritual-procrastination standing, what is our attitude when we attend the meetings of the Church? Is it to learn “by study and also by faith”  D&C 88:118 which seamlessly translates what we learn into what we do? Or do we have an “I’ve heard it all before” mentality that immediately blocks the Spirit’s access to our minds and our hearts and enables procrastination to become a major part of our character?’ (Donald L Hallstrom, General Conference, October 2007)

D&C 20:69 By a godly walk and conversation

“The call to discipleship is a call to a higher righteousness. The Saints are asked to put off the natural man, put away the toys of a telestial world, and grow up in the Lord. They are summoned to be obedient, to keep the commandments, to manifest ‘by a godly walk and conversation that they are worthy’ of membership in the Church and kingdom of God (D&C 20:69). They covenant to take upon them the sacred name of Jesus Christ, to bear the same with fidelity and devotion, and to behave as becomes Christians. In short, they covenant before God and man to see to it that their actions evidence their Christian commitment. Disciples are expected to have clean hands.” (Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 55.)

D&C 8:10 Faith

“As I think about faith, this principle of power, I am obliged to believe that it is an intelligent force. Of what kind, I do not know. But it is superior to and overrules all other forces of which we know. …

“[We] have had this great power given unto us, this power of faith. What are we doing about it? Can you, can we, do the mighty things that the Savior did? Yes. They have been done by the members of the Church who had the faith and the righteousness so to do. Think of what is within your power if you but live the Gospel, if you but live so that you may invoke the power which is within you.” (J Reuben Clark Jr, In Conference Report, Apr. 1960, p. 21.)

D&C 35:9 Healing the sick

“The need of faith is often underestimated. The ill one and the family often seem to depend wholly on the power of the priesthood and the gift of healing that they hope the administering brethren may have, whereas the greater responsibility is with him who is blessed. … The major element is the faith of the individual when that person is conscious and accountable. ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole’  Matthew 9:22 was repeated so often by the Master that it almost became a chorus.”[“President Kimball Speaks Out on Administration to the Sick,” Tambuli, Aug. 1982, 36–37; New Era, Oct. 1981, 47.]

D&C 63:9 Faith cometh not by signs

‘If the purpose of miracles is to convert, then Jesus wasted his miracles all on believers…To impress people with miracles is one thing; to give them a testimony of the gospel another. As the experience of the Apostles showed, if people will not accept the gospel by the word without miracles, they will not accept it with miracles: ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead’ (Luke 16:31). ‘ (Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, p. 140-1)

2. Through sincere repentance, we can partake of the blessings of the Atonement.

D&C 58:42, D&C 1:32 Repentance and forgiveness

‘Where would we be, in fact, without God’s long-suffering? Given the divine sorrow each of us has caused our God and our Savior, what a divine comfort to know that “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). No more reassuring and important words could be said to any of us.

What ineffable love! What stunning patience! How wrenching it would otherwise be to be resurrected and forever wincing over having displeased Him. Oh, the marvel of His divine mercy and His plan of happiness!’ (Neal A Maxwell, “Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, June 1996, 17-18)

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D&C 18:11 He suffered the pains of all men

‘Jesus Christ suffered the pains of all men who have ever lived, or ever will live, upon the earth. This concept is incomprehensible to the mortal mind. Comprehending it is like trying to conceptualize the never-ending expanse of the universe:

How can we begin to comprehend the cumulative suffering of all mankind, or as taught by Elder Orson F. Whitney, “the piled up agony of the human race”? What is thrown on the scale of remorse, as observed by Truman Madsen, when we aggregate “the cumulative impact of our vicious thoughts, motives, and acts”? What, as Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone inquired, is the “weight and immensity of the penalties of all broken laws crying from the dust and from the future-an incomprehensible tidal wave of guilt”? How many searing consciences has this world produced and to what depths of depravity has this earthly sphere sunk? Can anyone possibly fathom the horrendous consequences of such sin? Not only did the Savior fathom it-he felt it, and he suffered it.’ (Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 134)

D&C 19:16-19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father

‘The wondrous and glorious Atonement was the central act in all of human history. It was the hinge on which all else that finally matters turned. But it turned upon Jesus’ spiritual submissiveness!’ (Neal A Maxwell, “Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1985, p.70)

D&C 1:33 My Spirit shall not always strive with man

“Now the Lord has withdrawn His Spirit from the world. Do not let this thought become confused in your minds. The Spirit He has withdrawn from the world is not the Holy Ghost (for they never had that!), but it is the light of truth, spoken of in our scriptures as the Spirit of Christ, which is given to every man that cometh into the world, as you find recorded in Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

“Now because of the wickedness of the world, that Spirit has been withdrawn, and when the Spirit of the Lord is not striving with men, the spirit of Satan is. Therefore, we may be sure that the time has come spoken of in Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants. … Peace has been taken from the earth. The devil has power over his own dominion. The Spirit of the Lord has been withdrawn. Not because the Lord desires to withdraw that Spirit, but because of the wickedness of mankind, it becomes necessary that this Spirit of the Lord be withdrawn.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Predicted Judgments, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 21 Mar. 1967], pp. 5–6.)

D&C 29:17 My blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not

‘If we do not repent, then the Lord clearly lets us know that there will be discipline and a denial of blessings and advancement. The Lord teaches that he cannot forgive people in their sins; he can only save them from their abandoned sins. The Lord clearly says, “My blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.” (D&C 29:17.) Hear in this instance means to accept and abide his teachings.’ (Spencer W Kimball, “The Gospel of Repentance,” Ensign, Oct. 1982, 5)

3. Baptism is an essential ordinance.

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D&C 20:37 Requirements for baptism

‘Mankind everywhere must subscribe to these conditions. There are no other conditions prescribed by the Lord by which we may obtain entrance into his kingdom and obtain salvation. These requirements are very plain, simple, and easy to be understood.'(George F Richards, Conference Report, October 1934, Afternoon Meeting 73.)

D&C 76:51 A testimony of Jesus

‘A most priceless blessing available to every member of the Church is a testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His church. A testimony is one of the few possessions we may take with us when we leave this life.

To have a testimony of Jesus is to possess knowledge through the Holy Ghost of the divine mission of Jesus Christ.

A testimony of Jesus is to know the divine nature of our Lord’s birth–that He is indeed the Only Begotten Son in the flesh.

A testimony of Jesus is to know that He was the promised Messiah and that while He sojourned among men He accomplished many mighty miracles.

A testimony of Jesus is to know that the laws which He prescribed as His doctrine are true and then to abide by these laws and ordinances.

To possess a testimony of Jesus is to know that He voluntarily took upon Himself the sins of all mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, which caused Him to suffer in both body and spirit and to bleed from every pore. All this He did so that we would not have to suffer if we would repent. (See D&C 19:16, 18.)

To possess a testimony of Jesus is to know that He came forth triumphantly from the grave with a physical, resurrected body. And because He lives, so shall all mankind.

To possess a testimony of Jesus is to know that God the Father and Jesus Christ did indeed appear to the Prophet Joseph Smith to establish a new dispensation of His gospel so that salvation may be preached to all nations before He comes.

To possess a testimony of Jesus is to know that the Church, which He established in the meridian of time and restored in modern times is, as the Lord has declared, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” (D&C 1:30.)

Having such a testimony is vital.’ [Ezra Taft Benson, “Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus,” Ensign, Feb. 1987, pp. 1-2]

D&C 20:72-74 Baptism by immersion

‘…the world had lost sight of the fact that baptism was for the remission of sins, and they had changed the mode instituted by the Savior and His apostles. They were practicing different kinds of baptism. Instead of immersing the whole body in water, as we do, some practiced baptism by sprinkling or pouring water upon the head, and none believed that baptism was anything more than “the outward sign of an inward grace.” It was not regarded as necessary to salvation, and as having been instituted for the remission of sins. But the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, declared this to be its purpose, and Joseph and Oliver, while translating the plates, when they came upon this doctrine, which was new to them also, marveled over it, and they went into the woods and prayed, asking the Lord for light upon the subject.’ (Orson F Whitney, Conference Report, April 1909, First Day-Morning Session. 14 – 15.)

D&C 20:71 Accountability

“Baptism is for the remission of sins, and no man can repent of a sin until he is accountable before God” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:50).

4. Through the ordinance of confirmation, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

D&C 130:22 A personage of Spirit

‘The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and, as such, like God the Father and Jesus Christ, He knows our thoughts and the intents of our hearts. See  Alma 12:7  18:16–18  Doctrine and Covenants 6:15–16 The Holy Ghost loves us and wants us to be happy. Since He knows the challenges we will face, He can guide us and teach us all things we must do to return and live with our Heavenly Father once again.[See  2 Nephi 32:5

Unlike Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, who have glorified bodies of flesh and bones, the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit who communicates to our spirits through feelings and impressions. See  Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 As a spirit being, He has the unique responsibility of being an agent through which personal revelation is received. In scripture, the Holy Ghost is often referred to as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit of Promise, or simply the Spirit.’ (Craig C Christensen, General Conference, October 2012)

D&C 33:15 The gift of the Holy Ghost

‘We have the right to the guidance of the Holy Ghost, but we can’t have that guidance if we wilfully refuse to consider the revelations that have been given to help us to understand and to guide us in the light and truth of the everlasting gospel. We can’t hope to have that guidance when we refuse to consider these great revelations which mean so much to us both temporally and spiritually. Now if we find ourselves in this condition of unbelief or unwillingness to seek for the light and the knowledge which the Lord has placed within our reach, then we are liable or in danger of being deceived by evil spirits, the doctrines of devils, and the teachings of men. And when these false influences are presented before us, we will not have the distinguishing understanding by which we can segregate them and know that they are not of the Lord. And so we may become prey unto the ungodly, to the vicious, to the cunning, to the craftiness of men.’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, General Conference, October 1952)

D&C 35:5-6 By the laying on of hands

‘So far we are agreed with other Christian denominations. They all preach faith and repentance. The gospel requires baptism by immersion for the remission of sins…But I further believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Evidence by Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:38. You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half-that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.’ (Joseph Smith,History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5: 499.)

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D&C 20:41 Baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost

“To gain salvation every accountable person must receive two baptisms. They are the baptism of water and of the Spirit. (John 3:3–5.) The baptism of the Spirit is called the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; 2 Ne. 31:13–14; 3 Ne. 11:35; 12:1–2; Morm. 7:10; D. & C. 20:41; 33:11; 39:6.) By the power of the Holy Ghost—who is the Sanctifier (3 Ne. 27:19–21)—dross, iniquity, carnality, sensuality, and every evil thing is burned out of the repentant soul as if by fire; the cleansed person becomes literally a new creature of the Holy Ghost. (Mosiah 27:24–26.) He is born again.

“The baptism of fire is not something in addition to the receipt of the Holy Ghost; rather, it is the actual enjoyment of the gift which is offered by the laying on of hands at the time of baptism. ‘Remission of sins,’ the Lord says, comes ‘by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.’ (D. & C. 19:31; 2 Ne. 31:17.) Those who receive the baptism of fire are ‘filled as if with fire.’ (Hela. 5:45.)” (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 73.)

D&C 20:77 Always have his Spirit to be with them

‘I have had a lifetime of building faith in Christ, and hearing the promise in the sacrament prayer: “that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.” That prayer is very personal to me now. I need the Spirit of Christ through the Holy Ghost to be with me more now than I ever have, and I feel that promise being literally fulfilled, week by week. You cannot imagine the gratitude I feel, each Sabbath, as I partake of the sacrament, renew the promises I made at baptism, and feel the Savior making an answering promise to me. I cannot find words to tell you how strong and how comforting that sense of companionship is as I go about my duties.’ (Chieko N Okazaki, Lighten Up! [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 221.)

D&C 39:6 The peaceable things of the kingdom

‘Feelings of peace are promptings and proof that the Spirit is bearing witness to us in response to our petitions. The Lord said to Oliver Cowdery through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:23).’ (L Lionel Kendrick, “Personal Revelation,” Ensign, Sept. 1999, 13)

D&C 42:14 If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach

‘This means that even if you use all the right teaching techniques and what you are teaching is true, without the Spirit real learning is not going to take place.’ (David M McConkie, General Conference, October 2010)

D&C 11:13 Enlighten your mind

“There is a way by which persons can keep their consciences clear before God and man, and that is to preserve within them the spirit of God, which is the spirit of revelation to every man and woman. It will reveal to them, even in the simplest of matters, what they shall do, by making suggestions to them. We should try to learn the nature of this spirit, that we may understand its suggestions, and then we will always be able to do right. This is the grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint. We know that it is our right to have the manifestations of the spirit every day of our lives. … From the time we receive the Gospel, go down into the waters of baptism and have hands laid upon us afterwards for the gift of the Holy Ghost, we have a friend, if we do not drive it from us by doing wrong. That friend is the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, which partakes of the things of God and shows them unto us. This is a grand means that the Lord has provided for us, that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark.” (Lorenzo Snow, In Conference Report, Apr. 1899, p. 52.)

D&C 84:33 Unto the renewing of their bodies

‘Brethren, I bear testimony to the fact that that promise has been realized in the lives of many of us. I know that it has been realized in the life of President David O. McKay, that he has been sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of his body, and some of the rest of us are better off today than we were many years ago so far as physical health is concerned-and we attribute that fact to his blessing.’ (Hugh B Brown, Conference Report, April 1963, General Priesthood Meeting 90.)

5. We must endure to the end in faith to receive eternal life.

D&C 14:7 The greatest of all the gifts of God

‘There is a distinction between immortality, or eternal existence, and eternal life, which is to have a place in the presence of God. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, immortality comes to all men, just or unjust, righteous or wicked. However, eternal life is “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7.) We obtain this great gift, according to the Lord, “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end.” If we so endure, the promise is, “you shall have eternal life.” (D&C 14:7.)’ (James E Faust, “The Supernal Gift of the Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 12)

D&C 24:8 Be patient in afflictions

‘God does not deny us the experience we came here to have. He does not insulate us from tribulation or guarantee immunity from trouble.

Much of the pain we suffer and inevitably impose upon others is self-induced through our own bad judgment, through poor choices.

And for that, help is offered. To the penitent sinner comes the assurance that God will forgive, forget, and never mention our sins of which we have truly repented.

But much that happens to us in this life we cannot control; we only respond. Knowing what God has promised can provide the courage and faith we need. We are assured in the scriptures that we may know of a surety that the Lord does visit his people in their afflictions. (See  Mosiah 24:13–14 ) And that “whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.”  (Alma 36:3)

Jesus said to those who mourned the loss of a loved one, “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” ( John 16:22).’ (Marion D Hanks, General Conference, October 1992).

 

Posted in Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley

Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley – Chapter 3: Cultivating an Attitude of Happiness and a Spirit of Optimism

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley was well known for his optimistic and positive take on life. This section of the manual indicates that this outlook was one that he learned from his parents.From the manual:
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, also of the Quorum of the Twelve, commented: “‘Things will work out’ may well be President Hinckley’s most repeated assurance to family, friends, and associates. ‘Keep trying,’ he will say. ‘Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.’”

See the article ‘A Prophet of Optimism and Vision; in the February 2017 Ensign for more stories and quotes.

How did President Hinckley’s attitude of happiness and spirit of optimism manifest itself in his life and demeanour?

1 Even when many people are negative and pessimistic, we can cultivate a spirit of happiness and optimism.

Optimism and Physical Health

With a large longitudinal sample researchers  Maruta, Colligan, Malinchoc, and Offord categorized medical patients as optimistic, mixed, or pessimistic. The researchers found that for every 10 point increase in a person’s score on their optimism scale, the risk of early death decreased by 19%.

Optimism also plays a role in the recovery from illness and disease. Multiple studies have investigated the role of optimism in people undergoing treatment for cancer (e.g., Carver et al., 1993; Schou, Ekeberg, & Ruland, 2005). These studies have found that optimistic people experience less distress when faced with potentially life-threatening cancer diagnoses. For example, Schou and colleagues (2005) found that a superior “fighting spirit” found in optimists predicted substantially better quality of life one year after breast cancer surgery. Optimism also predicted less disruption of normal life, distress, and fatigue in one study of women who were undergoing painful treatment for breast cancer (Carver, Lehman, & Antoni, 2003). In this case, optimism appeared to protect against an urge to withdraw from social activities, which may be important for healing. There is also evidence that optimism can protect against the development of chronic diseases.

Optimism can have an effect on a person’s immune system, as well. In one study, elderly adults were immunized for influenza (Kohut, Cooper, Nickolaus, Russell, & Cunnick, 2002). Two weeks later, their immune response to the vaccination was measured. Greater optimism predicted greater antibody production and better immune outcomes.

Optimism can have profound effects on a person’s physical health. The mere act of expecting positive outcomes and being hopeful can boost a person’s immune system, protect against harmful behaviors, prevent chronic disease, and help people cope following troubling news. Optimism can even predict a longer life. Among psychological constructs, optimism may be one of the most important predictors of physical health.

Optimism and Psychological Health

Evidence suggests that optimism is important in coping with difficult life events. Optimism has been linked to better responses to various difficulties, from the more mundane (e.g., transition to college [Brissette, Scheier, & Carver, 2002]) to the more extreme (e.g., coping with missile attacks [Zeidner & Hammer, 1992]). Optimism appears to play a protective role, assisting people in coping with extraordinarily trying incidents.

Optimism may even play a role in the well-being of caregivers for people with chronic illnesses. Caring for a loved one with a severe, terminal illness can have serious negative effects on psychological well-being. However, optimism appears to protect against the worst of these effects, as optimism has been associated with less depression and greater well-being in studies of people caring for others with cancer (Given et al., 1993), Alzheimer’s (Hooker et al., 1992), and mental disorders (Singh et al., 2004). The association between optimism and coping with other, less extreme difficulties has been investigated, as well. For example, in one study of college freshman, measures of optimism, hope, and well-being were administered immediately upon beginning college (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992). At the end of the semester, measures of well-being were again administered. Optimism at the beginning of college predicted a smoother, psychologically healthier transition to college life, as well as larger groups of new friends.

(See http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/positive-thinking/)

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From the manual:
I come … with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I’m suggesting that we accentuate the positive. I’m asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.
Think about President Hinckley’s counsel to “look deeper” for the good and to “cultivate an attitude of happiness [and] a spirit of optimism”. Why do we need this counsel today? How can we cultivate an attitude of happiness?
2 Rather than dwell on our problems, we can let a spirit of thanksgiving guide and bless us.
Alma 34:38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.
‘whatsoever place ye may be in’ – the challenge is for us to remain in an attitude of thanksgiving despite the circumstances that we may find ourselves in. How do we stay grateful when we face difficulties and trials?
From the manual:

With gratitude in our hearts, let us not dwell upon the few problems we have. Let us rather count our blessings and in a great spirit of gratitude, motivated by a great faith, go forth to build the kingdom of God in the earth.

Let a spirit of thanksgiving guide and bless your days and nights. Work at it. You will find it will yield wonderful results.

President Hinckley said that “wonderful results” come when we “let a spirit of thanksgiving guide [us]”. Why do you think these “wonderful results” come? How are you blessed when you have a spirit of thanksgiving?

3 The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a reason for gladness.
In the Bible Dictionary we read:
‘The word gospel means ‘good news’. The good news is that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement for mankind that will redeem all mankind from the grave and reward each individual according to his or her works.’
From the manual:

“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

“The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” (Deseret News, 12 June 1973.)

What are your thoughts about the analogy of life being “like an old-time rail journey”?  How does the “good news” of the gospel influence the way you approach that journey?

4 The gospel is a message of triumph to be embraced with enthusiasm, affection, and optimism.
D&C 128:19 Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!
“In September 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith was hiding in the house of Edward Hunter in Nauvoo… Yet it was in the cramped quarters of Edward Hunter’s home that Joseph penned the most majestic hymn of praise of the Restoration.
Perhaps you have been to a symphony and listened to a piece of music that begins with a single, clear note played by a violin or a flute. The single instrument holds center stage for a time and then slowly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, is joined by other instruments. As the piece continues, the music swells as more and more instruments join in until all are playing and the whole hall is filled with the beauty of sound.
Or perhaps you have listened to a great choir perform. Often a single soloist with a clear voice will begin to sing. As with the symphony, that single voice sounds in our ears without distraction. Then, slowly, other voices begin singing until, in a wonderful unity of sound, all are singing as one.
This is the structure of Joseph Smith’s hymn of praise, only it is a hymn not of voice in song or note of violin but in words played upon the soul and recorded in the scriptures. Joseph’s hymn, too, begins with a single voice, ‘a voice of gladness.’ Listen to the words and see if you can hear the other voices join in to sing one unified song of praise for the blessings of the Restoration:  (quotes D&C 128:19-23.)
What could have possibly been on Joseph Smith’s mind to bring forth from his pen such a beautiful summation of the Restoration? The central theme of D&C 128:1 is the salvation of the dead through the ordinances of the House of the Lord. Indeed, the verse immediately preceding Joseph’s song of gladness speaks of a ‘welding link . . . between the fathers and the children,’ a link that would be ‘whole and complete and perfect.’ (D&C 128:18.)
Earlier in the letter, and serving as introduction to his song of praise, Joseph Smith told the Saints, ‘[The work of the temple] seems to occupy my mind, and press itself upon my feelings the strongest.’ He assured them, ‘These are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation.’ (D&C 128:1, 15.) Joseph understood that the culmination of the Restoration, the point to which all the voices were leading, was the temple and the redeeming work for both living and dead that would take place within its walls. Without that work, the song of the Restoration would have ‘become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.’ (1 Corinthians 13:1.) Or, as Malachi wrote, ‘The whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.’ (D&C 2:3.) Temple work was the soul of Joseph Smith’s song as it is the soul of the Restoration.” (S. Michael Wilcox, House of Glory: Finding Personal Meaning in the Temple [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 5-7)
What examples have you seen of people embracing the gospel with enthusiasm? If we find ourselves feeling discouraged, how can we regain our optimism? What experiences have increased your optimism about the Lord’s work?
5 With knowledge that we are all children of God, we can stand a little taller, rise a little higher, and be a little better.

Before we came to this mortal world we lived with our Father in Heaven in His realms of glory. We are his offspring, he loves us and wants the best for us. The plan of salvation is designed to return us to his presence. We need to always hang onto our divine identity.
From the manual:
There is also in our society a sad tendency among many of us to belittle ourselves. Other persons may appear to us to be sure of themselves, but the fact is that most of us have some feelings of inferiority. The important thing is not to talk to yourself about it. … The important thing is to make the best of all that we have.

Why do you think there is a tendency to belittle others and ourselves? How can we overcome this tendency? What can we do, as individuals and families, to help others “stand a little taller” and “rise a little higher”?

Posted in Doctrine and Covenants, Gospel Doctrine 2017, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2017 – Lesson 6: “I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your Heart, by the Holy Ghost”

1. Understanding how the Holy Ghost communicates with us

D&C 8:2-3 I will tell you in your mind and in your heart

‘The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a “still small voice.” And while we speak of “listening” to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, “I had a feeling …”

…Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear. Nephi told his wayward brothers, who were visited by an angel, “Ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.”

The scriptures are full of such expressions as “The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened,” or “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart,” or “I did enlighten thy mind,” or “Speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts.” There are hundreds of verses which teach of revelation.

President Marion G. Romney, quoting the prophet Enos, said, “While I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind.” Enos then related what the Lord put into his mind.

“This,” President Romney said, “is a very common means of revelation. It comes into one’s mind in words and sentences. With this medium of revelation I am personally well acquainted.”

We do not seek for spectacular experiences. President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of the many who “have no ear for spiritual messages … when they come in common dress. … Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication.”‘ (Boyd K Packer, “Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 60)

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D&C 85:6 Still, small voice

‘Because the Spirit is often described as a still, small voice, it is also important to have a time of quiet in our lives as well. The Lord has counseled us to “be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 see also  D&C 101:16 If we provide a still and quiet time each day when we are not bombarded by television, computer, video games, or personal electronic devices, we allow that still, small voice an opportunity to provide personal revelation and to whisper sweet guidance, reassurance, and comfort to us.’ (Vicki F Matsumori, General Conference, October 2009)

D&C 6:15 Enlighten thy mind

‘Personal revelation—sometimes called “inspiration”—comes in many forms.  Most often it is by words or thoughts communicated to the mind, by sudden enlightenment, or by positive or negative feelings about proposed courses of action.  Usually it comes in response to earnest and prayerful seeking.  “Ask, and it shall be given you;” Jesus taught, “seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7).  It comes when we keep the commandments of God and thus qualify for the companionship and communication of the Holy Spirit.’ (Dallin H Oaks, Talk Given at Harvard Law School, 26 February 2010)

D&C 11:13-14 By this shall you know

‘Sometimes the feeling is like a memory. We first learned the gospel in our heavenly home. We have come to this earth with a veil of forgetfulness. And yet lingering in each of our spirits are those dormant memories. The Holy Ghost can part the veil and bring those things out of their dormancy. Often my reaction to a supposedly newfound truth is, “Oh, I remember that!”’ (Glenn L Pace, General Conference, April 2007)

D&C 6:22-23 Did I not speak peace to your mind?

‘Revelation can come in many ways and in various degrees of directness. In some cases God Himself may appear to a person; in other cases He may send an angel, show a vision, or speak through the whisperings of the still, small voice. Here the Lord bore witness to Oliver Cowdery of one way of giving revelation—a feeling of peace. When one is torn with despair or confusion, the sweet feeling of peace conveyed by the Comforter can instantly dispel the turmoil that reigned in the soul previously. Such a feeling is a real, definable experience, and as much a revelation as a vision, though more subtle and less direct in the way it is given.’ (Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual)

D&C :7-9 I will cause that your bosom shall burn

‘This may be one of the most important and misunderstood teachings in all the Doctrine and Covenants. The teachings of the Spirit often come as feelings. That fact is of the utmost importance, yet some misunderstand what it means. I have met persons who told me they have never had a witness from the Holy Ghost because they have never felt their bosom “burn within” them.’ (Dallin H Oaks)

D&C 98:12 Line upon line, precept upon precept

‘This pattern for receiving promptings follows the principle by which the Savior was taught and tutored during the meridian of time. John bore witness that “he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness” (D&C 93:13). The Prophet Joseph Smith counseled, “It is not wisdom that we should have all knowledge at once presented before us; but that we should have a little at a time.” ‘(L Lionel Kendrick, “Personal Revelation,” Ensign, Sept. 1999, 10)

2. Cautions about personal revelation

D&C 28:2 Appointed to receive commandments and revelations

‘When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift of inspiration, convey something out of harmony with accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. Also, they should understand that directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they are appointed and ordained to preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable. In secular as well as spiritual affairs, saints may receive divine guidance and revelation affecting themselves, but this does not convey authority to direct others, and is not to be accepted when contrary to Church covenants, doctrine or discipline, or to known facts, demonstrated truths, or good common sense.’ (Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, Charles W. Penrose in Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, by Roy W. Doxey, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 1: 297 – 298.)

D&C 43:2-4 None other appointed

‘The Prophet Joseph Smith stated that “it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church … to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.”

In addition, some have claimed higher spiritual gifts or authority outside the established priesthood authority of the Church. They say that they believe in the principles and ordinances of the gospel and accept the President of the Church as the legal administrator thereof, but claim they have a higher order which the President does not have. This is often done to justify an activity which is not in accordance with the doctrines of the Church. There can be no higher order, however, because the President of the Church both holds and exercises all of the keys of the kingdom of God on earth. The Lord has said of the President of the Church “that none else shall be appointed [to receive commandments and revelations] except it be through him.”

…The Prophet Joseph explained in the winter of 1832-33 that “no true angel from God will ever come to ordain any man, because they have once been sent to establish the priesthood by ordaining me thereunto; and the priesthood being once established on earth, with [the] power to ordain others, no heavenly messenger will ever come to interfere with that power by ordaining any more. … You may therefore know, from this time forward, that if any man comes to you professing to be ordained by an angel, he is either a liar or has been imposed upon in consequence of transgression by an angel of the devil, for this priesthood shall never be taken from this church.”

May I now review five of the fundamental prophetic truths of the Church:

First, the keys and the authority of God have been given by Him to Joseph Smith and each of his successors who have been called as Presidents of the Church.

Second, those keys and authority are never to be given to another people, and those who have such authority are “known to the Church.”

Third, continuing revelation and leadership for the Church come through the President of the Church, and he will never mislead the Saints.

Fourth, individual members of the Church may receive revelation for their own callings and areas of responsibility and for their own families. They may not receive spiritual instruction for those higher in authority.

Fifth, those who claim direct revelation from God for the Church outside the established order and channel of the priesthood are misguided. This also applies to any who follow them.’ (James E Faust, “The Prophetic Voice,” Ensign, May 1996, 6-7)

D&C 50:23-24 That which doth not edify is not of God

‘Each of us has the responsibility to choose. You may ask, “Are decisions really that important?” I say to you, decisions determine destiny. You can’t make eternal decisions without eternal consequences.

May I provide a simple formula by which you can measure the choices which confront you. It’s easy to remember: “You can’t be right by doing wrong; you can’t be wrong by doing right.” Your personal conscience always warns you as a friend before it punishes you as a judge.’ (Thomas S Monson, General Conference, April 2002)

3. When revelation is not received or recognized

Here is a great talk by S Michael Wilcox on this subject:

 

 

 

Posted in Doctrine and Covenants, Gospel Doctrine 2017, Uncategorized

Gospel Doctrine 2017 -Lesson 5: “This Is the Spirit of Revelation”

1. Our need for personal revelation

I will, in the commencement of my remarks, take up a subject upon which much has been said in the pulpit and in the chimney corner. It is regarding the Spirit of the Lord manifesting his will to his children. There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God’s people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him his will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.32-33)

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2. Understanding what we should do to receive revelation

D&C 9:8 Study it out in your mind

“‘It is impossible to advance in the principles of truth, to increase in heavenly knowledge, except we exercise our reasoning faculties and exert ourselves in a proper manner. …

“‘Although the gift to translate had been conferred, he (Oliver Cowdery) could not prosecute the work, simply because he failed to exert himself before God with the view of developing the gift within him; and he became greatly disappointed, and the Lord, in his goodness and mercy, informed him of his mistake. …

“‘So in regard to us, respecting the things which we are undertaking. If we expect to improve, to advance in the work immediately before us, and finally to obtain possession of those gifts and glories, coming up to that condition of exaltation we anticipate, we must take thought and reflect, we must exert ourselves, and that too to the utmost of our ability.’ (Lorenzo Snow,  Journal of Discourses, 18:371-72.)

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D&C 138:1-11 Ponder and meditate over the scriptures

‘Pondering, which means to weigh mentally, to deliberate, to meditate, can achieve the opening of the spiritual eyes of one’s understanding. Also, the Spirit of the Lord may rest upon the ponderer as described by President Smith.

And Jesus admonished the Nephites, “Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand.”  3 Ne. 17:3

We are constantly reminded through the scriptures that we should give the things of God much more than usual superficial consideration. We must ponder them and reach into the very essence of what we are and what we may become.’ (Joseph B wirthlin, General Conference, April 1982)

‘I sometimes think that one of the best-kept secrets of the kingdom is that the scriptures open the door to the receipt of revelation.’ (Bruce R McConkie, Doctrines of the Restoration, p.243)

D&C 6:5-7,14 The Lord Giveth Bountifully to Faithful Saints Who Ask

“There is no reason in the world why any soul should not know where to find the truth. If he will only humble himself and seek in the spirit of humility and faith, going to the Lord just as the Prophet Joseph Smith went to the Lord to find the truth, he will find it. There’s no doubt about it. There is no reason in the world, if men would only hearken to the whisperings of the Spirit of the Lord and seek as he would have them seek for the knowledge and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for them not to find it—no reason, except the hardness of their hearts and their love of the world. ‘Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ This is my testimony, I know it is true.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1951, p. 59.)

D&C 88:63-64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father

‘I want you to know that I know God hears and answers prayers. He has answered many of mine. I have lived sufficiently long on this earth to see that some of the prayers which I concluded were not answered were answered for my best good. I am still trying to recognize a “no” answer. I am still trying to recognize and accept silent answers.

I have total confidence and faith in the wisdom and omniscience of a loving, merciful Heavenly Father. To be dependent on Him, yet to communicate with Him, I must make faithful personal effort on a never-ending basis. (Marvin J Ashton, “Know He Is There,” Ensign, Feb. 1994, 54)

D&C 63:23 A well of living water

‘Be believing and your faith will be constantly replenished, your knowledge of the truth increased, and your testimony of the Redeemer, of the Resurrection, of the Restoration will be as “a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.” You may then receive guidance on practical decisions in everyday life.’ (Boyd K Packer, General Conference, October 1994)

D&C 93:1,28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light

‘In closing, I refer to the relationship between obedience and knowledge. Members who have a testimony and who act upon it under the direction of their Church leaders are sometimes accused of blind obedience.

Of course, we have leaders, and of course, we are subject to their decisions and directions in the operation of the Church and in the performance of needed priesthood ordinances. But when it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost. This is what our critics fail to understand. It puzzles them that we can be united in following our leaders and yet independent in knowing for ourselves.

Perhaps the puzzle some feel can be explained by the reality that each of us has two different channels to God. We have a channel of governance through our prophet and other leaders. This channel, which has to do with doctrine, ordinances, and commandments, results in obedience. We also have a channel of personal testimony, which is direct to God. This has to do with His existence, our relationship to Him, and the truth of His restored gospel. This channel results in knowledge. These two channels are mutually reinforcing: knowledge encourages obedience (see  Deuteronomy 5:27  Moses 5:11 and obedience enhances knowledge.’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 2008)

D&C 101:7-8 In the day of their trouble

‘A repentant heart and good works are the very conditions required to have grace restored to us. When someone pleads fervently in prayer for an answer, the answer may be more conditioned on repentance of personal sins than on any other factor.’ (Gene R Cook, General Conference, April 1993)

D&C 5:24 Humble himself in mighty prayer

‘Martin Harris was promised that he could become a witness of the plates or “these things” (D&C 5:2, 11) if he would humble himself and acknowledge the wrongs he had committed (see vv. 24, 28). Even after the lesson learned from the loss of the 116 pages, humility came hard for Martin, though he succeeded, and he finally saw the angel and the plates.’ (Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual)

D&C 112:10 Be thou humble

‘Those who engage in self-congratulation over a supposed strength have lost the protection of humility and are vulnerable to Satan’s using that strength to produce their downfall. In contrast, if we are humble and teachable, hearkening to the commandments of God, the counsel of his leaders, and the promptings of his Spirit, we can be guided in how to use our spiritual gifts, our accomplishments, and all of our other strengths for righteousness. And we can be guided in how to avoid Satan’s efforts to use our strengths to cause our downfall.’ (Dallin H Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 19)

D&C 30:2 Your mind has been on the things of the earth

‘The early leaders of the restored church had to learn that mortal reasoning was secondary to the revelations of God. On several occasions the Lord rebuked Joseph Smith, David Whitmer, and others for not having their minds on the things of God, for yielding to “the persuasions of men” (D&C 3:6; 5:21), and for being “persuaded by those whom [the Lord had] not commanded” (D&C 30:2). Like some members of today, these early leaders had to learn that the gospel includes “many great things . . . which [are] hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord.” (1 Ne. 15:3.)

In the acquisition of sacred knowledge, reason must yield to revelation.’ (Dallin H Oaks, The Lord’s Way, p.21)