Posted in Inspirational, LDS Doctrine

Spirit or emotion?

Ours is a church that believes in revelation. We believe that the church is led, globally and locally, by revelation. We also believe that we can receive revelation in our own daily lives. However, many struggle to be confident that they can discern between the promptings of the Spirit and their own emotions or thoughts.’ How can we tell whether we are really receiving an answer to our prayers?

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Let me offer a few thoughts:

  • Recognising the promptings of the Spirit.

Elder Boyd K. Packer taught: “The voice of the Spirit is a still, small voice—a voice that is felt rather than heard.”

We commonly speak of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to us through a ‘burning in the bosom’. However, the Holy Ghost manifests itself in many ways and different people experience it in different ways. You may well experience a burning in the bosom or you may experience a deep feeling of peace or some other manifestation of the Spirit. I once served in a presidency with a president who experienced the testimony of the Spirit as a tingling down his back.

More important than how the Spirit testifies to us is that we recognize its promptings when they come. When you hear someone bear testimony, when you listen to General Conference, when you attend the temple, when you study the scriptures take note of how you feel. Learn to recognise those feelings as the Spirit. Then learn to distinguish them from other feelings. How do those feelings compare to how you feel when you watch Chariots of Fire, listen to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy or stand atop a mountain and gaze at the valley below?

This is not easy: learning to recognise the Spirit can take practice and time. We need to frequently put ourselves into situations where we can experience the Spirit and then be sensitive to our thoughts and feelings.

  • In your mind and in your heart

The Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation.” (D&C 8:2–3.)

And to Hyrum Smith he said:

13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;

14 And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive. (D&C 11:13-14)

These scriptures indicate that the the Spirit will work both through our feelings and emotions AND through our thoughts or intellect ie he will tell us through BOTH our mind and our heart – not through one or the other in isolation. The thoughts the Spirit puts in my mind should match the feelings he puts in my heart.This is in accordance with the law of witnesses – the witness of the mind and the witness of the heart bring assurance. 

Elder Jay Jensen said: “When the Holy Ghost speaks, our minds may be struck with insight and clarity akin to sudden light. At the same time, our hearts may burn or we may feel flooded with joy or deep gratitude or love. Whatever particular feelings occur, they occur simultaneously in the mind and in the heart.”

So, if we have thoughts that are not backed up by a feeling of peace or a burning in the bosom (or however the Spirit works with us individually) or if we feel that something is right emotionally but it makes no sense intellectually, then we need to be cautious in interpreting this as an answer from the Lord through the Spirit.

Of course, there may be times when the Lord wants us to do something that runs counter to conventional wisdom or to our our own predispositions. I believe that in these instances the Spirit will speak to us with  a little more pressure or urgency so that we recognise its voice. Think of Nephi when the Spirit constrained him to kill Laban. This was counter to what Nephi had been taught and he shrunk from obeying the command of the Spirit. So, the Spirit makes sure that the message gets through by speaking clearly to him twice more and then by bringing to his remembrance the words of the Lord that he spoke to him in the wilderness. THEN Nephi’s doubts are dispelled, the Spirit’s command makes sense to him and he obeys.

We have also been counselled that when we ask about something, “If it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong” (D&C 9:9).

If we ask for something that is not right, rather than a feeling of peace we can experience  darkness and confusion or an empty feeling.

  • The Spirit leads towards that which is good.

The adversary will not prompt us to do good. Mormon said, “[The devil] persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.” (Moro. 7:17.). In contrast, Hyrum Smith was told, “Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.” (D&C 11:12.)

If a prompting is directing us towards something that is not good then we can be sure that it is not a genuine prompting of the Spirit. Similarly a genuine personal revelation won’t conflict with what the Lord has told us through His prophets.

The more we practice identifying the Spirit the more readily we will recognise those promptings when they come. President Spencer W Kimball told us that “God reveals himself to [people] who are prepared for such manifestations.”

Posted in Holy Ghost, LDS Doctrine, Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley

Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley -Chapter 7: The Whisperings of the Spirit

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From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

This section tells how the Spirit inspired President Hinckley when searching for a suitable place to build a temple in Hong Kong.

Have you ever had an experience where the Spirit has whispered to you in the night or in the early morning?

1. The Holy Ghost is the Comforter and the Testifier of truth.

See Experience vs Opinion.

From the manual:

‘The Holy Ghost is the Testifier of Truth, who can teach [us] things [we] cannot teach one another.’

Elder Bednar likes to ask at the end of meetings or discussions – ‘What did you learn from what was said?’ He then asks ‘What did you learn from what was not said?’

The Holy Ghost’s specific role is to testify of the Father and the Son. See 3 Nephi 28:11.

2. We need the Holy Ghost to guide us in our service at home and in the Church.

From the manual:

‘May I give a special word of counsel to parents who stand as heads of families: we need the direction of the Holy Ghost in the delicate and tremendous task that is ours in strengthening the spirituality of our homes.’

How can we invite the Holy Ghost to direct us as we lead our families?

3. Revelation almost always comes to us through a still, small voice—the whispering of the Spirit.

See video: Receiving Revelation.  You can receive personal revelation from God by living His gospel and having the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit usually communicates with us through our thoughts and feelings. See D&C 8:2-3.

Boyd K Packer taught:

‘The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather, it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all….Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of teh time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening.’

From the manual:

‘Why is it important to know that the Holy Ghost usually communicates in “a still, small voice”? What have you learned from your own experiences about recognizing communications from the Holy Ghost?’

4. The things of the Spirit enlighten, build, and uplift us.

See Spirit or Emotion?

From the manual:

‘How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know that it is from God? By the fruits of it. If it leads to growth and development, if it leads to faith and testimony, if it leads to a better way of doing things, if it leads to godliness, then it is of God. If it tears us down, if it brings us into darkness, if it confuses us and worries us, if it leads to faithlessness, then it is of the devil.’

How can these teachings help us recognize the influence of the Spirit?

“We never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven but by revelation. We may spiritualize and express opinions to all eternity, but that is no authority.” (Kent P. Jackson, Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible, 159)

Consider what Joseph Smith told Brigham Young:

“Tell the brethren to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, that it will lead them aright. Be careful and not turn away the still, small voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their heart open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits—it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, and their whole desire will be to do good” (quoted in Juvenile Instructor, 19 July 1873, 114)

5. The Holy Ghost will be our constant companion as we live for this blessing.

See video:  Having the Holy Ghost. You can invite the Holy Spirit into your life through prayer, scripture study and being obedient to God’s commandments. (2:56)

Consider the differences between:

  • feeling the Holy Ghost testify to us
  • being given the gift of the Holy Ghost
  • having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.

From the manual:

‘“How do you keep the Spirit of the Lord with you at all times?” Well, you live worthy of it; you live worthy of the Spirit of the Lord. That is what you do. And you will have it. … Just live right. Stay away from the sleaze. Stay away from pornography. Stay away from these things that pull you down. The books you read, the magazines you read, the videos you look at, the television programs you look at, the shows you go to, all have an effect on you and will do if you subject yourself to the influence of those titillating kinds of things which are designed to make you poor and somebody else rich. Stay away from them.’

Are there things in your life that are impairing your ability to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost?

“If a man ‘yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord’ (Mosiah 3:19), then he is born again. His spiritual death ceases. He becomes alive to the things of the Spirit; he returns to the presence of God because he receives the gift of the Holy Ghost; and he is alive to the things of righteousness. He crucifies the old man of sin, becomes a new creature of the Holy Ghost, and walks in a newness of life. This is what is meant by being born again.” (Bruce R McConkie, The Promised Messiah, p. 350)

Posted in Doctrine and Covenants, Gospel Doctrine 2017, LDS Church History, Missionary work

Gospel Doctrine 2017 – Lesson 26: “Go Ye into All the World, and Preach My Gospel”

1. The Lord poured out great blessings during the Kirtland period.

While the Prophet Joseph was living in the Kirtland area, he received numerous revelations, 65 of which are included in the Doctrine and Covenants. The revelations taught the Lord’s will in connection with welfare, sign seeking, moral conduct, dietary principles, tithing, priesthood authority, the role of a prophet, the three degrees of glory, missionary work, the Second Coming, the law of consecration, and many other subjects.

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2. The Saints in Kirtland made great sacrifices to share the gospel.

Read: Revelations in Context: ‘I Quit Other Business’: Early Missionaries

Read: Revelations in Context: A Mission to the Lamanites

Read: Revelations in Context: Take Special Care of Your Family

Watch: This Grand Opportunity  Elizabeth McCune and the First Sister Missionaries

The Saints in the 1830s had very little money. At tremendous sacrifice they had constructed a temple. The United States at that time was gripped by a spirit of financial speculation, which resulted in a financial crash in 1837. In Kirtland, people turned against the Prophet Joseph Smith and a great sifting took place between the faithful and those whose eyes were set upon the things of the world.

It was in these difficult times, on Sunday, 4 June 1837, that the Prophet Joseph Smith came to Elder Heber C. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve, while Brother Kimball in the Kirtland Temple, and whispering to [him], said, ‘Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me: ‘Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my Gospel, and open the door of salvation to that nation.’ ”

Imagine, one man who had very little telling another who had practically nothing that he was to go across the sea to open the work there.

One can understand Heber C. Kimball’s response. Feeling his weakness he said, “O, Lord, I am a man of stammering tongue, and altogether unfit for such a work; how can I go to preach in that land, which is so famed throughout Christendom for learning, knowledge and piety; the nursery of religion; and to a people whose intelligence is proverbial!”

Brother Kimball said at the time: “The idea of such a mission was almost more than I could bear up under. I was almost ready to sink under the burden which was placed upon me.”

“However, all these considerations did not deter me from the path of duty; the moment I understood the will of my Heavenly Father, I felt a determination to go at all hazards, believing that He would support me by His almighty power, and endow me with every qualification that I needed; and although my family was dear to me, and I should have to leave them almost destitute, I felt that the cause of truth, the Gospel of Christ, outweighed every other consideration.” (Ibid., p. 104.)

Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, and Joseph Fielding responded with similar faith, and these four were joined in New York by John Goodson, Isaac Russell, and John Snyder.

Tuesday, June 13, was the scheduled departure date for the four who were to leave Kirtland. One who looked in on the Kimball household that morning described the prayer that was uttered by the father who was leaving and who  laid his hands upon his childrens’ heads to give them a blessing

“While thus engaged his voice was almost lost in the sobs of those around, who tried in vain to suppress them. The idea of being separated from their protector and father for so long a time was indeed painful. He proceeded, but his heart was too much affected to do so regularly. His emotions were great, and he was obliged to stop at intervals, while the big tears rolled down his cheeks.”

After eighteen days and eighteen hours on the water the ship pulled into the Mersey. They spent a few days in Liverpool seeking direction from the Lord, and then felt the confirming whispering of the Spirit directing them to go to Preston. There they found a city in a state of excitement over elections for members of Parliament. Queen Victoria had ascended the throne three days earlier and had called for a national election.

As they came up the street in Preston, a banner unfurled before them with the words “Truth Will Prevail.”

This they adopted as the motto of their mission. It may seem a strange motto for a political party today but it is a motto that we could do well to adopt

In a dark and troubled hour the Lord said to those He loved: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Heber C Kimball and his colleagues took heart from the simple motto truth will prevail. They then worked as hard as they could with body mind and spirit to share the Gospel. The Lord then blessed them with success in their work.

D&C 42:6 Go forth in the power of my Spirit

‘The power of a missionary is not determined by his or her height, weight, or physical prowess. Nor is it determined by his or her smoothness of tongue or cleverness of mind. It is, however, determined by his or her receptivity to the Spirit and willingness to heed its promptings.

To go forth in the power of the Spirit means that a missionary must be taught and led by the Spirit and must teach by the Spirit. Therefore, the conscientious missionary courts the Holy Spirit every day of his mission. Such courting involves the exercise of faith, prayer, study, work, and righteous living. All of this is done with these promises in mind: (1) “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith” (D&C 42:14) and (2) “If ye will . . . receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:5). There is also the instruction that “if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14).

Missionaries must bear in mind that the Spirit or Holy Ghost enables a missionary to speak persuasively with “the tongue of angels” (2 Ne. 32:2). It serves as a conduit, if you will, through which the message passes from a missionary’s heart to the heart of the listener. It is the power that converts.’ (Carlos E Asay, The Seven M’s of Missionary Service: Proclaiming the Gospel as a Member or Full-time Missionary [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chap. 4)

D&C 88:81 Warn the people

‘We who have received a knowledge of the great plan of happiness—and its implementing commandments—should feel a desire to share that knowledge since it makes all the difference here and in eternity. And if we ask, “Who is my neighbor that I should warn?” surely the answer will be found in a parable that begins, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves,”  Luke 10:30 and so forth.’ (D Todd Christofferson, General Conference, April 2017)

3. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve taught thousands in England.

Read: Brigham Young in England

Read: History of the Church in Great Britain

D&C 112:21 Power to open the door of my kingdom unto any nation

‘When I read Church history, I am amazed at the boldness of the early brethren as they went out into the world. They seemed to find a way. Even in persecution and hardship, they went and opened doors which evidently have been allowed to sag on their hinges and many of them to close. I remember that these fearless men were teaching the gospel in Indian lands before the Church was even fully organized. As nearly as 1837 the Twelve were in England fighting Satan, in Tahiti in 1844, Australia in 1851, Iceland 1853, Italy 1850, and also in Switzerland, Germany, Tonga, Turkey, Mexico, Japan, Czechoslovakia, China, Samoa, New Zealand, South America, France, and Hawaii in 1850. When you look at the progress we have made in some countries, with no progress in many of their nearby countries, it makes us wonder. Much of this early proselyting was done while the leaders were climbing the Rockies and planting the sod and starting their homes. It is faith and super faith.

These men of valor began to walk the earth with dignity and honor, with mantles on their shoulders and keys in their hands and love in their hearts.’ (Spencer W Kimball, “When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, 6)

4. Many Saints in Kirtland remained valiant despite persecution.

‘Saints who looked back on this period learned some compelling lessons of which we today need to be aware. One of the pointed lessons we learn from the Kirtland apostasy is that no one should consider himself secure from the loss of faith. Pride, criticism, speculation, envy, greed—these are enough to cause the most faithful to stumble. Parley P. Pratt, for example, declared that “envyings, lyings, strifes and divisions” caused “trouble and sorrow” in Kirtland. He admitted that he was a victim of these failings. But the Lord knew his faith—his “integrity of purpose”—and helped him in his victory against an opposing spirit.

Orson Hyde recalled that, because he acted foolishly during this period of darkness, he temporarily lost “the light of the Holy Ghost.” Luke S. Johnson admitted that his mind became darkened and he neglected his Church responsibilities after he had “partaken of the spirit of speculation.

And yet, through it all, 87 percent of the Kirtland Saints continued to nurture their faith. They continued to sustain Joseph Smith as a prophet, sacrificing nearly all their material possessions rather than forsake the restored gospel. Despite opposition, they sacrificed their homes, the sacred temple they had built, and even their lives to carry the work of the Lord forward. We would do well to emulate their example.’ (Milton V Backman, A Warning from Kirtland, Ensign, April 1989)

Posted in Family, LDS Doctrine, Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley, Temples

Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley – Chapter 10: Nurturing the Eternal Partnership of Marriage

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

From the manual:

One evening when President and Sister Hinckley were sitting quietly together, Sister Hinckley said, “You have always given me wings to fly, and I have loved you for it.” Commenting on that expression from his wife, President Hinckley said, “I’ve tried to recognize [her] individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.”

Why is it important for husbands and wives to recognise each other’s individuality.

Heavenly Father designed marriage from the beginning.

Watch: Man and Woman President Gordon B. Hinckley testifies that man and woman are God’s design. (0:57)

Watch: Renaissance of Marriage Hear what President Eyring says we all must do to have a renaissance of happy marriages and productive families. (2:36)

From the manual:

How wonderful a thing is marriage under the plan of our Eternal Father, a plan provided in His divine wisdom for the happiness and security of His children and the continuity of the race.

How can this knowledge influence the relationship between a husband and wife?

In the temple, a husband and wife can be sealed together for all eternity.

Eternal marriage is a very distinctive and valuable part of the Church. It involves a ceremony performed in a holy temple by an officiator who has the authority to seal couples together for eternity. This is a sacred and simple ceremony to unite husband and wife in the bonds of everlasting love and in the hopes of eternity.

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From the manual

[The] temples … offer blessings that are had nowhere else. All that occurs in these sacred houses has to do with the eternal nature of man. Here, husbands and wives and children are sealed together as families for all eternity. Marriage is not “until death do ye part.” It is forever, if the parties live worthy of the blessing.

What are the blessings of an eternal marriage in this life and in eternity?

Read: The Eternal Blessings of Marriage – Elder Richard G Scott

Read: Eternal Marriage – Elder Marion D Hanks

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Husbands and wives walk side by side on an eternal journey.

We believe that life is more secure and more joyous when it is experienced in the sacred relationships of the eternal family. A person who lives a righteous life in mortality and who has entered into an eternal marriage may look forward to an association in the postmortal world with a worthy spouse, and with those who were earthly children, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters.

From the manual:

Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have.

Why does marriage need to be “a partnership of equals”?

“The marriage sanctioned by God provides men and women with the opportunity to fulfill their divine potentials. ‘Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 11:11). Husbands and wives are unique in some ways and free to develop their eternal gifts, yet as coequals in the sight of their heavenly parents they are one in the divine goals they pursue, in their devotion to eternal principles and ordinances, in their obedience to the Lord, and in their divine love for each other. When a man and woman who have been sealed together in a temple are united spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically, taking full responsibility for nurturing each other, they are truly married. Together they strive to emulate the prototype of the heavenly home from which they came. The Church teaches them to complement, support, and enrich one another. . . . If a husband and wife are faithful to their temple marriage, they will continue as co-creators in God’s celestial kingdom through the eternities.” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., Daniel H. Ludlow, ed. [New York: Macmillan, 1992], 2:487.)

“I urge the husbands and fathers of this church to be the kind of a man your wife would not want to be without. I urge the sisters of this church to be patient, loving, and understanding with their husbands. Those who enter into marriage should be fully prepared to establish their marriage as the first priority in their lives.

“It is destructive to the feeling essential for a happy marriage for either party to say to the other marriage partner, ‘I don’t need you.’ This is particularly so because the counsel of the Savior was and is to become one flesh: ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh

“‘Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.’ (Matt. 19:5-6.) It is far more difficult to be of one heart and mind than to be physically one. This unity of heart and mind is manifest in sincere expressions of ‘I appreciate you’ and ‘I am proud of you.’ Such domestic harmony results from forgiving and forgetting, essential elements of a maturing marriage relationship. Someone has said that we should keep our eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterward. (Magdeleine Scudery, as cited in The International Dictionary of Thoughts, Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Co., 1969, p. 472.) True charity ought to begin in marriage, for it is a relationship that must be rebuilt every day.” (Teachings of James E. Faust, 366.)

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God will not withhold any blessings from worthy individuals who are not married.

From the manual:

Somehow we have put a badge on a very important group in the Church. It reads “Singles.” I wish we would not do that. You are individuals, men and women, sons and daughters of God, not a mass of “look-alikes” or “do-alikes.” Because you do not happen to be married does not make you essentially different from others. All of us are very much alike in appearance and emotional responses, in our capacity to think, to reason, to be miserable, to be happy, to love and be loved.

How can President Hinckley’s promises and counsel in section 4 help persons who are not married?

Happiness in marriage comes from showing a loving concern for the well-being of one’s companion.

In 1831 the Lord revealed the law of the Church to the newly gathered Saints and commanded, “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (D&C 42:22). This is the only place in scripture where the Lord asks us to love anything or anyone with all our hearts besides Himself. President Hinckley has… said that a husband should regard his wife “as the greatest treasure of his life.” In Matthew 6:21 we read, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”

From the manual:

Nurture and cultivate your marriage. Guard it and work to keep it solid and beautiful. … Marriage is a contract, it is a compact, it is a union between a man and a woman under the plan of the Almighty. It can be fragile. It requires nurture and very much effort.

What are some ways a husband and wife can “nurture and cultivate” their marriage?

Read: The Parable of the Tableware

Read: Nurturing Marriage – Elder Russell M Nelson

Posted in LDS Doctrine, Remembrance Day

War

At times like this, when we think of all the wars that have been, of the millions who have lost their lives (55 million in World War II alone) and the millions more who have been profoundly affected by war, we may feel a mixture of emotions. We may feel gratitude for those who gave so much that we may be free, pride at their bravery and accomplishments and deep reverence for their sacrifices. We may feel horror at the sheer scale of the destruction, disgust at the barbarities that man can inflict upon his fellow man and sorrow at the waste of lives, futures and talent. While we commemorate those who gave so much and pay tribute to them we do not glorify war.

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President Brigham Young said:

‘Of one thing I am sure; God never institutes war; God is not the author of confusion or of war; they are the results of the acts of the children of men. Confusion and war necessarily come as the results of the foolish acts and policy of men; but they do not come because God desires they should come.’

As members of the Church, we are against war. We do not believe that it is a righteous way of settling international disputes, We believe in peace. We follow the Saviour, who is the Prince of Peace. We look forward to that promised time foretold by the prophet Isaiah when

..’he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ (Isaiah 2:4)

However, the history of mankind, right back to the great conflict in the pre-mortal world has been scarred by war. The history of the world is a history of wars. President Gordon B Hinckley said:

‘I think our Father in Heaven must have wept as He has looked down upon His children through the centuries as they have squandered their divine birthright in ruthlessly destroying one another.’

So, if we are for peace and against war, are there any circumstances in which Latter-Day Saints are justified in participating in war? Yes, there are times when righteous people may take up arms. President David O McKay said:

“There are, however, two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter-mind you, I say enter, not begin-a war: (1) An attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and (2) Loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, viz., Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1942)

We believe in peace and look forward to the reign of peace – but, as the Article of Faith says, we also “believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” so faithful, believing Latter-Day Saints have been, and may be in the future, required to fight in wars. President Hinckley said:

‘This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do.’

So, our armed forces are justified in carrying out their loyal duties. During the Second World War the First Presidency issued this clarifying declaration:

“the state is responsible for the civil control of its citizens or subjects, for their political welfare, and for the carrying forward of political policies, domestic and foreign. … But the Church itself, as such, has no responsibility for these policies, [other] than urging its members fully to render … loyalty to their country.”[In James R. Clark, comp. Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]

A Book of Mormon example of a loyal and righteous soldier and military leader is Captain Moroni.

And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery; (Alma 48:11).

Alma tells us that Moroni was “firm in the faith of Christ,” and his purpose in fighting was to “defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion” (Alma 48:13).

The Book of Mormon tells us in relation to a particular war between the Nephites and the Lamanites that

“the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for … power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. “And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God” (Alma 43:45–46).

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

‘The prediction is that army will be against army: it may be that the Saints will have to beat their ploughs into swords, for it will not do for men to sit down patiently and see their children destroyed.’ (Nauvoo, 12 May 1844)

Meanwhile the nations continue to learn war and we know that before we get to that time of peace that there will be more dark days full of conflict.

President Howard W Hunter prophesied:

‘In this last dispensation there will be great tribulation. We know that there will be wars and rumours of wars and that the whole earth will be in commotion (see D&C 45:26). All dispensations have had their perilous times, but our day will include genuine peril. Evil men will flourish, but then evil men have very often flourished. Calamities will come and iniquity will abound. (Howard W Hunter, “An Anchor to the Souls of Men,” Ensign, Oct. 1993, 71)

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We have recently seen in our own country and in other countries that differences of political opinion can lead to strong and harsh words, to deep feelings and even to violence. President Hinckley counselled:

Now, there is much that we can and must do in these perilous times. We can give our opinions on the merits of the situation as we see it, but never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side or the other. Political differences never justify hatred or ill will. I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties.

What are we to do during these dark days? Elder Gerritt W Gong at General Conference in April 2016 said:

‘In these days of motion and commotion, some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God,” who guides “the future as he has the past.” In “perilous times,” we “remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men.” ‘

Living, as we do, surrounded by evil and in a world where conflict may break out at any time, it is important to live our lives in such a way that we are worthy of our Heavenly Father’s protection. What does the Lord expect of us as Church members? Elder Nelson said:

‘As individuals, we should “follow after the things which make for peace.”  We should be personal peacemakers. We should live peacefully—as couples, families, and neighbors. We should live by the Golden Rule. …We should bring divine love and revealed doctrines of restored religion to our neighbors and friends. We should serve them according to our abilities and opportunities. We should keep our principles on a high level and stand for the right. We should continue to gather scattered Israel from the four corners of the earth and offer the ordinances and covenants that seal families together forever. These blessings we are to bring to people of all nations.’

Black Bart was a professional thief whose very name struck fear as he terrorized the Wells Fargo stage line. From San Francisco to New York, his name became synonymous with the danger of the frontier. 
Between 1875 and 1883 he robbed 29 different stagecoach crews. Amazingly, Bart did it all without firing a shot. Because a hood hid his face, no victim ever saw his face. He never took a hostage and was never trailed by a sheriff. Instead, Black Bart used fear to paralyze his victims. Fear was enough to overwhelm the toughest stagecoach guard. Though we live amongst wars and rumours of wars we should not be paralysed by fear.

President John Taylor said:

‘Some in speaking of war and troubles, will say are you not afraid? No, I am a servant of God, and this is enough, for Father is at the helm. It is for me to be as clay in the hands of the potter, to be pliable and walk in the light of the countenance of the Spirit of the Lord, and then no matter what comes. Let the lightnings flash and the earthquakes bellow, God is at the helm, and I feel like saying but little, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth and will continue his work until he has put all enemies under his feet.’ (May 1862)

Section 87 of the Doctrine and Covenants was received by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland on Christmas Day in 1832. It is ‘ a revelation and prophecy on war’. It foretells the American Civil War and says that ‘the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.’ Was Joseph paralysed by this prophecy of war? Now let’s turn to Section 88. This was received on 27 and 28 December 1832, that is just 2 or 3 days after the revelation on war. It is designated as the “‘olive leaf’ … plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us. ”Verses 119 -120 call for a temple to be built in Kirtland:

 119 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;

 120 That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High.

Then in verse 127 the Lord instructs that the School of the Prophets should be established. For me, this tells us that the proper response to the calamities and tribulations that surround us or are to come is to turn with renewed vigour to the learning the word of the Lord and performing his work. As Section 87 verse 8 says:

Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.

President Benson defined these holy places as our temples, our homes, our chapels and our stakes. We must trust in the Lord and in his love for us. As President Hinckley said:

Even when the armaments of war ring out in deathly serenade and darkness and hatred reign in the hearts of some, there stands immovable, reassuring, comforting, and with great outreaching love the quiet figure of the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. We can proclaim with Paul:

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

“Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

Posted in Book of Mormon, General Conference, Jesus Christ, Missionary work

Saturday PM Session General Conference October 2016

Opposing votes heard again – invited to contact their Stake Presidents.

Elder Quentin L Cook

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‘There are a number of stumbling blocks to our valor that can prevent us from reaching the goal of eternal life.’

Story of father building cabin on ranch. Window focused on power pole. ‘That power pole is the most beautiful thing to me on the entire ranch.’ To him that pole represented an improved life. While the pole was stumbling block to me it had great practical meaning to my father.

‘One Stumbling Block Is the Philosophies of Men’ . We are committed to intelligence

1 Corinthians 15 – Handel’s Messiah. Describes some of what Christ accomplished. The apostasy – plain and precious truths lost. Christianity did not destroy paganism – it adopted it.

Heber C Kimball warned the time is coming when it will be difficult to tell the face of a friend from the face of an enemy…there is a test coming.

Elder Maxwell said much sifting will occur because of lapses in righteous behaviour which go unrepented of.

 

‘Another Stumbling Block Is Refusing to See Sin in Its True Light

Many people … have no remorse or willingness to acknowledge their conduct as being morally wrong. Even some who profess a belief in the Father and the Son wrongfully take the position that a loving Father in Heaven should exact no consequences for conduct that is contrary to His commandments. ‘

Corianton – son of Alma the Younger. Alma 39. Made the necessity of repentance clear to Corianton. Alma helped Corianton to understand that it is not injustice that the sinner should be consigned to misery Justice and mercy. None but the truly penitent are saved. Sooner or later everyone has to sit down to a banquet of consequences.

‘Looking beyond the Mark Is a Stumbling Block’

Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles.

‘Some members elevate causes, many of which are good, to a status superior to basic gospel doctrine.’

‘If we elevate anything above our devotion to the Savior, … then we are looking beyond the mark. Jesus Christ is the mark!’

D&C 76 – being valiant in the testimony of Jesus is the simple test between the celestial kingdom and the lower kingdoms.

If we are to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus we must avoid the stumbling blocks.

Stumbling blocks may be made into stepping stones. Being valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ is a stepping stone.

 

Elder Gary E Stevenson

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Story of young girl in New York who lost her father. Moved to another state. Missionaries came to town. Told story of Joseph Smith. Two of the missionaries had seen the plates themselves. 12 year old Mary yearned to read it.

‘I went to his house just before the meeting was to commence, and asked to see the book; Brother Morley put it in my hand, as I looked at it, I felt such a desire to read it, that I could not refrain from asking him to let me take it home and read it, while he attended meeting. He said it would be too late for me to take it back after meeting, and another thing, he had hardly had time to read a chapter in it himself, and but few of the brethren had even seen it, but I pled so earnestly for it, he finally said, ‘Child, if you will bring this book home before breakfast tomorrow morning, you may take it.’ He admonished me to be very careful, and see that no harm came to it.’

She became the first person in her town to read the Book  of Mormon.

When you read the Book of Mormon and pray about it you can have the same feeling Mary had.

Joseph Smith described the Book of Mormon as the most correct of any book on the earth and the keystone of our religion.

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Mission experience in Japan. Began to teach about the Book of Mormon. Received the strongest feeling accompanied by a warm feeling of serenity and confidence.

‘Each of you can also receive a personal witness of this book! Do you realize that the Book of Mormon was written for you—and for your day? This book is one of the blessings of living in what we call the dispensation of the fulness of times.’

We have the benefit of the complete Book of Mormon. Moroni saw our day Mormon 8:

 34 Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you.

 35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

I’n order to help the Book of Mormon become the keystone of your testimony, I offer you a challenge. I recently learned that many young people spend an average of seven hours a day looking at TV, computer, and smartphone screens. With this in mind, would you make a small change? Will you replace some of that daily screen time—particularly that devoted to social media, the internet, gaming, or television—with reading the Book of Mormon? If the studies I referred to are accurate, you could easily find time for daily study of the Book of Mormon even if for only 10 minutes a day. And you can study in a way that allows you to enjoy it and understand it—either on your device or in book form.’

Not to be treated as nasty medicine to be gulped down (Elder Russell M Nelson).

You will encounter the Saviour on almost every page.

The Book of Mormon – tangible evidence of the Restoration.

‘Within the book’s pages, you will discover the infinite love and incomprehensible grace of God. As you strive to follow the teachings you find there, your joy will expand, your understanding will increase, and the answers you seek to the many challenges mortality presents will be opened to you. As you look to the book, you look to the Lord. The Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God.’

(Prayer and the Book of Mormon seem to be the emerging themes of this Conference)

 

Elder D Todd Christofferson

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‘One of the terms we hear often today is that God’s love is “unconditional.” While in one sense that is true, the descriptor unconditional appears nowhere in scripture. Rather, His love is described in scripture as “great and wonderful love” [D&C 138:3], “perfect love” [1 John 4:18; Moroni 8:16], “redeeming love” [Alma 5:26], and “everlasting love” [Jeremiah 31:3]. These are better terms because the word unconditional can convey mistaken impressions about divine love, such as, God tolerates and excuses anything we do because His love is unconditional, or God makes no demands upon us because His love is unconditional, or all are saved in the heavenly kingdom of God because His love is unconditional. God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever, but what it means for each of us depends on how we respond to His love.’

To “continue in” or “abide in” the Savior’s love means to receive His grace and be perfected by it. To receive His grace, we must have faith in Jesus Christ and keep His commandments, including repenting of our sins, being baptized for the remission of sins, receiving the Holy Ghost, and continuing in the path of obedience.’

‘God will always love us but he cannot save us in our sins.’

Repentance is his gift to us purchased at a very dear price.

Russell M Nelson – ‘The resplendent bouquet of God’s love—including eternal life—includes blessings for which we must qualify, not entitlements to be expected unworthily. Sinners cannot bend His will to theirs and require Him to bless them in sin. If they desire to enjoy every bloom in His beautiful bouquet, they must repent.’

Dallin H Oaks – ‘The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become.’

Helen Keller and her teacher, Ann Sullivan. Not a pleasant experience at the beginning. Finally won her trust. Spelling words on her hand.

‘Each of us can love and serve God and be empowered to help our fellow man.’

Production of olive oil. The oil is red.

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Keep his commandments.

 

 

Elder W Mark Bassett

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Given a model of the golden plates as a young boy. Wanted to see what was written on the sealed portion of the plates.

‘Since the Creation of this earth, our loving Father in Heaven has provided direction, leadership, and instruction to His children through prophets. His words have been passed down through these prophets and are saved as scripture for our development and learning.’

‘Sadly, our development and learning can at times be slowed or even halted. … [Our] actions can lead us to seek after things that are not necessarily meant to be understood at this time, all the while ignoring the beautiful truths that are meant for us and our circumstances—the truths Nephi described as written for our learning and profit.’

The mysteries of God are unfolded to us only according to His will and by the power of the Holy Ghost.

‘Nephi’s example of seeking knowledge included (1) a sincere desire, (2) humility, (3) prayer, (4) trust in the prophet, and an exercise of (5) faith, (6) diligence, and (7) obedience.’

In the modern age we expect information to come immediately.

Some things can be learned only by faith – Dallin H Oaks.

‘Faith and trust in the Lord require us to acknowledge that His wisdom is superior to our own. We must also acknowledge that His plan provides the greatest potential for spiritual development and learning.

We were never expected “to have a perfect [understanding] of things” during this mortal existence. Instead, we are expected to “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” [Alma 32:21].’

‘As we acknowledge that we are the workmanship of a wise and devoted Father in Heaven, “O then,” why not allow Him to guide our spiritual development and learning “according to his will and pleasure” rather than our own? [Jacob 4:9].’

Testimony of Joseph Smith.

 

Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita

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Dedication of the Sapporo Temple in Hokkaido.

‘In 1876, a renowned educator named Dr. William Clark was invited to come to Hokkaido to teach. He lived in Japan for just eight months, but his Christian spirit left a lasting impression on his young non-Christian students. Before leaving, he gave his students a parting message that has become immortalized in this bronze statue. He said, “Boys, be ambitious!”—“Be ambitious for Christ” [William Clark, in Ann B. Irish,Hokkaido: A History of Ethnic Transition and Development on Japan’s Northern Island (2009), 156]. His injunction to “be ambitious for Christ” can help direct daily decisions for today’s Latter-day Saints.

What does it mean to “be ambitious for Christ”? Being ambitious for Christ means being motivated, focused, and dedicated to His work. Being ambitious for Christ will seldom mean that we are singled out for public honor. Being ambitious for Christ means that we serve faithfully and diligently in our wards and branches without complaint and with joyful hearts.’

Missionaries are examples of those who are ambitious for Christ.

Story of missionary with prosthetic leg.

The Book of Mormon includes many examples of people who were ambitious for Christ. Alma the Younger.

‘In our lives we experience trials, but if we are ambitious for Christ, we can focus on Him and feel joy even in the midst of them. Our Redeemer is the ultimate example. He understood His holy mission and was obedient to the will of God the Father. What a choice blessing it is to bring His wonderful example to our remembrance each week as we partake of the sacrament.

My dear brothers and sisters, we are ambitious for Christ when we serve faithfully, accept humbly, endure nobly, pray fervently, and partake worthily.’

(Lovely talk, emotionally delivered.)

 

Elder Dallin H Oaks

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Go ye therefore and teach all nations. The Great Commission.

We have many resources not available to previous generations. Are we using all of these resources to maximum effect?

Ideas that will work everywhere.

‘We need the help of every member, and every member can help, since there are so many tasks to perform as we share the restored gospel with every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.’

Member participation in missionary work is vital.

‘Sharing the restored gospel is our life-long Christian duty and privilege.’

‘There are three things all members can do to help share the gospel, regardless of the circumstances in which they live and work. All of us should do all of these.

First, we can all pray for desire to help with this vital part of the work of salvation. All efforts begin with desire.

Second, we can keep the commandments ourselves. Faithful, obedient members are the most persuasive witnesses of the truth and value of the restored gospel. Even more important, faithful members will always have His Spirit to be with them to guide them as they seek to participate in the great work of sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Third, we can pray for inspiration on what we can do in our individual circumstances to share the gospel with others.’

This is different than praying for the missionaries.

Praying for a commitment to act upon the inspiration you receive.

We should never set ourselves up as judges of who is ready and who is not.

‘As an Apostle of the Lord, I urge every member and family in the Church to pray for the Lord to help them find persons prepared to receive the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.’

Elder M Russell Ballard – Trust the Lord. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep, and His sheep know His voice; and today the voice of the Good Shepherd is your voice and my voice. And if we are not engaged, many who would hear the message of the Restoration will be passed by. Simply stated, it’s a matter of faith and action on our part. The principles are pretty simple—pray, personally and in your family, for missionary opportunities.

People interested in the results of the doctrine.

As we speak to others we need to remember that an invitation to learn more about Jesus Christ and his gospel is preferable to an invitation to know more about our church.

Authenticity.

Our efforts to share the gospel should not be limited to our circle of friends and acquaintances.

No correlation between the depth of a relationship and the probability that someone will be interested in the gospel.

There are many opportunities to share the gospel.

Our young members’ fascination and expertise with social media gives them unique opportunities to reach out.

 

 

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Missionary work

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 24 – Give Us Strength According to Our Faith in Christ

1. Alma gives a powerful discourse on the priesthood and foreordination.

Alma 13:1 Priests

“Book of Mormon prophets gave the title priest to officers known in this dispensation as high priests. That is, they were priests of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or as Alma expressed it, ‘the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son.’ (Alma 13:1-20.) Since there was no Aaronic Priesthood among the Nephites in Alma’s day (there being none of the lineage empowered in pre-meridian times to hold that priesthood), there was no need to distinguish between priests of the lesser and greater priesthoods.” (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 599)

Alma 13:3 Called and prepared from the foundation of the world

“Why were some spirits sent to earth among the Amalekites, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, while others at the same moments found birth in the house of Israel? Why was Antipas sent as the son of a debauched and evil Herod, while John the Baptist came into the home of a priestly Zacharias and a saintly Elisabeth?

All of these things operate by law; they are the outgrowth of long years of personal preparation in the preexistence on the part of each individual; they come to pass according to the laws that the Lord has ordained. This second estate is a continuation of our first estate; we are born here with the talents and capacities acquired there. Abraham was one of the noble and great spirits in the premortal life. He was chosen for his mortal ministry and position before he was born, and as with the father of the faithful so with all of the spirits destined to be born as his seed.

The greatest and most important talent or capacity that any of the spirit children of the Father could gain is the talent of spirituality. Most of those who gained this talent were chosen, before they were born, to come to earth as members of the house of Israel. They were foreordained to receive the blessings that the Lord promised to Abraham and to his seed in all their generations. This foreordination is an election, Paul tells us, and truly it is so, for those so chosen, selected, or elected become, in this life, the favored people. Though all mankind may be saved by obedience, some find it easier to believe and obey than others. Hence the concept, taught by Jesus, that his sheep know his voice and will not follow the dissident voices of the world” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.512 p.513).

Alma 13:4 While others would reject the Spirit of God

“God gave his children their free agency even in the [premortal] spirit world, by which the individual spirits had the privilege, just as men have here, of choosing the good and rejecting the evil, or partaking of the evil to suffer the consequences of their sins. Because of this, some even there were more faithful than others in keeping the commandments of the Lord. …

“The spirits of men had their free agency. … The spirits of men were not equal. They may have had an equal start, and we know they were all innocent in the beginning; but the right of free agency which was given to them enabled some to outstrip others, and thus, through the eons of immortal existence, to become more intelligent, more faithful, for they were free to act for themselves, to think for themselves, to receive the truth or rebel against it” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:58–59).

Alma 13:6 To teach his commandments

‘Inherent in the calling of an elder is the responsibility to teach the commandments. They require no further calling, invitation, or setting apart, although these may take place. By virtue of their priesthood alone, they are both commissioned and authorized to teach the commandments and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord referred to this in his words to Sidney Gilbert, take upon you mine ordination, even that of an elder, to preach faith and repentance and remission of sins, according to my word (DC 53:3). See also DC 42:12.’ (Bryan Richards, Gospeldoctrine.com)

Alma 13:9 They become high priests forever

‘Alma does not mean to say that a high priest will retain his priesthood without regard to righteousness. Rather, his explanation points out that the priesthood was designed to be eternal, all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually (JST Heb 7:3, see also Heb 7:17). It was not meant to be tried and then rejected. Once a man is called to this high and holy calling, there is no going back—at least not without severe punishment. The Lord warns, whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come (DC 84:41). This punishment is so severe because to reject the priesthood of the Lord is to make a mockery of God’s great power and benevolence to the children of men. It also makes a mockery of the eternal nature of the priesthood.’ (Bryan Richards, Gospeldoctrine.com)

Alma 13:10 Many who were ordained

“God may have called and chosen men in the spirit world or in their first estate to do a certain work, but whether they will accept that calling here and magnify it by faithful service and good works while in mortality is a matter in which it is their right and privilege to exercise their free agency to choose good or evil.

“… I fear there are many among us who because of their faithfulness in the spirit world were ‘called’ to do a great work here, but like reckless spendthrifts they are exercising their free agency in riotous living and are losing their birthright and the blessings that were theirs had they proved faithful to their calling. Hence as the Lord has said, ‘there are many called but few are chosen’” (Harold B Lee, Decisions for Successful Living [1973], 169).

Alma 13:11-12 Sanctification

“I will put my own definition to the term sanctification, and say it consists in overcoming every sin and bringing all into subjection to the law of Christ. God has placed in us a pure spirit; when this [the spirit] reigns predominant, without let or hindrance, and triumphs over the flesh and rules and governs and controls … , this I call the blessing of sanctification. Will sin be perfectly destroyed? No, it will not, for it is not so designed in the economy of heaven.

“Do not suppose that we shall ever in the flesh be free from temptations to sin. Some suppose that they can in the flesh be sanctified body and spirit and become so pure that they will never again feel the effects of the power of the adversary of truth. Were it possible for a person to attain to this degree of perfection in the flesh, he could not die, neither remain in a world where sin predominates. Sin has entered into the world, and death by sin. [Rom. 5:12.] I think we shall more or less feel the effects of sin so long as we live, and finally have to pass the ordeals of death” (Brigham Young, in Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon [1976], 2:248–49).

Alma 13:14 Melchizedek

‘Melchizedek is one of the most enigmatic figures in Judaeo-Christian history. Legends about Melchizedek abound in Jewish traditions, in Christian literature and art, and among the writings of the Qumran sectaries. . . In some Jewish and Christian writings he is identified as Shem, the son of Noah, while later traditions hold that he was a descendant of Shem. Others suggest that he was named Melchizedek by God when the priesthood was bestowed upon him.

Josephus explained that the city of Salem, over which Melchizedek reigned, later became known as Jerusalem. (“The Antiquities” 1.10.3) In writing of Jerusalem, Josephus observed: “He who first built it was a potent man among the Canaanites and is in our tongue called [Melchizedek] the Righteous King, for such he really was; on which account he was [there] the first priest of God, and first built a temple[there], and called the city Jerusalem, which was formerly called Salem.” (“The Wars” 6.10.1; emphasis added). And, most important for our study the legends attest that Melchizedek was both king and priest in Salem (Hebrews 7:1; Ginzberg 1:233).

The scriptures also make clear that Melchizedek is a marvelous type of Christ. His name comes from two Hebrew roots, melekh (king), and tzedek (righteousness), Melchi-tzedek meaning literally “king of righteousness” or “my king is righteousness.” ‘[Robert L. Millet, “The Holy Order of God,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word]

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MELCHIZEDEK BLESSING ABRAHAM

Alma 13:27 Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance

‘Christ bridged the gulf between the mortal and immortal. The grave no longer holds its captives; justice can be satisfied through mercy; the wondrous Atonement, infinite and eternal in scope, is in place (see  Alma 34:8–10, 14–16) Christ is the resurrected Lord, our Savior and Redeemer. Therefore, do not wait any longer. (Keith B McMullen, General Conference, April 1999)

Alma 13:28-29 Humble yourselves before the Lord

‘Alma does not simply charge the people to repent, but tells them how to do it.

“Humble yourselves” is the essential first step. Humility requires that we see ourselves against the measuring stick of gospel ideals and recognize our shortcomings. Acknowledging the difference in where we are and where we want to be is the first step. There are two possible human but dangerous ways we decline to repent in the face of such a gap. The first is denial, perhaps as mild as making excuses or justifying ourselves. The second is an extreme rejection, perhaps taking the form of exploding in anger and violence against whatever showed us the difference. Many of the Ammonihahites took this second path.

The proper reaction to seeing the difference is humility, which includes the ability to be willing to change, to admit that we are mistaken. Humility accepts that it is we who must change, not the gospel or the person who shows us our faults.

The second and third steps are to “call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually.” Repentance is not a solo journey. It is a road we walk with our hand in the Savior’s. We call on his name. This injunction invokes the ancient concept of the power of the name, calling his presence into our lives. We are not to simply request an affidavit of forgiveness but to implore the comforting blessing of the Atonement in our lives. Alma tells us to pray continually for that blessing and watch continually so that we are following the true road.

One purpose of constant prayer is “that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear.” This promise is an important one. Although we desire to repent and we begin the process, temptations do not cease. In fact, they may actually increase as we turn away from them. Through learning to resist those temptations we become stronger, until we can be as those Alma has said: “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence” (Alma 13:2). While Alma’s reminder of the need to be continually alert may suggest the possibility of irresistible temptation, this is not the case. Paul tells us: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Paul, like Alma, recognizes the reality of temptation, but both men promise that we will not be tempted above our capacity to resist. With every temptation will come “a way to escape” or resist. Thus, should we ever succumb to temptation, it will always be our own fault. We can never blame God for confronting us with an overwhelming temptation. We must accept the fault ourselves and repent of it ourselves.

The effect of daily pleading with God is that we can “be led by the Holy Spirit,” or Comforter. This Spirit is the close and intimate reminder of God’s goodness that will uphold us through our weaknesses.

The effect of the Spirit will result in our “becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering.” It may seem ironic that this list of virtues begins with humility, which was also the trait necessary to begin the process of repentance. However, those engaged in this process know that the Spirit stands always ready to assist, even if our first efforts at humility are inadequate. The Spirit aids those beginning steps, strengthening our humility and leading to meekness and submission. These are not the traits of a weak character, but rather the traits of one who is growing in greater gospel understanding. As we repent, the Spirit is more strongly with us, leading us to desire greater understanding. The reward of humility is more humility, an increased outpouring of knowledge about God’s ways as revealed by the Spirit, and greater love for God and greater experience of his love for us.

For the Ammonihahites, their first step would be an acceptance of the Atoning Messiah—even if it was a shaky and doubtful one. Then, by humbly exercising faith and seeking enlightenment of the Spirit, they would achieve “a hope” of “eternal life.”’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 13:29 The rest of the Lord

‘It appears that the concept of the “rest of the Lord” is used occasionally in terms of what other scriptures call the Church of the Firstborn (see Heb 12:23; D&C 76:54). The Church of the Firstborn is the church of the exalted, an organization of saved souls, a body of believers who have passed the tests of mortality and received the approval of God. They qualify for life in the celestial kingdom, and because they have been true to all their trusts, are worthy to be joint heirs with Christ, co-inheritors with him to all of the blessings of the firstborn. The phrase “Church of the Firstborn” is not found in the Book of Mormon, but it may be that to enter the rest of the Lord is to enter the Church of the Firstborn. In speaking of the ancient worthies, Alma said: “They were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb. Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God” (13:11–12). From one point of view we can grasp and apply this vital lesson from the past: those of us who magnify our callings in the priesthood are sanctified—made pure and holy—by the renovating powers of the Spirit (see D&C 84:33). We come in time to hate sin and to love and cherish righteousness. We are at peace in a troubled and turbulent world. We enter the rest of the Lord. From another perspective, these qualify, through the atonement of Christ, for the highest of priesthood blessings spoken of in the revelations. “These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.” Further, “They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 76:67, 94). Indeed, the ultimate privileges of God’s holy authority are spoken of as follows: “The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (D&C 107:18–19).'[Robert L. Millet, “The Holy Order of God,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word]

2. Alma, Amulek, and other believers are persecuted for their righteousness.

Alma 14:1 Many of them did believe on his words

‘This chapter is a vivid demonstration of what happens when good and evil run their course and finally reach their ultimate climax. During such a contest it always seems that during most of the time evil prevails. Not until God intervenes with all his divine power does the good overcome evil.

It must have been heartening to Alma to see that at least a few of the people of Ammonihah responded to his message. As for the remainder of the people, Alma carried a heavy burden on his heart because he had already been told what would happen to them.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

Alma 14:1-5 A divided people

“The Gospel of salvation is perfectly calculated to cause division. It strikes at the root of the very existence of mankind in their wickedness, evil designs, passions, and wicked calculations. There is no evil among the human family, but at the foundation of which it strikes effectually, and comes in contact with every evil passion that rises in the heart of man. It is opposed to every evil practice of men, and consequently it disturbs them in the wicked courses they are pursuing” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses)

Alma 14:7 Behold, I am guilty

“An important lesson seems to emerge from the experiences of Zeezrom and the other repentant transgressors who have been mentioned. It is never safe for us to judge a person to be beyond the reach of the Lord’s merciful hand. Even those whose lives have been tainted by corruption and apparent rebellion against the things of God can, through sincere repentance, become forces for great good in the accomplishment of the Lord’s purposes.

“We do know that Zeezrom’s life was dramatically redirected. It appears that in spite of his having yielded to the influence of the environment in which he had gained notoriety, a spark of spiritual light must have endured in his soul.” (Dean L Larsen, Heroes From the Book of Mormon, p. 116)

Alma 14:8 Cast into the fire

‘An ancient practice of the wicked is to destroy the family of the enemy before their eyes. Accordingly, Zedekiah was forced to watch the murder of his sons before his eyes were gouged out (2 Kings 25:7). Yet in Ammonihah, this display of unbelievable cruelty is not designed for the eyes of the fathers who believed, for they had been stoned and cast out of the city (Alma 15:1). This wicked display of barbarity is designed specifically for Alma and Amulek, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire (v. 9).

Alma had prophesied to them about their fate if they did not repent. He warned them of a lake of fire and brimstone (Alma 12:17). These wicked men were determined to show Alma that it is the believers who are cast into a lake of fire (v. 14). While they hoped to demonstrate the weakness of Alma and Amulek who were seemingly unable to save the people, all that they really demonstrated was their own wickedness—that indeed their deeds qualify them for the torments which are as a lake of fire and brimstone.’ (Bryan Richards, Gospeldoctrine.com)

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Alma 14:10-11 The Spirit constraineth me

‘I think it would have been easier for both of them to leap into the fire and die with their converts than to observe and do nothing when God had given them such great power. This is an important lesson. We must always be ready to act (or not act) in accordance with the will of the Father and the Son, no matter how much it might contradict our own will.’ (Ted L Gibbons, LDSliving.com)

3. Zeezrom is healed and baptized.

Alma 15:3 Caused by the great tribulations of his mind

“I recently asked a doctor of family medicine how much of his time was devoted purely to correcting physical disorders. He has a large practice, and after thoughtfully considering, he answered, ‘Not more than 20 percent. The rest of the time I seem to be working on problems that very much affect the physical well-being of my patients but do not originate in the body.

“‘These physical disorders,’ the doctor concluded, ‘are merely symptoms of some other kind of trouble.’…

“There is another part of us, not so tangible, but quite as real as our physical body. This intangible part of us is described as mind, emotion, intellect, temperament, and many other things. Very seldom is it described as spiritual.

“But there is a spirit in man; to ignore it is to ignore reality. There are spiritual disorders, too, and spiritual diseases that can cause intense suffering.

“The body and the spirit of man are bound together. Often, very often, when there are disorders, it is very difficult to tell which is which.” (Boyd K Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 59)

Alma 15:6 Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?

‘The most important question is whether Zeezrom believes in the Messiah, especially that he believes in the “power of Christ unto salvation.” This question is all-important because it requires the complete abandonment of his Nehorite denial of Yahweh-Messiah as the Atoning Messiah. He must also see that sin is real and that its redemption requires this atonement, another doctrine denied by the Nehorites. Alma is asking if Zeezrom has been completely converted.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 15:12 He began from that time forth to preach unto the people

“Alma’s administration is instantly effective. Zeezrom leaps to his feet, healed not only physically but spiritually as well. The report of this incident is spread throughout Sidom.

“One cannot reflect upon this episode without recalling the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in New Testament times. Saul, who had been a tormentor of the Christians and had condoned Stephen’s martyrdom (see Acts 8:1), requires a similarly dramatic conversion experience. His sightlessness is healed under the hands of Ananias. He is brought to a recognition and acknowledgement of his folly in attempting to thwart the Lord’s work. In a flood of repentant anguish he makes a dramatic reversal in the course of his life. His fervor and energy are redirected to promulgate and sustain the work he has previously sought to destroy.

“So it is with Zeezrom. He is baptized by Alma, and, just as was the case with Paul, he immediately begins to preach among the people, later becoming a trusted companion of Alma and Amulek. It is perhaps not adding too much to reality to suppose that Zeezrom’s healing, his conversion, and his testifying of Christ contribute much to the missionary success enjoyed by these three servants of the Lord. The record tells us that the people ‘did flock in from all the region round about Sidom, and were baptized’ (Alma 15:14).

“That Zeezrom proves himself in the eyes of his mentor, Alma, is confirmed by the fact that he regularly appears in the accounts of Alma’s ministry as one of his most trusted and reliable companions and fellow servants. Years after the events in Ammonihah and Sidom, when Alma undertakes one of the most difficult challenges of his life’s ministry-the conversion of the Zoramites-Zeezrom is chosen along with Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek, and two of Alma’s sons to be a part of this seasoned missionary force (see Alma 31:6).” (Dean L Larsen, Heroes From the Book of Mormon, pp. 118-9)

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Alma 15:15 Ammonihah remained a hard-hearted and a stiff necked people

‘Mormon spells out the contrast between the happy and hopeful state of the believers in Sidom and the hard-hearted Nehorites in Ammonihah. The contrast is all the more poignant because Zeezrom, who heeded the call to repentance, shows that such a mighty change was possible. Blinded by Nehorism, those remaining in Ammonihah were about to reap the consequences of their choice.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 15:17 That they might be delivered

‘In ancient Israel a person accused of committing a serious offence could flee to an altar to avoid immediate death. The Old Testament refers to this tradition in the so-called Covenant Code of Exodus (see Exodus 21:12–14). 1 Kings 1:50–51, 2:2 relate that Solomon’s enemies Adonijah and Joab fled to the tabernacle and “caught hold on the horns of the altar” in hopes of deliverance, albeit with different results.

This information proves significant for an understanding of altars in Nephite society. One of the four references to altars in the Book of Mormon establishes a direct correlation between that record and the Old Testament. Alma 15:17 notes that after Alma established the church at Sidom, the people

“began to humble themselves before God, and began to assemble themselves together at their sanctuaries to worship God before the altar, watching and praying continually, that they might be delivered from Satan, and from death, and from destruction.”

This verse invokes Israelite custom by identifying the altar as a location of deliverance, a subtlety that provides further evidence that the Book of Mormon clearly reflects the traditions of antiquity.’ [David Bokovoy, “A Place of Deliverance: Altars in the Hebrew Bible and Book of Mormon,” in FARMS Update, No 143, Vol. 21, 2001, in Insights, Vol. 21, 2001, p. 2]

Alma 15:18 Took him to his own house

‘Early in the Spring of 1840 we went to Nauvoo.  Here we were all sick with ague, chills and fever, and were only just barely able to crawl around and wait upon each other.  Under these trying circumstances my ninth child was born.  Joseph, upon visiting us and seeing our change of circumstances, urged us at once to come and share his accommodations. We went to live in the Prophet Joseph’s yard in a small cottage; we soon recruited in health, and the children became more like themselves.

One day while coming out of the house into the yard the remembrance of a prophecy Joseph Smith had made to me, while living in our house in Kirtland, flashed through my mind like an electric shock.  It was this: that even as we had done by him, in opening our doors to him and his family when he was without a home, even so should we in the future be received by him into his house.  We afterwards moved upstairs over the brick store.’ (Elizabeth Ann Whitney in Hyrum Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 40)

4. The words of Alma are fulfilled as the Lamanites destroy Ammonihah.

Alma 16:2  Began to slay the people

‘This was an amazing development. Of all the cities among the Nephites, the one that would have been the most likely to have welcomed the Lamanites and joined them in conquering the Nephites, would have been the people of Ammonihah. In fact Ammonihah was the headquarters of a growing conspiracy to completely conquer the rest of the Nephite nation.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

Alma 16:5 Aha

‘The name “Aha” in Egyptian means warrior. It was a very common name. The first king of Egypt was called Aha. That was one of his epithets; he was Aha, the warrior. It’s always written with a pair of arms, one holding a club and one holding a shield. That’s the nameAha, which means “a leader in war.” . . . The reader should note that in the Jaredite record we also find the name “Ahah” (Ether 1:9; 11:10)’. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 354-355]

Alma 16:11 Desolation of Nehors

“The desolation of the city of Ammonihah is an important part of the message of the Book of Mormon.  Ammonihah and Nehor are symbols-history as prophecy.  Ammonihah and Nehor were to the nation of the Nephites what the Book of Mormon is to us-a warning voice!  They were types casting shadows upon the cities of Zarahemla, Moroni, Moronihah, Gilgal, Onihah, Mocum, Jerusalem, Gadiandi, Gadiomnah, Jacob, Gimgimno, Jacobugath, Laman, Josh, Gad, and Kishkumen, all of which, like Nehor, had the blood of the prophets and the Saints upon their hands, and all of which were destroyed before the coming of Christ to the Nephites in the meridian dispensation (see 3 Nephi 8, 9).

“How perfect the type-Ammonihah, a city pretending religion, a religion perfectly tolerant of any action save it be the preaching of the gospel of repentance!  To preach repentance, to testify of Christ, to speak of the necessity of good works-these were sins too grievous to be borne.  Their effect was to unite in wrath and bitterness the diversified factions within the congregations of this ever-tolerant religion.  These missionaries of righteousness must be mocked, ridiculed, beaten, and imprisoned.  Their adherents must be stoned, driven from the community, or burned at the stake.  Such were the seeds they planted and such was the harvest they reaped in the desolation of Nehors.  We are left to wonder to what extent Ammonihah is a prophetic foreshadowing of that which the scriptures denominate as the ‘desolation of abomination’ (D&C 84:114, 117; D&C 88:85), events that will precede and attend the coming of our Lord and Master that will bring again that peace once known to the faithful of the Nephite nation.” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p.119)

Alma 16:13 Synagogues

‘When the temple in Jerusalem was taken away in the Old World (at the time of Lehi) the authoritative priestly order that went with it also went away. Then the synagogue became the important thing, though they had used it before. When they lost the temple they lost everything. An entirely new order of Judaism was established. Before then their practices were different, their doctrines were different, and everything else was different. . . . A rabbi is not a priest; he has no authority. He is just a learned man who has been chosen by a community. They are very jealous of the temple. The rabbi-controlled synagogues didn’t begin until the temple disappeared. . . . What the Book of Mormon student should realize is that the Book of Mormon represents temple-centered Judaism. ‘[Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 42]

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 21 – Alma Did Judge Righteous Judgements

1. Mosiah teaches principles of good government.

‘With the departure of the four sons of Mosiah on a mission, Mosiah was left without an heir to the throne, and he therefore determined to change the Nephite government from kings to judges.  In his explanation to his people, we can find a wonderful discussion of good government.  Consider the following verses and ponder what they teach about the kind of government that “will make for the peace of the people” (Mosiah 29:10).
-[Mosiah 29:11] Appointed “wise men” to positions of leadership. (See D&C 98:10)
-[Mosiah 29:11-14] Established laws that rested on a foundation of the commandments of God and promoted peace, security, and happiness.
-[Mosiah 29:16-24] Since wicked leaders “pervert the ways of all righteousness,” their power was limited.
-[Mosiah 29:25-27] Decisions were to be made according to “the voice of the people.”
-[Mosiah 29:28,29,31] Officials were to be made accountable for their decisions and actions. (See D&C 134:1)
-[Mosiah 29:32] Laws were to provide that “every man may enjoy his rights and privileges.” (See D&C 98:5)
-[Mosiah 29:30,34,38]  “Every man [was expected to] bear his part” and “answer for his own sins.”‘ (Ted L Gibbons, ldsliving.com)
Mosiah 29:13,18 Two kings
Mosiah contrasts two kings – Benjamin and Noah.
Mosiah 29:16-18, 21-23 Consequences of a wicked leader
‘Mosiah described the consequences of having a wicked leader. He cited abuse of power, promotion of iniquity, disregard of law, unjust and immoral practices, and possible perversions of justice as possible or probable consequences. So, Mosiah suggested that the people establish a system of judges to replace the rule of kings.’ (www.neumanninstitute.org)
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2. Alma the Younger serves as chief judge and combats priestcraft.

Alma 1:1 Having warred a good warfare

“King Mosiah had fought against wickedness and battled Beelzebub all his days.  He had been true and faithful to his trust to lead his people in paths of truth and righteousness.  He had passed the tests of mortality.  His salvation was secure.  He was like his colleague on another continent, Paul the Apostle, who said just prior to his death: ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8).” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 3)

Alma 1:3-4 False doctrine

‘Nehor’s words appealed to the people, but his doctrine, while popular to many, was incorrect. As we face the many decisions in life, the easy and popular messages of the world will not usually be the right ones to choose, and it will take much courage to choose the right.’ (L Tom Perry, General Conference, October 1993)

Alma 1:5-6 They began to support him and gave him money

‘All religions are supported by money, but the immorality of it (as Plato shows in the Protagoras and the Gorgias) is when you start giving it to individuals. When you have a line veto that it be used for this [person] or that [project], then you are not giving it at all. If I give money to the church specifying that it can only be used for this, I’m not giving it to the Lord or trusting him at all. I don’t specify what it’s for; I just pay my tithing and that’s that. If it’s misused that’s none of my affair; I’ve done what the Lord requires of me. . . . One might also wonder, What is wrong with winning souls [and money] for Jesus? The answer is that it requires rhetoric. This type of missionary must be a crowd pleaser. Truth tellers are something else, as we learn from Samuel the Lamanite, Abinadi, and people like that. We wouldn’t need prophets at all if they told us only what we wanted to hear. We wouldn’t need the scriptures if they told us only what we wanted.’ [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 217-218]

Alma 1:8-9 Gideon

‘Gideon was a Nephite patriot who gained prominence in the Book of Mormon during the reigns of King Noah and King Limhi (see Mosiah 19:4–8, 18–24; 20:15–22). It was Gideon who proposed the way for King Limhi’s people to successfully escape from Lamanite bondage (see Mosiah 22:3–9). The Nephites apparently thought so highly of Gideon that they named both a valley and a city after him (see Alma 2:20, 6:7).’ (Institute Student Manual)

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Alma 1:12, 16 Priestcraft

“The Book of Mormon applies this principle (priestcraft) to those who seem to be serving the Lord but do so with a hidden motive to gain personal advantage rather than to further the work of the Lord: ‘Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion’ (2 Nephi 26:29; see also Alma 1:16).

“Priestcraft is the sin committed by the combination of a good act–such as preaching or teaching the gospel–and a bad motive. The act may be good and visible, but the sin is in the motive. On earth, the wrong motive may be known only to the actor, but in heaven it is always known to God.

“…During my lifetime, I have seen more than a few persons in positions of responsibility in various churches whose activities in the ‘work of the Lord’ seemed to be motivated predominantly by personal interest. The commandment to avoid priestcraft is a vital challenge to religious persons in every age of time.” (Dallin H Oaks, Pure in Heart, pp. 16-18)

‘Focusing on the needs of the students, a gospel teacher will never obscure their view of the Master by standing in the way or by shadowing the lesson with self-promotion or self-interest. This means that a gospel teacher must never indulge in priestcrafts, which are “that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world”  (2 Ne. 26:29) A gospel teacher does not preach “to become popular”  (Alma 1:3) or “for the sake of riches and honor”  (Alma 1:16) He or she follows the marvelous Book of Mormon example in which “the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner”  (Alma 1:26) Both will always look to the Master.’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, October 1999)

3. Amlici seeks to be king but is rejected by the voice of the people.

Amlici

Alma 2:1-7 This was alarming to the people of the church

‘As we face increased pressure to bow to secular standards, forfeit our religious liberties, and compromise our agency, consider what the Book of Mormon teaches about our responsibilities. In the book of Alma we read of Amlici, “a very cunning” and “wicked man” who sought to be king over the people and “deprive them of their rights and privileges,” which “was alarming to the people of the church.”[See  Alma 2:1–4 They were taught by King Mosiah to raise their voices for what they felt was right. [See  Mosiah 29:25–26 Therefore they “assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute … one with another.” Alma 2:5

In these discussions, members of the Church and others had the opportunity to come together, experience the spirit of unity, and be influenced by the Holy Ghost. “And it came to pass that the voice of the people came against Amlici, that he was not made king.” Alma 2:7

As disciples of Jesus Christ we have a responsibility to work together with like-minded believers, to raise our voices for what is right. While members should never claim or even imply that they are speaking for the Church, we are all invited, in our capacity as citizens, to share our personal witness with conviction and love—“every man [and woman] according to his [or her own] mind.”  Alma 2:5

Said the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination [as for a Mormon]; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.

“It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul—civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.”

(Robert D Hales, General Conference, April 2015)

Alma 2:16 The chief judge and the governor of the people

‘The Hebrew word shophet, rendered “judge” does not necessarily denote one who “judges,” though this may have been one of the minor duties, but more rightly denotes one who governs. The Book of Mormon reader will note that the judges replaced the Nephite king, so that when Mosiah2 declared to the people that, “I will be your king the remainder of my days; nevertheless, let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our law” (Mosiah 29:11), he obviously meant more than to have these judges only sitting in a court of law. Indeed, Mosiah 29:41 states that “it came to pass that they did appoint judges to rule over them, or to judge them according to the law; and this they did throughout all the land.” (cf. Alma 4:17) In Alma 2:16 we find that the chief judge was also called “the governor of the people of Nephi.” Moreover, in the same verse (Alma 2:16) we find that Alma, as “chief judge and the governor of the people of Nephi” also “went up with his people, yea, with his captains, and chief captains, yea, at the head of his armies, against the Amlicites to battle.” Thus the judges were leaders of the people in many ways. ‘ [John A. Tvedtnes, Book Review in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4 1992, pp. 225-226]

Alma 2:28-31 Strengthened by the hand of the Lord

‘Previously the Lord had promised the Nephites that He would sustain them against the Lamanites if they were righteous (see 2 Nephi 5:25). Consequently, in the time of their greatest need, the Nephites called upon God and were “strengthened by the hand of the Lord” (Alma 2:28). During the same battle, God “strengthened” Alma with the ability to defeat his enemies, in response to his faith (see Alma 2:30–31).’ (Institute Student Manual)

4. The Church prospers but becomes prideful. Alma resigns the judgment seat to devote himself to the ministry.

Alma 4:2 The people were afflicted

‘During the respite from contentions and wars, the people of Zarahemla nevertheless suffered the consequences of the past year’s contentions and wars. In addition to natural sorrow for their slain loved ones, they suffered directly because of the destruction of their grain due to the army’s maneuvers. Thus, when the war was over, they had an inadequate supply of food for the next year.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 4:3 Every soul had cause to mourn

‘In Alma 4:3 we are informed that because of the war, “every soul had cause to mourn; and they believed that it was the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations.”

Now the Nephites are supposed to be the victors here, so why is every soul mourning? And why do they believe their are being judged of God because of their wickedness and abominations? What wickedness and abominations. The answer might lie at the root of the contentions. The reader should not assume that every person who had sympathies for the Amlicites had joined them. There were probably a number of those in the land of Zarahemla who had a desire for many of the things espoused by the Amlicites. This is most likely the nature of their abomination and wickedness. But if “every soul had cause to mourn, what about the righteous Nephites? What was their sin? The answer is noted by Mormon in what they did (implying what they had not done). Mormon writes that the people “awakened to a remembrance of their [covenant] duty” and that “they began to establish the church more fully.” How do you “establish” a church more fully? The answer, at least in part, is that every member becomes a teacher and a missionary. In other words, part of the covenant responsibility of the Nephites was to take that gospel to those who did not understand it well or did not even share in it. To “establish a church more fully” implies that the Nephites finally awakened to their covenant responsibility to share it. This not only involved strengthening those within the church, but teaching those without, thus overcoming the precise ideas espoused by the Amlicites which caused the contention in the first place. In other words, the righteous Nephites repented by sharing the gospel and the unrighteous Zarahemlaites repented by accepting the gospel.’ (Alan C Miner, Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon)

Alma 4:6 Very costly apparel

“Symbols have only the meaning that people give them. Some symbols have been given inordinate value. For many, costly cars, extravagant homes and expensive clothes are symbols of worldly success. In some cases, these tangible objects have been given more meaning than almost everything else.

“All ages are affected by symbols, but the young are especially vulnerable. Lacking maturity and good judgment, some young people choose their friends by using certain fashion symbols as criteria. They look for specific labels on shoes, shirts and jackets. If ‘right’ labels aren’t there, they are hesitant to consider forming a friendship…Too young and immature to see how shallow their thinking really is, they inflict emotional wounds on others and, at the same time, deprive themselves of what could be rewarding associations.

“Without a good sense of self-esteem, the young often bring pain upon themselves as they agonize over what’s in fashion and whether they can afford it. To them, fashion labels are more important than function, fit or even comfort.

“The very young aren’t the only ones who lack perspective. In some circles, friends and associates become symbols that individuals have been accepted in a particular social class. Unscrupulous individuals feign mutual interests, use flattery, compromise beliefs and principles, and turn away from those who could be true friends. Their ulterior motive is to be accepted by those who might help boost their careers or social lives.” (Church News, June 23, 1990)

Alma 4:9-10 Set their hearts upon riches

‘It is small wonder that the church faltered when its newest members had become even more worldly than non-church-men. No longer driven to humility by the famine, they had ceased to see anything in the church of value. However, it will also become clear that, while these newly converted might logically have been the first to succumb to the temptations, they were not the only ones to begin to prefer the trappings of wealth. For all of these status-aspiring church-men, riches and prestige were more easily obtained outside the church, since it officially frowned on such accumulations.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 4:15-18 Delegation

“I pray that we may each of us sense our responsibility in the world and in the Church, and that we who have responsibility for any part of the work may learn to delegate detail as occasion requires and trust these men, our brethren, and these women, our sisters, to do their part in pushing forward the things that need to be done, and to feel a sense of responsibility as concerns carrying forward this work.” (Richard L Evans, Conference Report, Oct. 1949, p. 42)

Alma 4:19 Preach the word of God

‘In this period of Book of Mormon history there were men who had great political power, but used it righteously and did not seek for more power. Seeing the unrighteous actions of the people, Alma relinquished his position as chief judge, the political head of state, in order to “go forth among his people . . . that he might preach the word of God unto them” (Alma 4:19).’ (Institute Student Manual)

 

 

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Jesus Christ, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 12 – Seek Ye for the Kingdom of God

1. Jacob magnifies his calling from the Lord.

Jacob 1:2 The things which I considered to be most precious

‘How often we read the record primarily as a history of a fallen people, failing to remember that it was compiled by inspired prophets for the purpose of helping us come unto Christ. The major writers of the Book of Mormon did not intend it to be a history book at all. In fact, Jacob said that his brother Nephi commanded him that he “should not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history of this people”  Jacob 1:2

Each time we read the book we should probably ask ourselves: “Why did these writers choose these particular stories or events to include in the record? What value are they for us today?”’ (L Tom Perry, General Conference, October 2005)

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Jacob 1:18 Consecrated priests and teachers

“The Nephites officiated by virtue of the Melchizedek Priesthood from the days of Lehi to the days of the appearance of our Savior among them. It is true that Nephi ‘consecrated Jacob and Joseph’ that they should be priests and teachers over the land of the Nephites, but the fact that plural terms priests and teachers were used indicates that this was not a reference to the definite office in the priesthood in either case, but it was a general assignment to teach, direct, and admonish the people” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 1:124).

Jacob 1:19 Magnify our office

“If we do not do our duty in regard to missionary service, then I am convinced that God will hold us responsible for the people we might have saved had we done our duty.” (Spencer W Kimball, Ensign, Oct. 1977, p. 5.)

2. Jacob warns against the love of riches, pride, and unchastity.

Jacob 2:5 Ye are beginning to labor in sin

“The sins of the people in Jacob’s day were not inadvertent transgressions; they had begun to ‘labor in sin’ in the sense that sin had become their obsession and their preoccupation.  They had begun to flirt with that spirit which characterized the wickedness of the days of Noah: ‘And every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually’ (Moses 8:22).” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 11)

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Jacob 2:12-16 Let not this pride of your heart destroy your souls

“First of all, Jacob said the men had begun spending more and more time searching for gold and silver and other precious ores which abound in this land so plentifully. In these mining adventures, the men had been blessed with remarkable success. However, some had obtained more riches than others and thought this made them somehow superior to those with less. Therefore they were lifted up in pride and wore stiff necks as they smugly strutted about showing off the costliness of their fine apparel. They even began to abuse or persecute the more humble brethren who had not been quite so fortunate.

Jacob challenged them. They stood condemned by Almighty God and unless they repented of this stupid sense of pride and false superiority, Jacob predicted the judgment of God would descend on them speedily. At the rate things were going, Jacob felt the sooner something happened to these men, the better it would be. Jacob wished they could realize that with a single glance of his eye, God could smite them in to the dust. Jacob longed to have something happen to them so that their silly pride would not destroy their souls.” (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

Jacob 2:19 Ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them

“The Lord expects us when he blesses us with the good things of this earth to remember those who are not so fortunate. We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, comfort those who mourn, and minister unto those who are poor and needy, and thus become of that class to whom the Lord, when he shall come, shall say: ‘Come, ye blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'” (George F Richards, Conference Reports, Oct. 1939, p. 109)

Jacob 2:22-23 Because of the things which were written concerning David

“At this point Jacob said he had presented all he intended to say about pride. In fact, he said he would rejoice if that was all the admonishing that he was required to give them during this conference. Unfortunately, however, he said it was now necessary to speak of the grosser crimes being committed among the people. This is the part of his sermon which Jacob was most reluctant to cover. The admonition on pride would not have been like daggers to the souls of the women and children, but this next part of his sermon would be.

Jacob said that what the Lord had revealed to him concerning their grosser crimes was a great burden to him. He said he had learned that they were beginning to commit whoredoms (in secret, apparently) and justifying themselves by quoting from the brass plates concerning David and Solomon.” (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

Jacob 2:28 Chastity

“God requires chastity. We stand for a life of cleanliness. From childhood through youth and to the grave, we proclaim the wickedness of sexual life of any kind before marriage, and we proclaim that everyone in marriage should hold himself or herself to the covenants that were made.

“In other words, as we have frequently said, there should be total chastity of men and women before marriage and total fidelity in marriage. The fact that so-called sex revolutionists would change the order and change the status is repugnant to us. We abhor, with all our power, pornography, permissiveness, and the so-called freedom of the sexes, and we fear that those who have supported, taught, and encouraged the permissiveness that brings about this immoral behavior will someday come to a sad reckoning with him who has established the standards…

“Chastity is of great value. Chastity and virtue are ‘most dear and precious above all things’ (Moroni 9:9), more valuable than rubies or diamonds, than herds and flocks, than gold and silver, or than automobiles and land. But, sadly, in many cases they are on sale at the cheapest shops and at the cheapest prices.” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 264-5)

Jacob 2:31-35 Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives

“In the sermon on chastity, it is particularly revealing that Jacob is so sensitive to the women in his audience. Whether or not that was a result of having seen his mother in anguish over the wickedness of her eldest sons we cannot know, but it is interesting that in his unflinching declaration against sexual transgression Jacob quotes a communication from heaven as follows: [Jacob 2:31-33,35]

“…That is a poetic, profound, ‘piercing’ indictment, and we have the feeling here that Jacob understood then what we unfortunately understand now-that it is usually (but not always) the woman who suffers most in the tragedy of unchastity and that usually (but not always) it is the transgressing man who causes the ‘sobbings of the [women’s] hearts to ascend up to God.'” (Jeffrey R Holland, Heroes from the Book of Mormon, pp. 41-2)

3. Jacob testifies of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Jacob 4:5 The law of Moses

“The law of Moses was the type, Jesus the antitype; he was that toward which all creation looked and waited.  The law was the symbol, Jesus the ultimate reality toward which it pointed.  The law was the means, Jesus the end.  These simple but pertinent verities are all but lost in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament.  Only through the clarifying and illuminating lenses of the Book of Mormon do we come to know that the law was anything more than a schoolmaster or teaching device.  The law of Moses-including the intricate system of animal sacrifices-was the prophecy; Jesus was the grand fulfillment of the prophecy.

“‘Behold,’ Nephi stated, ‘my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him’ (2 Nephi 11:4).  After having explained the need for ‘the great and last sacrifice’ of the Son of God, Amulek said, ‘this is the whole meaning of the law [of Moses], every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal’ (Alma 34:14).” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 34)

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Jacob 4:10 Seek not to counsel the Lord

“Jacob has presented a God who is interested in us and whom we can understand only through prophets. We must understand Yahweh to know how to properly interact with him. Such interaction is on Yahweh’s terms, not ours. We do not counsel Yahweh but receive counsel from him. That is the proper interaction. Furthermore, we may take comfort in knowing that Yahweh is motivated by love and mercy in what he requires of us. Therefore his requirements are not onerous.” (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Cultural Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

Jacob 4:14 Looking beyond the mark

‘“Looking beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14) means that the Jews were looking for something other than Jesus Christ to save them. Jacob prophesied that the Jews would reject the Messiah, the “stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation” (v. 15). He then referred to scriptures that say He would still become their “only sure foundation” (v. 16; see Psalm 118:22;Matthew 21:42). If we do not build on Jesus Christ, we will not receive the promised eternal joy with Him.’ (Seminary Student Manual)

 

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015, Jesus Christ, LDS Doctrine, New Testament, Symbolism

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 45 – “He That Overcometh Shall Inherit All Things”

  1. John sees several symbols representing parts of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 1:9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

“The book of Revelation, written by John, was…written in sorrow-from the lonely circumstance of exile: ‘I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation … was in the isle that is called Patmos.’ (Rev. 1:9.) But perhaps even more powerful than the physical separation and loneliness John felt as he wrote was the spiritual isolation he suffered. We can sense it as we read his words, for John did not write in a time of success, but of gloom. The young, struggling gospel kingdom was beset upon from all sides. The Saints were hunted, persecuted, slain. But more distressingly, the Church was being ravished from within by false teachings. Undoubtedly the loneliness and sorrows John felt as he beheld the struggles of the beleaguered Church contributed strongly to the passion in his words as he wrote what he saw. Then, trying to communicate the scenes viewed in revelation, John wrote of the trials and glories of the earth’s future in powerful and starkly beautiful terms.” (Lenet H. Read, “How the Bible Came to Be: Part 3, A New Word Is Added to the Old,” Ensign, Mar. 1982)

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 Revelation 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

‘Now, we have some people professing Christianity who are very intense upon the idea that the old Sabbath day should be maintained. The Lord himself changed the day. The Saints in olden times, that is, after the resurrection of Christ, accepted the date of the resurrection as their Sabbath, and they called it the Lord’s day. It was on that day that John, in prayer before the Lord, received the great revelation known to us as the “apocalypse.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, General Conference, April 1963)

 Revelation 1:11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

What is the meaning of Alpha and Omega? Jeffrey R. Holland said  “These [first and last] letters from the Greek [alphabet] suggest the universal role of Jesus from the beginning of the world to its end.”

 Revelation 1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;

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

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

 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

Throughout the Joseph Smith Translation of Revelation 1-3, the word angels is changed to servants, making it clear that the stars represent the leaders of the seven branches of the Church.  How are Church leaders like stars? Church leaders are like the stars in that they are constant and give direction to those who look for it.

Revelation 1: 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

 20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

‘the mystery] The use of this word in the N. T. is not very far removed from its primary meaning in classical Greek. We may paraphrase it, “the hidden divine truth, now made known, but made known to God’s favoured ones only:” ‘(The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

“The word ‘candlesticks’ reflects the King James translators’ familiarity with wax candles.  What John actually saw, however, was a seven-branched menorah with a bowl at the top of each branch.  Each bowl held olive oil, into which a wick was placed and then lit, providing light. The seven churches must be filled with the Spirit that they might bring light, healing, and peace to the world.  The challenge has not changed for us today.” (Michael Wilcox).

  1. The Lord tells the seven branches in Asia about the blessings promised to those who overcome.

To Ephesus

Revelation 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

Today, the Savior is still in the midst of his Church, guiding inspired priesthood and auxiliary leaders and individual members in their callings and responsibilities. It is important for us to know that he is in the midst of his people.

“Made well known by Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Ephesus is located 40 miles south of Izmir on the west coast of central Turkey and was a famous commercial center in Paul’s time. The branch, in which Paul spent several years, was later directed by Timothy, and later still was the home branch of the apostle John. Following Roman rule its harbor filled with silt, and with it went the city’s commerce and population.” (Jay M. Todd, “The Seven Cities of Revelation ,” Ensign, August 1976)

The branch at Ephesus is commended for good works, diligence, patience, longsuffering, and rejecting apostates, Nicolaitans, and false apostles. They are condemned for forgetting their first love (God). The blessing to those that overcome is to eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God.

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To Smyrna

Revelation 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

‘Smyrna—in Ionia, a little to the north of Ephesus. Polycarp, martyred in A.D. 168, eighty-six years after his conversion, was bishop, and probably “the angel of the Church in Smyrna” meant here. The allusions to persecutions and faithfulness unto death accord with this view.’ (Jamiesson – Faussett – Brown Bible Commentary)

 Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

 10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

The saints in Smyrna were called to suffer great tribulation for a period of “ten days” meaning a short season. We presume that most of the saints survived the persecutions but some did not. Martyrs from Smyrna include Metrodorus, Pionius, and Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna. (Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History (Eusebius of Caesarea), chap. 11.)

 Revelation 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Through the Atonement of Christ, we will be safe from spiritual death.

The branch at Smyrna was commended for suffering tribulation and poverty and blessed to receive a crown of life and avoid the second death.

To Pergamos

Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

“This passage may refer specifically to the enormous altar dedicated to the god Zeus, which had the appearance of a throne and stood on a hill overlooking Pergamos. It may also refer generally to the pagan cults of Athena, Asclepius, Dionysus, and Zeus, in which the power of Satan was manifest through false religious systems that promoted the worship of the emperor as a god.” (Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry, Understanding the Book of Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 35.)

 Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

In their midst, there were people who would convince the saints to dilute or divide their worship in order to obtain material gain.

Revelation 2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

 16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

 17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

The church at Pergamos was commended for remaining true to the faith but condemned for tolerating the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. The promised blessing was o eat hidden manna, to receive a white stone and a new name.

What is manna?  Pure nourishment from heaven.  What is the white stone?  A personal Urim and Thummim “whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known” (D&C 130:10).  What is the new name?  “The key word” (D&C 130:11), a key that unlocks the door to the person’s true identity, divine potential, and membership in the Lord’s family.

To Thyatira

Revelation 2:18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

‘Thyatira was a city of Mysia or Lydia, not far from Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia. ‘ (Matthew Poole’s Commentary)

 Revelation 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

 20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

David Stern (Jewish New Testament Commentary) translates this as “that Jezebel woman,” or a woman who is like Jezebel.  In the Old Testament, Jezebel led the people into idolatry.  This congregation apparently had a similar woman, who was not being disciplined despite the fact that she had not repented.  The curse to her would also apply to her bedfellows, or the saints who followed her or tolerated her behavior.

 21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

 23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

“The word reins literally means kidneys. To the Hebrews the word signified strength and vigor. The phrase is an idiom, meaning that the Lord knows all things about the inner man, his strengths and weaknesses, his character and emotions. And he shall then be able to ‘give unto every one of you according to your works.'” (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 452)

Revelation 2: 26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

 27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

“And to him who overcometh, and keepeth my commandments unto the end, will I give power over many kingdoms; and he shall rule them with the word of God; and they shall be in his hands as the vessels of clay in the hands of a potter; and he shall govern them by faith, with equity and justice, even as I received of my Father” (2:26-27 JST).  Those who continue until the end in this state will become kings and priests, queens and priestesses, ruling over kingdoms, with the power to shape and form them, governing (guiding and protecting) them as the Gods do.

 Revelation 2:28 And I will give him the morning star.

 29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The church at Thyatira was commended for works of charity, service, faith, and patience and condemned for tolerating the false prophetess Jezebel and her teachings of idolatry and fornication. The faithful saints were blessed to receive power over the nations, to rule by the word of God, and receive the morning star.

To Sardis

Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

‘the ministry of this church had a name, that is, were reported as famous for their faith, diligence, and holiness; but their faith, without suitable works, was dead, and they were no better than hypocrites. ‘ (Jamiesson – Faussett – Brown Bible Commentary)

Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

“Perhaps few chapters in scripture afford such insightful glimpses into the spirit of the Lord’s judgment as do the first three chapters of Revelation. The Lord’s appraisal of the members faithfulness, endurance, patience, charity, and service-and their inactivity, cooling of love, tolerance of wickedness and false doctrines, lukewarmness, self-satisfaction, worldliness, and lack of zeal in his cause-have served for generations to motivate thoughtful readers to evaluate thoroughly their life-style.” (Jay M. Todd, “The Seven Cities of Revelation ,” Ensign, August 1976)

Revelation 3: 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

3:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.

 5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

 6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The church at Sardis was commended for the few righteous which had not defiled their garments and condemned for forgetting the Lord, becoming spiritually dead, and for works of wickedness. The faithful were blessed to be clothed in white and have their names written in the book of life.

To Philadelphia

Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

‘Philadelphia—in Lydia, twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis, built by Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamos, who died A.D. 138. It was nearly destroyed by an earthquake in the reign of Tiberius [Tacitus, Annals, 2.47]. The connection of this Church with Jews there causes the address to it to have an Old Testament coloring in the images employed. It and Smyrna alone of the seven receive unmixed praise.’ (Jamiesson- Faussett-Brown Bible Commentary)

 Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

‘Usually when someone says, “I know your works. I know what you’re doing,” don’t we usually think, “Oh, no! You know what I’mdoing?” and begin to feel guilty or self-conscious! There’s a tendency to assume we’re doing something wrong, isn’t there? Yet in this instance, there’s not a shadow of accusation or blame or guilt in the words of Jesus. He is speaking in comfort, in promise, in assurance, in might: “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” (V. 8.) Isn’t there a feeling of triumph in what he’s saying? He sets before us an open door that we are completely free to walk in and out of, as we choose. No one can close that door between us and the Savior. In fact, he himself is that door. We have total, complete access.’ (Chieko N Okazaki, Lighten Up! )

 9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

 10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

 12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

Walls, doors, stairways and windows of a building may be moved, but a pillar is a main supporting post and cannot be removed.  Those who become “fixtures” in the temple to go no more out will receive the name of Christ, and will be known as citizens of his heavenly city.

 Revelation 3:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The church at Philadelphia was commended for faithfulness in spite of little remaining strength and the faithful were blessed to triumph over their enemies, be made a pillar in the temple of God, and receive a new name.

To Laodicea

Revelation 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

‘Laodicea lay south of Philadelphia in the way to return to Ephesus: for the seven churches lay in a kind of circular form, so that the natural progress was from Ephesus to Smyrna, and so forward in the order in which the cities are here addressed, which probably was the order in which St. John used to visit them. ‘ (Benson Commentary)

 Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

‘If we are in the line of our duty, we are engaged in a great and glorious cause. It is very essential to our individual welfare that every man and every woman who has entered into the covenant of the Gospel, through repentance and baptism, should feel that as individuals it is their bounden duty to use their intelligence, and the agency which the Lord has given them, for the promotion of the interests of Zion and the establishment of her cause, in the earth. Those who are not faithful in the discharge of these duties cannot be wholly acceptable to God; for they are more or less in the condition of the Church which was complained of by the angel to the Apostle John, as being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and therefore only fit to be “spewed out,” or to be disowned of God.  Manifoldly more deserving of this rebuke and chastisement are those who are not only indifferent to the interests of the cause of God, and its growth in the earth, but who murmur and find fault and who, instead of putting their shoulders to the wheel, actually try to retard its progress by using what little influence and means they possess to obstruct the onward march of the kingdom.’ (Joseph F Smith, Journal of Discourses)

 Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.

 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Those who make it through the challenges of life, overcoming through the power of the Atonement, who keep their temple covenants and endure to the end, will actually be sitting on Christ’s throne with him.  This implies becoming as he is, one of the revolutionary doctrines of the restored gospel.

 Revelation 3:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The church at Laodicea received no commendation and was rebuked for being lukewarm and proud in their riches. The faithful were blessed that they would sit with the Lord in his throne.

  1. John learns that the Saints overcome Satan through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and their testimonies.

Revelation 12:1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

The woman represents the church of God and the twelve stars are the apostles.

Revelation 12:3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

“Joseph Smith said, ‘At the first organization in heaven, we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it.’

“There were others, however, who were less noble. Many of the spirits, exercising their agency, chose to follow Lucifer in rebellion against God. (See D&C 29:36; Jude 1:6.) Lucifer, as the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, was once ‘an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son’ and ‘sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ.’ (D&C 76:25, 28; see Isa. 14:12-15.) Lucifer’s proposals that ‘one soul shall not be lost’ (tempting as it sounds, it would nevertheless suspend our agency to choose) and that he be given God’s place and glory were rejected. (See Moses 4:1-3.) War followed, and because of his rebellion, Lucifer ‘was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, and was called Perdition.’ (D&C 76:25-26; see Rev. 12:7-9.)” (Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, “The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, 30)

Revelation 12:5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

The child she brought forth represents the kingdom of God—the government that will exist on the earth during Jesus Christ’s millennial reign. (Gospel Doctrine Teachers Manual)

Revelation 12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

“As we ponder Adam’s role, we see that Adam is a great opposer to Satan. Even before Eden, Satan was defeated and cast out of heaven to the earth by Adam and priesthood power and priesthood forces. Because of the holy priesthood, Adam will forever have ascendancy over Satan.” (Arthur A. Bailey, “What Modern Revelation Teaches about Adam,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 27)

Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Unfortunately, Satan’s war did not end with his expulsion from heaven. As John observed, Satan and his followers were “cast out into the earth”and have come here with “great wrath.” (Revelation 12:12). The evidence of their wrath can be seen in the blood and horror that has afflicted man from the beginning of time. (James J Hamula, General Conference, October 2008)

Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

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‘A testimony was an invaluable weapon in the war in heaven, and it is an indispensable weapon here on earth.

A testimony that is continually being nourished and is continually growing will help us at every crossroad when important decisions are made. Indeed, a testimony supplants the need to make certain decisions under fire, because we already know well in advance the course of action we will take.’ (Spencer J Condie, “Agency: The Gift of Choices,” Ensign, Sept. 1995, 22)

Revelation 12:12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

‘Because he knoweth that he hath but a short time – That is, he knows that the time is limited in which he will be permitted to wage war with the saints on the earth.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Revelation 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

‘Satan is marshalling every resource at his disposal to entice you into transgression. He knows that if he can draw you into transgression, he may prevent you from serving a full-time mission, marrying in the temple, and securing your future children in the faith, all of which weakens not only you but the Church. He knows that nothing can overthrow God’s kingdom “save it [be] the transgression of [his] people.” (Mosiah 27:13) Make no mistake about it—the focus of his war is now on you—you who seek to “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” ‘(James J Hamula, General Conference, October 2008)