Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2017, Joseph Smith, LDS Doctrine, Uncategorized

Gospel Doctrine 2017 -Lesson 13: “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You”

1. The Lord declared that the people in this dispensation would receive His word through Joseph Smith.

D&C 5:10 This generation shall have my word through you

“I’ve listed the most prolific scriptural producers besides Joseph Smith:

Mormon 338 pages
Moses 308 pages
Jeremiah 170 pages
Paul 122 pages
Nephi 117 pages
Luke 103 pages
Unknown writer of Chronicles 86 pages
Isaiah 81 pages
Unknown writer of 1 and 2 Samuel 81 pages
John 74 pages

“Now consider Joseph Smith’s accomplishments in bringing forth scripture:

Book of Mormon 531 pages
Doctrine and Covenants 1-134 280 pages
Pearl of Great Price 58 pages
Joseph Smith Translation 30 pages

“These 10 most prolific scriptural producers authored a total of 1,480 pages. Joseph Smith alone was responsible for 900. His total pages equal nearly 61 percent of the total pages of the other top 10 producers, and he is responsible for nearly three times as many pages as either of the two next highest scriptural producers, Mormon and Moses. Before Joseph Smith, the world had only the 1,590 pages of the Bible; through this one man, the Lord increased our scriptural library by more than half.

“Yet counting pages serves only to indicate how prodigious the Prophet Joseph Smith’s efforts were; what really matters is the content of the new scriptures that he gave to the world. Joseph Smith gave us new or expanded knowledge about a full spectrum of gospel topics:

  • The nature of the Godhead
  • The role and functions of the Holy Ghost
  • The nature of intelligences
  • The premortal existence
  • The Council in Heaven
  • Jesus Christ’s and Lucifer’s premortal roles
  • The Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement
  • Family and parental responsibilities
  • Priesthood keys, organization, and ordinances
  • The laws of consecration and stewardship
  • The temple endowment and temple sealings
  • Work for the dead
  • Spirit paradise and spirit prison
  • The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
  • The three degrees of glory and outer darkness

“In addition to canonized scripture, Joseph Smith also gave us many journals, sermons, lectures, and histories that provide additional gospel teachings and knowledge of the Lord’s work in the latter days. As the Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘This generation shall have my word through you [the Prophet Joseph Smith]’ (D&C 5:10).

“In fact, it could be truly said that the depth and consistency of the gospel’s saving doctrines can be traced to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s accomplishment in bringing forth new scriptures. ‘I never told you I was perfect,’ Joseph Smith said, ‘but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught’ (History of the Church, 6:366).” (Gerald N Lund, “A Prophet for the Fulness of Times,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 52-53)

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2. Many ancient and latter-day scriptures have come through Joseph Smith.

See This generation shall have my word through you by Elder Bruce R McConkie

See Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham. This Gospel Topics essay discusses the book of Abraham, addressing questions that have been raised about the relationship between the papyri Joseph Smith obtained and the text we have today.

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D&C 35:20 Thou shalt write for him

“To Sidney He gave a special command that he should write for Joseph. The Lord made known to Sidney what Joseph already understood—that the Scriptures should be given, even as they were in God’s own bosom, to the salvation of His elect. And soon after this time, Joseph began a new translation of the scriptures. While he labored, many truths, buried through scores of ages, were brought forth to his understanding, and he saw in their purity and holiness all the doings of God among His children, from the days of Adam unto the birth of our Lord and Savior.” (George Q Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, pp. 83–84.)

3. Plain and precious doctrines of the gospel have been restored through Joseph Smith.

See Revelations in Context: Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation. This article discusses the translation process and the ways in which different sections of the Doctrine and Covenants relate to the Bible translation.

See Old Testament Revision 2. This page from the Joseph Smith Papers website introduces Joseph Smith’s Bible translation.

See  Plain and Precious Truths Restored. A careful examination of the Book of Mormon reveals many significant doctrines not found in the Bible.

See The Joseph Smith Translation: “Plain and Precious Things” Restored. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspired revisions of the King James Version of the Bible, we receive truths essential to a full understanding of the gospel.

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

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

1. Definition and purpose of the priesthood

D&C 107:8-12 Right to officiate

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

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

2. The restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

D&C 13 Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

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

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

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

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

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

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

D&C 107:14 The lesser priesthood

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

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

3. The restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood

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D&C 27:12-13 Priesthood keys

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

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

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

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

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

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

D&C 110:11-16 Elias

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

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

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

Posted in Joseph Smith, LDS Church History, LDS Doctrine

Joseph Smith the Prophet

Joseph Smith was born on 23 December 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. To celebrate his birthday here are a selection of his teachings.

Love

A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. (History of the Church, 4:227.)

It is a duty which every Saint ought to render to his brethren freely—to always love them, and ever succor them. (History of the Church, 2:229)

Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind. (History of the Church, 5:23–24 (9 June 1842))

The First Vision

The Lord does reveal himself to me. I know it. He revealed himself first to me when I was about fourteen years old, a mere boy. . . . I kneeled down, and prayed, saying, ‘O Lord, what Church shall I join?’ Directly I saw a light, and then a glorious Personage in the light, and then another personage, and the first personage said [of] the second, “Behold this is my beloved Son, hear him.” (Interview by David Nye White, Aug. 1843, published in “The Prairies, Nauvoo, Joe Smith, the Temple, the Mormons, etc.,” The Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Sept. 15, 1843)

Acceptance

I will try to be contented with my lot, knowing that God is my friend. In him I shall find comfort. I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me, only to do his will. (Joseph Smith letter to Emma Smith, 6 June 1832)

I was grieved to hear that Hiram [Hyrum Smith] had lost his little Child I think we Can in Some degree simpathise with him but we all must be reconciled to our lots and Say the will of the Lord be done. (Letter to Emma Smith, 6 June 1832)

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Missionary work

Do not be discouraged on account of the greatness of the work; only be humble and faithful. . . . He who scattered Israel has promised to gather them; therefore inasmuch as you are to be instrumental in this great work, He will endow you with power, wisdom, might, and intelligence, and every qualification necessary. (History of the Church, 4:128–29.)

Knowledge 

We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true “Mormons.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 316 (23 July 1843))

A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 137 (25 March 1839))

Faith

Great blessings await us at this time, and will soon be poured out upon us, if we are faithful in all things, for we are even entitled to greater spiritual blessings than they [the faithful at the time of Christ] were, because they had Christ in person with them, to instruct them in the great plan of salvation. His personal presence we have not, therefore we have need of greater faith.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 90)

 

Posted in Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, LDS Church History, Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley

Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley – Chapter 1: The Restoration of the Gospel—The Dawning of a Brighter Day

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

This section tells a story shared by President Hinckley in 2000 about a visit to the Sacred Grove and a spiritual witness he received there about the First Vision.

We can all receive a spiritual witness of the First Vision, just as President Hinckley did, and we don’t have to go to Palmyra!

1 Following the Savior’s death, the Church He had established drifted into apostasy.
President Hinckley quotes prophecies of the apostasy by Isaiah.
Why did the people of the world need the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ to be restored?

One by one, the apostles were killed as they went out to preach the gospel in foreign lands. At first, successor apostles were chosen such as Matthias (Acts 1:22), James (Acts 12:7; Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and Paul (Acts 14:14; Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 9:1).3 

These were called before A.D. 50. But neither scripture nor other historical evidence gives us any indication of the calling of others.

Peter,  Philip, Andrew, Jude, Bartholomew, and Simon were crucified;

  • James the son of Zebedee was beheaded;
  • Matthew was slain by a spear and a battle-axe;
  • James the son of Alphaeus was beaten and stoned by the Jews;
  • Matthias was stoned and then beheaded;
  • Thomas was thrust through with a spear.

While the exact dates of death are not known in many cases, it is believed that with the exception of John, all met their deaths well before the end of the first century.

Eventually there were no authorized priesthood keys upon the earth. Fragments of the original teachings and remnants of the original ordinances remained, but the priesthood, the power that gave the Church its spiritual life and sustenance, was gone. As prophesied the Church dwindled in unbelief and over time the doctrines became corrupt.

The Roman Empire which had first persecuted the Christians later adopted and adapted Christianity. The Emperor Constantine worshipped the Sun God but recognized the growing influence of the new religion of Christianity and saw the political advantage to be gained by adopting Christianity as the state religion.

Important religious questions were settled by Councils rather than by revelation. The simple truths taught by the Saviour were debated and changed. Plain and precious doctrines were removed from the scriptures.

2 The Renaissance and Reformation helped prepare the way for the restoration of the gospel.
From the lesson manual:
‘Somehow, in that long season of darkness, a candle was lighted. The age of Renaissance brought with it a flowering of learning, art, and science. There came a movement of bold and courageous men and women who looked heavenward in acknowledgment of God and His divine Son. We speak of it as the Reformation.’
What are some ways the Lord prepared the way for the restoration of the gospel?
The Reformation not only is a major event in world history but also is generally considered one of the important events leading up to the Restoration. Elder M. Russell Ballard declared, “I believe these reformers were inspired to create a religious climate in which God could restore lost truths and priesthood authority.”

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3 The Restoration was ushered in with the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith.
From the lesson manual:
‘Nothing like it had ever happened before. One is led to wonder why it was so important that both the Father and the Son appear. I think it was because They were ushering in the dispensation of the fulness of times, the last and final dispensation of the gospel, when there would be gathered together in one the elements of all previous dispensations. This was to be the final chapter in the long chronicle of God’s dealing with men and women upon the earth.’
Video of Joseph Smith’s First Vision:
In what ways has your testimony of the First Vision influenced you?

What truths were revealed in the First Vision?

Discuss Elder James E. Faust’s answers to that question:

“1. The existence of God our Father as a personal being, and proof that man was made in the image of God.

“2. That Jesus is a personage, separate and distinct from the Father.

“3. That Jesus Christ is declared by the Father to be his Son.

“4. That Jesus was the conveyor of revelation as taught in the Bible.

“5. The promise of James to ask of God for wisdom was fulfilled.

“6. The reality of an actual being from an unseen world who tried to destroy Joseph Smith.

“7. That there was a falling away from the Church established by Jesus Christ—Joseph was

told not to join any of the sects, for they taught the doctrines of men.

“8. Joseph Smith became a witness for God and his Son, Jesus Christ.” (In Conference Report, Apr.1984, pp. 92–93; or Ensign, May 1984, p. 68.)

4 Priesthood authority and keys were restored.
President Hinckley talks about his priesthood line of authority.
Why is important that Melchizedek Priesthood holders can trace their priesthood authority to Jesus Christ?
5 Through Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed truths that distinguish us from other churches.
  • The Godhead
  • Priesthood authority and Church organisation
  • The family
  • The innocence of little children
  • Salvation for the dead
  • The nature, purpose and potential of God’s children
  • Modern revelation

How have these truths blessed your life?

David W. Bercot, a student of the early Christian authors, wrote a book entitled  Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up::

When I first began studying the early Christian writings, I was surprised by what I read. In fact, after a few days of reading, I put their writings back on the shelf and decided to scrap my research altogether. After analyzing the situation, I realized the problem was that their writings contradicted many of my own theological views. . . . They frequently taught the opposite of what I believed, and they even labeled some of my beliefs as heretical. . . .

If there’s any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it’s the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. …… In fact, we frequently say that persons who don’t hold to this doctrine aren’t really Christians. However the early Christians universally believed that works or obedience play an essential role in our salvation.

Clement of Rome, who was a companion of the apostle Paul, . . . wrote, “A person who does not do what God has commanded shows he really does not believe God.'”

Polycarp, the personal companion of the apostle John, taught, “He who raised Him up from the dead will also raise us up—if we do His will and walk in His commandments.

The letter of Barnabas states: “He who keeps these [commandments] will be glorified in the kingdom of God.”

David Bercot concluded: “In fact, every early Christian writer who discussed the subject of salvation presented this same view.” Bercot was careful to note that the early Christian writers also taught that we cannot be saved without the grace of Christ. In other words, he noted that grace and works are inextricably tied together.

Which is precisely the LDS view – because that is the truth taught by the Saviour.

Posted in Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, LDS Church History

Gospel Doctrine 2017 – Lesson 4 -“Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon”

1. Joseph Smith’s preparation to receive and translate the Book of Mormon

JS-H 1:27 I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until the twenty-first of September

‘From this time until the twenty-first of September, 1823, Joseph continued, as usual, to labor with his father, and nothing during this interval occurred of very great importance—though he suffered every kind of opposition and persecution from the different orders of religionists.
The third harvest time had now arrived since we opened our new farm, and all our sons were actively employed in assisting their father to cut down the grain and store it away in order for winter.’ (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 101)
JS-H 1:28 Native cheery temperament

‘When Joseph warned the Saints against mortal imperfections, he did not raise himself above them, and they loved him for it. He cautioned a group of Saints newly arrived in Nauvoo against the tendency to be dissatisfied if everything was not done perfectly right. “He said he was but a man and they must not expect him to be perfect,” an associate recorded. “If they expected perfection from him, he should expect it from them, but if they would bear with his infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, he would likewise bear with their infirmities” (The Papers of Joseph Smith, Volume 2, Journal, 1832–1842, ed. Dean C. Jessee [1992], 489).

Joseph had a “native cheery temperament”  JS—H 1:28 He delighted in the society of his friends. “He would play with the people,” one acquaintance recalled, “and he was always cheerful and happy” (Rachel Ridgeway Grant, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal 16 [Dec. 1905]: 551). He loved little children and often frolicked with them in a manner shocking to some accustomed to the exaggerated sobriety of other ministers. These warm, human qualities caused some to deny Joseph’s prophetic role, but they endeared him to many who knew him. Our records contain numerous adoring tributes like that of an acquaintance who said, “The love the saints had for him was inexpressible” (Mary Alice Cannon Lambert, Young Woman’s Journal, 16:554).

Despite his familiar and friendly style, the Prophet Joseph Smith was resolute in doing his duty. During a meeting to consider disciplining a man who had rejected the counsel of the Presidency and the Twelve, he declared: “The Saints need not think because I am familiar with them and am playful and cheerful, that I am ignorant of what is going on. Iniquity of any kind cannot be sustained in the Church, and it will not fare well where I am; for I am determined while I do lead the Church, to lead it right” (History of the Church,5:411). On another occasion he wrote, “I am a lover of the cause of Christ and of virtue chastity and an upright steady course of conduct & a holy walk, I despise a hypocrite or a covenant breaker” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean C. Jessee [1984], 246).’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 1996)

JS-H 1:33-35 First appearance of Moroni

‘In 1822, Joseph began helping his older brother Alvin build a new frame house for the family. By September of 1823, it was two stories high but without a roof. The family continued to live in their small log house.

Here late in the evening on Sunday, 21 September 1823, seventeen-year-old Joseph retired for the night. Concerned about his standing before the Lord, he earnestly prayed for forgiveness of his sins. He was confident that he would again receive a divine manifestation. Suddenly his room filled with light and a heavenly messenger stood by his bedside in partial fulfillment of the great prophecy of John the Apostle (see Revelation 14:6–7).’ (Church History in the Fulness of Time Institute Manual)

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2. The miracle of the Book of Mormon’s preservation

JS-H 1:60 Persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me

‘After bringing home the plates, Joseph now commenced work with his father on the farm in order to be as near as possible the treasure that was committed to his care.
Soon after this, he came in from work one afternoon, and after remaining a short time, he put on his greatcoat and left the house. I was engaged at the time in an upper room in preparing some oilcloths for painting. When he returned, he requested me to come downstairs. I told him that I could not leave my work just then, yet upon his urgent request, I finally concluded to go down and see what he wanted, upon which he handed me the breastplate spoken of in his history.
It was wrapped in a thin muslin handkerchief, so thin that I could see the glistening metal and ascertain its proportions without any difficulty.
It was concave on one side and convex on the other, and extended from the neck downwards as far as the center of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material for the purpose of fastening it to the breast, two of which ran back to go over the shoulders, and the other two were designed to fasten to the hips. They were just the width of two of my fingers (for I measured them), and they had holes in the end of them to be convenient in fastening.
The whole plate was worth at least five hundred dollars. After I had examined it, Joseph placed it in the chest with the Urim and Thummim.
Shortly after this circumstance, Joseph came to the house in great haste and inquired if there had been a company of men there. I told him no one had come to the house since he left. He then said that a mob would be there that night, if not before, to search for the record, and that it must be removed immediately.
Soon after, one Mr. Braman came from the neighboring village of Livonia, a German man in whom we reposed much confidence and who was well worthy of the same. Joseph told him his apprehensions of a mob being there that night and that they must prepare themselves to drive them away; but the first thing to be attended to was to secrete the record and breastplate.
It was resolved that a portion of the hearth should be taken up and the plates and breastplate should be buried under the same, and then the hearth relaid to prevent suspicion.
This was carefully and speedily done, but the hearth was scarcely relaid when a large company of armed men came rushing up to the house. Joseph threw the door open and, taking a hint from the stratagem of his Grandfather Mack, hallooed as if he had a legion at hand, giving the word of command with great importance. At the same time, the males that belonged to the house, from the father down to little Carlos, ran out with such vehemence upon the mob that it struck them with terror and dismay, and they fled before our little Spartan band away into the woods, where they dispersed themselves to their several homes.
We had but a few days rest, however, before Joseph received another intimation of the approach of a mob and the necessity of removing the record and breastplate again from their hiding place. Consequently, Joseph took them out of the box in which they had been placed, wrapped them in clothes, carried them across the road to a cooper’s shop, and laid them in a quantity of flax which was stowed in the shop loft. He then nailed up the box as before and tore up the floor and put the box under it.
As soon as it was dark, the mob came and ransacked the place, but did not come into the house. After making a satisfactory search, they went away.
The next morning we found the floor of the cooper’s shop taken up and the wooden box which was put under it split to pieces.
In a few days we learned the cause of this last move and why their curiosity had led them in the direction of the cooper’s shop. A young woman, who was a sister to Willard Chase, had found a green glass through which she could see many wonderful things, and among the rest of her discoveries, she said she had found out the exact place where “Joe Smith kept his gold bible.” And so in pursuance to her directions, they gathered their forces and laid siege to the cooper shop, but went away disappointed.
This did not shake their confidence in Miss Chase, for they still went from place to place by her suggestion, determined to get possession of the object of their research.’ (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 148-151)
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3. Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

‘The three men chosen as witnesses of the Book of Mormon were Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. Their written ‘Testimony of Three Witnesses’ has been included in all of the almost 100 million copies of the Book of Mormon the Church has published since 1830. These witnesses solemnly testify that they “have seen the plates which contain this record” and “the engravings which are upon the plates.” They witness that these writings “have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us.”

…People who deny the possibility of supernatural beings may reject this remarkable testimony, but people who are open to believe in miraculous experiences should find it compelling. The solemn written testimony of three witnesses to what they saw and heard-two of them simultaneously and the third almost immediately thereafter-is entitled to great weight.

…Measured against all…possible objections, the testimony of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon stands forth in great strength. Each of the three had ample reason and opportunity to renounce his testimony if it had been false, or to equivocate on details if any had been inaccurate. As is well known, because of disagreements or jealousies involving other leaders of the Church, each one of these three witnesses was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by about eight years after the publication of their testimony. All three went their separate ways, with no common interest to support a collusive effort. Yet to the end of their lives-periods ranging from 12 to 50 years after their excommunications-not one of these witnesses deviated from his published testimony or said anything that cast any shadow on its truthfulness.’ (Dallin H Oaks, “The Witness: Martin Harris,” Ensign, May 1999, 35-36)

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4. Our duty to “remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon”

D&C 84:55 The whole church under condemnation

“Some of the early missionaries, on returning home, were reproved by the Lord in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants because they had treated lightly the Book of Mormon. As a result, their minds had been darkened. The Lord said that this kind of treatment of the Book of Mormon brought the whole Church under condemnation, even all of the children of Zion. And then the Lord said, ‘And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon.’ (See D&C 84:54–57.) Are we still under that condemnation? …

“… Grave consequences hang on our response to the Book of Mormon. ‘Those who receive it,’ said the Lord, ‘in faith, and work righteousness, shall receive a crown of eternal life;

“‘But those who harden their hearts in unbelief, and reject it, it shall turn to their own condemnation—

“‘For the Lord God has spoken it.’ (D&C 20:14–16.)

“Is the Book of Mormon true? Yes.

“Who is it for? Us.

“What is its purpose? To bring men to Christ.

“How does it do this? By testifying of Christ and revealing his enemies.

“How are we to use it? We are to get a testimony of it, we are to teach from it, we are to hold it up as a standard and ‘hiss it forth.’

“Have we been doing this? Not as we should, nor as we must.

“Do eternal consequences rest upon our response to this book? Yes, either to our blessing or our condemnation.

“Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life.” (Ezra Taft Benson, In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, pp. 96–97; or Ensign,May 1975, p. 65.)

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

Gospel Doctrine 2017 – Lesson 3 -“I Had Seen a Vision”

1. After the Apostasy, God prepared the way for the Restoration.

JS-History 1:8 it was impossible… to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong
‘There was division throughout all the religious world. Ministers of religion were quarreling as to points of doctrine and as to the plan of salvation. Every denomination had a different method which they taught to all who enquired as the method by which they should obtain salvation. In the midst of all this uncertainty, honest souls groped about, seeking here and there for the right path. There is but one path—”one faith, one Lord, one baptism,” as the great Apostle said; and these honest souls in the various nations were groping for this path, enquiring of these professed leaders where it lay and how they could enter it, and each minister pointing out his path, his little track, as the right one. What were men and women to do under such circumstances? Filled with doubt and anxiety concerning their future, they did not know what to do.’ (George Q Cannon, Collected Discourses)
JS-History 1:19 Having a form of godliness

‘In the process of what we call the Apostasy, the tangible, personal God described in the Old and New Testaments was replaced by the abstract, incomprehensible deity defined by compromise with the speculative principles of Greek philosophy. The received language of the Bible remained, but the so-called “hidden meanings” of scriptural words were now explained in the vocabulary of a philosophy alien to their origins. In the language of that philosophy, God the Father ceased to be a Father in any but an allegorical sense. He ceased to exist as a comprehensible and compassionate being. And the separate identity of his Only Begotten Son was swallowed up in a philosophical abstraction that attempted to define a common substance and an incomprehensible relationship.

These descriptions of a religious philosophy are surely undiplomatic, but I hasten to add that Latter-day Saints do not apply such criticism to the men and women who profess these beliefs. We believe that most religious leaders and followers are sincere believers who love God and understand and serve him to the best of their abilities. We are indebted to the men and women who kept the light of faith and learning alive through the centuries to the present day. We have only to contrast the lesser light that exists among peoples unfamiliar with the names of God and Jesus Christ to realize the great contribution made by Christian teachers through the ages. We honor them as servants of God.

Then came the First Vision. An unschooled boy, seeking knowledge from the ultimate source, saw two personages of indescribable brightness and glory and heard one of them say, while pointing to the other, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”  (JS—H 1:17). The divine teaching in that vision began the restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God the Son told the boy prophet that all the “creeds” of the churches of that day “were an abomination in his sight” ( JS—H 1:19). We affirm that this divine declaration was a condemnation of the creeds, not of the faithful seekers who believed in them. Joseph Smith’s first vision showed that the prevailing concepts of the nature of God and the Godhead were untrue and could not lead their adherents to the destiny God desired for them.’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 1995)

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JS-History 1:21-24 Bitter persecution

“Why should so many religionists unite against an unknown youth of no renown or standing in the community? Would the whole sectarian world shiver and shake and call for a sword if some other unknown fourteen-year-old youth in an obscure frontier village should claim that he was visited by angels and that he saw the Lord? The problem when Joseph Smith announced such a claim was that it was true and that Lucifer knew of its verity.

“… Is not the persecution itself a witness of the reality of the First Vision? Or if it were not true, would the worldly wise and the intellectual religionists today devote their talents and means to defaming Joseph Smith and the work that bears his imprint? What is it to anyone else what we believe unless they in their unbelief fear lest our doctrines are true and our practices may have divine approval?” (Bruce R McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 8–10).

2. God prepared Joseph Smith to be the prophet of the Restoration.

JS-History 1:7 In my fifteenth year

‘I have wondered at times why the Lord would have him go in as a 14-year-old boy. Why didn’t He wait until [Joseph] was 20 or 30 or 40, when he would have had the weight of authority that comes with age? He went in—the Lord permitted it—and responded to his inquiry because he came in perfect trust as a boy. There was no doubt in his mind. He said that if anyone needed wisdom, he needed wisdom, and he asked for it, with full confidence that something would happen as a result of his prayer.’ (Gordon B Hinckley Ensign, Aug. 1997, 3)

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JS-History 1:11-12 I was one day reading the Epistle of James

‘Let me tell you of a wonderful mother whose life was an example of faith. When the Prophet Joseph Smith was a very young boy, he watched and learned about faith in God from his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Lucy sought answers by searching the scriptures, [See Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor (1996), 50.] and Joseph too employed the practice, turning to the Bible for guidance as his mother had.

Lucy also solved family problems by privately seeking the Lord’s help through prayer. One day, experiencing discord in her family regarding the subject of religion, Lucy said she “retired to a grove of handsome wild cherry trees not far distant and prayed to the Lord.” [Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 58.]

Lucy also prayed with great faith when faced with personal health issues, when Joseph nearly lost his leg to osteomyelitis, and when Joseph’s sister Sophronia almost died from typhoid fever. Regarding Sophronia’s illness, Lucy wrote: “I gazed upon my child. … My husband and I clasped our hands together and fell upon our knees by the bedside and poured our grief and supplications into his ears.” [Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 69.] Sophronia lived. I am confident that Lucy’s children often witnessed her praying with faith and receiving answers to those prayers.

Lucy prayed in faith for guidance, and Joseph too retired to a grove of trees, where he prayed with faith, seeking an answer from the Lord as his mother had.

Like Lucy, we must show our children and youth how to strengthen their faith and testimony of Jesus Christ by strengthening our own through studying the scriptures and through prayer, personally as well as with them.’ (Mary N Cook, General Conference, October 2010)

3. The First Vision ushered in the restoration of the gospel.

JS-History 1:14 I retired to the woods

‘Amid the war of words and feelings that surrounded the boy Joseph, his mind was drawn to the scriptures. He reflected upon the message of James 1:5 again and again and decided for the first time in his life to pray vocally about the matter. After months of mental and spiritual struggle, he finally knew what he must do. Sometime in the early spring of 1820 he went to a familiar spot in the woods near his home to make the attempt. Joseph told an editor of the New York Spectator: “I immediately went out into the woods where my father had a clearing, and went to the stump where I had struck my axe when I had quit work, and I kneeled down, and prayed” (in Allen, Improvement Era, Apr. 1970, 13).

Joseph’s “months of anguish had resulted in obvious spiritual maturity, and he had at least three serious questions on his mind: (1) He was concerned for his own salvation and sought forgiveness of his sins; (2) he was concerned for the welfare of mankind in general, for, he said, ‘I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world’; (3) he wanted to know which, if any, of the churches was right, and which he should join” ‘ (Allen, Improvement Era, Apr. 1970, 9). (Pearl of Great Price Institute Manual)

JS-History 1:15 I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me

“Satan… knew who this young boy was—he knew Joseph was a spiritual redwood; he knew Joseph was destined to be a ‘disturber… of his kingdom’ (Joseph Smith-History 1:20). Satan could see the plane in its landing pattern, and he knew Joseph Smith was the anointed pilot. But before the advent of something good and great, Satan always works the hardest. It happened at the birth of the Savior with the slaying of the innocents. It occurred again when the Savior commenced his mission and was confronted with the three temptations… And so it would be with the Prophet Joseph before the advent of this great and glorious contributions—Satan would be there in all his diabolic opposition. At all costs, Satan knew he must stop this young boy from proceeding to carry out his destined work. Satan was poised to make his preemptive strike. He was ‘as a roaring lion… seeking whom he may devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).” (Tad Callister, The Inevitable Apostasy, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2006], 339)

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JS-History 1:16-17 I saw two Personages

‘Joseph Smith saw God, the Eternal Father, and Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. This was Joseph’s First Vision. In the years that followed, Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. Numerous other heavenly beings visited him, restoring truths and authority that had been lost for centuries. These divine communications to Joseph Smith opened the windows of heaven and the glories of eternity to our view. Joseph’s life stands as a testimony that if any of us lack wisdom, we can ask God in faith and receive answers—sometimes from heavenly beings but more often by the power of the Holy Ghost, who speaks to us through inspired thoughts and feelings. [See  Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 It is through the Holy Ghost that we can “know the truth of all things.”’ (Craig C Christensen, General Conference, October 2016)

4. Many truths were revealed in the First Vision.

Significance of the First Vision

‘The First Vision was a pivotal event in the rise of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. Joseph Smith, although only an unlettered youth, learned profound truths that have become the foundation of the faith of the Latter-day Saints. He had actually seen and spoken with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Therefore, he learned that the promise in James is true. God will answer sincere prayer of inquiry and not chastise. To Joseph, God became an approachable reality, a vital source of truth, and a loving Heavenly Father. Joseph Smith’s belief in the reality of God was no longer a matter of faith; it was based on personal experience. Thus, he was qualified, as was the Apostle Peter, to be a witness who was chosen of God and commanded to preach and testify of Jesus Christ (see Acts 10:39–43). He could also testify that the Father and Son were separate and distinct glorious beings in whose literal image man is made.

Joseph Smith now also knew of the reality of Satan, a being who possessed formidable power and a foe determined to destroy the work of God. Satan failed in the Sacred Grove, but the conflict had just begun. Joseph would fight many battles with this adversary of righteousness before his work was done. Moreover, the Lord’s answer to his question about which church was true, was a sweeping indictment of nineteenth century Christianity, for no church then on earth had divine approval. Just as the Savior warned his disciples against the doctrinal “leaven” of the Pharisees and Sadducees (see Matthew 16:6–12), he taught Joseph Smith that the existing churches taught the “commandments of men” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Therefore, he was to join none of them.’ (Church History in the Fulness of Times Institute Manual)

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Joseph Smith, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 15 – Eternally Indebted to Your Heavenly Father

1. King Benjamin teaches his sons and has Mosiah call the people together.

“Note that the main story in the book of Mosiah is told in the third person rather than in the first person as was the custom in the earlier books of the Book of Mormon. The reason for this is that someone else is now telling the story, and that “someone else” is Mormon. With the beginning of the book of Mosiah we start our study of Mormon’s abridgment of various books that had been written on the large plates of Nephi. (3 Nephi 5:8-12.) The book of Mosiah and the five books that follow — Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi, and Mormon — were all abridged or condensed by Mormon from the large plates of Nephi, and these abridged versions were written by Mormon on the plates that bear his name, the plates of Mormon. These are the same plates that were given to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni.” (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p.173)

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Mosiah 1:2 And it came to pass

‘According to Joseph Allen, the phrase “and it came to pass” (or one of its derivatives) occurs in the English translation of the Book of Mormon over 1300 times. Apparently, the Maya people, who lived in southeast Mexico and Guatemala, may have adopted the phrase. Recent discoveries by Linda Schele show that the glyphs of the Seventh Century A.D. Maya ruins of Palenque use the phrases “and then it came to pass” and “it had come to pass.”

Furthermore, we know that the Lowland Maya did not invent writing in Mesoamerica. They simply adopted it from an earlier culture that existed between 600 B.C. and 50 A.D. The beginnings of the Classic Maya writing system fall in the period between 200 B.C. and 50 A.D. ‘ (Alan C Miner, Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon)

Mosiah 1:5 Understand of his mysteries

‘A mystery is a truth that cannot be known except through divine revelation-a sacred secret. In the days of Paul the important truth that Gentiles were to be admitted to the Kingdom of God without observing the Law of Moses was a ‘mystery’ (Eph. 1:9-11; Col. 1:25-27). In our day such great truths as those pertaining to the restoration of the Priesthood, the work for the dead, and the re-establishment of the Church are ‘mysteries,’ because they could not have been discovered except by revelation.’ (Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, p. 141)

Mosiah 1:10 Thou art a king

“…though the database is small, Benjamin was a special father. Significantly, his own disinterest in status and power was apparently successfully transmitted to his sons. They were neither power-hungry, nor did they vie with one other for ascendancy, as so often happens in the process of succession. Their father-king had set the example for those whom he affectionately addressed as, O my sons (v. 6). His successor-son even tilled the soil just as his father had done, signaling to the people that they were not required to sustain him either. Think, therefore, upon his effectiveness as a father.” (Neal A Maxwell, Farms Symposia Audiotape, “Benjamin’s Sermon: A Manual for Discipleship”)

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2. King Benjamin teaches the people of their eternal indebtedness to God.

Mosiah 2:5-6 And they pitched their tents round about the temple

‘I love the imagery of these verses. Figuratively speaking, brethren, are the doors of our homes pitched towards the temples we so love? Do we attend as often as we can, showing our children through our example the importance of these sacred and special places?

As recorded in Mosiah, families received the word of the Lord through their prophet with enthusiasm and commitment. The people were so moved by King Benjamin’s teachings that they entered into a new covenant to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Ronald A Rasband, General Conference, April 2006)

Mosiah 2:9 Open your ears that you may hear

‘This admonition to open our ears to listen does not always receive the same response. While some people indicate a willingness to listen attentively and to be obedient to the words of the Lord, others seem to close their ears, not wanting to hear nor to obey. There are others who are slow to hear but who eventually do listen and become obedient. For all of these people, the result of their attitudes concerning the voice of the Lord will bring into their lives consequences which, in many instances, may be of an eternal nature.’ (Francisco J Vinas, General Conference, October 1996)

Mosiah 2:12 Have not sought gold or silver

‘While we can take Benjamin at his word that he has not sought wealth at the expense of this people and that he has not levied taxes (v. 14), it is also clear that he must have required something from the people, since a central government cannot exist without goods in some form flowing from the people. And in fact, the town’s ceremonial architecture suggests the form that support took: the temple with its walls. Such building projects require large amounts of labor that perforce remove people from other pursuits. Almost certainly some of this effort was governed by the season, with food production taking precedence. Benjamin’s point is not that they have not contributed to the support of government, but that they have not contributed to enriching Benjamin.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

Mosiah 2:17 Service

“When we understand why we serve we will not worry about where we serve.” (Howard W Hunter, BYU Devotional, Sept. 2, 1990)

Mosiah 2:20-21 Ye would be unprofitable servants

‘Benjamin teaches that even people whose souls are fully committed to God are “unprofitable servants.” In Mormonism, no human being is considered capable of saving himself or herself; we must all lean on the merits of Christ and his atonement. Benjamin does not speak of Christ here (which he does further into his speech), but the connection is clear. As LDS president Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “we never could repay” Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ “no matter how hard we labor.” The debt is simply too great.’ (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

Mosiah 2:24 He doth immediately bless you

‘Benjamin attempts here to explain the problem of grace and works without casting it as a theological question. We begin mortality in debt to God for our very lives; but when we attempt to repay him for our lives by obedience to his commandments, he immediately blesses us, leaving the original debt untouched. By the very nature of God and by the nature of mortality, we are unable to “catch up” to God’s blessings. While some blessings might seem to be “earned,” the overall set of blessings can never be earned.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

Mosiah 2:41 The blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments

“God has, in His mercy and kindness, confirmed the labors of His servants and the counsels they have given by bestowing prosperity and blessing upon all those who have accepted their counsels and have carried them out in the spirit in which they have been given. The Latter-day Saints themselves are living witnesses to this.

“The men who followed President Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles over whom he presided when they left Nauvoo and…laid the foundation of Salt Lake City, they have been the people who have been the most blessed of God and most prospered; they have prospered in their religion, they have prospered in temporal things, and they have been blessed with peace all the day long; while the men who disobeyed that counsel and concluded that they had had enough of this work and of following the counsels of the leading men of this Church (Sidney Rigdon, et al), have had sorrow and difficulty and have not prospered. God confirmed the leadership of these men by bestowing His blessing upon them and upon those who followed their counsels. He delivered them from perils, He delivered them from Indians, He delivered them from famine, He delivered them from pestilence, and prosperity attended their labors, and every settlement that has been formed in these mountains from the day Salt Lake Valley was reached has been attended with similar prosperity…There is the blessing of God; there is the peace of heaven; there is the joy of the Holy Ghost; there are the gifts and blessings that attend the faithful servants and handmaidens of Jesus Christ, in addition to temporal prosperity, before which temporal prosperity fades. I am speaking now of money and that which perishes with money. I have seen the richest people living in the lowliest homes. Why? Because they were rich in their feelings. I have seen the richest men who were poorer than the poorest of earth’s sons. Why? Because they did not have that rich feeling. Such a feeling does not belong to riches and earthly prosperity. It comes from the blessing of God. In this respect the Latter-day Saints may be said to be the richest people on the face of the earth. They are rich in that glorious feeling that God gives. You may strip them, as I have seen them stripped, of earthly possessions, and turned loose in a wilderness without a place of security and not knowing where they would find a resting place, and yet they were as happy a people as I ever saw in my life. Destitute of many things that men and women consider essential to earthly comfort, yet they had that which is above price, and which riches cannot bestow, namely, the peace of heaven, the peace of God resting down upon them. And they have been a rich people from that day to the present.” (George Q Cannon, Journal of Discourses, vol. 24, pp. 221-2)

3. King Benjamin repeats an angel’s prophecies about Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

Mosiah 3:3 Glad tidings of great joy

‘The wording here—“glad tidings of great joy”—is similar to the angelic message in Luke 2 in the New Testament, where angels impart “good tidings of great joy” to the shepherds. In both cases, the tidings referred to the coming birth of Christ.’  (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

Mosiah 3:7 Blood cometh from every pore

Note 6. The Bloody Sweat. — Luke, the only Gospel-writer who mentions sweat and blood in connection with our Lord’s agony in Gethsemane, states that ‘his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground’ (22:44). Many critical expositors deny that there was an actual extrusion of blood, on the grounds that the evangelist does not positively affirm it, and that the three apostles, who were the only human witnesses, could not have distinguished blood from sweat falling in drops, as they watched from a distance in the night, even if the moon, which at the passover season was full, had been unobscured. Modern scripture removes all doubt. See D&C 19:16-19, also 18:11. See further a specific prediction of the bloody sweat, Mosiah 3:7.” (James E Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 613-4, 620)

Mosiah 3:10 The resurrection of Christ

‘The detail that Jesus would rise on the third day is new in Benjamin’s speech although both Jesus’s resurrection (2 Ne. 26:1) and his role as a judge were already known (1 Ne. 13:33, 22:21; 2 Ne. 9:15; etc).’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

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Mosiah 3:11 Those who have died not knowing the will of God

‘Also, according to King Benjamin, Christ’s blood will cleanse or sanctify those people who do not have a chance to receive the gospel in mortality but who live lives sufficiently good that temple work will be effective for them and who receive the gospel in the spirit world.’ (Milton R Hunter, General Conference, April 1958)

Mosiah 3:16 Little children

‘Mormons do not believe in original sin, the idea that the Fall of Adam and Eve is automatically passed from one generation to the next so that people are born in sin. In Mormon practice, children are not baptized until at least age eight, when they reach the age of accountability and are thought to be able to understand right from wrong. Here, Benjamin does not teach his hearers about baptism, but of salvation and sin in general. Since little children are not capable of fully knowing right from wrong, they are among the innocents who have “ignorantly sinned” (Mosiah 3:11) and are covered by the blood of Christ.’  (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

Mosiah 3:19 The natural man

“One of the most disputed issues among so-called Christian theologians has been the question of the basic nature of man. Some of these theologians have argued that man is born evil into this world as an infant; thus the only way this evil can be removed is by receiving the sacrament of baptism. Still other theologians have argued that man is born innocent and remains basically good; some of them thus conclude that inasmuch as man is basically good he has no need for a redeemer to atone for his sins.

“It should be clear to students of the Book of Mormon that the prophets definitely reject both the doctrine of the natural depravity of man and the doctrine that man is so good by nature he has no need for a redeemer. Benjamin, the prophet and king of the Nephites, said that ‘an angel from God’ taught him that although infants are born in a state of innocence, after they become accountable they can become enemies to God if they do not accept the saving principles and ordinances of the gospel.” (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 177-8)

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Joseph Smith, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 8 – O How Great the Goodness of Our God

1. Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ offers redemption from temporal death and spiritual death.

Structure of 2 Nephi 9:

  • Jacob explains the Resurrection and the Jugement (1-16)
  • A Hymn to the Holy One of Israel (17-24)
  • The Law and the First Wo (25-27)
  • Nine More Woes (28-38)
  • Jacob Exhorts His People to Remember (39-54)
  • (Structure according to Grant Hardy, The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition)

2 Nephi 9:5 that all men might become subject unto him

‘The Book of Mormon also teaches that the great Creator died “for all men, that all men might become subject unto him”  2 Ne. 9:5 Being subject to our Savior means that if our sins are to be forgiven through His Atonement, we must comply with the conditions He has prescribed, including faith, repentance, and baptism. The fulfillment of these conditions depends on our desires, our choices, and our actions. “He cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice”  (2 Ne. 9:21)’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 2006)

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2 Nephi 9:6 Death hath passed upon all men

‘Our scriptures say: “Death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator.”  (2 Ne. 9:6)Where the true Saints are concerned there is no sorrow in death except that which attends a temporary separation from loved ones. Birth and death are both essential steps in the unfolding drama of eternity.

We shouted for joy at the privilege of becoming mortal because without the tests of mortality there could be no eternal life. We now sing praises to the great Redeemer for the privilege of passing from this life because without death and the resurrection we could not be raised in immortal glory and gain eternal life.’ (Bruce R McConkie, General Conference, October 1976)

2 Nephi 9:7 an infinite atonement

“His Atonement is infinite—without an end. It was also infinite in that all humankind would be saved from never-ending death. It was infinite in terms of His immense suffering. It was infinite in time, putting an end to the preceding prototype of animal sacrifice. It was infinite in scope—it was to be done once for all. And the mercy of the Atonement extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him. It was infinite beyond any human scale of measurement or mortal comprehension.

“Jesus was the only one who could offer such an infinite atonement, since He was born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. Because of that unique birthright, Jesus was an infinite Being” (Russell M Nelson, Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 46; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 35).

2 Nephi 9:8-9 if the flesh should rise no more

“If the resurrection from the dead be not an important point, or item in our faith, we must confess that we know nothing about it; for if there be no resurrection from the dead, then Christ has not risen; and if Christ has not risen He was not the Son of God; and if He was not he Son of God there is not nor cannot be a Son of God, if the present book called the Scriptures is true; because the time has gone by when, according to that book, He was to make His appearance . . . And if He has risen from the dead, He will by His power, bring all men to stand before Him; for if He has risen from the dead the bands of the temporal death are broken that the grave has no victory, if then, the grave has no victory, those who keep the sayings of Jesus and obey His teachings have not only a promise of a resurrection from the dead, but an assurance of being admitted into His glorious kingdom.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 62. as taken from McConkie and Millet’s, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 240)

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2 Nephi 9:10 O how great the goodness of our God

“Thanks be to God for the wonder and the majesty of His eternal plan. Thank and glorify His Beloved Son, who, with indescribable suffering, gave His life on Calvary’s cross to pay the debt of mortal sin. He it was who, through His atoning sacrifice, broke the bonds of death and with godly power rose triumphant from the tomb. He is our Redeemer, the Redeemer of all mankind. He is the Savior of the world. He is the Son of God, the Author of our salvation” (Gordon B Hinckley, Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 69; or Ensign, May 1985, 51).

2 Nephi 9:12 Hell

‘The Mormon concept of hell is quite different from the traditional Christian view. Mormons believe that after death, all people enter the spirit world, which is divided into two spheres: a spirit paradise and a spirit prison. Those in spirit prison—which Mormons may sometimes call “hell”—suffer the consequences of any sins for which they have not repented and have the opportunity to learn about God and decide whether to reject or accept Christ’s love and teachings.

For Mormons, spirit prison is a temporary place, as almost all individuals who go there will benefit from the eternal perspective that the afterlife has afforded them, and will choose to follow God. After Christ’s second coming, each spirit will be joined with its perfected body and be judged for the final time (see verse 12); each will then be sent to spend eternity in one of three paradise kingdoms.

A very tiny minority (including those people who have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and have chosen to hate God) will be banished to outer darkness with Satan and his minions. Unlike spirit prison, which is a temporary hell-like state, outer darkness lasts forever.’ (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

2 Nephi 9:13 the plan of our God

‘The word “plan” is not found in the Bible, yet it’s found forty-two times in the Book of Mormon . . . and thirty-six times in the book of Alma. . . . Origen tells us that in the early church they taught that you earned your position here before you came here. So whatever happened to the plan? How did it drop out of the Bible? . . . When the temple was lost the rabbis took over. They were learned men but they were not priests. . . . The philosophers at the School of Alexandria took it over, and in their place you have the doctrines of St. Augustine–this takes the place of the plan. That is, you are predestined to damnation or you are predestined to salvation. . . . This predestination doctrine of St. Augustine was taken over by the Lutherans and by the Calvinists especially. What happens to you is because you were predestined that way. Of course, you didn’t live before you came here; you didn’t earn it or anything like that. . . . All creation had to be instantaneously, simultaneously complete. Everything was completely there all at once, so you had no background or anything. (Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 9:15  judged according to the holy judgment of God

‘The scriptures teach that every individual must “be judged according to the holy judgment of God.”  On that day there will be no opportunity to hide among a larger group or point to others as an excuse for our being unclean. Gratefully, the scriptures also teach that Jesus Christ, He who suffered for our sins, who is our Advocate with the Father, who calls us His friends, who loves us unto the end, He ultimately will be our judge. One of the often overlooked blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is that “the Father … hath committed all judgment unto the Son. (John 5:22)” (Allen D Haynie, General Conference, October 2015)

2 Ne 9:21 he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature

“Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. The thought that He suffered through fear of death is untenable. Death to Him was preliminary to resurrection and triumphal return to the Father from whom He had come, and to a state of glory even beyond what He had before possessed; and, moreover, it was within His power to lay down His life voluntarily. He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict. The frightful struggle incident to the temptations immediately following the Lord’s baptism was surpassed and overshadowed by this supreme contest with the powers of evil.

“In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. Modern revelation assists us to a partial understanding of the awful experience. In March 1830, the glorified Lord, Jesus Christ, thus spake: ‘For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent, but if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I, which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit: and would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink — nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.’ (DC 19:16-9)

“From the terrible conflict in Gethsemane, Christ emerged a victor. Though in the dark tribulation of that fearful hour He had pleaded that the bitter cup be removed from His lips, the request, however oft repeated, was always conditional; the accomplishment of the Father’s will was never lost sight of as the object of the Son’s supreme desire. The further tragedy of the night, and the cruel inflictions that awaited Him on the morrow, to culminate in the frightful tortures of the cross, could not exceed the bitter anguish through which He had Successfully passed.” (James E Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 613-4).

2 Nephi 9:22 Resurrection

‘The possibility that a mortal who has died will be brought forth and live again in a resurrected body has awakened hope and stirred controversy through much of recorded history. Relying on clear scriptural teachings, Latter-day Saints join in affirming that Christ has “broken the bands of death”  (Mosiah 16:7) and that “death is swallowed up in victory”  (1 Cor. 15:54 ) Because we believe the Bible and Book of Mormon descriptions of the literal Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also readily accept the numerous scriptural teachings that a similar resurrection will come to all mortals who have ever lived upon this earth. As Jesus taught, “Because I live, ye shall live also”  (John 14:19) (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 2000)

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2. Certain attitudes and actions prevent us from receiving all the blessings of the Atonement.

2 Nephi 9:27 wasteth the days of his probation

‘Many individuals preoccupied by the cares of the world are not necessarily in transgression. But they certainly are in diversion and thus waste “the days of [their] probation” ‘ (Neal A Maxwell, General Conference, October 2000)

2 Nephi 9:28-30 The proud who are learned and the proud who are rich

“The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and proud who are rich. The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with  them otherwise, the prophet is just giving his opinion-speaking as a man. The rich may feel they have no need to take counsel of a lowly prophet.” (Ezra Taft Benson, 1980 BYU Speeches of the year, p. 29 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 120)

2 Nephi 9:34 Wo unto the liar

“We believe in being honest [Articles of Faith 1:13]. …

“We all need to know what it means to be honest. Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving. …

“… Honesty is a moral compass to guide us in our lives. …

“Honesty is a principle, and we have our moral agency to determine how we will apply this principle. We have the agency to make choices, but ultimately we will be accountable for each choice we make. We may deceive others, but there is One we will never deceive. From the Book of Mormon we learn, ‘The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name’ [2 Nephi 9:41].

“There are different shades of truth telling. When we tell little white lies, we become progressively color-blind. It is better to remain silent than to mislead. The degree to which each of us tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth depends on our conscience. …

“… As President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, ‘Let the truth be taught by example and precept—that to steal is evil, that to cheat is wrong, that to lie is a reproach to anyone who indulges in it” (James E Faust, Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 57–61; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 41–44).

2 Nephi 9:42 puffed up because of their learning

‘What causes intellectual apostasy? Why do some learned men and women turn from the faith? It is not learning, for there are hundreds of us, thousands of us, equally well-trained. It isn’t being exposed to different ideas, for we too were exposed to these ideas in the finest universities of the land. Why, then, do they lose their testimony? Principally out of vanity and pride. They want to impress others with their learning. To put it indelicately, it is the problem of the swelled head, because that is exactly what the Prophet said.’ (Theodore M Burton, General Conference, April 1961)

3. The Lord remembers His covenants with His people.

2 Nephi 10:3 The name ‘Christ’

‘As a young missionary, I had a most interesting discussion with a clergyman. He told us that he could not accept the Book of Mormon because it openly spoke of Jesus Christ, using His name and events of His life hundreds of years before His birth. He found this transparency uncharacteristic of the pattern of the Old Testament that referenced the Savior more subtly.

To me the bold declaration of Jesus Christ is the very power of the Book of Mormon.  Of course, we must receive a spiritual witness that the book is of God.  But once that is obtained, the purposes of Christ, the reality of His life and Resurrection, and the clarity of what is necessary to follow Him and obtain eternal life with Him are strikingly tangible before us.’ (Neil L Andersen, Ensign, Oct. 2011, 41)

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Joseph Smith, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 7 – I Know in Whom I Have Trusted

1. Lehi teaches that his descendants will be blessed through the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

‘In the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, we read that “the Lord hath visited” Joseph, the son of Jacob spoken of in the Old Testament, and that Joseph was given great promises concerning his posterity (JST, Genesis 50:24). As Lehi testified, “Joseph truly saw our day” (2 Nephi 3:5), meaning the day of Lehi and his posterity, and knew that in the future God would raise up “a choice seer” (verse 7), namely the great prophet who was his namesake (see verse 15). Joseph knew also that it would be primarily his descendants whom the Lord would call upon first in these last days to carry the gospel to additional lost members of the house of Israel scattered among the nations of the earth, in compliance with the covenant God made with Abraham (see Bible Dictionary, “Joseph,” 716–17; Guide to the Scriptures, “Joseph, Son of Jacob”). Obviously, since the Lord kept His covenant with Joseph, He will also keep His covenants with us if we are righteous as well.

Lehi’s teaching is a great example of how Heavenly Father honored the covenant He made with Joseph. We can have the confidence that God will always honor His covenants.’ (Book of Mormon Institute Manual, 2009)

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2 Nephi 3:5 Out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.

‘This is a brilliant passage of prophecy. Lehi testifies that he (Lehi) had been shown in vision to Joseph in Egypt. In other words Joseph saw that Lehi would be the great leader who would be raised up to carry a branch of Joseph’s seed over the ocean to the promised land where they would receive the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days. What a thrilling thing this must have been when Lehi learned that he was shown to Joseph in Egypt over a thousand years before Lehi was born.’ (W Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 3:11 A seer will I raise up

‘The Prophet Joseph Smith brought us the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and many other writings. As far as our records show, he has given us more revealed truth than any prophet who has ever lived upon the face of the earth. And the Lord said: “And not to the bringing forth my word only, … but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.”  2 Ne. 3:11 What did he mean by that? That in the midst of these hundreds of churches of men—the result of men’s interpretations of the scriptures because they can’t agree, and these churches keep multiplying—that the Lord would give to this new prophet the ability to comprehend the scriptures that had already been sent forth among them.’ (LeGrand Richards, General Conference, April 1981)

2 Nephi 3:12 Confounding of false doctrines

‘The Bible sits on the pulpit of hundreds of different religious sects. The Book of Mormon, the record of Joseph, verifies and clarifies the Bible. It removes stumbling blocks, it restores many plain and precious things. We testify that when used together, the Bible and the Book of Mormon confound false doctrines, lay down contentions, and establish peace.

We do not have to prove the Book of Mormon is true. The book is its own proof. All we need to do is read it and declare it! The Book of Mormon is not on trial—the people of the world, including the members of the Church, are on trial as to what they will do with this second witness for Christ.’ (Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference, October 1984)

2 Nephi 3:13 Out of weakness he shall be made strong

‘The reference to Joseph Smith’s “weakness” describes his humble economic, educational, and social position. Despite these disadvantages he will be made powerful through God’s blessing and calling.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Ne 3:18 I will make for him a spokesman

‘The Lord provided Joseph Smith with the assistance of Oliver Cowdery. As soon as the prophet and Oliver became acquainted, the Prophet knew that Oliver had been sent to him by the Lord. If Joseph was compared unto Moses, Oliver was compared to Aaron. He was given to Joseph as a spokesman that would minister with the gift of Aaron. The Lord said to Oliver, you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things; Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you. Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God (DC 8:6-8). See also DC 28:3.

Later on, the role of Joseph’s spokesman was filled by Sidney Rigdon. Sidney was a great orator and preacher in another church before he was converted to Mormonism. Records of early church meetings show that Sidney spoke regularly and at great length. The Lord said, it is expedient in me that you, my servant Sidney, should be a spokesman unto this people; yea, verily, I will ordain you unto this calling, even to be a spokesman unto my servant Joseph (DC 100:9). (Gospeldoctrine.com)

2. Nephi laments his sinfulness but glories in the goodness of God.

2 Nephi 4:13 Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me

‘The brothers’ anger continues the longstanding dispute between Nephi and Laman and Lemuel. Even during Lehi’s life, the brothers resisted Nephi to the point of seeking his life. Now, the last vestige of familial loyalty was disappearing. Nephi recognizes his brothers’ argument (allegedly stolen primogeniture) but rejects it. He identifies the cause as his brothers’ unease at the constant reminders that they have denied and spurned Yahweh and the Spirit. Once a person has turned against the Spirit, its presence in another often generates anger with that person, a kind of generalized hatred toward all that is good.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

215A-Image Laman Lemuel

2 Nephi 4:17-35 Nephi’s psalm

See http://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/jbms/6/2/S00003-50cb760cec7d73Nickerson.pdf for a form-critical analysis of Nephi’s psalm.

2 Nephi 4:17 My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities

‘Many people feel discouraged because they constantly fall short. They know firsthand that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They raise their voices with Nephi in proclaiming, “My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.”

I am certain Nephi knew that the Savior’s grace allows and enables us to overcome sin. This is why Nephi labored so diligently to persuade his children and brethren “to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.” (Dieter F Uchtdorf, General Conference, April 2015)

2 Nephi 4:18-19 Overcoming our sins and weaknesses

‘Throughout the Book of Mormon we note Nephi’s righteousness, his faithfulness in tribulation, and his dedication to God, but still he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! … I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me” (2 Nephi 4:17–18). The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) taught that “the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin” (History of the Church, 2:8). Perhaps Nephi felt burdened by what we might consider trivial weaknesses to the point where they caused him sorrow, and he sought to be free from any vestige of sin.

Nephi’s heartfelt plea for the Lord to help him overcome his weaknesses helps us understand how to conquer our own weaknesses. Personal experience teaches us of our need to do likewise. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us why we are commanded to repent and admonished us to take advantage of the Lord’s redeeming power:

“Why have our Father and His Son commanded us to repent? Because they love us. They know all of us will violate eternal laws. Whether they be small or large, justice requires that every broken law be satisfied to retain the promise of joy in this life and the privilege of returning to Father in Heaven. If not satisfied, in the Day of Judgment justice will cause that we be cast out of the presence of God to be under the control of Satan. [See 2 Nephi 9:8–10; 2:5.]

“It is our Master and His redeeming act that make it possible for us to avoid such condemnation. It is done through faith in Jesus Christ, obedience to His commandments, and enduring in righteousness to the end.

“Are you taking full advantage of the redeeming power of repentance in your life so that you can have greater peace and joy? Feelings of turmoil and despondency often signal a need for repentance. Also, the lack of the spiritual direction you seek in your life could result from broken laws. If needed, full repentance will put your life together. It will solve all of the complex spiritual pains that come from transgression. But in this life it cannot remedy some of the physical consequences that can occur from serious sin. Be wise, and consistently live well within the boundaries of righteousness defined by the Lord” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 31–32; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 25).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that, regardless of a person’s susceptibility or tendency, we have an obligation to exercise our agency to overcome our personal weaknesses:

“Perhaps these persons, as the saying goes, were ‘born that way.’ But what does that mean? Does it mean that persons with susceptibilities or strong tendencies have no choice, no free agency in these matters? Our doctrine teaches us otherwise. Regardless of a person’s susceptibility or tendency, his will is unfettered. His free agency is unqualified. It is his freedom that is impaired. … We are all responsible for the exercise of our free agency.

“… Most of us are born with thorns in the flesh, some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.

“God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Nephi 2:2). The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ would depart from him, the Lord replied, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ [2 Corinthians 12:9]” (“Free Agency and Freedom,” in Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr., ed., The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, the Doctrinal Structure [1989], 13–14).

(Book 0f Mormon Institute Manual 2009)

2 Nephi 4:20 My God hath been my support

‘Last, I refer to the life of Nephi from the Book of Mormon as an example of faithful endurance. With his parents, he left prosperous circumstances in Jerusalem and then for eight years, in great affliction, journeyed in the wilderness. The family then crossed uncharted seas to a new land. During this period, Nephi was assailed, ridiculed, and persecuted by members of his household. Following the death of his father, Nephi and other family members had to separate themselves from his older brothers because they sought his life. Out of his despair, he declared, “My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep” ‘ (Howard W Hunter, General Conference, April 1980)

2 Nephi 4:21 The  consuming of my flesh

‘Nephi alludes to experiences with the Spirit so powerful that it has resulted in physiological consequences for him. Perhaps “the consuming of my flesh” parallels descriptions of the Spirit as a “burning.” In inadequate human words, Nephi is attempting to describe the sensation of being filled with the Spirit.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 4:22 Confounded mine enemies

‘In these verses Nephi is trying to build up his thankfulness to God for all the blessings that have been poured out upon him. Somehow he is trying to counteract the temptation to take revenge on those who have already tried to kill him four different times and are now thinking of trying it again.’ (W Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 4:26 If I have seen so great things

‘Nephi writes that God has granted him spiritual visions, angelic ministrations, protection from enemies, unfathomable love, and mighty answers to prayer. Why, then, does he feel so utterly dejected and alone? This section of Nephi’s psalm reflects other elements often found in psalms of lament: physical diminishment and an impossibly heavy heart.’ (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

2 Nephi 4:27 Why should I give way to temptations

‘Nephi personalizes his spiritual struggles by contrasting the marvels of his spiritual experiences with the realities of temptations. Nephi does not doubt or discount his spiritual experiences. These temptations seem relatively minor. The picture is not one of an abject sinner approaching Yahweh, but of a righteous man seeing clearly his lack of perfection and need for continuing grace.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 4:28 Give place no more for the enemy of my soul

‘We can reject the evil one. If we want it dearly and deeply enough, that enemy can and will be rebuked by the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I promise you that the light of His everlasting gospel can and will again shine brightly where you feared life had gone hopelessly, helplessly dark.’ Jeffrey R Holland, General Conference, April 2010)

2 Nephi 4:31 O Lord wilt Thou redeem my soul?

‘Nephi closes his psalm with a clear entreaty that God will deliver him from his own sins and also from the hands of his enemies. Like other psalms of deliverance, this one asks for a shield of protection and closes with a confession of total submission and trust.’ (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

 2 Ne 4:32 a broken heart and a contrite spirit

‘The doctrine of a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” begins with the law of sacrifice as contained in the Old Testament. Under that law, the firstborn were sacrificed in similitude of the Only-Begotten Son. We are quick to teach that the law of animal sacrifice was fulfilled in the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are sometimes slow to realize that there was a replacement “law of sacrifice.” The new law as taught by the Savior requires just as regular and frequent a sacrifice. The difference is that we are to sacrifice a broken heart and a contrite spirit upon the altar of discipleship. 3 Ne 9:19-20 reads as follows:

And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

Through our faith in Jesus Christ we become his disciples and offer up a broken heart and contrite spirit. It is through this faith and sacrifice that we can obtain forgiveness of sins, Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered (2 Ne 2:7).This doctrine is even contained in the Old Testament, For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart (Ps 51:16-17).’ (gospeldoctrine.com)

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3. The anger of Laman and Lemuel increases against Nephi, and the Lord commands the followers of Nephi to separate from the followers of Laman

2 Nephi 5:3 They did murmur against me

‘Laman and Lemuel murmured against father Lehi for leading them into the wilderness because of the “foolish imaginations of his heart.” This same depressing duo declared that father Lehi had judged the Jerusalemites too harshly, yet Jerusalem was soon to fall.

Lehi rebuked murmuring Laman and Lemuel for complaining over Nephi’s saying “hard things” to them. Lehi noted: “That which ye call anger was the truth.”  (2 Ne. 1:26) How often you and I, brothers and sisters, can make that same mistake! Cutting truth does hurt, but its lancing can drain off pride.

There was murmuring, too, because Nephi broke his steel bow and couldn’t build a ship and because he was seen as trying to “rule over us” . Those same murmurers, however, soon surfeited themselves on the meat brought back by Nephi’s new bow, and they sailed in the ship that Nephi built. How handy inspired but imperfect leaders in the Church are as focal points for our frustrations, especially if circumstances require them to suffer in silence! Having confidence in leaders who keep confidences is part of sustaining them.’ (Neal A Maxwell, General Conference, October 1982)

2 Nephi 5:4 They did seek to take away my life

;We have to remember that this is the fifth time Laman and Lemuel had seriously conspired to kill their younger brother. On all four previous occasions the Lord intervened and saved Nephi’s life. However, this time it suited the purposes of God to take a different course of action.’ (W Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 5:5 Separate ourselves from wickedness

‘There are times when it is necessary to physically flee from evil, such as with Nephi and his followers. Notice that it was “those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God” who went with Nephi (2 Nephi 5:6). In like manner, today those who hearken to the warnings and revelations of modern prophets are the ones who are spiritually following them. We may not always be able, however, to physically move ourselves away from wickedness. Elder Richard G. Scott shared how we can protect ourselves:

“God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures evil agents spread throughout it. You can live a virtuous, productive, righteous life by following the plan of protection created by your Father in Heaven: His plan of happiness. It is contained in the scriptures and in the inspired declarations of His prophets. …

“Avoid worldly wickedness. Know that God is in control. In time, Satan will completely fail and be punished for his perverse evil. God has a specific plan for your life. He will reveal parts of that plan to you as you look for it with faith and consistent obedience. His Son has made you free—not from the consequences of your acts, but free to make choices. God’s eternal purpose is for you to be successful in this mortal life. No matter how wicked the world becomes, you can earn that blessing. Seek and be attentive to the personal guidance given to you through the Holy Spirit. Continue to be worthy to receive it. Reach out to others who stumble and are perplexed, not certain of what path to follow” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2004, 103–4, 106; or Ensign, May 2004, 100, 102).

(Book 0f Mormon Institute Manual 2009)

2 Nephi 5:6 and all those who would go with me

‘2 Nephi 5:6 explains that Nephi, Zoram, Sam (including each of their respective spouses and children), Jacob, Joseph, and Nephi’s sisters, all fled with Nephi from Laman and Lemuel (and their followers). Curiously, Nephi adds to this list of people by including “and all those who would go with me.” Is this a passive reference to the pre-Lehite natives of the Americas who had possibly intermingled with the Lehites? There is no doubt that there were other people on the continent when Lehi and family arrived (and not just the Jaredites). Later in the chapter (2 Nephi 5:34) it is noted that after only a few decades the Nephites and Lamanites had already had “wars and contentions”. This makes the most sense if the groups are much larger than the original group (plus subsequent children) who came on the boat (about 40-50 people). The greater numbers required for “wars and contentions” could be easily be explained by the native inhabitants of the land who joined themselves to the Nephites and Lamanites. (fairmormon.org)

2 Nephi 5:27 after the manner of happiness

‘While living in Bountiful, Nephi was charged by the Lord with the responsibility to build the ship which would take them across the sea to the promised land. After they arrived in the promised land, great conflicts continued to arise between the people who centered their lives in Christ and the nonbelievers, who followed the examples of Laman and Lemuel. Ultimately, the risk of violence between the two groups was so great that Nephi and those who followed the teachings of the Lord separated themselves and fled into the wilderness for safety. At this point in time, some 30 years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, Nephi makes a well-documented and somewhat surprising statement, especially after recording in the scriptures the many afflictions and tribulations they had faced for so long. These are his words: “And it came to pass that we [did live] after the manner of happiness.” Despite their hardships, they were able to live after the manner of happiness because they were centered in Christ and His gospel.’ (Richard J Maynes, General Conference, October 2015)

 

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Joseph Smith, LDS Church History, LDS Doctrine

The keystone of our religion

In the Introduction to the Book of Mormon Joseph Smith describes the book as the ‘keystone of our religion’. What is a ‘keystone’ and why is the Book of Mormon the keystone of the restored gospel?

The word ‘keystone’ has two principal meanings:

  • A central stone at the summit of an arch locking the whole together.
  • The central principle or part of a policy, system, etc., on which all else depends

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President Benson described three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone to our religion. It is the keystone to:

  • Our witness of Christ
  • Our doctrine
  • Our testimony

It is the keystone to our witness of Christ because it is a second witness to the atoning mission of the Saviour. Of the 239 chapters in the Book of Mormon only 6 don’t have reference to Jesus Christ.

It is the keystone to our doctrine because it sets out the fullness of the Gospel. President Ezra Taft Benson taught us that the Book of Mormon helps us discern truth from error: “We should know the Book of Mormon better than any other book. Not only should we know what history and faith-promoting stories it contains, but we should understand its teachings. If we really do our homework and approach the Book of Mormon doctrinally, we can expose the errors and find the truths to combat many of the current false theories and philosophies of men. I have noted within the Church a difference in discernment, insight, conviction and spirit between those who know and love the Book of Mormon and those who do not. That book is a great sifter.”

It is the keystone to our testimony because most of us received our testimony through reading the Book of Mormon and accepting Moroni’s invitation to pray about it.

It is also the keystone to our testimony in the sense ‘locking the whole thing together’. If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph was a prophet and restored the true Gospel to the earth. If the Book of Mormon is not true then Joseph was a fraud and the Church has no claim to authority and revelation.

It continues to be the ‘central principle’ on which all else depends. If we have a testimony of the Book of Mormon then we should also have a testimony of prophets and of continuing revelation between God and man. This testimony should strengthen us when we have doubts about the Prophet Joseph, historical issues or current policy pronouncements. When our testimony wavers, we need to go back to that sacred volume and refresh our testimony of it.

We all need the stability that a keystone brings. Without that stability  we risk, as Paul syas in Ephesians being

…..children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

President Benson promises great blessings to those who seriously study the Book of Mormon:

“The moment you begin a serious study of [the Book of Mormon, you] will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. … When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).

See Ensign article:

The keystone of our religion by President Ezra Taft Benson