The Second Seer


But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee,

no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun.,

for he receiveth them even as Moses. (D&C 28:2)

For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead. (D&C 28:7)

And I have sent forth the fulness of my gospel by the hand of my servant Joseph; and in weakness have I blessed him; and I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead. Wherefore, watch over him that his faith fail not, and it shall be given by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, that knoweth all things. (D&C 35:17-19)

O hearken, ye elders of my church, and give ear to the words which I shall speak unto you. For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you,

that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand.

And this ye shall know assuredly-

that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.

But verily, verily, I say unto you,

that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead.

And this shall be a law unto you,

that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments;

And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. For verily I say unto you,

that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed. (D&C 43:1-7)

So, here is what I get out of these scriptures:

The gift of receiving revelations and commandments for the church and also the gift of the mysteries and sealed revelations were given to Joseph Smith alone.  This means that while Joseph lived in righteousness, no one else would possess them.  He would keep them for the rest of his life, and though all eternity, as long as he did not transgress in mortality.  Nevertheless, it was always the intention of the Lord that someone else would have these gifts at some point, presumably after Joseph died.  But while he lived righteously, he alone would possess them.  If, however, he transgressed, he would lose them, but would have power to appoint someone else to them.  Even if Joseph did not transgress, but lived a life of righteousness, and then died, no one else would have these gifts unless and until Joseph appointed them to that person.

This shows that there were always two men God had in mind to possess these gifts.  The first was Joseph Smith, Jun.  The second man is still unidentified, but what is known is that he either would be appointed by Joseph Smith while Joseph was still alive (if Joseph transgressed), or he would be appointed by Joseph Smith after Joseph died (if Joseph did not transgress.)

Joseph Smith, Jun., and the other guy are the only men appointed to the church to receive revelations, commandments, mysteries and sealed stuff.  Everyone else in the church, regardless of title, position or office, can only teach the revelations and commandments that come through Joseph and the other man.  The church is commanded to receive as commandments and revelations and mysteries only that which comes through either Joseph Smith or the other, unidentified man.

We can conclude from this, then, that Joseph abided in the Lord until the day of his martyrdom, for he never appointed these gifts in life, to anyone else, which he was supposed to do if he lost them.  Those who say, then, that Joseph was a fallen prophet, due to polygamy, etc., are in error.  (We also have no record of Joseph appointing the gifts to any other man after his death.)

As there were only going to be two men appointed to the church, having these gifts, we can conclude that the second man would not die like Joseph, but would remain alive until all things had been revealed, all commandments had been given, all mysteries had been opened, all sealed things had been unsealed and the restoration of all things had taken place.  The second man would have to do everything else that Joseph did not do, to complete the restoration of all things.  Thus, from Brigham Young to Thomas S. Monson, none of the church presidents fit the bill for the second man, for they all died (or will die, in the case of brother Thomas) and they restored nothing more than Joseph did.  None of these men, then, are prophets, seers, revelators or translators, like Joseph was.  Their calling is merely to teach what came through the first bona fide seer, Joseph Smith, and when the second man makes his appearance, to teach what comes through him.  He will be a bona fide prophet, seer, revelator and translator, just like Joseph was.

It may be that this second seer, who will be appointed unto the church, is the Josephite restorer:

Joseph Smith’s mission

And again, verily I say unto thy brethren, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, their sins are forgiven them also, and they are accounted as equal with thee in holding the keys of this last kingdom; as also through your administration the keys of the school of the prophets, which I have commanded to be organized; that thereby they may be perfected in their ministry for the salvation of Zion, and of the nations of Israel, and of the Gentiles, as many as will believe; that through your administration they may receive the word, and through their administration the word may go forth unto the ends of the earth, unto the Gentiles first, and then, behold, and lo, they shall turn unto the Jews. (D&C 90:6-9)

The Josephite restorer’s mission

And then cometh the day when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power in convincing the nations, the heathen nations, the house of Joseph, of the gospel of their salvation.

For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ. (D&C 90:10-11)

If so, then all the splinter groups which claim to be restoring this or that in the church, which are led by a man, and that man is not a miracle worker, nor a seer like Joseph was (i.e., he does not possess a Urim and Thummim), are in error.  The only duty of the latter-day saints is to abide by the revelations and commandments that come through Joseph Smith.  They are not to listen to or obey the commandments and revelations that come from anyone else, excepting only the second seer.  The second seer will be like Joseph: seeing visions, translating ancient records, possessing a Urim and Thummim, receiving revelations, prophesying, having angels minister and restoring the rest, therefore no one need be deceived.

Again, if the second seer is the Josephite restorer—and there is every reason to believe that they are one and the same person–he will also be performing miracles, setting up the conditions for the fulfillment of 2 Ne. 28:6:

Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.

The latter-day saints, then, need not be deceived by impostors.

False prophets will turn the people’s attention away from the Doctrine and Covenants.  This is why Moroni states,

Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God, for behold, the time cometh at that day when all these things must be fulfilled  (Moroni 8:33.)

Although he was principally referring to the revelations of God that would come from the Josephite restorer, who would be the second seer, his words are also applicable to the revelations of God that came through the first seer, Joseph Smith.  Therefore, if a professed prophet focusses on the Book of Mormon, or on the Bible, or on something else, to the exclusion or downplay of the Doctrine and Covenants, he is not of God.  If he accepts some of Joseph’s revelations, but not the others, he is not of God.  If he wants you to obey a church policy or procedure or tradition, which conflicts with the revealed law and commandments found in the Doctrine and Covenants, he is not of God.

For, behold, these things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants.  (D&C 28:12)

So, if you don’t want to obey the law of tithing, as it is written in D&C 119, because you think the Bible tithing laws are better, or if you don’t believe in polygamy and want to remove section 132 from the canon, or if you feel that the baptismal wording given to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon is more valid than the baptismal wording given to the Gentiles in the Doctrine and Covenants, these and many other beliefs are inspired of the evil one to get people looking away from the revelations of God, that they may be deceived, confounded and destroyed by him.

The Doctrine and Covenants (and other canonized revelations given through Joseph Smith) is the word of the Lord to the Gentiles.  It is Gentile-specific.  It is the fulfillment of: “and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it” (2 Ne. 29:12.)

Out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.  (2 Ne. 29:11)

A true prophet, then, that comes among the people, will encourage the Gentiles to more fully conform to the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.  More conformity, not less, is the mark of a true prophet.  It is also the mark of a true saint, and so all those Mormons who clamor for their leaders to reveal more, to change policies and doctrines, and more or less to alter the Book of Doctrine and Covenants to fit their worldview and philosophies, are under a deception of the devil.

Restoration is to be done by the two seers alone.  The presidents and leaders of the church have no authority to make any changes to the revelations of God, nor to add to them.  (But we know by Moroni’s prophecy in Mormon 8:33 that wicked people in the church will eventually end up transfiguring the holy word of God.)  Their only duty is to teach the revelations, while our duty, the duty of the membership, is to live and abide by those same revelations, conforming our lives to them.  And thus, pretty much everyone is under condemnation, for even the mainstream members, who have no desire to change the revelations, sin, by their conformity to what their leaders say, contrary to the revelations.  They do not “look to God” (Alma 37:47) like Alma taught, nor do they “look unto the revelations of God” as Moroni taught.  They merely look unto their leaders.

The second seer’s appearance will cause a change in current conditions, for, like the prophets that precede him, or are contemporary to him, he will insist upon acceptance of all of Joseph’s revelations and full compliance with them.  Unlike the prophets, though, he will take up the work of restoration where Joseph left off, receiving another Urim and Thummim and creating quite the dilemma for people, for they will wonder who they should follow.  Those who use the keys of discernment I am giving in this post will not be deceived, for they will know a true from a false prophet, a true from a false seer and a true from a false teacher.

Oliver and Hyrum were not the second seers

I suppose that some will point to Oliver Cowdery and later to Hyrum Smith as the seers who were appointed by Joseph, fulfilling the scriptures quoted at the beginning of this post, but neither Oliver nor Hyrum were seers like unto Moses, as Joseph was, but were appointed seers like unto Aaron.  The second seer that would come after Joseph would be like both Joseph and Moses, and not like Aaron.  It can be expected that this man will also have an Aaron-like assistant seer, just as Joseph had an assistant president (Oliver and later Hyrum.)  In other words, Joseph Smith and his actions and revelations were a type, foreshadowing the work and revelations the second seer would do and receive.

Joseph only laid the foundation; the second seer will complete the entire structure

The word, “fundamental,” means, “of or pertaining to the foundation.”  Joseph Smith was a fundamentalist, for his entire work and calling was simply to lay a foundation for the restoration of all things.

Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ, being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith.  (D&C 21:1-2)

Therefore, marvel not at these things, for ye are not yet pure; ye can not yet bear my glory; but ye shall behold it if ye are faithful in keeping all my words that I have given you, from the days of Adam to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Jesus and his apostles, and from Jesus and his apostles to Joseph Smith, whom I did call upon by mine angels, my ministering servants, and by mine own voice out of the heavens, to bring forth my work; which foundation he did lay, and was faithful; and I took him to myself.  (D&C 136:37-38)

It was his mission merely to start things and not to finish anything.  And, in fact, Joseph finished absolutely nothing, though he started many projects, which remain incomplete to this very day.  Unless one has a proper understanding of Joseph’s foundational mission, it would appear that his work was an utter failure, for he failed to bring forth the entire Book of Mormon, he failed to retain the Kirtland temple, he failed to build the Nauvoo temple, he failed to build the city of Zion and other cities, and so on and so forth.  Nevertheless, Joseph’s mission was, in point of fact, a total success.

The second seer will also be a fundamentalist, like Joseph.  Whatsoever Joseph did, will also be done by the second seer, except that this time it will be done to completion and with permanence.  Whereas Joseph was hindered by enemies both within the church and outside of it, to the point that he couldn’t finish anything, the second seer’s enemies will also try to hinder him, but will fail miserably.  The second seer will return to the foundation, finish it, and then build the rest of the structure.  We can expect, therefore, to see a return to polygamy, to the Kirtland-type of temple and outpouring of gifts, as at the day of Pentecost, to Nauvoo-type temples, also, but with more to them, to re-baptism and all other practices Joseph engaged in, which have either been abandoned or altered.  We can also expect to see city-building as a chief latter-day saint occupation.  And so on and so forth.

Thus, the second seer will be very much like Joseph Smith.  Fundamentalist Mormons, then, may find the new seer quite to their liking, whereas the LDS Mormon, who rejects polygamy and the rest of the early practices, may have a harder time following his leadership.

No one, except the second seer, is to build on the foundation

Since Joseph’s death to now, the church’s standing orders are simply to stick to the revelations he received and wait for further instructions from the Lord via the second seer.  Building upon the foundation Joseph laid, by adding new revelations (which did not proceed from Joseph) to the canon, or altering the canonized revelations of Joseph, or even just innovating—through policy, procedure and sustaining vote—a new doctrine that contradicts, nullifies, or goes beyond the limits established in, the revelations of Joseph, is all prohibited to the saints.  The saints are commanded to be bound, or are to bind themselves, only to the canonized revelations of Joseph Smith and to those of his successor, the second seer.

And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment,

that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and direct my church, how to act upon the points of my law and commandments, which I have given.

And thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me—

That inasmuch as ye do this, glory shall be added to the kingdom which ye have received. Inasmuch as ye do it not, it shall be taken, even that which ye have received.  (D&C 43:8-10)

It is the second seer alone that will expand the canon.  No one else is authorized to do so.  Everything currently in the canon, which did not proceed from Joseph Smith, is non-binding upon the saints (although it may be quite useful for instruction.)  Specifically, they are sections 134, 135, 136, 138, OD-1 and OD-2.  (Section 102 passes muster because it was the pattern given for the high council and was approved by Joseph Smith.)  The saints, then, can set these six sections and declarations aside, considering them either as words of wisdom, or as further light from the Lord, sent not by commandment nor by constraint, or as useful bits of history, instruction and advice.  The vision recorded in D&C 138 is merely an interesting personal revelation, canonized, so that everyone can read it.

No one, not even the second seer, is authorized to alter Joseph’s revelations.  He may only add to them, either with new sections, or by expanding the wording of one of Joseph’s revelations, as Joseph often did with his own revelations from one edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, to the next.  This is because the revelations of God are a continuous thought, like a divine radio talk show.  Even when the radio is turned off, the show transmits through the airwaves.  A revelation is the turning on of the divine radio and a recording of the words perceived, and then the radio is turned off again.  A seer can know of things past, present and future, meaning that a seer can turn on, or has the gift or capability of turning on, the divine radio, at any point of the program he desires, allowing a seer to add words to a revelation received years ago, even hundreds or thousands of years ago, or even to a revelation of the future.  Time is of no consequence to a seer.  Thus, the second seer is authorized to expand, even significantly expand, Joseph’s revelations, if desired (just as Joseph significantly expanded the Bible with the JST.)  Or, he may simply add his own revelations to the canon as new sections.  Or he may do both (for this is the prerogative of a seer.)  But he will not alter a revelation of Joseph, so that doctrines, commandments and principles have been transfigured.

Impostors, on the other hand, will alter Joseph’s revelations, changing doctrines and principles and commandments.  They will also add their own revelations to the canon and make them binding upon the saints.  The Community of Christ, for example, has a D&C that is a lot larger than ours, for they have added many things above and beyond Joseph’s revelations.  Their church is filled to the brim with impostors.

Our church, (the church of God), has less impostors than the splinter groups.  Although the saints routinely sustain the First Presidency and 12 apostles as prophets, seers and revelators, these 15 men do not go around publishing revelations and trying to get the saints bound to them through canonization.  They are content at their rock-star status and do not pretend to actually be the things they are sustained as being (prophets, seers and revelators.)  It is true that many members complain about the lack of new revelations, prophecies, visions, angelic ministrations, etc., from these men, but it is better to have the canon devoid of anything but Joseph’s true revelations, than filled up with false ones.  All saints, then, that read my words, ought to thank the Lord that we have only four sections and two declarations that do not proceed from the first or second seers, and also that our leaders do not pretend to receive that which they, in actuality, do not receive.  If the day ever comes that the leadership starts to claim to have received revelations and commandments “from the Lord” and seeks to canonize them, and to bind the saints to them, that is the day the Spirit of God has departed from them.

Everyone is entitled to personal revelations, and we can share them with others, if we want.  Personal revelation does not bind the saints, nor alter or add to the canon.  The instant anyone in this church tries to bind anyone else in this church to their personal revelation, is the instant the Spirit withdraws from that person.  A saint that has the spirit of prophecy and revelation can prophesy to his heart’s content, can call people to repentance, can reveal mysteries, etc., but he cannot bind the saints, nor even the sinners, to his revelations.  The standard of judgment for the Gentiles will only be the revelations of Joseph Smith and the second seer.

Now, these are keys to discern impostors, for many dissenters have claimed to have angels minister to them, or to have even seen the Lord, or to have received many revelations and prophesied many things.  “So what?” I say.  All of that, all of it, is personal.  The Lord will not send a man to preach to the latter-day saints anything other than the commandments of God that came through Joseph the seer.

Additionally, the Lord will not gather his saints out of the church until after the Gentiles have rejected the fullness of the gospel, as given by the second seer.  So all splinter groups that have departed from the main body of the saints, claiming the church is apostate, are in error and need to repent and come back.  The wheat will ripen among the tares only after the second seer shows up.

The revelations that the second seer receives, even his personal revelations, will be applicable to others.  In other words, he’ll be receiving revelations and commandments that others must abide by, otherwise they commit the sin of “denying the revelations of God.”  So, he is the sole exception to the general rule.

(I might also add, concerning personal revelations, that if you receive personal revelation that instructs you to alter or ignore God’s commandments in Joseph’s revelations, then that personal revelation proceeds from the evil one.  And any personal revelations that add new principles which contradict Joseph’s revelations, are also devil-inspired.)

James Strang and other impostors

James Strang (of the Strangites) came closest, I suppose, to making the proper claims of being the second seer.  He claimed Joseph appointed him prior to his death via a letter.  He claimed to see angels, to translate the Book of the Law of the Lord, he practiced polygamy, founded a city (Voree), etc.  But Strang died and never completed the restoration, thus his claims are and were bogus.  Others have also made similar claims of using a Urim and Thummim, translating ancient records, seeing angles (or even the Lord), etc.  Some claim to be the “one might and strong,” and some have published many new revelations.  None of these men, though, have done what Joseph did, nor are they like him.  They simply do not fit as the second seer.

Nevertheless, all of these false seers are instructive to the latter-day saints, for it shows that the devil believes in the very interpretation I am giving in this post, hence all the imitation second seers he sends.  The devil does not know when the second seer will appear and so immediately after Joseph’s death, in the midst of all the confusion as to who should lead the church, he immediately brought forth a second seer impostor (James Strang), in case the Lord raised up His second seer to the church at once.  Strang is instructive because he came with a claim of having been appointed by Joseph Smith.  Had the second seer really appeared at that time, he would have claimed the same, and so the devil needed to put forth a counter-claim.  Strang was rejected by the body and soon this “appointed by Joseph” principle was disbelieved until it was entirely forgotten about by the saints.  Now, when someone brings it up, the saints merely think that Hyrum was the one appointed, and he died with Joseph, so they just don’t think about a “second seer” doctrine anymore, choosing to believe, instead, that their 15 general leaders are all seers.  As a result, the devil has changed his strategy.  He still brings forth, from time to time, impostor second seers, but they never claim appointment by Joseph Smith, for nobody believes in that anymore.  When the real second seer shows up, he will make the proper claim of appointment by Joseph, which people will think is ridiculous and preposterous, therefore all impostor seers have ceased making such a claim, yet the devil still brings them forth, for he is still expecting the man’s appearance and needs false seers on the scene.

(Interestingly enough, because I am now publishing this post which re-teaches the saints about the requirement of appointment by Joseph of a second seer, if the saints believe my words, the devil will have to change his strategy once again, and return to another Strang-type impostor.)

The silliness must stop

Prophets will prophesy, revelators will receive revelations and seers will use a Urim and Thummim, therefore it is simply silly to “sustain” a man as a prophet, seer and revelator—who doesn’t manifest the spirit of prophecy and revelation, nor the gift of seership—simply because of his priesthood office and title.  The First Presidency and 12 apostles have the gift of the Holy Ghost, as we all do as latter-day saints, and they are entitled to receive heavenly guidance in their office and calling, to perform their duties, like the rest of us.  Let’s leave it at that.  There is no reason to make them equal to Joseph or to the second seer.  In fact, there is a very great danger to making them equal to these seers.

This scripture refers to Joseph, not to the office

And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses—behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.  (D&C 107:91-92)

Joseph Smith was “the President of the office of the High Priesthood” at the time this revelation was received, and he was the head of the church.  These verses do not mean that every man ordained to this office is a prophet, seer, revelator and translator, only that this was Joseph’s duty while occupying the office.  The duty of all those that came after Joseph, who occupied this office, would be to teach Joseph’s revelations.

It is perfectly okay to say, “No.”

When the saints are asked, “Do you sustain so-and-so or such-and-such men as prophets, seers and revelators?” it is proper and reasonable and wise to say, “No,” or to raise the hand in opposition.  No one but Joseph Smith and the second seer ought to be sustained by hand or voice as seers, revelators, translators or prophets to the church.  It simply should not be done, ever.  Doing so opens the door to a false seer or prophet or revelator corrupting the revelations and the church.  This practice, then, must stop, but people are naturally timid and do not want to make waves, so I suppose it will continue unabated, at least until the second seer shows up and starts making waves.

Why seership is the greatest gift of God

Now Ammon said unto him:

I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.  And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.

And the king said

that a seer is greater than a prophet.

And Ammon said

that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.

But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.

Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.

And now, when Ammon had made an end of speaking these words the king rejoiced exceedingly, and gave thanks to God, saying:

Doubtless a great mystery is contained within these plates, and these interpreters were doubtless prepared for the purpose of unfolding all such mysteries to the children of men.  (Mosiah 8:13-19)

Since all things can be revealed through a seer, including all the laws and mysteries of God—which laws and mysteries allow men to know how to be saved and exalted and how to obtain all the blessings that come from God—a seer is of greater benefit to his fellow man than a prophet, a miracle worker, a healer, or any other gift.  Seership not only is of greater benefit to men than other gifts, but seership also has a wider sphere of influence, meaning it benefits more men, than any other gift.  In other words, more men can be saved through the gift of seership than through any other gift.  (This shows the general ignorance of the latter-day saints, for we emphasize the lesser gift of prophecy and de-emphasize the greater gift of seership, when referring to Joseph Smith, routinely referring to him as “the Prophet Joseph Smith” or simply as “the Prophet”—with a capital “P,” as if that makes it a greater gift—instead of taking Iddo the Seer as our pattern and calling Joseph, “Joseph Smith the Seer.”  No one had any idea of what a seer was or what the difference between a seer and a prophet was, until Joseph came along, and it is apparent that the latter-day saints are still clueless, confused and befuddled, preferring to use the less mysterious and more known title of, “prophet,” than, “seer.”)

If a society is blessed with a seer, it means that God has favored them above all others.  The way we show our gratitude towards God for His bestowal of this high gift is by providing for the seer, that he may dedicate all of his time to the work of obtaining the laws and mysteries of God, and by living by the revelations and commandments he receives.

Purge ye out the iniquity which is among you; sanctify yourselves before me; and if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith.

And again, I say unto you,

that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him;

and if ye do it not he shall remain unto them that have received him, that I may reserve unto myself a pure people before me.  (D&C 43:11-14)

Then the Lord would be pleased and would pour out his laws and mysteries to that people, and they would retain that seer with them, or would always have a seer among them, like the Nephites had through much of their history.

If, however, a society is not blessed with a seer, the way to obtain a seer is by living by the revelations and commandments given to the previous seer, with exactness, and then praying to God—in faith, believing He will hear and answer your prayers, nothing doubting—for a seer.  (If the saints were to do this, the second seer would be sent or would appear among the people, lickety-split.)

It takes a seer

The double seer pattern is historical and is based upon patterns found in the Book of Mormon.  Lehi was a seer and received new revelations and commandments for his people, which added to what a previous seer, Moses, had revealed.  Nephi, his son, was another seer and he instituted a monarchy among the people, through new revelations.  Jacob and the Jacobites were a genealogical line of prophets and we read that the Nephites had exceedingly many prophets among them, who merely preached repentance, but when Mosiah comes along, he is singled out because he’s not just a prophet, but a seer, and he ends up making a major change, moving the people off of the promised land, through many revelations that he received and by the power of the Lord’s arm (which is a type of how the people of the Lord will return to that land.)  Benjamin, his son, is also of note, though the record doesn’t specify whether he’s a seer or not.  But when Mosiah, Benjamin’s son, becomes king, he is spoken of in definite terms as a seer.  And Mosiah the seer ends up ending the monarchy and establishing a government of judges, all through new revelations of God.

Seers, not prophets, are what God uses to make known new divine laws and principles.  A prophet is used to call people to repentance, so that they comply with the laws of God revealed by His seers.  Seers are sent to restore something old which was lost, or to build something new, which was never known.  This knowledge of the difference between a seer and a prophet ought to cause the latter-day saints to relax and feel safe, for they need not be deceived by anyone making false claims, for no mere prophet can build upon the foundation Joseph laid.

God set up the two-seer pattern for the latter-day saints so that they could just focus their daily energies on fully complying with Joseph’s revelations.  They need not worry about being led astray, neither by church leadership, nor by church dissenters, nor by outside influences.  If the person or group, whether inside or outside of the church, was attempting to lead them contrary to the revelations, they could set him or them aside and ignore them, for no one is authorized to go contrary to the revelations, regardless of priesthood authority or office.  Joseph’s revelations, then, are a safety feature of seers, given by God to His saints that they may dwell safely and in peace and not be deceived.  The only exception is when God sends another seer to reveal more laws, but in the case of the latter-day saints, there will be only two seers sent, and one has already come.

A saint need only ask himself one question when dealing with the revelatory claims of another: “Is this the second seer?”  If the answer to that question is an obvious, “no,” then get back to the business of keeping the commandments of God as found in Joseph’s revelations.  If the answer to the question is an obvious, “yes,” then you had better start complying with the new seer’s revelations, too.  The answer will always be obvious, for the second seer’s appearance will be dramatic and dynamic, just as Joseph’s calling and work was.  The second seer’s work will “feel” like the restoration had been re-started from where it left off, as if the saints of today were suddenly thrust back in time to Joseph’s day.  This is because, like I said, time is irrelevant to seers (and also to God), for they operate on God’s level or perspective, seeing things as He sees them.  That’s why they are called seers.  They don’t get a bird’s eye view, they get a God’s eye view.  So the second seer will cause the saints to feel like they are in a time warp.

Again, it is the jot-and-tittle principle.  Everything said about the law of Moses in the following scripture applies to the revelations given through Joseph Smith:

And there were no contentions, save it were a few that began to preach, endeavoring to prove by the scriptures that it was no more expedient to observe the law of Moses. Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures.  But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit; yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away till it should all be fulfilled; therefore in this same year were they brought to a knowledge of their error and did confess their faults.  (3 Ne. 1:24-25)

So, when the Lord told the saints to build a city opposite of Nauvoo and to call it, Zarahemla, and the saints didn’t do it, it doesn’t mean that the Lord then said, “Oh, okay, well, then, just forget about it.”  Guess what?  The saints still need to build that city of Zarahemla!  It is still His will that it be built and this jot or tittle found in D&C 125:3 must still be fulfilled.  Or, when Joseph wrote of his First Vision,

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.  (JS—H 1:20)

Guess what?  Joseph never ended up writing the full vision, but it’s got to be written, or restored, and who will do it?  The second seer will.  Who will cause the saints to build Zarahemla?  The second seer will.  All these revelatory frays, unfinished accounts and projects, abbreviations and abridgments and failures need to be successfully completed and restored.  And they will be, but the experience of taking up these previous labors and projects will feel unreal to the modern-day saints.  So the appearance and work of the second seer will be unmistakable.

Come back to the fold

All those who have left the church of God (the LDS church) will be called back into her by the second seer, for building up the church (kingdom) of God has always been the work of seers.  But there is no need to wait for his appearance.  If you believe in Joseph’s revelations and desire to comply with them, then repent of your sins and return to the fold and comply with them.  Again, comply with the revelations, not necessarily with the contrary dictates of church leadership.  It may be that if the second seer shows up without the church being properly prepared for his advent, the shock might cause many members to reject him.  If those—who have resigned their membership, or those who have simply stopped attending, or the splinter groups that have never been LDS, except for some distant ancestor—return to the fold, to the body of the saints, and start complying with the letter of the law, this may act as a preparation for the church, and many more saints may recognize him for what he is.

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Re-Post of “The Sermon on the Mount in the Book of Mormon–Part 1” and “Malachi and Isaiah in Third Nephi–Part 2”


I came across these first two parts of a three part series by Corbin Volluz back in 2013 and was very impressed. So impressed, in fact, that I think I ought to re-blog them here on LDS Anarchy. I don’t have the author’s permission to re-blog and I didn’t see a re-blog button, but I’m doing it anyway. The original articles were found on the Rational Faiths blog, here and here. Okay, here is the re-post:


The Sermon on the Mount in the Book of Mormon–Part 1

Oct 08, 13The Sermon on the Mount in the Book of Mormon–Part 1

When I was a missionary, it was customary to introduce the new investigator to the Book of Mormon by inviting them to read the appearance of the Savior to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 11.  I remember being concerned whenever this invitation was given that the investigator would continue reading into 3 Nephi 12-14 and realize that the Savior teaches the Nephites essentially the Sermon on the Mount from the King James Version of Matthew 3-5.  I knew that if the investigator started asking questions about this, I would not have a satisfactory answer.  King James Version

In the many years since my mission, I have read most of the apologetic literature dealing with this issue, and while I have learned a number of helpful things along the way, none of the arguments have satisfied me as to why the KJV Sermon on the Mount is in the Book of Mormon.  As readers of the BOM are aware, the SOM comes at the beginning of Jesus’ teachings to the surviving Nephites, though his teachings continue for thirteen more chapters through 3 Nephi 27.

I was unable for a long time to come to grips with the fact that the presence of the KJV SOM in the BOM is an indisputable indicator of its modern production.  I was so busy whistling past the graveyard and looking at other things (things that were more faith promoting), that I didn’t have to.  But always in the back of my mind the issue lurked.  And the natural result was a certain amount of cognitive dissonance.

Eventually I was able to admit the obvious—that there is simply no good reason consonant with total and complete BOM ancientness for entire chapters of New Testament KJV to appear in its pages.   This admission on my part had a two-fold effect: (1) It allowed me to finally let go the hopeless effort to explain it away in a manner consistent with the BOM being completely ancient, and resolved the cognitive dissonance I had long been experiencing; and, (2) It liberated me to actually look at the KJV passages in the BOM.

This was huge for me.  Before this, I had been so busy being afraid of the KJV passages that I had not allowed myself to read them closely and see what they had to say in the BOM.  It allowed me the freedom to ask questions about the KJV passages, most important of which for me was, “Are the KJV passages just filler?”  And, if not, “What does the BOM actually do with the KJV passages?”

Once I got to the place where I could allow myself to ask these questions, I began to see that not only were the KJV passages not filler, and that the BOM was in fact “doing something” with them, but that what the BOM was doing with the KJV passages was complex and remarkable.

Here I will begin the first of an expected three-part article examining what the Book of Mormon actually does with the Sermon on the Mount.

It is easy to see this three-chapter sermon as an undigested lump sitting there like a doctrinal island with no connection to the teachings that follow.  A closer reading, however, shows that the Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi is far from filler.  Instead, it serves as a foundation text for the rest of the Savior’s teachings, and we find threads of it woven into the warp and woof of what Jesus declares thereafter.

1. The SOM’s teaching that salt that has lost its savor is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men (12:13) is applied to the fate of the Gentiles who reject the gospel: “I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.” (16:15)

2. The SOM’s teaching that “I give unto you to be a light of this people” (12:14) is applied by Jesus later to his Nephite disciples: “Ye are my disciples; and ye are a light unto this people, who are a remnant of the house of Joseph.” (15:12)

3. The SOM’s admonition to “let your light so shine before this people” (12:16) becomes Jesus’ Nephite teaching to “hold up your light that it may shine unto the world.  Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do.” (18:24)

4. The SOM’s teaching that Jesus “is not come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil” (12:17) is echoed to the Nephites: “Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.” (15:6)

5. Similarly, the SOM’s teaching that “in me (the law) hath all been fulfilled” (12:18) is expanded upon when Jesus tells the Nephites he is the one who gave the law of Moses and that “the law in me is fulfilled.” (15:4-5)

6. The SOM’s statement that “I have given you the law and the commandments” with the injunction that “ye shall believe in me” and “keep my commandments” to “enter into the kingdom of heaven” (12:19-20) is reiterated later as Christ identifies himself as “the law” with an injunction to “look unto me, and endure to the end” and “keep my commandments” in order to have “eternal life.” (15:9-10)Sermon on the Mount

7. The SOM’s declaration that “old things are done away, and all things have become new” (12:47) is picked up later when the Nephites do not understand this saying, and Jesus says, “Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.” (15:2-3)

8. The SOM’s admonition that “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your
Father who is in heaven is perfect” (12:48) is echoed at the end of Jesus’ ministry to the Nephite disciples, “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?  Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (27:27b)

9. The SOM’s warning against using “vain repetitions” in prayer “as the heathen, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (13:7) finds application in the Nephite disciples’ prayer to God, “And they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.” (19:24b)

10. The SOM’s pattern of prayer set by Jesus—“After this manner therefore pray ye” (13:9a) finds application when Jesus tells his Nephite disciples, “And as I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in my church.” (18:16a)

11. The SOM’s instruction that “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him” (13:8b) is recalled later when Jesus says, “And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” (18:20)

12. The SOM’s axiom that “every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened” (14:8) is replicated in Jesus’ words to his Nephite disciples, “Therefore, ask, and ye shall received, knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” (27:29)

13. The SOM’s injunction to “enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat; Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (14:13-14) finds renewed application to the Nephite disciples—“Enter ye in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it; but wide is the gate, and broad the way which leads to death, and many there be that travel therein, until the night cometh, wherein no man can work.” (27:33).

14. The SOM’s teaching that “whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock” that when the rains fall, etc., “it fell not,” but the one who hears and does not do these sayings is likened to a man who built “upon the sand” and his house “fell, and great was the fall of it” (14:24-27) will be repeated and amplified to the Nephites—And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.  But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rains descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.” (18:12b-13)

15. This same teaching in the SOM (14:24-27) is found in the mouth of Jesus shortly before he gives the SOM (12-14) where he says, “And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.” (11:40).

16. The SOM’s string of beatitudes (“blessed are ye”) statements (12:1-11) is bookended with a beatitude promised by Jesus to his disciples if they will follow his gospel—“Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” (27:22)

Though not intended to be exhaustive, this list of 16-entries indicates that the SOM given in 3 Nephi 12-14 is not just filler, but literally (and literarily) permeates the balance of the Savior’s teachings to the Nephites.

Further, the SOM teachings are not simply reiterated, but are often amplified and clarified in subsequent Nephite exposition.  For example, the SOM injunction to “let your light so shine” (12:16) is expanded upon to the effect that the “light” is Jesus himself. gold plates in stone box(18:24)  The SOM’s teaching that in Jesus is the law “fulfilled” (12:18) is not just quoted later, but additional information given that Jesus is the one who gave the law to Moses in the first place.  (15:4-5)  The warning against “vain repetitions” in prayer (13:7) is amplified by showing that the Nephites avoided this because “it was given unto them what they should pray.” (19:24b)

Keeping track of the SOM threads during the balance of the Savior’s Nephite ministry, and using them in context and with additional elaboration, is no mean feat.  It introduces an unexpected complexity and beauty into this section of the Book of Mormon.

But this isn’t all.

The next two articles will be devoted to showing additional layers of complexity in this narrative; a complexity that, like layer after layer of varnish, makes the resulting composition shine.


Malachi and Isaiah in Third Nephi–Part 2

Oct 14, 13Malachi and Isaiah in Third Nephi–Part 2

My last article showed how three chapters from Matthew (the Sermon on the Mount from Matt. 5-7) are quoted at the beginning of Jesus’ Nephite ministry, and thereafter incorporated into his teachings approximately 15 times.

Bookending these three New Testament chapters at the outset of Jesus’ ministry are three Old Testament chapters at the conclusion, being Isaiah 54 (3 Nephi 22) and Malachi 3 and 4 (3 Nephi 24 and 25).  Why these three chapters? Upon examination, it turns out that these three Old Testament chapters are no more “filler material” than the three New Testament chapters, but are contextualized primarily within the framework of Jesus’ preceding acts and teachings.

We know Jesus was concerned the Nephites have a record demonstrating that prophecies relating to his post-resurrection appearance were fulfilled.  This is why he is eager to have included the fulfillment of Samuel’s prophecy that the dead would rise from their graves (3 Nephi 23:9-13).  Similarly, several passages from Malachi serve the same purpose—to show that prophecies previously given were fulfilled at his coming.St. Malachi

1. The Lord Comes to His Temple—Right out of the box, Malachi 3:1 (3 Nephi 24:1) is quoted regarding the prophecy that “the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.”  As keen as the Nephites were on likening the scriptures unto themselves for their “profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23), it is almost certain they saw the fulfillment of this prophecy when the resurrected Lord came to his temple in Bountiful (3 Nephi 11:1).

2. The Messenger of the Covenant–In the same passage from Malachi, the Lord is described as “the messenger of the covenant.”  Jesus’ Nephite teachings are replete with references to the covenant of which he is the messenger:  “I am he who covenanted with my people Israel,” and, “The covenant which I have made with my people.” (3 Nephi 15:5, 8).  Many other references to the “covenant” are found in 16:5, 11, 12; 20:12, 19, 22, 25, 26, 27, 29 (x2), 46 (x2); 21: 4 (x2), 7, 11, and 22.  These twenty references to the “covenant” demonstrate the thematic quality of the concept; a theme that is capped off and tied into scripture by Malachi 3:1 quoted at the end of Jesus’ ministry.

3. Destructions Accompanying Appearance of the Lord at his Temple—The next verse in Malachi (3:2; cited at 3 Nephi 24:2) asks, “Who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth?” and adds that “he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.” This indicates an appearance accompanied by destruction that all do not survive. 3 Nephi 8-9 describes the destructions immediately preceding Jesus coming to his temple in Bountiful, which many were not able to “abide.”

4. Treading Down the Wicked–Malachi 3:2-6 (3 Nephi 24:2-6) details the calamities to the wicked associated with the Lord’s coming, which is picked up in Malachi 4:1-3 (3 Nephi 25:1-3). Malachi 4:3 is particularly grisly: “And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.”

Stain Glass IsaiahThis saying links backward to 3 Nephi 16:15 where Jesus says, “I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them and shall tread them down, . . . and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.”  It also links backward to 2 Nephi 21:12 where Jesus says that the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles like a young lion “who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces and none can deliver.”

We also read of several cities burning to the ground, together with their wicked inhabitants, prior to the Savior’s coming.  These are the cities of Zarahemla (8:8) and its inhabitants (9:3), Jacobugath and its inhabitants (9:9), and the cities of Laman, Josh, Gad and Kishkumen (9:10).  The wicked citizens of these cities burned to the ground were literally reduced to “ashes under the soles of your feet,” as prophesied in Malachi 4:3 (3 Nephi 25:3).

5. Turning the Hearts—Malachi 4:6 (3 Nephi 25:6) contains the familiar prophecy regarding Elijah coming to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers.  Once again, although this prophecy is generally seen by modern Mormons as having fulfillment in the end-times, the text indicates the fulfillment occurred during Jesus’ visit, and would likely have been seen this way by the Nephites.

Immediately after this verse is quoted, Jesus turns the hearts of the fathers to the children: “These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations.” (3 Nephi 26:2)  Mormon seems to understand this as he comments that he has written the “lesser part” of what Jesus taught the Nephites “to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles.”  (3 Nephi 26:8).  In other words, the additional scriptures provided by Jesus and also his teachings were recorded with the specific “intent that they may be brought again” unto their descendants, or children—the “future generations.”

Jesus addresses the same theme prior to the quotation from Malachi, telling the Nephites that “when these works . . . shall come forth . . . unto your seed, . . . it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel” (3 Nephi 21:5, 7).  (Note that in this passage, the theme of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children from Malachi 4:6 is interwoven with the covenant from Malachi 3:1.)

Having turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, Mormon next records how Jesus turned the hearts of the children to the fathers, describing how Jesus “did teach, and minister unto the children of the multitude, . . . and he did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things. . . “ (3 Nephi 26:4).  A similar scene is described two verses later, Christ among the Nephiteswhich contains the entirety of information given regarding what happened on the third day of Jesus’ visit (3 Nephi 26:16).

In his teachings, Jesus earlier reminds the Nephites that “ye are the children of the prophets” (20:25) and turns their hearts to their prophet fathers by not only reminding them they are part of the Abrahamic covenant, but also by quoting the three Old Testament chapters at the end of his recorded Nephite ministry.

6. Tithes and Offerings—Malachi 3:8-12 recites the well-known admonition to bring all the tithes and offerings into the Lord’s house that there may be meat (i.e., “food”) there, coupled with the blessing of the windows of heaven opening, and plenteous crops so that none need go hungry.  Malachi verseThis is of interest because some sort of communal law such as that of “tithes and offerings” was instituted by Jesus among the Nephites, for we read in 4 Nephi that “there were no poor among them.”  It would seem this was important for the Nephites in order to lay the basis for their communal society which was stable enough to endure for 200-years, and accounts for why the Savior thought it important to have this scripture added to the Nephite records immediately prior to their embarking on this happy two centuries of their history.

Those who follow Malachi’s economic plan are promised that “all nations shall call you blessed” (3 Nephi 24:12), a promise which is fulfilled upon the Nephites for 200-years after Christ’s visit; in fact, they are called “blessed” three times, a symbolically significant number associated with the heavens or the divine: “And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered . . . (4 Nephi 18).

In a similar fashion, Jesus admonished the Nephites that there should be no disputations or contentions among them (3 Nephi 11:28), a status used three times to describe the Nephite society after he departs: 4 Nephi 2 states “there were no contentions and disputations among them,” 13 states “there was no contention among all the people,” and 15 says “there was no contention in all the land.”

7. The Gathering and Restoration of Israel—The third Old Testament chapter quoted by Jesus at the end of his ministry is Isaiah 54, found in 3 Nephi 22.  It is repetitive and poetic (as only Isaiah can be), but the primary message is that Israel, though scattered and downtrodden in the past, will ultimately be restored and victorious over their oppressors.  “Thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles,” we read in 3 Nephi 22:3.  The crux of the entire chapter is synopsized in 3 Nephi 22:7—“For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.”

The gathering and restoration of Israel (with an emphasis on the Nephites and Lamanites) is a major theme of Jesus’ teaching prior to the citation of Isaiah 54 in 3 Nephi 22, and is the main thrust of chapters 16, 20 and 21.  Perhaps it will be sufficient to make the point to cite here to salient portions of the chapter headings:Prophet predicting the future

Chapter 16—In the latter days the gospel will go to the Gentiles and to the house of Israel—The Lord’s people will see eye to eye when He brings Zion.  (Verse 16 has Jesus promising the Nephites to “give unto this people this land for their inheritance.”)

Chapter 20The remnant of Jacob will come to the knowledge of the Lord their God and will inherit the Americas—Others of the Lord’s people will be gathered to Jerusalem.

Chapter 21Israel will be gathered when the Book of Mormon comes forth—Israel will build the New Jerusalem, and the lost tribes will return.

In this way we can see the quotation of Isaiah 54 in 3 Nephi 22 as the capstone of Jesus’ lengthy and detailed teachings to the Nephites regarding their gathering and restoration in the last days.

Conclusion

We have seen that the three Old Testament chapters included by Jesus at the end of his ministry are, like the Sermon on the Mount given at the beginning of his ministry, not mere filler, but are fully contextualized in both the deeds and teachings of Jesus among the Nephites.

But whereas the New Testament chapters are primarily “brushed forward” into Jesus’ subsequent teachings to the Nephites, the Old Testament chapters are primarily “brushed backward” onto the prior teachings and deeds of Jesus among the Nephites.

Think about this for a minute.  It is one thing to incorporate the Sermon on the Mount into subsequent teachings.  It is another thing to have deeds and teachings come first only to be capped and referenced by Old Testament chapters at the end.

But it is another thing entirely to do both at the same time, brushing forward from the New Testament chapters at the same time as brushing backward from the Old Testament chapters.  And yet this is precisely what the author of Third Nephi does, raising the degree of complexity in the text to a much greater order than either standing alone.

This pattern calls to mind a phrase from Kipling’s poem, The Law of the Jungle:

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back –
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Akela

In the third and final installment, I plan to show that the text of Jesus’ Nephite ministry, already remarkably complicated, is made even more complex by the superimposition of a literary structure over the whole, within which the simultaneous “brushing forward” and “brushing backward” takes place.


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Re-Post of “Go and Sin No More – Misinterpreting Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery”


I came across this post by J. Max Wilson last year and liked it very much since it actually contained my understanding of the passages in question. Today, as I was thinking about it, I thought that I ought to link to it somewhere on my blog so that I could access it more easily. But then I thought, “It contains my understanding of the passage. It should really be put entirely on the blog, and not just as a link.” I looked for a re-blog button, and found none, so I am re-blogging it without permission from the author. To read it at its original location (the Sixteen Small Stones blog), click here.  So, here is the article:


Go and Sin No More – Misinterpreting Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery

Go-and-Sin-No-More

Alternate Title: You keep citing that story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery– I do not think it means what you think it means.

Before I jump into this topic, let me say that there is merit in the idea that we shouldn’t judge people for sinning differently than we do. But like all pithy slogans, this statement loses nuance in favor of brevity. We should love and value people regardless of their sins. But that does not mean we should pretend that they are not sinning any more than it means that we should feign that we are not sinners.

In ongoing conversations about religion, law, sexuality and culture it has become increasingly common for people to argue that the only sin that it is acceptable to reprove is the sin of “reproving the sins of others”.

Of course, that is not how they say it. What they say is that because we are all sinners it is inappropriate for anyone to judge another for what they consider a sin. And when they say it, they are apparently completely oblivious to the fact that by reproving others for being judgmental, they are themselves judging another for what they consider a sin.

That is why the “you have no right to judge another’s sins” line of reasoning is nonsense. It is self-contradictory. It cannot be expressed without violating its own meaning. You cannot advocate for non-judgmentalism without judging those who are (in your estimation) judgmental.

Some advocates for tolerance run into a similar problem because apparently they believe that everything should be tolerated except for those views or actions they consider intolerant.

Ultimately saying that people can’t ever judge someone else means that nobody can ever stand up for what they believe because standing up for any principle or standard will always imply that those who live or think contrary to that principle are in the wrong.

Employing this line of reasoning is really just an emotional rhetorical bludgeon meant to delegitimize a point of view with which you disagree by defining it as “out of bounds” while allowing you to continue to judge others for what you feel is immoral, and impose your own standards of morality on others.

Thus, in our present culture it has become okay to call someone a bigot and shame them because they say that homosexual actions or abortion are sinful, but it is not okay to say someone is sinning because they have an abortion or engage in homosexual behavior–even though calling someone a bigot and calling someone a sinner are both clearly forms of judging and reproving another.

It is common for those who promote this lop-sided and self-refuting viewpoint among Christians to cite the biblical example of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11) as a religiously authoritative proof-text of the kind of non-judgmentalism they advocate.

As they retell it, when an adulterous woman was brought before him, Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” And since all of them were also sinners (as we all are), nobody was willing to do it and they left. And then Jesus, even knowing that she was guilty, also refrained from condemning her, and let her go with, as they tell it, a friendly, general admonition to “go and sin no more.”

Retelling the story in that way, they then explain that if Jesus refused to condemn this woman for her sins, then we also should never, ever reprove another for sin. EVER. Sometimes also followed by “HOW DARE YOU CLAIM TO BE A CHRISTIAN WHILE  REJECTING THIS CLEAR TEACHING OF JESUS BY SAYING THAT PEOPLE WHO [________] ARE SINNING!”

Again, proclaimed without a hint of self-awareness or irony.

But this is an oversimplification and misinterpretation of the scriptural account. While the story certainly has moral implications, the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman is NOT a parable crafted to teach a specific principle with general application; this is a report of an event from the life of Jesus brought about by specific circumstances.

So it is important to understand the complex dynamics of what was happening before we try to apply it to our modern lives and interactions.

Dore-THE-WOMAN-TAKEN-IN-ADULTERY

The first thing to recognize is that the pharisees who brought the woman before Jesus were not sincere. This is a crucial element of story. These weren’t good, religious men who were concerned about right and wrong and upholding morality and the law. Their entire purpose in bringing her before Jesus was to trap him. They didn’t really care that the woman had sinned. She was merely a pawn in their ongoing efforts to undermine and hopefully kill Jesus.

At this time, the Jews in Israel were under the control of the Roman Empire. That is why in the story of the Nativity, Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to be taxed by decree of the Roman Emperor, Cæsar Augustus.

Under Roman rule, the power to impose capital punishment, including by stoning, had been taken away from all Jewish authorities. Only a Roman tribunal could impose the death penalty. That is why even after Jesus was eventually arrested and condemned to death by the Jewish Sanhedrin, they didn’t stone him immediately themselves; he had to be taken before the Roman governor, Pilate, to actually impose the death penalty. And when it was imposed he was killed using the Roman method — crucifixion– not stoning. The Jewish leaders had no legal authority to put him to death.

The same was true of the adulterous woman. Even though adultery was punishable by death under the Law of Moses, under Roman law, adultery was not a capital crime. Neither Jesus nor the pharisees could legally have stoned the woman to death for having committed adultery.

So when the pharisees brought the woman before Jesus, and asked “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” They weren’t actually planning to stone her at all. They couldn’t. If they had, they would have violated Roman Law and endangered their own positions of power. Bringing the woman to Jesus was simply a form of emotional theater meant to manipulate the crowd and pressure Jesus into answering carelessly by making the question real and immediate instead of just hypothetical. (And to this day readers are still falling for their theatrics, caught up in the drama while largely oblivious to the real trap.)

The pharisees were trying to construct a verbal snare for Jesus. If he answered that the woman should be stoned as the law of Moses dictates, then they would paint him as a revolutionary and try to have him arrested by the Romans for advocating the violation of Roman rule. If he responded that the woman should not be stoned, they would accuse him of rejecting the law of Moses and use it to undermine his influence among the believing Jews who considered him a great Rabbi or potentially the Messiah.

For the pharisees, whether the woman was guilty or not was completely irrelevant to their purpose. Had they actually been concerned about following the law of Moses, they would have brought both the woman and the man with whom she had been caught. If she was caught “in the very act” as they had claimed then they would have caught the man simultaneously, and the punishment in the law of Moses for adultery was death for both participants.

Jesus wisely ignored them initially. He wasn’t about to be pressured into giving an off-the-cuff response by their contrived theatrics and the spectators it attracted. They kept demanding an answer while he wrote in the dirt with his finger.

When he finally does respond, his brilliant answer turns the snare back onto the trappers. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

He recognized the demands of the law of Moses, but he also knew that the pharisees could not carry it out any more than he could without violating the Roman law.

The law of Moses dictated that to be convicted to death because of adultery, there had to be at least two witnesses. It also dictated that the witnesses whose testimonies established the guilt of accused were to be the first to begin the stoning. So Jesus was asking those who claimed to have witnessed the adultery to step forward themselves to impose the punishment as the law demands. And so the accusers were entrapped in their own catch-22. If they stepped forward as witnesses, they would have opened themselves to questions about how they witnessed the act and why the man involved is not also accused as demanded by Moses. If they try to carry out the stoning, they will be in violation of Roman law.

We don’t know what Jesus was writing in the dirt. But I like to speculate that, being the Son of God and knowing the thoughts and intents of the hearts of the pharisees, he may have been writing quotes from the law of Moses related to the the specific secret sins of each of these men.

The other thing to keep in mind is that these men were secretly plotting to have Jesus murdered. This is clear from the previous chapter and throughout the rest of the Gospels. They put on a public show of concern about piety and the Law of Moses, but they cared little for the law in private. They were perfectly willing to violate the law in secret in order to remove Jesus as a threat to their power. In the terms of The Book of Mormon, they were essentially a secret combination. So another possibility I like to speculate about is that Jesus was writing their secret oaths and plans in the dirt; telling them essentially “I know your plans and your secret.”

But that is just speculative. As I said, we don’t know what he wrote in the dirt.

But we do know that when Jesus tells them that he who is without sin should cast the first stone, he isn’t just talking about typical human sins of weakness. He was not talking to honest men who have fallen short of an ideal in which they truly believe. He is talking to evil men whose secret plot to murder and get power is far more wicked than anything the woman may have done.

Unable to legally stone the woman, unwilling to step forward and act as the witnesses who would throw the first stone in violation of the Roman law and face cross examination, and confronted with the fact that their trap had failed, the pharisees left in silence.

Jesus then asked the woman, “where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

The law required two witnesses. But nobody was willing to step forward and claim to be a witness.

No man, Lord,” she responds.

And Jesus declares, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Whether or not she is guilty, to be judged guilty the law requires witnesses, and since Jesus himself did not witness her alleged adultery himself (even though being the Son of God he knows), and there are no witnesses, he cannot condemn her either.

The chances that she was going to be stoned contrary to Roman rule were low in the first place. If it had happened it would have been a lawless act of mob violence. Even among the Jews stoning for adultery hadn’t been actively practiced in a long time. The whole thing had been contrived. She had been an unfortunate prop in the pharisee’s theater.

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Now, having explored this complex story in depth, let’s return to the original discussion of how this story applies as as support for a modern concept of non-judgmentalism.

First off, it has to be pointed out that there is a vast difference between saying someone is a sinner in need of repentance, and threatening the death penalty. The woman in the story isn’t just being verbally reproached for being a sinner, the condemnation they are discussing is condemnation to death and damnation not verbal condemnation . The stones are not metaphors for judgement. They are literal stones.

So it is a huge stretch to say that when Jesus says that he who is without sin should cast the first stone he is saying that nobody should reprove someone else for sin. He was talking about severe, final punishment for sin, not merely calling someone a sinner.

Additionally, the story is clearly not primarily about the woman’s guilt. It is about the snare set by the pharisees against Jesus involving specific contradictions between the Law of Moses and Roman Law and presented theatrically instead of hypothetically in order to try to force an error by Jesus. Trying to extrapolate a general principle about whether or not it is appropriate to reprove someone else for sin from this very complex, specific event is difficult if not impossible.

There is simply no comparison between the wicked, murderous pharisees who were trying to trap Jesus and good, honest religious folks today who are truly concerned about serious sins and their effect on our society and their families. The pharisees didn’t really care about the woman’s sin. Their concern about righteousness was false. That is why Jesus called them “whited sepulchres” on another occasion. (For more on this topic, see my previous post: Having A Form of Godliness – Modern Mormon Pharisees)

When the pharisees leave in silence it is not because they realize that as sinners they have no right to judge another’s sins; they leave chagrined because they have been outwitted and caught in their own trap– and it is clear that Jesus knows their wicked plot against him.

Furthermore, when he did not condemn the woman, Jesus wasn’t being merciful at the expense of the law. He was following the letter and intent of the law: Jesus didn’t condemn the woman because there were no legal witnesses and because Roman law did not allow capital punishment. So his words toward her do not imply that love is more important than law. To the contrary, his strict adherence to the law, including not condemning another to punishment without witnesses, shows how important the law is.

And seeing that his lack of condemnation was primarily an act of strict adherence to the law, the only thing he says regarding the woman’s adultery is that she should “go and sin no more.” So he clearly calls her actions sinful and exhorts her to repent and abstain from sin.

It seems clear that there is nothing in this story that can be legitimately used to support a blanket doctrine of non-judgmentalism.

As Christians, we are in fact required to preach the Gospel consisting of Faith in Jesus as our Savior, Repentance, Baptism, and the reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. People cannot repent unless they know that they are sinning. But if it is out of bounds to say that someone is sinning, then we can never say that someone needs to repent because doing so implies that they are doing something wrong, and judging others is wrong (except when you are judging others for judging…).

It is our duty as followers of Jesus Christ to preach repentance and as I have written previously, A Real Friend Will Say What You’d Rather Not Hear.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church has spoken extensively about the relationship between Love and Law, as well as Appropriate and Inappropriate Judging.

Rather than get caught up in modern notions of non-judgmentalism, we should take counsel of the words of a modern apostle:

“Judge Not” and Judging by Elder Dallin H. Oaks 1998

There are two kinds of judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make, and intermediate judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles.

Love and Law by Elder Dallin H. Oaks 2009

The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love.

As I have written previously, I’m not saying we should be mean or constantly beat those who disagree with us over the head with our beliefs. There are times when love means treading softly so as not to offend. But there are other times when love means calling a sin a sin even if it offends.

We have a responsibility to try to uphold right and wrong and extend mercy simultaneously.

Even though I have quoted it previously in an unrelated post years ago, to close I’m going to reprint an excerpt of Orson Scott Card’s novel Speaker for the Dead that is particularly appropriate to this post and the story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery. It is a short story told at the beginning of one chapter of Speaker for the Dead (Emphasis added):

A great rabbi stands teaching in the marketplace. It happens that a husband finds proof that morning of his wife’s adultery, and a mob carries her to the marketplace to stone her to death. (There is a familiar version of this story, but a friend of mine, a Speaker for the Dead, has told me of two other rabbis that faced the same situation. Those are the ones I’m going to tell you.)

The rabbi walks forward and stands beside the woman. Out of respect for him the mob forbears, and waits with the stones heavy in their hands. “Is there anyone here,” he says to them, “who has not desired another man’s wife, another woman’s husband?”

They murmur and say, “We all know the desire. But, Rabbi, none of us has acted on it.”

The rabbi says, “Then kneel down and give thanks that God made you strong.” He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market. Just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, “Tell the lord magistrate who saved his mistress. Then he’ll know I am his loyal servant.”

So the woman lives, because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.

Another rabbi, another city. He goes to her and stops the mob, as in the other story, and says, “Which of you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.”

The people are abashed, and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins. Someday, they think, I may be like this woman, and I’ll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her the way I wish to be treated.

As they open their hands and let the stones fall to the ground, the rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman’s head, and throws it straight down with all his might. It crushes her skull and dashes her brains onto the cobblestones.

“Nor am I without sin,” he says to the people. “But if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead, and our city with it.”

So the woman died because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.

The famous version of this story is noteworthy because it is so startlingly rare in our experience. Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis, and when they veer too far, they die. Only one rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation. So, of course, we killed him.


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