Seeing Apostasy from Within


“…we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people…” 1 Nephi 17:22

After nearly a decade of wandering in the desert, Lehi and his family arrived on the seashore and pitched their tents in the land they called Bountiful. Nephi, according to the word of the Lord, began to fashion tools for the construction of a ship. Laman and Lemuel began, once again, to complain citing the above reference regarding the people of Jerusalem. From their view, their friends back home were on the right path. They bemoaned the fact that they could not enjoy their possessions and be happy.

As we stand here centuries later, we can see the big picture. The house of Israel has fallen into disrepair. The people of God had replaced their love and service of God with the pomp and circumstance derived from wealth and pleasure. Apostasy had set in. But to Laman and Lemuel, their easy lifestyle enjoyed in Jerusalem was the standard by which they measured the ‘rightness’ of their living. No admonition from either Lehi or Nephi could sway their sons and brothers from this viewpoint.

Given the difficulty that Laman had in seeing the real picture, how hard would it be for us in this day to see the threads of apostasy in our normal lives? Have we supplanted what the Lord defined for righteousness with our own comfortable standard?

I believe that this movement away from the truth is apostasy and can occur at two levels, organization and personal. The former dealing with the migration of the goals and objectives  promoted by the leadership and the latter expressed in our individual thoughts and actions. Let’s take a look at these two themes.


Corporate Apostasy

Today, we can easily see that the church established by the apostles in the meridian of time moved away from the true principles established by Christ. Let’s look a little more closely at what outward characteristics emerged from this change.

As we look at the Holy Roman Church, we find an entity that expressed itself in the form of magnificent edifices. St. Peter’s Basilica, first commissioned by Constantine, was rebuilt in the 15th century with no equal. While churches dominated the landscape of most cities of the time, none compared to the structure finally completed in the early 1600’s. A considerable amount of wealth was spent in the construction of beautiful buildings, meant to send a message of the power and prestige of the Catholic church.

The need of the church to express itself in terms of its physical environment extended to the surrounding areas of its headquarters in Vatican City. Speaking of the popes of the 14th and 15th century, here is a quote from The Restoration by Wil Durant (page 14):

“They labored to redeem Rome from the ugliness and squalor into which it had fallen while the popes were in Avignon. They drained marshes (by comfortable proxy), paved streets, restored bridges and roads, improved the water supply, established the Vatican Library and the Capitoline Museum, enlarged the hospitals, distributed charity, built or repaired churches, embellished the city with palaces and gardens, reorganized the University of Rome, supported the humanists in resurrecting pagan literature, philosophy, and art, and gave employment to painters, sculptors, and architects whose works are now a treasured heritage of all mankind…perhaps they thought of it as transforming scattered crumbs of evanescent wealth into a lasting splendor for the people and their God.”

The true reverence of God is not expressed in magnificent buildings, gardens, and lavish art. Could this extravagant effort to honor God with the works of man be an outward sign to the apostasy within?

At its height, the Holy Roman Church exerted political influence well beyond the confines of the Vatican. Princes and kings sought out the elite of the church hierarchy to solidify alliances and to position themselves. Leaders of the church traveled not only to Germany and France but to China and India to gain favor with the rulers of these foreign lands. At home and abroad, politics played an integral role in the lives of the popes. Does the ability to influence politics domestically and worldwide serve as a marker of the wayward path?

The practice of indulgences, the idea of reducing the time of a loved one in Purgatory through the purchase of the excess grace of the saints, represented one of the primary methods for creating ongoing cash flow. The donations to the church, then as now, were viewed as ‘fire insurance.’ To spin off an old refrain, money corrupts, and a lot of money corrupts greatly. Such was the Catholic Church in the middle ages. Property bequeathed to the church held the giver higher in the eyes of God, or does it generate a false hope?

Four years before Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Machiavelli penned the following in his Discourses, iii:

“ Had the religion of Christianity been preserved according to the ordinances of the Founder, the state and the commonwealth of Christendom would have been far more united and happy than they are. … And whoever examines the principles which that religion is founded, and sees how widely different from those principles its present practice and application are, will judge that her ruin or chastisement is near at hand.”

This statement foreshadowed the reformation; an effort to return to the basic principles that were contained in the founding words of apostles. Have we of the LDS church diverged from the original principles upon which the religion was founded? Has the money and power afforded the LDS church over these last decades succeeded in moving us away from the principles contained in the fulness of the gospel? I have found nothing in the scriptures that suggests this generation is immune from apostasy. Are we so blind, as Laman and Lemuel were, to not see what is happening to the corporate church?

In Third Nephi, chapter 27, Christ outlines the criteria for the church to be His. In addition to being called by His Name and tuned to His gospel, He requires that the church ‘show forth the works of the Father’.’ He also warns us that ( verse 11):

If the church “is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.”

Assuming what I described above, are we taking joy in the works of men? Is the season coming to a close?


Individual Apostasy

Just as there could be markers of apostasy for the corporate entity, there are also similar markers for us as individuals. Apostasy comes from the Greek meaning ‘to stand away,’ and means today that one departs from one’s religion or principles. Subtle apostasy would have us focus our time, talents, and energy on items at ‘appear’ to be important but are really only invalid substitutes for the real thing.

In Matthew 23, we read:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Is it possible that we, today, can do many wonderful works, yet be rejected by Christ? I submit that this substitution of works instead of seeking to be known by Christ represents the type of apostasy that threatens us today. Can we assume that attending the temple, doing our home teaching,  fulfilling our callings and all the other various and sundry activities we are called upon to do in the church today can substitute for having a relationship with Christ sufficient to be ‘known’ by Him?

In the times of the Middle Ages, the tradition of visiting relics and defined sacred sites became very important. Martin Luther, himself, tells of his effort to climb the 200+ steps of a holy site on his knees, reciting a prayer on each step in hopes of currying favor with God. Do we exert such an outward effort in hopes that God will recognize our sacrifice? At the same time, do we ignore the fundamental gospel steps of repentance, faith, baptism by water followed by baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost?

As I sat in fast and testimony meeting last week, I was struck by the ‘testimony’ of an older gentleman who talked of his challenges in keeping his business solvent. He described a discussion with his brother where he was told: “I pay my tithing; I have no reason to worry.” Has tithing become simply a modern day equivalent of the Holy Roman Church’s indulgences? Is there an implied promise that if we pay our money to the church we will receive some level of protection? I am not proposing that anyone who pays tithing is in apostasy. My intent is to raise the concern that substituting tithing for the true meaning of the gospel, to bring us to Christ, will not bring us to our intended goal – His kingdom.

Can the LDS Church fail? Yes, if it allows money, politics and power to supplant the ministry of the gospel. Can we as individuals fail? Yes, if we allow the works of men to replace a relationship with Christ.

These are the questions we must answer for ourselves:

Have I received a remission of my sins? See 2 Nephi 31:17-18,

Have I been sanctified? See 3 Nephi 27:20-21

Have I been cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost that I may be numbered among the people of the Church of Christ? See Moroni 6:1-4

Once we have prepared our hearts then we turn our effort toward our neighbors. Have we accomplished our personal preparation such that we can assist our brothers and sisters with a pure heart? See Mosiah 4:11-30

Are we, as Laman, defining our own criteria for righteousness?

What think ye?

The Only and True Doctrine


core-gospel

In my previous posts, I discussed the definition of the gospel according to the scriptures; a definition that stands at odds with the prevailing opinion expressed from the pulpit. Another area that bears consideration is the ‘doctrine of Christ.’ As with the gospel, there are three specific scriptural references that are of interest in understanding the doctrine expressed by our Lord and Savior in the scriptures.

The title of this post comes from the first of these three found in the Book of Mormon, the second book of Nephi, chapter 31. In verse 2, we read:

“Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying.”

 

Beginning with this verse, and continuing through chapter 32, verse 4, Nephi expounds on the doctrine of Christ. Given that the complete reference is fairly brief, I would strongly encourage you to read it for yourself.  I will attempt to summarize the key points of the doctrine as follows:

  • Christ showed us how we are to be obedient to the Father
  • Demonstrate unshaken faith relying on the merits of Christ
  • Follow Christ by keeping the commandments of the Father
  • Repent
  • Be baptized with water
  • Be baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins
  • Endure to the end
  • The above items represent the commandments given to us to obey
  • Repentance, baptism by water and baptism by fire and by the Holy Ghost represent the gate to the strait and narrow path to eternal life.

There are few places in the scriptures which contain as much beauty, wisdom and knowledge as is found in this chapter. The promise is given to us that if we follow the commandments given us here by the Father and then ‘press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men… feasting upon the words of Christ (personal revelation) and endure to the end, we shall have eternal life.’ There is, in my opinion, no better place in the scriptures that provide a guide to how to conduct ourselves into His kingdom.

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.  And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.  Amen.” (2 Nephi 31:21)

This last verse of chapter 31 carries the message, clearly and distinctly, that there is no other way to be saved in the kingdom of God; these are the commandments which we are to follow; we are, as Christ demonstrated, to be baptized by water, fire and the Holy Ghost. It also defines the previous words as the ‘only and true doctrine’ of God. From this verse I took my title for this post. How important is it that we understand and apply the only doctrine of God? What are the implications of allowing many other items to crowd in on our doctrine? God has given us here clear direction on what should be our focus and objective in our lives. This is the only and true doctrine of God.

“Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh.  And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.” (2 Nephi 32:6)

As Nephi concludes his pronouncement on the doctrine of Christ, he alerts us to the future word of doctrine that will be made available. We find the second treatment of the doctrine of Christ in his first appearance among the Nephites documented in 3 Nephi, chapter 11.

Following His selection of the twelve disciples, Christ instructs them on the baptism of water and warns them that there is to be ‘no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been (3 Nephi 11:28). To end the disputation, Christ then states:

32  And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

33  And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

34  And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

35  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

36  And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.”

In this passage, Christ again refers to the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of Christ, as portrayed here, is simple; repent and be baptized. Christ then calls on us to repent and ‘become as a little child’ (verse 38). What does it mean to become as a little child? I believe it refers to the innocence and faith that children exhibit.

The Savior again presents the importance of holding to His doctrine:

39  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

40  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” (3 Nephi 11:39-40)

We are not to add or take away from the doctrine of Christ. I will have more to say on this.

 

Let’s move on to the third treatment of the doctrine of Christ. This is found in section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

67  Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

68  Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.

69  And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”

The message here, again, is that the doctrine of Christ connotes: His church is made up of those who repent and come unto Him. No more, no less. I would suggest that we come unto Christ through baptism, ‘…first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us…’ (Mormon 7:10)

Here again, Christ warns us not to put more or less into His doctrine. How easy is it for us to lose focus on the only and true doctrine by supplanting it with our own ‘pet’ doctrines? For some, it may be doctrine of plural marriage, for others, the doctrine of genealogy. Do you have a pet doctrine?

Adding more to the doctrine of Christ is, in my opinion, indicative of the many doctrinal books that we have on our shelves; an example of which is the 800+ page Mormon Doctrine. While this is a masterful work treating the topics of the kingdom of God, should it be touted as the doctrine of the church of Christ? Taking away from the doctrine of Christ is, again in my opinion, the rhetoric that suggests the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost can be accomplished through a Christ-like life, an imperceptible change over time.

The ‘doctrine of Christ’ is, as scripture, clearly defined and concise:

Repent, be baptized with water followed by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Seek revelation, humble yourselves as a little child. Endure to the end.

We may build a structure around it, we may even stipulate who may teach and preach. This does not change the core of the message contained in the doctrine of Christ.

The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is not consummate victory. It is the gate after which we must continue to seek personal revelation and endure to the end.  We are warned that this is the ‘only and true doctrine’ of Christ. We are not to add or take away from it. Doing so results in building on an unstable and shifting foundation and puts us at odds with his church as defined in scripture.

What think ye?

Baptism with Fire and the Rejection of the Gospel


In my last post, I presented the idea that the definition of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost as prescribed by the LDS Church differs from the scriptures. Rather than being a slow imperceptible change over time proffered by church leadership as the normal occurrence, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost can be best characterized, according to the scriptures, as a significant point event.

In response, OWIW expressed that such a change ‘would be a very serious thing.’  PallasAthena added that “The implications of this type of doctrine could be very far reaching and catastrophic.” I agree with these assessments and would propose that this is, indeed, a very serious matter. 

In addition to the perspective added by OWIW in his comments to my last post, I would suggest that the definition of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is at the very heart of the acceptability of the church in the eyes of God. Let me explain.

In 3 Nephi, chapter 27, verse 8, the Lord declares that a church called in His name must also be ‘built upon my gospel.’ While this seems to be a rather simple statement, it does beg the question: How does the Lord define His gospel?

From my investigation which is documented on my website, the latter-day scriptures contain at least three points of reference for defining the gospel.  These are found in 3 Nephi 27: 20 (13-21), D&C 33:11-12, and D&C 39:6. What is gratifying to me is that the Lord was particularly consistent as these three references are concerned. Each contains clear reference to repentance and baptism, both by water and by fire and the Holy Ghost. I would suggest, through the consideration of these scriptures, that the gospel contains specifically the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

What would be the implications relative to the church changing the definition of this core component of the gospel, even the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost?

Paul warned the Galatians, as found in Galatians 1:8-9:

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

Paul was explicit in his warning regarding any changes to the gospel. I posit that the substitution of a ‘quiet life of service’ for the baptism of fire represents such a change and can be labeled as ‘another gospel.’ A curse and a condemnation awaits those who preach another gospel.

The Book of Mormon also provides guidance regarding the importance  of the true meaning of the gospel. First, let’s consider who are the recipients of the gospel. The Book of Mormon clearly defines the Gentiles as the group blessed with the restoration of the fulness of the gospel:

“And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed” (1 Nephi 15:13).

In 3 Nephi, chapter 16, this idea is reinforced as the Lord commends the Gentiles for their belief:

“And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father. Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.” (3 Nephi 16:6-7)

Not all Gentiles are deserving of this commendation as the Lord points to the ‘unbelieving of the Gentiles’ as those who ‘scatter [His] people (3 Nephi 10:8)

These are the same Gentiles, both believing and unbelieving, who, in 3 Nephi, chapter 16, verse 10 reject the fulness of the gospel.

“At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.”

I suggest that the rejection of the true meaning of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a rejection of the fulness of the gospel. Because we reject the gospel, the Lord will take the gospel to the house of Israel, thus concluding the times of the Gentiles.

In summary, rejection of the true meaning of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, indeed, the gospel as defined by our Lord and Savior in the scriptures, will result in the rejection of the church by its Head.

But… all is not lost. The Lord still extends this offer to us, as found in 3 Nephi, chapter 30, verse 2:

“Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.”

I find it interesting that the list of things for which we need repentence is found also in the previous quote from 3 Nephi 16:10.

I also find it interesting that the Lord seemed to put two conditional statements in His plea to us Gentiles. The first is that we need to be baptized in order to receive a remission of our sins. The second is that we need to be filled with the Holy Ghost (baptized of fire and the Holy Ghost) in order to be numbered with His people.

What think ye?

Baptized with fire and they knew it not?


For some, the Book of Mormon contains a wealth of information on the topic of being ‘born again.’ I am one of them. The narratives regarding Nephi, King Benjamin, Enos, Alma, and the 300 Lamanites give soul-satisfying detail into the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Contained within the exposition on the doctrine of Christ found in second Nephi, chapter 31, a clear picture can be developed of the necessity of this second birth and the incumbent sanctification it offers through the remission of sins. 

In speaking to the Lamanites of this day, Mormon tells them of the necessity of baptism (Mormon 7:10):

“…if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior…”

The baptism required of the Lord has two components, water and spirit. When Nicodemus came to Christ, he was told that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” I find it interesting that the original Greek meaning of the word ‘see’ connotes ‘to consider’ or ‘have knowledge of.’ The first baptism of water, as suggested here, is necessary to consider the kingdom of God. As Christ told Nicodemus, the second or baptism of the Spirit is required to enter his kingdom (John 3:5):

“…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God…”

This suggests that we become aware of the kingdom of God through the baptism of water and gain entrance to the kingdom of God through the baptism of the Spirit. This idea is consistent with the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 3:17-18 and Moroni 6:1-4).

Joseph Smith amplified on this idea in the following (TPJS, p. 314)

“”You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost”

Given the critical nature of this sanctifying ordinance, it would seem that we should understand how this second baptism is applied to the seeker. Through church literature and the scriptures, two perspectives can be drawn on the ‘baptism of fire’ and its application in our lives.

For some time, beginning perhaps with President Ezra Taft Benson, this baptism has been viewed as an imperceptible change over a long period of time.  In the October,1989 Ensign, President Benson stated:

For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20)”

This idea has been amplified in recent conference talks by Elders Packer, Bednar and Christofferson giving us a view that we can achieve this second baptism through long life of following Christ as characterized in this segment from “True to the Faith” on conversion:

“Because conversion is a quiet, constant process, you may be converted now and not realize it. You could be like the Lamanites who, “because of their faith in [Christ] at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20). Your continuing efforts to exercise faith and follow the Savior will lead to greater conversion.”

Before we pack up and go home, let’s look a little more closely at the scripture used as the cornerstone of the idea that the second baptism is a gradual process.

Even before Christ had descended to stand among the Nephites at the time of His appearance on the American continent, His voice was heard detailing the destruction exacted on the land and cities. He then offered this promise to those who survived (3 Nephi 9:20):

“…whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”

Without any collaborating scripture, this seems to say that the Lamanites were baptized by fire and were unaware of this process.  When reading this scripture, I was somewhat troubled by the reference to their conversion. Usually, when I hear the phrase ‘at the time of‘ an event, I don’t think that it if referring to a long time covering months or years. This begs the question:

 

What Lamanites are being discussed here and what happened to them?

In the current version of the scriptures published in 1981, there is no footnote associated with the conversion phrase in verse 20. However, this has not always been the case. In the previous version of the footnotes before the correlated footnotes and going back at least as far as the 1920 edition of the Book of Mormon, there was a footnote ascribed to the conversion found in this verse. Here is a scan of the referenced verse:

20
3rd Nephi 9:20

 

 

 

 

 

While it may not cleanly appear in the scan, the ‘z’ footnote occurs in association with ‘their conversion.’ And what does the “z” footnote contain?

20
Footnote from 3rd Nephi 9:20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two references associated with the phrase “their conversion” in this verse, the first is to Helaman 5:45. The event described associated with this scripture reference is the freeing of Lehi and Nephi from the Lamanite prison. At that time, Lehi and Nephi were miraculously freed from prison and, while under the influence of the Holy Ghost, were surrounded, as it were, by fire. Aminadab took the opportunity to educate that 300 Lamanites as to what was happening and encouraged them to pray. They, also, were surrounded by fire and were blessed, as we learn from Ether 12:14, to be baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost. It is also interesting to note that, while the backward reference from 3 Nephi was removed in the footnotes of the current edition, there is still a reference in Helaman 5:45 pointing forward to the comment in 3 Nephi.

‘And they knew it not?’ Given the scripture reading, this statement could either be construed to mean that they didn’t know that it was happening to them, or they didn’t understand what was happening. I strongly suggest that it was the latter. The Lamanites definitely knew something incredible was taking place but didn’t understand what was transpiring, once they were educated and began to exercise faith and pray to God, they were enveloped in the ‘fire’ and were baptized by the Holy Ghost. It, of course, did not happen over many years. It was a point event that carried significance with them through out their subsequent ministry among their people.

The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a marvelous and life-changing experience. It is, as Nephi states, the gate to the “strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.” It leaves one without any fear. It cleanses the soul and purges sin. In my opinion, it is, by far, the most sacred experience one can enjoy.

My fear is that most people will not understand that it is available and will, therefore, not seek after it. Enos prayed well into the night to receive his remission of sins. What are we willing to do to receive this gating item for entry into the kingdom of God?

What think ye?

I Have Dreamed a Dream


I have dreamed a dream…

 

As he and his family tarried in the wilderness, Lehi was presented with a message from God. He told his family, “Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision. He then relayed his dream of the tree of life, the iron rod, and the strait and narrow path. Lehi was presented with a narrative which held much meaning to him. As he recited his dream to his family, he expressed great joy for Nephi and Sam and great concern for Laman and Lemuel.

After he listened to his father’s vision of the night, Nephi expressed the desire of his heart (1 Nephi 10:17-19):

“I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost…”

Nephi sought the gift of God; to see what his father saw and hear what his father heard. He also was blessed a grand experience. The angel, not only took him through the same experience but also provided Nephi with an understanding of the symbols used in the dream/vision. The tree of life is the love of God, the iron rod is the word of God; the spacious building is the pride of man; all powerful symbols helping us understand the language of God.

Dreams have been used throughout the scriptures to convey important information about spiritual matters. Joseph was warned to take Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt to preserve the life of the Savior. Another Joseph was able to discern the meaning of the symbols of Pharoah’s dreams and save his family.

If we are to take these dreams and their interpretations as examples, our dreams can be used by God to present us with valuable information.  Nephi understood this when he said (2 Nephi 4:23):

“Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.”

Perhaps we, too, should learn how to take advantage of this mechanism of spiritual communication by pouring out our hearts to God and allowing him to answer our prayers in our visions of the night-time.

As I learned this principle, I have become more diligent in my preparation to retire, using the time to frame my questions concerns and doing my best to shed outside distractions. When the opportunity presents itself upon waking, I strive to quickly rehearse the dream in my mind and, as soon as possible, commit it to text. I can then prayerfully consider those dreams which seem to hold a message and ask God for the meaning. Sometimes my dreams are fairly long narratives with significant action. Other times, I am left only with a concise image or short segment. In either case, they are deep in symbols. God seems to speak to each of us in a language we can relate to, using items that reflect on our understanding. For example, in my dreams, a mode of transportation can represent a way of thinking. I suppose that each one of us will develop their own spiritual vocabulary, our communications with God.

As I have begun to treat these visions of the night with more careful consideration, I can see more of their value in my life. I, also, have discovered that I have a difficult time pretending. In my dreams, I am who I am. I project those thoughts that are, during my normal waking hours, hidden from public view. The real ‘me” seems to be easily portrayed in my dreams I cannot hide my true desires and inclinations. In this light, dreams can easily be used to spotlight my weaknesses found in my mind and my heart.

 

So… dreams… are they solely product of the pepperoni from the night before or can they be an underutilized conduit to our Maker?

 

What think ye?

Called to Be Saints


Paul opened his first letter to the Corinthians by addressing the church and directing his words “to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” It is interesting to note that the word “saint” is found throughout the scriptures, both in the old and new testaments and in most abundance in the Doctrine and Covenants.

 

Paul was speaking to those who belonged to the church in Corinth, noting that they had been sanctified (past tense) and, as such, could be called saints. Throughout the New Testament, Paul addressed his letters to the saints and spoke of them in favorable terms.

 

Today, members wear the title of Latter Day Saints, connoting the difference from those that lived at the meridian of time. As with Paul, those in the church today are considered saints. Can we consider, as in the case of the Corinthians, those who were in the church and called saints have been sanctified as suggested in Paul’s address to the Corinthians?

 

Sanctification, by definition, is to be made holy or purified. In fact, the original Greek term ‘hagios’ was most often translated as holy in the New Testament. While the New Testament contains little in regards to the process of sanctification, the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants adds critical detail to this important process.

 

In defining His gospel, the Lord spoke of the critical nature of this process. In 3rd Nephi Chapter 27: 19-21 one reads:

“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel…”

In order to enter the kingdom of God, one must be sanctified or cleansed from sin. This is done through the blood of Christ, which was shed for us. The path here is defined as repentance, coming unto Christ, followed by baptism. Once these conditions are met, we can then be sanctified. Christ tells us in 3rd Nephi 12:1: “after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost…”

 

This baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is the means to receive a remission of our sins (3rd Nephi 12:3, 2nd Nephi 31:17)

 

Some in the church has suggested that the process of sanctification is the result of a life-long quest to live a Christ-like life. The idea expressed is that we, day by day, become more holy until, imperceptibly, we have achieved this state of purity. Is this what Paul suggested in his address of the Corinthians; identifying those to whom he spoke as sanctified? Perhaps not.

Moroni provides an interesting checklist for those who are to be considered members of the church of God. In Moroni 6:1-4 we find:

“Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.

Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.

And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.”

This passage outlines the steps to be numbered with the church of Christ:

  • Bring forth fruit
  • Broken heart and a contrite spirit
  • Witness to the church that they have truly repented
  • Take the name of Christ and determine to serve him to the end

These steps are defined as prerequisites to baptism. Following baptism by water, the candidate is then cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost. This cleansing is the same as sanctification and precedes membership in the church.

 

How could sanctification be a life long pursuit if Moroni defines it as a requirement for membership in the church of Christ? This message is consistent with Paul’s comments on the saints of his era. Can we truly call ourselves saints if we have not been sanctified?

 

Sanctification through the remission of our sins, according to 2nd Nephi 31:17-18, is the gate:

“For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life…”

 

Can sanctification be the result of a life long effort when the scriptures define it as the GATE to the strait and narrow path?

 

We are called to be saints, to purify our hearts and minds, to sanctify ourselves in preparation to be numbered with the church of Christ and entry into the kingdom of God.

 

What think ye?

Nephi and the Word of God


 

I have often heard the term ‘word of God’ used to cover everything from scripture to the latest conference talk. Many have the mindset that they must flock to the biannual conferences to hear what the Lord has to say to them. I propose that the ‘word of God’ had a very specific meaning to Nephi and should have a similar meaning to us.

The iron rod in Lehi’s dream symbolized the word of God. So… what is the word of God? I went back through the scriptures to try to better understand the meaning of the word “word.” (Sorry, I had to do that)

 

Let’s start with the triple combination index where you find that the first reference to ‘word of God/word of the Lord’ is to 1 Nephi chapter 2 verse 3:

“And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.”

The information defined here as the ‘word of the Lord’ is a dream received by Lehi warning him to flee into the desert.  In other words, this personal revelation received through a ‘vision of the night.’

 

Why do I bring this up? Well, later in the same chapter, another similar term is used. Verse 13 states:

“Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets.  And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.”

Here the reference is to ‘words of the prophets’ regarding the content of what could be considered the inspired writings of Lehi’s day. So we have ‘word of the Lord’ and ‘words of the prophets.’ It seems to me that this is a somewhat subtle suggestion that these two sources should be considered as different classes of the knowledge we receive from God. The ‘word of God’ being direct and personal while the ‘words of the prophets’ being delivered through another person and are written down for others benefit. Further, in verse 16, Nephi tells us of his own desire to gain a testimony of his father’s words:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.”

Again, Nephi delineates the source of the ‘word.’ We have defined, now, the word of God and the words of prophets. I found that I could fairly consistently apply this idea to the use of the term in the scriptures, especially in 1st and 2nd Nephi. Clearly, though, the primary meaning of the ‘word of God’ as used by Nephi is personal revelation. That communication with God that comes directly to us, not through a third party or the written word.

Alma taught that there are two means that we can receive truth. In Alma 5:45-47 we find:

“And this is not all.  Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself?  Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true.  And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God.  Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself.  And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.

And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God.”

Alma speaks here of the ‘spirit of revelation’ and the ‘spirit of prophecy.’ The former is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as a personal witness of the truth. The latter is a witness that the scriptures are true. In other words, by the spirit of revelation we gain a personal testimony of the truth of the things of God. By the spirit of prophecy, we gain a testimony of the truth of that which was written by others.

 

So what is my definition of ‘scripture?’ The words of inspired men that requires the spirit of prophecy to gain a testimony of the truthfulness therein. If one seeks for the spirit of prophecy, they are promised to receive a validation of the truth found in the words of those that have gone before us. It is a supplement to the word of God delivered directly to us through the spirit of revelation.

 

Why is this important? Am I simply wresting the scriptures? You can draw your own conclusion regarding the words that bring us salvation. I have come to recognize, in my own life, that the iron rod is the word of God and the word of God is personal revelation.

 

Following their miraculous departure from Egypt, the children of Israel were invited to ‘sanctify’ themselves in preparation for meeting the Lord. Instead of adequately preparing themselves, the people feared (Exodus 20:19):

“…And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

This same fear is prevalent today as we seek to ‘hide’ behind the mantle of the prophet rather than sanctify ourselves to enter the presence of God and hear His words. Gods calls upon all of us to knock. In response, He will open the door. The importance of this sanctification is core to the gospel defined by Christ to the Nephites as we read in 3 Nephi 27: 9-21 that:

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel…”

We all must be ‘sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost’ in order to be prepared to enter this kingdom. This sanctification through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is also defined as a path the wisdom and knowledge. In D&C 39:6 we read:

 

“And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.”

 

The necessity of a personal revelatory relationship with God is the same message as I proposed in my previous post on the mysteries of God. It is not the role of the prophet to stand as an intermediary between us and the Lord, not at the time of Moses and not at the time of Thomas. If we, indeed, strive to receive ‘all things,’ the above scripture should be our roadmap.

 

When Joshua complained about Eldad and Medad prophesying in the camp of Israel, Moses responded (Numbers 11:29):

“…would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”

All of the Lord’s people are to take His spirit upon them. It was not until after the sanctifying baptism of fire, both at the time of Peter and at the time of Nephi and Lehi, that we read of the marvelous things that were spoken by those who had been baptized by fire. The same gospel calls upon us to come unto Christ, be baptised by water and then fire and the Holy Ghost and receive of His wisdom and knowledge.