The Will of God and Faith


Romans 9: 6-24 [English Standard Version]:

…it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written [in Malachi], “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God’s part?  By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?  Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory — even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

The two historical cases:

Looking at Paul’s logic — because God chose one of Abraham’s spouses over the others, it follows that claiming descent from Abraham was not sufficient to make one an heir to God’s promise:

And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Further because God chose one of Rebekah’s twins over the other, claiming descent from Isaac was not sufficient to make one an heir to God’s promise.

And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.  And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord.  And the Lord said unto her, two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

NOTE:  However, Rebekah was told that the older would serve the younger.  Given the Lord’s vernacular for presidency/leadership as voluntary servitude – perhaps this was a misunderstood revelation, and that misunderstanding led things to play out the way they did.  Just a thought.

The extrapolated case:

From these two historical cases, Paul theroizes that it is then likewise true that claiming to be “of Israel” cannot demonstrate that a person is right with God [or justified].

The implication made by using Abraham and Isaac as examples, is that being a justified believer is still a function of God’s choice [like choosing Sarah’s son over Hagar’s, and choosing one of Rebekah’s sons over the other].   He either made you for glory or for wrath and you are in no place to dispute His choice for you.

This is the Calvinistic doctrine of “irresistible grace” — wherein they conclude that it is not possible for humans to have any role in justification — because how could we do anything more than God could do Himself?

What about faith?

However, Paul consistently stresses “faith” as the means of access to God and to a justified state with Him:

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.  Is he the God of the Jews only?  is he not also of the Gentiles?  Yes, of the Gentiles also:  Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

and

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

and

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

and

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

and

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Faith = Word of God + Belief + the Spirit:

So, if humans have access to God by virtue of faith — then it must still be God’s irresistible choice as to who “gets faith” and who does not — right?  To answer this question, it requires one to look at Alma’s preaching on the subject of faith that is found in Alma 32:

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.

Equating the word of God with a seed is also done in Luke 8: 11;  1 Peter  1: 23; Romans 10: 17; and Galatians 3: 2-9.  The farmer analogy is quite accurate.  The right-brain-hearts of humans are soil, which can be at varying degrees of receptiveness for the seeds, which are the various doctrines of God, the devil, and of men.  The faith that will justify a person with respect to God comes as the ever-good seed is allowed to germinate and grow in the right-brain-heart.

Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart,

This “place” is given in the right-brain-heart.  It involves the concept of yielding [Mosiah 3:19] or being lowly, humble, and teachable.  Broken soil [or a softened right-brain-heart] is a result of a person humbling him/herself — thereby having a broken heart or contrite spirit.  This is equivalent to being “poor in heart” — which Alma observed that the Zoramites were:

of whom were poor in heart, because of their poverty as to the things of the world.

In their case, worldly poverty had brought them to this “lowliness of heart” state:

And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?

Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed — yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.

So, Alma describes two options for softening the right-brain-heart:  a person may wait for certain circumstances to bring about a state of humility [or soft ground], which will make him/her open and receptive to the word — or a person may exercise self-motivation by virtue of the power of the word alone [motivated by the promises of the Lord], and give place for that seed on his/her own.

Also, if a person’s circumstances do not cause him/her to be humble and they cannot seem to humble themselves before the Lord, then the Lord provides another tool for a man or woman to obtain the required humility:  fasting and prayer.

Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.

This is how the ancients did it, because this is how it is done.

Continuing one with Alma’s preaching in chapter 32:

behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed,

The seed Alma spoke of was:

the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.

This is the ever-good seed.  Any seed that is planted and persuades a person to believe in and plant this ever-good seed, is also a good seed.  While any seed that is planted and persuades a person not to believe in and plant the ever-good seed, is not a good seed.  None of this has anything to do with religion or churches.  All seeds are judged to be good or evil by how they measure up to the ever-good seed and whether they point people towards, or away from, it:

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

Continuing on in Alma 32:

if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord,

Unbelief is equated by Alma with resistance.  Resistance requires effort or work.  It means to oppose with force. The opposite of resisting would be to bow, give in, submit, succumb, surrender, or yield.  All of these words imply a lack of effort or ceasing to work.

As belief is an entirely passive act, any effort whatsoever on a person’s part will stand as an obstacle or impediment to the formula for obtaining faith.  It is like someone pushing you and simply allowing yourself to be pushed — or being in a river that is pushing you downriver and allowing yourself to be carried along.  No effort.  This is belief.

The moment there is resistance [in the slightest degree] to that push, even to just change the direction of travel one inch, it will decrease belief — ultimately turning it into its opposite [disbelief or doubt], which is a state of resistance to the Spirit of the Lord.

behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves — It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

This is a formula — akin to a scientific equation or cooking recipe.  Following the steps with the outlined ingredients will always produce the same result.  If a person varies one step or another — or rationalizes that a certain step is not required — or puts in some of their own effort into the formula — anything different causes “user error” and faith will not result.

The desire to believe:

But what can a person a person do if he/she is having problems with the formula?  There are certain signs following them that believe.  The purpose of these signs is to give the professed believer [and also the church] a means to discern justified believers in Christ [saints, who possess faith] from non-justified believers in Christ [Christians, who do not possess faith] — this is the fruit by which you may know them.  If one finds that he/she is not able to:

In my name they shall do many wonderful works; In my name they shall cast out devils; In my name they shall heal the sick; In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf; And the tongue of the dumb shall speak; And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them; And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.

or

And these signs shall follow them that believe — in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.

Then Alma advises that:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words

What will “awake and arouse your faculties”?  This was mentioned earlier in describing how to soften the soil:

  • One could be compelled by circumstances to have a desire to believe.
  • One could be motivated by virtue of the promises of the Lord in His word to desire to believe.
  • One could fast and pray until a desire to believe stirs in his/her right-brain-heart.

Again, “let this desire work in you” is the same as being in that river of water that is pushing you downriver, and instead of resisting, just allowing yourself to be carried along.

God’s will is your faith:

God works according to the faith of the children of men — meaning according to the formula outlined above.  Thus, the doctrine of God saving people by virtue of His will and choice is true.  However, that He works according to our faith means that His “choice” cannot be outside the bounds of an agent’s faith.

There is no such thing as something operating solely according to the will of God without the context of our faith.  Things operate solely according to the faith of agents — and this is God’s will.  This is why, for example, when Alma and Amulek were beholding the destruction of the saints by fire — and Amulek says to Alma:

How can we witness this awful scene?  Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us [which power comes by faith], and save them from the flames.

we read that Alma replies:

The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand.

Because Alma and Amulek had the faith to stop the destruction — the Spirit needed to tell them that they should not use their gift because there was a wiser purpose in letting the saints die.  Should it be the case that God’s will can be done without regard for an agent’s faith — then there would have been no purpose in the Spirit telling Alma anything.  Alma would have just stretched forth his hand and watched as the flames kept on burning [Much like what many LDS experience with priesthood healings, etc.].

The principle is that God must act where there is faith, so the Spirit had to tell Alma not extend his hand [not to exercise his faith] so that the destruction would not stop.

Also, there are two examples from Paul.  In 1 Corinthians 14, he gives a command that members of the church who possess the gift of tongues refrain from using their gift in church meetings whenever a member with the gift of interpretation of tongues is not present:

…let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church;

No such instruction would be needed unless the gifts are available to be used at will by those who have faith.  If the gifts worked according to God’s will and choice alone, then the Spirit would simply not manifest tongues in cases when an interpreter was absent — and no one would need instruction from Paul.

Also, in Acts 21, we see Paul in a similar circumstance as Alma and Amulek.  Paul is told twice, through the gift of prophecy, not to go to Jerusalem.  In the wording of the Alma 14 story we could say:  “The Spirit constraineth Paul that he must not go forth unto Jerusalem.

And finding disciples, we tarried [at Tyre] seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

and

And as we tarried [at Ptolemais] many days, there came down from Judæa a certain prophet, named Agabus.  And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.  And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Yet, while Alma and Amulek chose to submit their faith to what the Spirit had told them — Paul chooses otherwise.  Exercising his faith — Paul feels it better to die at Jerusalem for the name of Jesus Christ.  When the people saw that Paul could not be persuaded, they acknowledged that:

The will of the Lord be done.

And His will is done — in these examples and in the example of exercising faith unto salvation.  It is God’s will that people work according to their faith — and His will is done when faith is used.  With respect to salvation, God chooses every person that He has the power to choose — and He only has power where there is faith.  Thus He “chooses” all those who have faith.

Next Article by Justin:

Previous Article by Justin:  The Tribal Church

See also:  The Faith of God Series, FPR post on LDS Cessationism, T&S post on LDS Cessationism, and W&T post on Alma 32

Advertisements

The seeds of the powers of godliness


We are here on Earth in a temporal (mortal) existence to develop our faith as a principle of power by walking by faith. As an aid in that endeavor, we are offered the gifts of the Spirit.

Walking by sight

In our pre-mortal life, we walked by sight.  As we saw, so we did, imitating the beings around us, learning by copying what we saw others do.

Upon entering mortality as children, we bring this capacity to imitate others with us.  We imitate or emulate our parents, our brothers and sisters, our friends and associates, the celebrities of the day, etc.  Eventually we assimilate into whatever society we are born into.  Like the chameleon, we become what is around us.  A baby born in France, raised by French parents with French customs and language will soon feel and act like all other Frenchmen.  It is the same with every other culture.

While we resided in the heavens, we copied our perfect, heavenly Parents and their angels.  Here, we copy imperfect mortals.  Mortality, then, does not limit our ability to walk by sight.

Two principles of faith

The Lectures on Faith divide faith into two principles: one of action and one of power.

Regardless of which principle you use, all things are done by faith, though most everything in mortality is done by using faith as a principle of action.

Moving mountains

There are two ways of moving a mountain.  You can move it stone by stone with your hands, or by using shovels, bulldozers or other technologies, to force the elements that make up the mountain to move to another spot.  This would be faith as a principle of action.  Or, conversely, you can command the mountain to remove and it can obey you.  This would be faith as a principle of power.  The former uses coercion or force, wrestling with the elements to model them however you want them to be.  The latter uses agency.  The elements must voluntarily move themselves at your command.

Power faith is celestial

When we lived in the heavens, as all things were given agency, nothing that surrounded us there could be forced to do anything.  We could not even pick up a handful of heavenly dirt without its say-so.  Everything in heaven was accomplished “without compulsory means,” meaning that coercion, force, was (and still is) non-existent there.  In other words, we exercised faith only as a principle of power.  The elements around us obeyed us only insofar as they respected us and they respected us only insofar as we followed (imitated) the “grown-ups.”  There we learned to use faith as a principle of power by observing our heavenly Parents and the angels, for that is the only way that they operate.  They commanded the elements and were obeyed and so did we.

Action faith is earthly

Mortality is different. It is designed to allow faith to function under both principles.

Action faith is given to us a temporary crutch, as well as a test.  The elements that surround us here are commanded by God to allow us to push them around, regardless of our righteousness or lack thereof.  They voluntarily submit to His divine command and thus we can manipulate all the various earthly materials here.  If we desire it, we may never need to develop faith as a principle of power.  Mankind can survive on this planet (for a limited time, at least) solely on action faith.

Once we come here from heaven, we find ourselves in a fallen world.  Sin is rampant, both around us and in us.  Were the elements here operating like they did in heaven, everyone would immediately die.  We wouldn’t be able to even force air into our lungs, for the air would not allow itself to be forced into the lungs of a being it did not respect (a sinful being).  This would frustrate the design of God to prepare a world in which we could be tried and tested and in which would could develop faith as a principle of power.  So, as explained above, God commanded the elements that make up our temporal (mortal) existence to allow themselves to be pushed around by us, according to a specific set of laws that we term physics.

Imperfect memory is necessary for our test of power faith

If we had arrived here with our memory of pre-mortal life intact, we would remember how to use faith as a principle of power and would never sin, keeping our heavenly powers intact, as all things would continue to respect us and obey us.  But by the design of God, our memories are wiped clean and we become, as a result, unable to use faith as a principle of power (because we have forgotten how to).  The situation is okay, though, because we now can use faith as a principle of action, forcing the elements to sustain us.

Our limited memories serve another divine purpose.  As we cannot remember our past life in the heavens and we cannot see the future, plus the memory we have of our mortal lives is patchy at best, nothing is remembered perfectly and only bits and pieces remain in our minds to access at moments of recollection.  All of this is done so that we become blinded, so as not to instinctively walk by sight as we did in the heavens (and use power faith).  By limiting our memory (which is primarily a visual organ), we can only really see the present clearly.  The future is pitch black and the past is foggy.

Blindness required to walk by faith

In this state of blindness, we can be put on probation (tested) to see if we truly desire to use faith as a principle of power.  Whereas in the heavens we all learned to use faith as a principle of power, by walking by sight (because there was no other way to operate), here on Earth we can go our entire lives without ever using power faith, for action faith is available to us.  Thus, only those who truly desire to (re-)learn to use the heavenly powers will do so.  And so mortality becomes a test.

Additionally, mortality allows us to more fully develop our faith as a principle of power by walking by faith*.  There is no one to look at (imitate) to learn how to use the heavenly powers, nor can we access our memories to remember examples of how it is done.  When we walk by sight here we only learn to use faith as a principle of action, for this is the principle under which everyone here operates.  So, to use power faith we must walk by faith, or walk blindly, trusting in only the word of God and not the sight of Him.

(*Note: Although all things in heaven walk by sight, God walks both by sight and by faith.  In order for us to become like Him, then, mortality is given to us to develop this capacity.  I may have already explained this concept in the Faith of God series, but if not, I will, that is if I ever get around to finishing it.)

To re-iterate:

In the heavens we walked by sight, imitating the celestial beings we saw around us, copying what they did, and learned to use faith as a principle of power, for that is the only way that we saw them operate. We had no capacity to walk by faith, only by sight.

In mortality, we also walk by sight, imitating the fallen beings we see around us, copying what they do, and we thus learn to use faith as a principle of action, for that is the only way that fallen beings operate.  We are unable to exercise the power faith we previously had because we cannot remember (see) how to do it.

Being essentially blind, once we are presented with the word of God we are enabled to walk by faith and re-learn to use power faith.  Mortality is a test to see if we will choose to drop the crutch of action faith and start using power faith by walking by faith.

We must walk by faith

Mortality is the brief moment that God has given us to learn to walk by faith.  We are to walk by sight and use faith as a principle of action only until we are enabled to walk by faith.  Once we are presented with the word of God, we must let go of the crutch of action faith and re-enter the world of power faith.  We must stop walking by sight and start walking by faith.

If we do not learn to walk by faith and re-learn to use faith as a principle of power, we will be in for a whole lot of disappointment in the afterlife.  This is because the orders given by God to the elements that surround us in mortality (in which they allow themselves to be pushed around by us) only apply to mortality.  In the afterlife, the former rules (agency) apply and once again it will be impossible to force the elements to do anything against their wills.  In other words, in the afterlife faith as a principle of action no longer works.  If we haven’t re-learned how to use faith as a principle of power here on Earth, we will be powerless in the afterlife.

The best gifts develop power faith

To that end, that we might re-learn how to use faith as a principle of power and that we might learn to walk by faith, God has given us the best gifts of the Spirit.

The best gifts of the Spirit are the seeds of the powers of godliness.  When all of them are possessed in their fullness, one becomes omnipotent, able to do all things.  Here on Earth we are not expected to achieve every gift in its fullness, but we are expected to seek for them continually.

The gifts given to the LDS Gentile church

The LDS Gentile church of God has been given 14 best gifts, with one gift given to presiding elders to be able to discern the other gifts and weed out imposters.  They are obtained by asking God to receive them.  Once one of the gifts are received, faith can be more fully developed, for the gifts only operate on the principle of power.  As faith increases, and petitions for additional gifts are sent up to God, He grants more of them to the individual.  Eventually, following this pattern, all gifts may be obtained.

Gifts are paired

There are seven pairs of gifts.

1st Pair – The gift of knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. The gift of believing on the words of those who have the gift of knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

2nd Pair – The gift of knowing the differences of administration according to the conditions among the children of men. The gift of knowing whether the diversities of operations are of God.

3rd Pair – The gift of the word of wisdom. The gift of the word of knowledge.

4th Pair – The gift of faith to be healed. The gift of faith to heal.

5th Pair – The gift of the working of miracles. The gift to prophesy.

6th Pair – The gift of the discerning of spirits. The gift to discern all best gifts.

7th Pair – The gift to speak with tongues. The gift of the interpretation of tongues.

Gifts are designed to be used in a church (group) setting, for the benefit of all

Only one gift is typically given to an individual.  For this reason, God has placed us into groups, or congregations, or churches.  If you have 13 individuals, each with a separate gift of the Spirit, each member of the group receives benefit from the 12 other people who have the lacking gifts.  If their individual gifts are fairly well developed, you can place this group of 13 people in any location, in any situation, and they will have power to do all things which are expedient to the Lord.

For example, place them among a foreign group or tribe who speaks an unknown language and the ones who have the gifts of tongues and interpretation would allow the other 11 members to communicate with the foreign tribe.  Or, place them among sick people and the one with the faith to heal would heal them all.  Or, have them deliver a message to an area of sickness and pestilence, of a highly contagious plague.  Who would be sent?  The one with the gift to be healed.  Place them among an ignorant people with no books or learning materials, whatsoever.  What would they do?  They would have the ones with the gifts of the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge start teaching the people.  And if the 13 themselves have no access to learning, these two individuals would immediately begin teaching the others of the group.  Or, just place the 13 alone, without any means of survival whatsoever, would they survive?  Of course, they would.  The one with the gift to work miracles would assure that.  Put them among a lying tribe and the one who discerned spirits would discover the lies.  Try to surprise them and it wouldn’t work, for the one with the gift to prophesy would have already seen that coming.  And so on and so forth.

Thus we see that by placing us in a congregation or church, the Lord has allowed all members to receive benefit from all the gifts which they may not have yet obtained.  If we were just baptized and told to go home and worship God on our own, we would not receive any benefit from the gifts we lack, until we ourselves finally reached the point where we obtained all the best gifts.  Also, being around others, who possess gifts we do not possess ourselves, makes it easier for us to obtain them.  The same principle of learning by sight, or imitating others, works with the gifts, too.

Perfection of the saints

In fact, the only reason we are commanded to meet together is to perfect ourselves and the rest of the saints assembled through the manifestation of the gifts.  Everything done at church can be done in a home (family) setting if the priesthood is found in the home.  But to obtain benefit from gifts we do not possess, we must assemble with others who possess gifts we lack.  Said Paul:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.  Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.  Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.  For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.  And if they were all one member, where were the body?  But now are they many members, yet but one body.  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.  Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.  Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.  (1 Cor. 12)

Paul also said:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4: 11-16)

Order of the gifts in the church

The church in Paul’s day had an order to the best gifts:

And God hath set some in the church,

first apostles (gift of knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God),

secondarily prophets (gift to prophesy),

thirdly teachers (gift of the word of wisdom and gift of the word of knowledge),

after that miracles (gift of the working of miracles),

then gifts of healings (gift of faith to be healed and gift of faith to heal),

helps (gift of believing, gift of differences of administration, gift of diversities of operations, gift of discerning of spirits),

governments (gift of discerning of gifts),

diversities of tongues (gift of tongues, gift of interpretation). (1 Corinthians 12: 28)

Another of Paul’s lists can also be assigned gifts:

And he gave some, apostles (gift of knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God);

and some, prophets (gift to prophesy);

and some, evangelists (gift of tongues, gift of interpretation);

and some, pastors (gift of discerning of gifts)

and teachers (gift of the word of wisdom and gift of the word of knowledge);  (Ephesians 4: 11)

We see from these lists that church callings are to come according to the gifts a person has.  This is why the gift to discern the best gifts, which is given to the bishop and to the presiding elders, is so important.

Modern view of the best gifts

Modern LDS (the Gentile Mormons) typically avoid the best gifts.  It is unusual to find anyone prophesying or publishing revelations or performing miracles or speaking in tongues or raising the dead or instantly healing people, etc.

When LDS speak of the gifts that they have, they’ll perhaps mention piano playing as a gift from God, or being a good doctor or surgeon, or being a good athlete, or being a nice person, etc.  A certain percentage of Gentile Mormons believe that manifestations of the best gifts routinely happen, but are just never spoken of, since they are “too sacred.”  Stories of gift manifestations are usually hearsay.

“Someone once told me that when he was on his mission, he met a man whose companion had healed someone by…”, etc.

Another percentage of Gentile Mormons have downgraded the best gifts to fit into more acceptable administrations.  So, for example, the gift of tongues becomes going to the MTC for two months and learning the language.  Or, the gift of healing becomes going to medical school and becoming a doctor or surgeon.  Or, the gift to prophesy becomes gaining the title of President of the Church and being called “the prophet.”  In like manner, the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge are delegated to those who have enough money to study at a university.   And the working of miracles becomes the “happening of miracles” and every little unexpected thing becomes a “miracle.”  Etc.

None of the best gifts work this way.  You cannot use faith as a principle of action to activate a best gift.  They only work by faith as a principle of power.  To illustrate, let’s examine the gift of the word of knowledge.

The gift of the word of knowledge

And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.  To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.  (D&C 46: 17-18; the gift of the word of knowledge is in bold type.)

Ammon possessed the word of knowledge

The Book of Mormon contains an example of the gift of the word of knowledge in action:

And it came to pass that when they had established a church in that land, that king Lamoni desired that Ammon should go with him to the land of Nephi, that he might show him unto his father.

And the voice of the Lord came to Ammon, saying:

Thou shalt not go up to the land of Nephi, for behold, the king will seek thy life; but thou shalt go to the land of Middoni; for behold, thy brother Aaron, and also Muloki and Ammah are in prison.

Now it came to pass that when Ammon had heard this, he said unto Lamoni:

Behold, my brother and brethren are in prison at Middoni, and I go that I may deliver them.

Now Lamoni said unto Ammon:

I know, in the strength of the Lord thou canst do all things. But behold, I will go with thee to the land of Middoni; for the king of the land of Middoni, whose name is Antiomno, is a friend unto me; therefore I go to the land of Middoni, that I may flatter the king of the land, and he will cast thy brethren out of prison.

Now Lamoni said unto him:

Who told thee that thy brethren were in prison?

And Ammon said unto him:

No one hath told me, save it be God; and he said unto me—

Go and deliver thy brethren, for they are in prison in the land of Middoni.  (Alma 20:1-5)

Ammon had knowledge that his brethren were, at that moment, in prison.  No one but God gave him this knowledge.  He then communicated the information to others, namely Lamoni.  This wasn’t knowledge of a spiritual thing, but of a physical fact that could be verified: Aaron, Muloki and Ammah were in prison at that very moment.  So, this was knowledge of something physically happening in the present.  It didn’t deal at all with anything pertaining to the future.  Nevertheless, no one but God told Ammon this fact, so, although it was knowledge of a physical thing that could be verified with one’s own two eyes, it was communicated via spiritual means.  This is, essentially, what the gift of the word of knowledge is all about.

The Savior mentioned the word of knowledge

Another example from the Book of Mormon comes from the Savior’s visit. Speaking to the Nephites, he said:

And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer. (3 Ne. 16: 4; the gift of the word of knowledge is in bold type.)

Contrasted with the gift to prophesy

Notice how the gift of the word of knowledge contrasts with the gift to prophesy.  Again, an example from the Book of Mormon:

And it came to pass in the eleventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, on the fifth day of the second month, there having been much peace in the land of Zarahemla, there having been no wars nor contentions for a certain number of years, even until the fifth day of the second month in the eleventh year, there was a cry of war heard throughout the land.  For behold, the armies of the Lamanites had come in upon the wilderness side, into the borders of the land, even into the city of Ammonihah, and began to slay the people and destroy the city.

And now it came to pass, before the Nephites could raise a sufficient army to drive them out of the land, they had destroyed the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, and also some around the borders of Noah, and taken others captive into the wilderness.

Now it came to pass that the Nephites were desirous to obtain those who had been carried away captive into the wilderness.  Therefore, he that had been appointed chief captain over the armies of the Nephites, (and his name was Zoram, and he had two sons, Lehi and Aha)—now Zoram and his two sons, knowing that Alma was high priest over the church, and having heard that he had the spirit of prophecy, therefore they went unto him and desired of him to know whither the Lord would that they should go into the wilderness in search of their brethren, who had been taken captive by the Lamanites.

And it came to pass that Alma inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And Alma returned and said unto them:

Behold, the Lamanites will cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti. And behold there shall ye meet them, on the east of the river Sidon, and there the Lord will deliver unto thee thy brethren who have been taken captive by the Lamanites.  (Alma 16: 1-6)

In this case, Alma the younger had the spirit of prophecy, in other words, he had the gift to prophesy, and so he inquired of the Lord and received a prophecy of the future.  The “Lamanites will cross the river Sidon” (a prediction of the future), “there ye shall meet them” (another prediction of the future), “the Lord will deliver unto thee thy brethren” (a third prediction of the future).

Similar gifts

Prophecy does not deal with knowledge of things present and past, it deals with things pertaining to futurity: what will or shall happen.  On the other hand, the gift of the word of knowledge deals only with what has happened (the past) and what is happening (the present).  Both gifts, though, come through the manifestation of the Spirit.  Or as Ammon put it, “no one hath told me, save it be God.”

So, prophecy and the word of knowledge are almost the same gift, except for this one division: facts revealed of the present or past correspond to the word of knowledge, whereas words pertaining to the future correspond to prophecy.

All best gifts obtained by faith, not by study

All gifts of the Spirit are obtained by faith.  The healing gifts are called “faith to heal” and “faith to be healed” (see D&C 46: 19-20), but all the gifts could be worded the same way.  In other words, faith to speak the word of wisdom, faith to speak the word of knowledge, faith to prophesy, faith to work miracles, faith to speak in tongues, faith to interpret tonges, etc.  Without faith, none of these gifts are obtainable.

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.  (D&C 88: 118)

The above scripture speaks of wisdom and learning (knowledge).  Wisdom and knowledge are two gifts of the Spirit, but the only way to obtain them directly from the Spirit is by having faith.  However, because not everyone has faith to speak the word of wisdom and faith to speak the word of knowledge, we are instructed to seek words of wisdom and learning out of the best books and teachers by study.  Wisdom and knowledge obtained by studying the best books and teachers should not be confused with the gift of faith to speak the word of wisdom and the gift of faith to speak the word of knowledge.  These gifts come by faith, not by study.

Nevertheless, the Lord is saying in this verse that those who do not possess the gifts of wisdom and knowledge, can still obtain wisdom and knowledge through those who possess these gifts.  In other words, the two gifts of wisdom and knowledge are for the express purpose “that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.”  Those who possess these two gifts of the Spirit are to be the teachers that “teach one another words of wisdom” and “learning.”  They are to be the ones who write “the best books” in which are found “words of wisdom” and “learning.”  Their wisdom and knowledge does not come to these teachers through study, but by faith, directly from the Spirit, for they are spiritual gifts.

Confusion of the gifts

Modern LDS often confuse the obtaining of knowledge or wisdom through study and life experience as gifts of the Spirit.  If we find a man who is possessed of great knowledge or wisdom, and who seems to be a God-fearing righteous man, we are apt to believe he possesses the gift of the word of wisdom or knowledge.  He may or may not possess those gifts.  It all depends how he obtained his wisdom and knowledge.  If it was through studying at a university and life experience, then he doesn’t possess the gifts.  If it is through the revelations of the Spirit, (“no one hath told me, save it be God”), then he possesses these gifts.

How the best gifts work

“No one hath told me, save it be God” is the standard to determine whether a best gift is operating or not.  Regardless of the gift, for it to be a legitimate operation it must be by faith as a principle of power, meaning that if you speak words of wisdom, you must have gotten those words from God and no one else; if you speak words of knowledge, you must not have learned it from anyone but God; if you heal the sick, the healing power must not have been learned at medical school but must have come solely from God; if you work miracles, it must be a work done by you (such as Jesus turning water into wine) and not mere happenstance; if you prophesy, it must not be an educated guess based upon others’ speculations or statistics, but must be a prophecy you received solely from God; if you speak in foreign or unknown tongues, it must not have been learned through study; etc.

Let’s say that I prophesy that during this month of September (2010) that there is going to be a massively destructive earthquake in California that will turn the financial markets upside down.  Let’s say that I am the only one saying this and that I am claiming that no one has told me this, save it be God.  Let’s say that others believe me and then they also go around saying that in September there will be a great quake in California, as if it were their own prophecy. Then, along comes some date in September and lo and behold, a moment magnitude 9.0 quake strikes, sinking California’s economy and plunging the nation’s finances into the worst mess ever seen.  In which of the individuals would the gift to prophesy have been manifested?  In me or in the others who parroted my words?

The answer is only in me. Since I received the prophecy from no one, save God, the gift was manifested in me only.  The others benefited and repeated the same message, as if it came to them directly, but they didn’t have the gift.  Just because you repeat a real prophecy doesn’t make you a prophet.

In the same manner, just because some obtain words of wisdom and knowledge (through study and schooling) or ability to heal people (through study and learning) or language learning ability (through study) doesn’t mean they are possessors of these best gifts.

Some personal experience

I have had some limited experience with the various gifts. In the vast majority of the manifestations, if not all of them, I have been left totally perplexed. To the rational mind, it all appears insane.

For example, I once received a prophecy whose fulfillment was a distinct possibility. Then conditions changed and it became totally impossible for its fulfillment. But, I was sure that as crazy as it sounded, it would come to pass. So I simply waited for the conditions to change. Eleven years later conditions miraculously did change and the prophecy was fulfilled every whit.

On another occasion, I was praying for guidance on what to do and a manifestation of the word of wisdom occurred (the only time that has ever happened to me). I was told what would be the wisest course of action to take but it was the absolute craziest thing I had ever heard. But I knew this was from the Spirit and so I did it. In hindsight, I see that it really was a word of wisdom.

On yet another occasion, I remember, I was at work when the Spirit came upon me and told me that a friend of mine was in great danger. Who gave me this knowledge? “No one, save God.” As soon as I was able to, I made the phone call to my friend and sure enough, the Spirit was right.

Each manifestation I’ve received over the years has caused my logical, rational mind to protest. Yet, I have continued to ignore it. In fact, as time goes on, the revelations, prophecies and manifestations seem to be getting even more illogical and bizarre, at least to my rational mind. So, based upon my own experience, I don’t believe that we should expect to rationally understand the manifestations that may come. After all, the natural man cannot comprehend the things of God. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what the manifestation is, the only really important thing is that the manifestation comes from God.

Gifts are unscientific

Recently I commented on a blog by posting a link to The Split-Brain Model of the Gospel post. The blog’s owner replied,

“I will allow the link, but please note that I do NOT accept the proposed model therein as either good science or good theology.

A significant problem with “split-brain” popularizations is one of going far beyond the data into the realm of wild speculation. Readers of such popularizations should beware.”

The reply is interesting because it beautifully shows the reaction of the logical, rational, intellectual left-brain-mind to something written from the right-brain-heart (my post). I especially enjoyed reading that the model was considered unscientific.

Gifts are intended to engender and develop faith

Taking the gift of the word of knowledge again as an example, we should understand that even this gift, which appears to be based upon science (after all, it is knowledge, right?), is primarily designed to develop faith, not impart knowledge. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Let me explain.

Knowledge communicated by the Spirit through this gift is fact, not fiction, nevertheless, it is information that may not be readily verifiable.

For example, when Lehi stated, “I know that Jerusalem is destroyed,” this was the gift of the word of knowledge working in him. It was a fact. Jerusalem was destroyed at that time. This could be verified with one’s own two eyes if one could visit Jerusalem and see it for oneself. However, the Nephites could not visit Jerusalem, so they could only take Lehi’s words on faith.

Ammon’s word to Lamoni also were verifiable fact, but Lamoni could not verify them at that moment, so they had to be taken on faith.

So, the word of knowledge is a gift that imparts knowledge of present and past things that cannot immediately be verified using secular means, to the end that the listeners can develop their faith. The knowledge imparted is not of eye-witness accounts, but is a revelation from the Spirit.  The only way to immediately verify it is by another witness of the Spirit.

To illustrate, let’s say a group of 200 people are congregated and a man stands up and says that there is an army of 50,000 men in Cuba making preparations to attack Florida. Who told him this? “No one,” says he, “save it be God.” The man is not an eye-witness. The knowledge is received through spiritual means. Can it be verified? Sure, if one could be transported to Cuba. But as one can’t, it must be taken on faith.

Now let’s say that 5 other people in the group stand up and say that the Spirit has just told them the same thing. Does this add to the credibility of the first man? Not really, as none of them are eye-witnesses. There is nothing scientific about this. Yet, this is how the gift of the word of knowledge functions. It is designed to engender faith, not mere knowledge. Is this good science? Nope. Is this good theology? Yep.

Now let’s say 6 other people stand up, having just come from Cuba and they state they are eye-witnesses and can corroborate that indeed, Cuba is getting ready to invade Florida. Is this good science? Perhaps, if the witnesses are reliable. Is this good theology? Not really.

Don’t avoid the best gifts

I’ll be the first to admit that the best gifts take some getting used to, like an acquired taste. But again, we shouldn’t have an expectation that the things of God are going to be like the things of men.

The current trend in the church is to mainstream our image. As a result, I largely see LDS avoiding the best gifts. But this is a dangerous mistake, one which will lead to widespread deception among the membership.

The gifts are to avoid deception

The Lord said, “that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46: 8). Any man or woman who possesses one of these gifts and actively uses them will be protected from the deceptions of the day, whether they be “doctrines of devils, or commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils” (D&C 46: 7).

Nephi prophesied that the Gentile churches “which are built up, and not unto the Lord” will “deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men; 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.”  (See 2 Nephi 28: 3, 5-6.)

Sound familiar? We are well on our way to fulfilling this prophecy, as LDS blindly follow their leaders, trusting that the leading brethren will not deceive them and relying upon their mortal guidance, without earnestly seeking and manifesting the gifts.

The gifts are no more

Among the majority membership, most of the best gifts are no longer manifested. The first two gifts are still among us: knowing Jesus Christ is the Son of God and believing that He is. But the rest of them are all but gone. At church, where the gifts are supposed to be manifested for the benefit of the congregation, no one prophesies, no one knows the diversities of operations, no one knows the differences of administration, no one teaches words of wisdom and words of knowledge, no one heals, no one is healed, no one works miracles, no one discerns spirits, no one speaks in tongues, no one interprets tongues, and none of the leadership discerns the gifts, for there are hardly any gifts manifesting which need discerning.

We have replaced a reliance upon the gifts with a reliance upon our leaders (the Brethren), setting up the fulfillment of Nephi’s prophecy. Instead of going to church and being spiritually uplifted and edified by participating in the manifestations of these gifts, we are lulled into a deep slumber and security. Our meetings are largely spiritually dead. The Holy Ghost has all but left the LDS Gentiles.

But two gifts left

The day that the last two remaining gifts are taken away from us will be the day when no one will join this church anymore. People currently join the church because the Holy Ghost manifests that the message is true. But the day fast approaches when the Holy Ghost will stop manifesting even that. When that occurs, the church (or churches, as it will be), will need to change their proselytizing methods. No more will it be, “ask God if these things are not true” but “come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins” and other wicked enticements to enter the church.

At that point, the wo pronounced by Moroni to the Gentiles will come to pass:

And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief. And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God. And wo unto them who shall do these things away and die, for they die in their sins, and they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God; and I speak it according to the words of Christ; and I lie not. (Moroni 10: 24-26)

The return of the gifts

The good news is that although at some point the gifts will be lost to the Gentiles, He will send more messengers who will be manifesting these same gifts. Unless you, yourself, as an individual, have developed one or more of these best gifts, and have come to recognize the manifestation of the gifts that you do not have—by being around people who have them (a congregation)—you will, like the majority member, be deceived into rejecting the new messengers sent from heaven. You cannot recognize bona fide best gifts of the Spirit unless you have experience in them. We must all then become familiar with these gifts, lest we perish at their re-appearance.

The future use of the best gifts

There is a great work to be done in the future, using these seeds of power, before the advent of the Lord. Everything mentioned in the scriptures that was done by them will be done again, with additional, new uses. Everything done before is but a precursor to what lies ahead.

To give an example, we are told that the Nephites had power to move mountains, that the brother of Jared moved mount Zerin (sounds similar to Zion, doesn’t it?), that the Savior told his disciples that if they had faith as a grain of mustard seed, they could move mountains.

Why all this mentioning of moving mountains by power faith? What is so important about it? Why do we need to learn this power? The obvious answer is that at some point in the future, prior to the Second Coming, mountains will need to be moved to fulfill the prophecies. Previously on this continent, the Nephites (and the brother of Jared) moved mountains. It may be that those mountains will have to be removed (or moved back) to their original locations at a future time.

There will not be the time nor the means to accomplish this using action faith, so we must learn to plant and engender and develop these seeds of the powers of godliness that the Lord’s plans may be fulfilled through us. If we do not develop these gifts, someone else will and it will be he or she who fulfills the prophecies, while we are cut off from the privileges we might have had.

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist