Monday, January 31, 2011

D&C Section Twenty-one

This is a revelation given at the organization of the church. The process begins where we sustain the president of the church as a prophet, seer and revelator. A seer is someone who has the ability to see the past, present and future. This is sometimes done without anything, sometimes with a seer stone, and sometimes with the Urim and Thummin. The prophet today possesses the seer stone, but evidently does not use it that we know of. The difference in the sustaining here is that along with being sustained as a prophet, seer, and revelator, Joseph is also sustained as a translator. The members who would be baptized and confirmed would need to sustain Joseph as a translator also because the Book of Mormon is the key to the restoration of the gospel and church. If the Book of Mormon isn't true and hasn't been translated by the power of God, then the church isn't true. To me, there are three pillars upon which the church stands or falls. One is the first vision, second is the Book of Mormon, and third is the restoration of Priesthood keys and authority. The first one affirms that God does call prophets as he did in the scriptures, that he reveals himself to man so he can know his attributes. The second one affirms that God reveals truth to man so that he can know what the difference is between truth and the erroneous philosophies and theories of man, and the third gives men authority to do the Lord's work in his name. If you take away these three things, our church is no different than any other church on the earth.

In this revelation, the members are counseled by the Lord to give heed to all the words and commandments that the Lord gives to the prophet. The Lord tells them, "For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth... " This is similar to the counsel the Lord gives in the Old and New Testaments and the Book of Mormon. In Exodus, the Lord tells Moses that Aaron would be his spokesman and to the people; Aaron's mouth would be considered the same as Moses' mouth. Then the Lord says this, "and thou [Moses] shalt be to him instead of God." Meaning, Moses is a prophet who speaks for God. One of the evidences that these men are prophets is the way they boldly go forward. They are always persecuted for the words they speak, often killed. There boldness is like Peter's and John's when they were arrested and brought before the council. The Sadducees told them they could no longer speak or teach the people. Peter and John answered, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than than unto God, judge ye."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

D&C Section Twenty

This section tells the specific day of the organization of the church, April 6th. I look at it as an inspired document as it does not contain words that are directly from the Savior. It was given to Joseph and Oliver not by direct revelation, but "by the spirit of prophecy and revelation." There is a difference if you think about it.

In the beginning of the section, a brief history of the events that have taken place up to this time is given. I especially like the testimony that is given of the Book of Mormon. Saying it was written by inspiration, confirmed to people in our time by the ministering of angels, and those angels declare its truth to the world. The Book of Mormon, it says in verse 11, proves that the Holy Scriptures are true, that God calls and inspires prophets in our day just as he did in times past. This shows that God is the same today as he always has been. The coming forth of the church and the Book of Mormon are evidence that there truly is a God in heaven, that we are created by him and in his likeness.

This section also talks about the importance of justification and sanctification. Being justified means being worthy to enter God's presence. This happens as a result of the atonement. Being sanctified is the process by which we are purified by the Holy Ghost. We must be sanctified in order to be justified. Another reason why leading a repentant life is so important.

In this section, there are specific instructions for the priesthood leaders and for the members and through these instructions, we can see the organization of the church begin to take place. Not everything is given at the beginning. It's organization will continue to develop as the membership grows and the church is ready for the next step. Just like gospel knowledge, the Lord reveals a little at a time, "here a little, there a little" as he says in the Bible. For instance, the duties of elders (including apostles), priests, teachers and deacons are given. And although they learn there will be high priests and what will referred to as the high priesthood, these duties are not yet given. It will a while before the first presidency is organized, before bishops and stake presidents are appointed, and before temple ordinances are given.

All of the instructions for leaders and members in this section are related to the making and keeping of covenants. Three prayers related to covenants are given that have set words in the church, the two sacrament prayers and the prayer said at the time of baptism. Also talked about is the manner in which babies should be blessed, but this is less specific. One important verse that is undoubtedly overlooked by break-off groups, or those who leave the church to start their own "correct" version of the church, is verse 65. A person cannot assume to be a prophet of the Lord's church, without it being made known to the church and voted on by the church members. I'm going to save comments on this for when we get to Section 26.

One important thing to note in this section that will have importance later on, Joseph is called the first elder of the church and Oliver Cowdery the second elder. Meaning, Joseph presides and has preeminence over the priesthood, and over Oliver. There will come a time when Oliver will over assume his importance in the church. He will threaten to leave the church saying it will collapse if he does. He did, but it didn't.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

D&C Section Nineteen

Martin Harris came to Joseph and said he had to have a revelation, a commandment from the Lord. Joseph told him that he had enough commandment and didn't need more. Three times, just like with the Book of Mormon manuscript, Martin came to Joseph about this. This revelation was the result. You'll notice in verse 32 that the Lord tells Martin "This is a great and last commandment which I shall give unto you concerning this matter; for this shall suffice for thy daily walk, even unto the end of thy life."

If you had to pick a revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants that demonstrated, not only that the restored gospel is true, but also demonstrated that Joseph Smith was a prophet, this would certainly be one of the ones I would pick. There is so much revealed in this that sheds light on doctrine taught in the New Testament. Doctrine that for centuries and centuries has been confusing and unexplained.

The Christian churches of the world have taught through the centuries that those who believe in Christ will go to Heaven and those who do not will go to hell. Not only will they go to hell, they go there with the wicked for all eternity and never come out. In this revelation, the Lord reveals that eternal damnation, eternal punishment is a principle and a title. When a person suffers eternal punishment, they person suffers God's punishment, not punishment for eternity. The Lord says, "It is not written that there shall be no end to this torment." But endless torment or endless damnation is just another way of saying God's torment or God's damnation. This is probably an oversimplification, but a parent doesn't punish a child without an end to the punishment. Time out doesn't mean go sit in the corner forever. It that were the case, there would be no purpose to the punishment or the suffering.

The main emphasis of this revelation is repentance and the Lord uses the word repentance seven times in about seven verses. He commands Martin (and us) to repent. There are two ways to rid ourselves of sin, through the atonement or through our own suffering. The Lord tells Martin that if people don't repent, they have to suffer as the Lord suffered. He said this suffering was so great that it caused him, even God, to shrink from it. He says, "I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I." It's easy to see why the Lord, having paid so great a price, pleads with us to avoid paying the price again.

The New Testament is translated from two languages, Greek and Latin. The Greek word repent is translated from is metanoia. The Latin word repent is translated from is poenitere. Both words mean to change our minds, or change our spirits, our way of being. The result of repentance is the Lord will heal us. He told Enos that his sins were forgiven and he was made whole. Repentance enables us to be whole, to be who we really are, to feel and be complete. The Lord asks us in verse 23 to do three things in repenting, learn of him, listen to his words, and walk in obedience to the spiritual promptings he gives us. If we do this, he promises that we will have peace.

I have found that for some reason, people will not trust the atonement. Even after the Lord has forgiven them, they allow themselves to be racked with guilt. Guilt does not belong in the heart of a faithful church member, and church members have no right to cast or cause guilt to be felt. That is to assume the role of the Lord and I for one do not feel very capable of doing that.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

D&C Section Eighteen

By this time, the Melchizedek Priesthood has been restored. It is nearly 6 years before the twelve apostles will be called, but in this revelation to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, the Lord reveals that they will have the privilege of choosing the men who will be the first twelve apostles. It's interesting that Martin isn't named at this time, perhaps because he still isn't where he should be spiritually. But when the time comes, he will join Oliver and David in doing this. The twelve, we learn in this section, are to be special witnesses to the name of Christ. It seems apropos that twelve special witnesses of Christ will chosen by three special witnesses of the Book of Mormon, the instrument by which the twelve will bear witness of Christ, his atonement and work in the last days. The Lord wants us to conform our lives to a higher standard. We do this by repenting and taking upon ourselves his name, the same name that the twelve apostles are to bear witness of.

A thoughtful reading of sections 18 and 19 will bring a spiritual witness that these are revelations from God and not just some inspiring words written by a man. They are steeped in doctrine, too profound. and too well organized for a 23 year old young man to come up with on his own. And you don't have to hear a voice saying these words are true to know. If you read them and allow yourself to feel the Spirit, you will know these are the words of the Lord and it is he that has spoken them. Spiritually reading his words is akin to hearing his voice. He says, "These words are not of men nor man, but of me... For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you... Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words." This is true of all scripture.

The worth of anything is dependent upon how much one is willing to give up for it. In this section, the Lord says "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." In the next verse, the Lord says why a soul is worth so much to him. Heavenly Father was willing to see the sacrifice of his Son, and the Savior was willing to give up his life and suffer for all sin for worth of each soul. This is what the church is about and this is where the emphasis should always be. It shouldn't be about programs, or policies, or traditions or the personalities and faults of people. The church will always have programs and traditions out of necessity. And because the Lord allows his church to be directed by mortals, there will always be people, programs and traditions that fall short. But the message is the Savior, and through him the opportunity to repent, receive the ordinances, and gain light and truth through the gospel. It's important we don't get hung up on one and lose sight of the other.

Friday, January 21, 2011

D&C Section 14,15, and 16

Joseph is living with the Whitmers now. The farm is just west of Lake Seneca which is one of the five Finger Lakes that run north and south through central New York. It is, for the most part, flat farm land that is green and lush. Joseph and Emma will reside there for some time until the Book of Mormon is printed. Not only is it a good location for being free from the persecution, but it's closer to Manchester and Joseph's family.

Of the three Whitmer brothers, John, and Peter each became one of the the eight witnesses who saw and handled the plates. David became one of three witnesses who saw the plates plus other sacred artifacts and heard the Lord bear witness to the truthfulness of the work. Having a testimony of the restored gospel, the three of them sought a revelation from Joseph as to what they should do to help. The three revelations are very similar, but also personal in a way known only to them. For instance, John had not said anything but wanted to know what would be of most worth to the Lord for him to do. The Lord told him that teaching the gospel and bringing and souls to the him is what would be of most worth. I feel the similarity of the revelations is because the Lord wants to teach the early members the same principles. This also keeps the playing field level so that those who might seek position would have no reason to.

John Whitmer stayed with the Saints through most of the Missouri persecutions. But during that time, he was charged with mishandling church funds. In defiance, he refused to hand over the financial records as well as the church history he had been keeping by assignment. As a result of his actions, he was excommunicated. When the Saints fled Missouri, John stayed and bought much of the land they had deserted in Far West for a very cheap price. He remained bitter about his excommunication, but also wrote in his history that he prayed he would be forgiven for his faults and sins as well as his private matter, and that he would some day find favor in the eyes of God and the Saints. He was the last survivor of the eight witnesses and whenever asked about this testimony of the Book of Mormon, he repeated again and again throughout his life with great emotion that "he knew as well as he knew he had an existence" that Joseph had translated the plates which he had seen and handled.

Peter Whitmer Jun. was a tailor and had made suits for General Alexander Doniphan who later would stand in defense of Joseph Smith saving his life, and for then lieutenant governor Boggs who offered Peter a room to live in at his house, and would later as governor sign the extermination order of all LDS. Peter died while the Saints were in Missouri and was buried next to his older brother Christian. Peter was known as someone who deeply cared for others, often caring and putting up those who were sick. Heber C. Kimball stayed with him for an extended time until he was well enough to move on.

D&C Section Thirteen

Only one verse but it's so important. The authority of the Aaronic Priesthood is restored to the earth for the first time in nearly 2,000 years. I have walked along the Susquehanna River in the vicinity of where this took place. It is sacred land. There, you can see the foundation of the Hale (Emma's family) home where Joseph and Emma first lived. Also there is the grave marker for Joseph and Emma's first son. The original marker was replaced a few years ago and is now in Salt Lake because it was beginning to deteriorate. An exact replica is at the site now. But you can feel that this is a special place. The Spirit is strong there.

Other than what we know, you have to wonder what else John the Baptist taught Joseph and Oliver before ordaining them to the Aaronic Priesthood. We know that John told them that the Aaronic Priesthood did not have the power for the laying of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost. But they would receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and authority to do that in the near future. He told them that he was acting under the authority of Peter, James and John and they would ordain them to this higher authority. And we know from their experience that baptism must be done by immersion. I think it's important to notice that this experience didn't just happen. It came after Joseph and Oliver had questions about baptism and the authority to baptize as it's demonstrated in the New Testament, and only after they had gone into the woods to seriously pray about it. Only when they put forth the effort did the angelic visitation occur. This would be the pattern for all of the revelations, visions, and visitations that Joseph would experience.

The first thing that John says in this revelation is that the Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys for the administering of angels. I once taught two brothers whose family lives in the large homes by Utah Valley University. Their father is a nationally known teacher of business and economics at BYU. They used to vacation often at a favorite spot in southern Utah. It was by a beautiful small lake that was fed by a water fall. They were usually all alone as they were this time. One day the boys were jumping off of the top of the falls into the lake. It was one of their favorite things to do, but when the 10 year old brother jumped and disappeared under the falls. The older brother jumped down after him and dove several times down to find him. When he couldn't, he swam to shore where the family was. As he was frantically telling them what happened, up out of the water and walked his 10 year old brother. When he asked the family who had pulled him out of the water, they said no one could have since they had all been on the shore. He then told them that just when he thought he was going to drown, he was reaching up trying to swim out of the undertow when a hand took his and pulled him up out of the undertow of the falls. No one else was in the water and they feel it was his guardian angel.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

D&C Section Twelve

This revelation was given to Joseph Knight sen. who may well have been the first one to believe Joseph Smith after Joseph's family. And yet it would be four years before he would be baptized. He said he wanted to read the Book of Mormon and find out for himself. After another revelation in 1830 (Section 23) where the Lord admonished him to be baptized, he finally became a member of the church. He was well enough off to help Joseph in a variety of ways numerous times from 1826 on. By the time the Saints got to Nauvoo, Father Knight, as he was called by everyone, was very poor and suffering from bad health. The Saints thought so much of him they donated a house for him to live in. One day, Joseph saw Father Knight hobbling along and putting his arm around him gave him his cane saying Father Knight needed it more than he did. The cane has been passed down in the family to this day. In 1847, when the Saints left for the west, Father Knight made it as far as Mount Pisgah, Iowa where he died at the age of 74.

Section 12 is similar to all of the early revelations (those before the organization of the church) given to priesthood holders. It admonishes them to be prepared to help in the cause of Zion, to do missionary work with the promise that if they do it with their might, they will see much success. In this, the Lord tells Father Knight that "no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care." In a tribute written by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Joseph said that Father Knight possessed all of these characteristics.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

D&C Section Eleven

When Alvin, the oldest son of the Smith's was dying, he said to Hyrum, "Hyrum, I must die. Take care care of [our parents] in their old age, and do not any more let them work hard." Hyrum, from that point on, spent the rest of his life caring for them and the rest of the family. He was especially mindful of Joseph and was by his side through everything, including Liberty Jail and their martyrdom. It was Hyrum who hid pages of the translation under his vest and coat and took them to the printer and back. This was a more dangerous mission then we realize. He was one of the eight witnesses of the plates of the Book of Mormon and served as patriarch to the church. Joseph once said, "Brother Hyrum, what a faithful heart you have got! Oh may the Eternal Jehovah crown blessings upon you head, as a reward for the care you have had for my soul." At another time he said, "I could pray in my heart that all my brethren were like unto my beloved brother Hyrum, who possesses the mildness of a lamb, the integrity of a Job, and in short, the meekness and humility of Christ; and I love him with the love that is stronger than death, for I never had a occasion to rebuke him, nor he me."

One night, mother Smith had a vision of Hyrum and Joseph escaping from Liberty Jail and saw them struggling across the plains to get to the saints. She said they looked exhausted and pale. She stayed up the rest of the night preparing for them to come and they arrived the next morning.

In Section 11, a revelation given through Joseph to Hyrum who had come down to Harmony to see his brother and asked what the Lord would have him do, we learn more about revelation and how the Spirit works. We're taught that if we trust in the Spirit, it will lead us to do good, to be fair, to be humble. It will enlighten our mind and will fill us with joy. It is by the Spirit that we can know the desires of our hearts. Hyrum has desires to be a missionary, but the Lord wisely counsels him to wait until he has a knowledge of the restored gospel. When he has that, the Lord promises him that he will be able to teach by the power of the Spirit for that is how men will be convinced of the truth. I think there is a process there, not just of learning and having the Spirit before teaching, but if we follow what the Lord says, if we first have understanding, that is when the desire comes to serve the Lord, and after we have that understanding and desire, we will have the power of the Spirit.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

D&C Section Nine

Section 9 continues the Lord's tutoring of Joseph and Oliver in how revelation is received. Oliver had been told that he could translate the plates but when he tried, nothing happened. The Lord used this as an object lesson explaining that revelation never comes automatically. The Lord tells Oliver that he "cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. But there are some ground rules for anything to be given us from the Lord. Rather than revelation on a matter coming automatically, there must be much thought and a decision made. So we get those well known instructions to study it out in our minds before asking if something is right. Only then will receive a revelation as described in Section 8 come. One thing that is often overlooked in this section is the role that fear can play in stopping revelation. Faith and fear are at opposite ends of the spectrum and fear inhibits the reception of revelation just as faith enables it. The other thing that helps is establishing a track record with the Lord. With the promise that the Lord will guide us in our decision making, it's important that we follow his counsel, as we do this, we establish a sort of working relationship with him. James said, "Submit yourselves therefore to God... Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you."

Friday, January 14, 2011

D&C Section Eight

Revelation is at the foundation of the church. No other church claims on-going revelation and yet it is by revelation that God has done his work among men since the time of Adam. In these early sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord is schooling Joseph and future church leaders in how the Spirit works. No one, especially the church's of the Joseph's day understood the principle of revelation since time-wise, they were at the end of the apostasy. So this principle would have been new to Joseph, and new in the sense that it was also a skill that he and the future church leaders would have to develop.

We tend to think of Joseph just naturally recognizing the Spirit; the Lord speaks, Joseph listens and that's all there is to it. But there is much more to it than that. Joseph has to learn to recognize the Spirit when it speaks to him just like the rest of us. To help his prophet and the establishment of his church proceed, the Lord gives Joseph the Urim and Thummim to receive many of the early revelations. Later, he will not need that help as he will become so skilled at receiving them that he is literally a Urim and Thummim.. Oliver didn't have the Urim and Thummim and the Lord temporarily provided him with a physical tool to help him. We're not sure what it was, but it was a rod of some sort. Verses 6 and 7 in the 1833 version of the revelation read: "Now this is not all they gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod; behold it has told you many things. Behold there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this rod of nature to work with your hands." That made sense to Oliver in his day, but for the general principle to be understood in a context that everyone could identify, Joseph and Oliver changed this in 1835 to read "Now this is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things. Behold there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you."

In Section 8, the Lord explains what revelation is and how it comes. He says he communicates to us in our hearts and our minds. If we wait for some dazzling or dramatic experience, we will miss the revelation. President Kimball said that revelations "come down to prophets as deep, unassailable impressions settling down on the prophet's mind... Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

D&C Section Seven

While translating the Book of Mormon, Oliver and Joseph would have discussions about the scriptures and one day they disagreed with what the Savior meant when talking to Peter about John he said, "If I will that he tarry til I come, what is that to thee?" The question was, did the Savior allow John to stay on the earth until his second coming or did John die like the other apostles? Section 7 is a translation of a parchment that John had written on and hidden. I have found no record that Joseph ever had the parchment, but was probably allowed to see it in vision. On this parchment, John confirms that the Lord granted his desire to live on the earth until the Savior's second coming. John states that his desire is to bring souls to Christ. The Savior tells him that he will be as a ministering angel meaning he will be like a ministering angel. Later, Joseph will learn that ministering angels have resurrected bodies. John will translated so that he does not experience death, sickness or pain, but until he is resurrected, he will not be a ministering angel. What this revelation reveals is John's love and concern for others, that they find the truth concerning their salvation.

There is a long story in the Eusebius History of the Church, which is the earliest church history recorded, that illustrates how much John cares for the souls of people. Basically, the story goes like this. John leaves a boy in the care of the bishop at Smyrna with the understanding that the bishop will raise him properly. The bishop looks closely after the boy until he is baptized, but then neglects him after that. The boy eventually joins with a group of trouble makers and as they get older, their crimes become worse. As a young man, the boy becomes their leader and they commit serious crimes. John eventually returns to Smyrna and asks the bishop what has happened to the boy. The bishop sorrowfully tells John how the boy became wild in spite of his best efforts. John asks to be led into the mountains where the gang is known to stay and as he approaches the area, members of the gang take him prisoner. John tells them he wants to see their leader and as he approaches, the young man recognizes him and is suddenly filled with shame and starts to run away. John chases after him and tells him that he will lay down his life for him if it will help him with the authorities. He pleads with him to come back and change his life. As a result of John's display of love and acceptance, the young man returns.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

D&C Section Six

Before I do Section 6, I need to correct one thing I previously said. I
mentioned the story of David Whitmer's field being plowed so he could
translate. Something did seem right and so I checked on the story. The
plowing was actually done so he could go to Pennsylvania to bring Joseph and
Oliver back to Fayette to finish the translation. Here is David Whitmer's
own words where he tells how he needs to go to Joseph, but needs to get his
work done too. "I did not know what to do, I was pressed with my work. I
had some 20 acres to plow, so I concluded that I would finish plowing and
then go. I got up one morning to go to work as usual, and on going to the
field, found between five and seven acres of my ground had been plowed
during the night. I don't know who did it; but I was done just as I would
have done it myself, and the plow was left standing in the furrow. This
enabled me to start sooner."

Section 6
Oliver Cowdery has been teaching school in Manchester (where the Smith's
live and is part of Palmyra now) and as was usual for teachers then, he
boarded with the parents of school children. So it was natural for him to
put up with the Smiths for a while and during that time he learned of
Joseph, Moroni's visits, and the translating going on with the Book of
Mormon. One night, he prayed to know the truth of all this and received and
answer that it was true, but was instructed in that answer to tell no one.
Because of that experience, he decided to travel the 100 miles to Harmony,
Pennsylvania to meet Joseph for himself. I like that fact that Oliver
doesn't judge, doesn't rely on anyone for his own opinion, but finds out on
his own. When Joseph spoke the words of the revelation in Section 6 about
Oliver's having prayed and received an answer to his prayer, Oliver knew
that no one knew that except the Lord, and for someone else to know that,
the Lord would have to reveal it to him. As a result, he decided to stay
and help Joseph with the translation. Being more educated, this helped
Joseph immensely and the translation went more quickly.

It's interesting that before the Lord says anything else, Oliver will get
the same call to missionary work that so many others will. Missionary work
is the only way the church is going to move forward and have any financial
stability. Oliver is counseled by the Lord to "not trifle with sacred
things." How often we tend to treat the sacred with casualness. Just as we
are disappointed when people treat lightly something that is important to
us, I'm sure the Lord is disappointed when we fail to grasp the importance
of something sacred. The most common thing I can think of is the sacrament.
One that I know I fail to grasp significantly enough is the temple. Some
day when I understand the temple more deeply, especially the symbolism and
spiritual opportunities the temple affords, I know I'll kick myself for not
going more often.

Three quick verses. "There is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts
and the intents of the thy heart." Satan has no idea what our thoughts and
intentions are, but how comforting to know that the Lord understands us

"Cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart (It
wasn't a vocal prayer - a little detail that Joseph wouldn't have known, but
Oliver would have picked up on quickly)... Did I not speak peace to your
mind concerning the matter?" A spiritual witness always involves feelings
and the feeling that is most often associated with spiritual experiences is

"Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not" The Lord is one source
we can rely on to ease our fears and doubts about anything and everything.

Monday, January 10, 2011

D&C Section Seventeen

Because of persecution and the lack of resources Joseph and Emma have moved to Fayette to live with the Witmers. The Witmers, especially David, have been generous in their support. Joseph is obviously feeling the pressure to get the plates translated. And between having to run his farm, care for Emma who had by this time lost her baby, and translate, it must have been overwhelming. Having someone to care for Emma, who is still weak, and free from the distraction of farming and persecution, Joseph is able to finish the translation. There is an account of David Whitmer, who also helped a scribe, was behind in his plowing and had to choose between getting a number of acres plowed and acting as scribe. He came out the next morning and all of the land had been plowed. His wife also struggled with Joseph being a prophet, having the plates and all of the upheaval this must have brought to their household. She was granted a her own viewing of the plates by Moroni. After the three witnesses had the plates, the breast plate and sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummin, and the Liahona shown to them by Moroni, eight others are shown the plates by Joseph. Joseph now had a tremendous weight removed from his shoulders. He went to his parents and wept with joy. Up to that point, it was his word only and it was easy for people to cast him aside as another religious nut. But now others had seen and knew for a fact also. The three witnesses never denied their testimony of that experience. In Section 5, the Lord had said they would know without doubt. Where they failed was in their lives in harmony with the gospel and the church. Oliver and Martin returned but David never did. In 1878, David did say this about the experience: "The fact is, it was just as though Joseph, Oliver and I were sitting just here on a log, when we were overshadowed by a light. It was not the light of the sun, nor like that of a fire, but more glorious and beautiful. It extended away around us, I cannot tell how far, but in the midst of this light... there appeared as it were a table with many records or plates upon it, besides, the plates of the Book of Mormon, also the sword of Laban, the directors, and interpreters. I say them just as plain as I see this bed and I heard the voice of the Lord, as distinctly as I ever heard anything in my life, declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated by the gift and power of God.

This is a revelation specifically for David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris. The Lord reminds them that it is because of their faith and reliance upon him that they are being shown everything. Seeing them comes with responsibility and the Lord tells them that it will be required of them to testify by the power of God that they have seen what they have seen. This they did throughout their lives. The Lord then bears testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, "And he has translated the book, even that part which I have commanded him and as your Lord and your God liveth, it is true."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

D&C Section Five

The Book of Mormon has been translated enough that Joseph and Martin are aware that witnesses will be chosen for the Book of Mormon. Martin wants to be one of these, but Joseph tells him that he has to humble himself and repent. What Martin doesn't seem to realize is that the loss of the manuscript isn't the problem, but his breaking of the covenants he had made with the Lord. The problem with Martin now is that he wants a witness for the wrong reasons. The fact is, the witness isn't going to help him unless he believes and has faith first. I think of what Nephi told his brothers, "Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the LOrd your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could hot feel his words 1 Nephi 17: 45)."

The Lord tells Joseph concerning witnesses or anyone who wants to see the plates to satisfy their curiosity, "if they will not believe my words, they would not believe you, my servant Joseph, if it were possible that you should show them all these things which I have committed unto you." Later he says, "whosoever believeth on my words, them will I visit with a manifestation of my Spirit." Seeing an angel or the plates isn't going to make a difference in Martin's faith or belief. But the Lord still promises Martin, perhaps because of the sacrifices he has and will make, that if he will humble himself and acknowledge his wrongdoings, and bow himself in might prayer, he will see the things that have been promised. The Lord promises that all of the witnesses "will know of surety that these things are true." They are going to know without doubt that the Book of Mormon was true and translated by the power of God.

Section 17 next because that deals with this same topic of the witnesses.

Friday, January 7, 2011

D&C Section Four

Section 4 lists the spiritual qualities a person should have if they desire
to serve the Lord. When I was a Branch President at the MTC, and I don't
think this has changed, missionaries were required to memorize this. I
think this was important because if there was something that was truly
lacking, say a missionary was not kind to the other missionaries in his
district, then the missionary could focus on making a weakness strong. It's
a good reminder of the Christ-like qualities we should be seeking in our

On the other hand, I didn't like it because sometimes missionaries felt they
were lacking in all of the listed characteristics, which we all are, and to
be a good missionary, they had to be perfect in them all of the time.
Unfortunately, there was one now and then who thought they were. Somehow
they passed over the humility part. I believe that if a person is living
righteously, is sensitive to the Spirit, and is trying their best, those
qualities will be there in one form or another. They may choose to focus on
an area they think is weak, but shouldn't condemn themselves and feel like a
failure because they're not perfect. So basically, I feel these are
standards we can all work towards, good objectives to set goals with. But
if we were perfect in every way with all of them, we would probably be

Thursday, January 6, 2011

D&C Section Ten

In this revelation, the Lord reveals to the Joseph Smith that if he was to
re-translate what was lost, those holding the lost manuscript would come out
and say there were differences between what he had written before and what
he had translated the first time, so obviously he was just making it all up.
There is one rebuke that I think would have been especially sharp to Joseph.
Verse 9, "Therefore you delivered them up, yea, that which was sacred, unto
wickedness." There is so much inferred in that statement.

Long before Lehi left Jerusalem and Nephi began engraving the plates, the
Lord knew this would happen. So he instructed Nephi to make two sets of
plates, one small and one large. Nephi said he didn't know why he was
instructed to do this, but obeyed as he knew the Lord would have his
reasons. Joseph had been translating from the larger plates.

When Mormon was completing his abridgement of all the plates, he found the
small plates of Nephi. And like Nephi, he included them with his own record
not knowing why but knowing the the Lord wanted it for some wise purpose
known only to the Lord. In verses 3-7, Mormon says among other things, "I
shall take these (other) plates (of Nephi) and... put them with the
remainder of my record... And I do this for a wise purpose, for thus it
whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is
in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things
which are to come."

These other plates of Nephi, the Lord told Joseph, contain more of what the
Lord would want the people to know (v. 40) and throw greater views upon his
gospel (v. 45). I'm glad Joseph lost the manuscript. Otherwise, we
wouldn't have first and second Nephi.

With Section 10, Joseph receives the plates again and is told to translate
the small plates of Nephi rather than re-translate the large plates, and
then continue with the Book of Mosiah and King Benjamin's story.

One personal experience that I had with verse 37. As a new bishop, I had a
wife come in my first Sunday and accuse her husband of abusing her. He said
that every time they had a new bishop, she did this trying to embarrass him.
I had no experience with this and try as I might, I could not tell who was
telling the truth and who wasn't. The stake president interviewed them and
said the woman had mental problems and was lying.

I didn't feel that was right but didn't have the answer. I prayed and
prayed about it and then one day verse 37 hit me between the eyes. "But as
you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the
wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I
shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the
matter." So I did nothing and within a couple of months, it became obvious
that the husband was abusive and it became known to everyone else when after
being served a restraining order, he kidnapped the two children. I got a
call at 2 in the morning from him and he told me where he was, that he had
the kids with him and he was scared and didn't know what to do. I called
the police and then met him where he was. He was arrested and eventually
deported back to Ecuador. The does know all things from beginning to end.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

D&C Section Three

(I'm going to do D&C 10 tomorrow because they are related.)
From April to June of 1828, Martin Harris acted as scribe as Joseph
translated the plates. The 116 pages of manuscript contained the Book of
Lehi and were lost by Martin Harris after he had pressed Joseph three times
to go to the Lord for permission. This revelation was given in response to
those lost pages. Joseph was in a difficult situation. Martin had probably
done more for Joseph financially than anyone and now he was dedicating his
time to helping him translate rather than run his farm, which was one of the
more prosperous farms in the area. So when Martin asked him to get
permission from the Lord to take the manuscript and show it to his wife and
four other family members, (His wife was very critical of his relationship
with the Smiths), Joseph had to of felt that he at least owed Martin enough
to ask the Lord.

The basic lesson here is in verse 4, we shouldn't fear man more than God.
Joseph and Martin should not have allowed the pressures of the people close
to them to influence what they were doing. I don't think Joseph yet
appreciated the sacrifices that had been made for the Book of Mormon to come
forth because he hadn't gotten that far in the translation. Later, he would
know all that had been done to bring the ancient record into his hands, all
of the prayer, fasting, worrying, and persecution involved, not to mention
the painstaking effort needed to engrave the plates.

In allowing Martin to take the manuscript, they had entered into covenants
about who would see it (only those five people) and when it would be
returned. These covenants were broken and Joseph had the plates taken from
him as a result. I can sympathize with him because too often have I taken
the Book of Mormon lightly, or broken promises I have made with the Lord.
In short, how often have I treated sacred things less than they deserved?

For me, just as it was for Joseph and Martin, the answer is in verse 10:
"Remember, God is merciful; therefore repent of that which thou has done
which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still
chosen, and art again called to the work."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

D&C Section Two

D&C 2
When Moroni quoted Malach's statement to Joseph Smith in 1823 of turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children, he repeated it three times in three consecutive visits. It's interesting that it would be nearly 20 years later in the 1840's when the prophet would be strongly impressed that this was the most urgent and important work that the Latter-day saints could do (see Section 128 for example where the prophet talks about baptism for the dead). When Moroni quotes Section 2, he says "I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah." He doesn't say restore because the restoration of those keys won't happen until they are in Kirtland. In verse 3, it says if this sealing authority was not restored, "the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming" meaning Christ's 2nd coming. The purpose of the mortal experience on earth is to provide a place for families to be created and sealed together for eternity. If families were for this life only, then it would be a waste.

In the temple, all of the ordinances are provided starting with baptism, confirmation, and ordination to the priesthood. The washing and anointing is perhaps one of the most beautiful because it not only cleanses, but anoints a person for the realization of their potential, both in this life and the next. The endowment is instructive, but also endows a person with a power of righteousness and spirituality. The crowning ordinance is the marriage sealing. All ordinances are preparatory to it. All of the tokens and symbols come together in unity and it is rich in its symbolism. As the bride and groom kneel at the alter and take hands, at the center of everything is the Lord's atonement and resurrection. This ceremony also represents the uniting of families and the continuation of a patriarchal order of fathers to sons and mothers to daughters. Because the sealing is done by the power and authority of the priesthood (the Lord having said that with this authority, what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven) the sealing can be for eternity.

There is no where else on this earth where a person can go that prepares them to meet their potential for this life and the next except the temple. Books have been published, seminars created, drugs have been used, all designed to help a person reach their full potential. All of these are good and enlightening, but they fall short because they are not able to base their instruction on what the true potential of person is. That potential includes not only this life, but the life before and the life after. Only the temple can do that.

Monday, January 3, 2011

D&C Section One

When the church was organized in 1830, Joseph Smith received Section 20 and this became known as the articles and covenants of the church. The missionaries would carry a copy of this with them on their mission to instruct new priesthood leaders and form new branches. By November of 1831, nearly 70 revelations had been given. The elders of the church voted to publish these and call them the Book of Commandments. The Lord gave Joseph a revelation that was to serve as a preface to the Book of Commandments and this is Section 1. It is the only section, except for Sections 133, 134, and 137, that is not in chronological order. Persecution prevented its publication when a mob stormed the printing press in Missouri and destroyed the type. This delayed publication until 1833. In 1835, after a large number of additional revelations had been received, an enlarged version was published as the Doctrine and Covenants.

Among the many important doctrines in this Section, I'll just summarize what I think are the main points. The Lord emphasizes that the commandments contained in this book are given so that his kingdom on earth can be established in preparation for his second coming. In verses 4 and 6, he states that missionaries, who he authorizes, will provide the voice of warning to all people. The Lord always uses missionaries to send his word forth. This voice of warning will go forth because as he says in verses 12-16, the world has become so deaf to spiritual things they will not listen to his voice, to his servants (missionaries) or his apostles and prophets. Christianity has so changed his ordinances and doctrines that religious thought is no longer based on his truth, but on each person's or church's interpretation. The most critical error lies in their conception of God, which has been replaced with materialism and idolatry.

Knowing the terrible consequences of this, the Lord has reestablished his kingdom on the earth, and in doing so, he has called a new prophet and bears testimony that this prophet is Joseph Smith. Then he lists several reasons in verses 19-30 why he's doing this. They are:

1. So that men won't have to trust only in the word of other men

2. So that men can authoritatively speak in the name of God

3. So that faith will increase

4. To establish his everlasting covenant or the gospel

5. So that the fulness of the gospel can preached to all people from the weakest to the kings of the earth

6. So that all people can come to an understanding of the truth

7. To correct errors

8. So that those that seek wisdom will get understanding

9. So that those who have sinned can repent

10. So the humble can provide the strength the earth needs and receive knowledge when it is given

11. And so that men will have power to bring forth new scripture, lay the foundation of the Lord's church, and bring it to prominence in the world.

In the last verses, the Lord challenges us to search these words for their truthfulness and bears testimony, that his words contained in these revelations are true. He then bears testimony of all his prophets in saying that whether his words are given "by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." This is a powerful testimony that every seriously religious person should consider. Because if it is true, then we will be accountable for how we have treated those words.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Intro to Doctrine and Covenants

This year I'm going to cover the Doctrine and Covenants. It's one of those books of scripture that a lot of people have never read from front to back. I fell in love with the Doctrine and Covenants while teaching it for ten years at BYU. I taught Book of Mormon for five years and then they asked me to switch to the D&C and I loved it because it not only contained such great doctrine, but because so much church history is intertwined with it. So with each section I'm going to give some historical background and then some comments like I've done before. I hope you'll read it with me. If you haven't really studied it before, I promise that you'll understand and view Joseph Smith differently by the time you're done. If you've ever had doubts about Joseph Smith, I can promise that most of those doubts will be erased, especially if you read earnestly and prayerfully. But more than that, your testimony of the Savior will increase.

Today, I'm just going to comment on the Introduction which explains the following things:

1. The D&C is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations. The difference is, divine revelation is a direct communication of the Lord to his prophet. Inspired declarations are usually explanations of doctrine given under the power and influence of the Holy Ghost. Both were given for the establishment of the church and how it was to be governed.
2. The D&C is not just for church members but is for all mankind.
3. While other scriptures are interpretations and translations of ancient documents, the D&C is direct revelation to a living prophet.
4. Much of the revelations are directed to Joseph Smith, many are given to others through the prophet.
5. The D&C restored true doctrine and teaches the importance of mankind having priesthood leaders who have the keys of authority enabling them to receive revelation and govern the church under the direction of God.
6. Many of the revelations came in answer to prayers because the church needed direction and guidance. Others came that related to the translations of the Book of Mormon and the Bible.
7. The doctrines of the gospel, the gradual unfolding of church structure and administration, and most important a strong witness and testimony of the Savior are given within the sections.