Thursday, March 31, 2011

D&C Section Forty Four

This section directs the church to have another conference. This will be the fourth general conference of the church, the first one to be held in Ohio. The previous three were held in Fayette, New York. In this revelation, the Lord tells them that purpose of this conference is to organize themselves according to the laws of the land. Everywhere the church settled, they did this and it enabled them to go about building temples, publishing revelations and conducting other church business without fear of being legally challenged successfully. With their numbers, the church was able to influence voting issues that would have hampered their efforts to function. As a result, since the people in their vicinity couldn't do anything legal against them, the always resorted to mob violence. This happened in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. At this conference, Section 52 was received. This has become the practice of the church ever since. They always operate within the laws of the land. Even in communist East Germany, where religious practices were severely controlled, the church was able to build a temple because it had become so well respected by the communist leaders. Eventually, the Berlin wall came down and East and West Berlin were united in freedom. Then the church was able to send more missionaries and operate more freely under the German democracy. The Lord always seems to work from the inside out whether it's with a person, a city, or a nation.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

D&C Section Forty Three

A woman whose last name was Hubble began to profess she was a prophetess and claimed to know the Book of Mormon was true. She demanded that she should be a teacher in the church. Most saw through her hypocrisy, but a few members became her followers. John Whitmer described her as being very sanctimonious. As a result, this revelation was given which clarifies even further the manner in which the Lord will give revelation to the church.

The message is, the Lord will only give revelations to the church through the person who holds the keys to receive them. If they should be come unworthy, the Lord will replace them with another who holds the keys. The Lord says, "There is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments... And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me."

Then the Lord makes what I feel is the most important message of the section: "For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before." In other words, there is only one way, the Lord's way, that a person becomes a prophet and the one authorized to receive revelation for the church. Common sense sees the wisdom of this. It is a protection to the church against those that would usurp authority. If more people were aware of this revelation, they would not be sucked into groups that break away from the church claiming that they are now the ones the Lord is giving revelation to guide the church.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

D&C Section Forty Two

What we tend to forget is that everything the church does, is based on the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants. This is one reason that the church is so successful. All actions, whether spiritual or business, are based on the principles found in the Doctrine and Covenants. It contains the rules by which the church is governed. Because these principles are divinely inspired, the church will not fail as long as it continues in this manner. The same is true of the members. If they live their lives by the principles and ordinances found in this book, they will not fail. This is why some people in the church will fail, but the church will not. Joseph is still 24 years old and to come up with, on his own, a revelation like this, would have been impossible without divine inspiration. It is too timeless. This section, as well as the others, have stood the test of time and will continue to do so and there is much in them that is yet to be fulfilled. Plus, they are timeless in that they will always be applicable to the church and how it conducts its business.

Verses 1-17 deal with missionary work. The Lord instructs the church to send missionaries. They are to go west two by two. In those days, missionaries were called to go to certain regions of the world, but not specific places. They were simply told to follow the Spirit as to what cities and towns they should go to. And they continued their missions until the Spirit told them to come home or the church notified them their mission was over. Often the missions were a matter of months. Sometimes though, they lasted for years like we will see when they go to Europe and England. There are three important laws given concerning missionary work. One is, no one is to preach the gospel who has not been called and ordained by the authorities of the church. The second is, only the principles of the gospel are to be taught. And third, the only teaching that can take place is that which is done under the power of the Spirit. Since it is the Holy Ghost that testifies of truth, no one can teach the gospel without this power; a person could say all that they wanted about the gospel, but it would be meaningless in the lives of those they taught. It isn't the convincing of men that must take place; it is the convincing of power of God. It is this witness that changes the lives and hearts of people.

Verses 18-29 deal with basic commandments of Christian living, how we should conduct our lives and how we should treat others. These verses can be summed up by simply saying that our lives should be clean and moral. We should love each other and keep the commandments. One verse says we should not speak evil of our neighbors. I take this to mean that we should not say anything derogatory, meaning disrespectful or critical of others. Even if they never hear it, it still affects us negatively. The Lord sums these verses up saying, "If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments." That's a good measuring stick to know if we love him.

Verses 30-42 deal with the law of consecration. This is something that has been misunderstood by so many. How the the law worked was, a member would consecrate all that he has to the church, but keep all that he needed. In a sense we do this today by paying ten per cent tithing and keeping the rest for our needs. With the law of consecration, the person and the bishop discussed how much the church would keep and how much the person would keep. Those who were more wealthy, would have more excess and those who were poor would probably have need of some of that excess. This is a marvelous law. Just think of the millions and billions that are made by the sporting industries, or by lotteries, or other industries that bring in huge amounts of money. If instead of keeping all that money to themselves, they kept what they felt they needed and then gave the excess to hospitals, cancer research, creating jobs for the jobless, the wealth and health of our country would increase tremendously. I admire those that do this. With this law, all are expected to work. A person who did not work, would not receive assistance.

Verses 43-52 give principles for healing the sick and caring for them. We are to heal where it is possible and there is faith to heal, otherwise we bear each other's infirmities with love and care.

Verses 53-92 offer further explanations of the law of consecration. One important passage that we could all do a better of job of applying to our lives is in verses 88-92. If we are offended by someone, we should go to that person so the relationship can be restored to friendly terms. If the offense is serious enough, and the person who offended refuses to reconcile, then the offended person can take the matter before the church authorities. If something is done publicly that is harmful, the person who did the harm would be rebuked publicly. It was a private matter, it would be handled in a private manner.

Monday, March 28, 2011

D&C Section Forty One

Section 41 is the first revelation received in Ohio. Most of the saints traveled in two large groups to Ohio while Joseph and Emma and few others came across the land in wagons. The two large groups traveled the Erie Canal to the Buffalo area and then by boat across Lake Erie. While on Lake Erie, one group was under the direction of Lucy Mack Smith, the prophet's mother. The Lake was frozen with ice and the captain of the boat refused to set out. Lucy prayed that the ice would break enough for them to be able to get through it and over night the ice did break up and they're able to move on. In this section. we learn that Edward Partridge is called as the first bishop and we see in verse nine the three steps of a calling that are always followed. A person is called by the Lord, sustained by the church (the word appointed is used here), and ordained or set apart by the bishop.

The law of consecration has been discussed a great deal and a group of the saints tried to start living it on their own. They called themselves "The Family" and the way they lived the law causing bad feelings among them. They misunderstood how the law should be lived which will be given in Section 42. They assumed there were no personal possessions, that everything was the Lord's and every possession of every person would be shared with the group. What happened is some took this as license to take whatever they wanted from others. They would walk into a home, see something, and take it for their own use. Here, the Lord tells the people that he will give them his law and instruct them on how to live it. The Lord warns the people that once the law is given, he expects them to live it. His words are pure so they should "beware how you hold them, for they are to be answered upon your souls in the day of judgment.

It is not unusual at all for zealous members to put their own interpretations on the commandments. These members will carry things to extreme. For instance, they may decide how the sabbath should be kept and try to impose that upon other members. The manner in which members keep the commandments is their own business. The only regulations that are imposed in the church are found in the questions asked at the temple recommend interview. But even then, the Lord asks us if we are living the commandment. He doesn't say how or how much. I really appreciate the fact that the Lord allows us the agency to determine the level of obedience we want to live. He will hold us responsible for what we know and do. But it is always between the Lord and that person. The only areas of exact obedience lie in those related to chastity. For example, one question asks, "Do you pay an honest tithe?" Is an honest tithe on the gross or the net? He doesn't say but leaves that up to the person. Some prefer to pay on the gross simply because of the blessings that come from the sacrifice. Another questions is, "Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?" Here, coffee, tea, drugs and alcohol are specifically indicated. But other things such as colas and other foods are left to the discretion of the member. It is the principle of living healthy and the degree to which it is lived must determined by the individual. In marriages, the couple have to determine, sometimes with compromise, what level they are going to live.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

D&C Section Thirty Nine and Forty

This revelation was given to James Covill on January 5th 1831. Little is known about him. He had been a Baptist minister for 40 but said he would keep any commandments the Lord gave him through the Prophet Joseph Smith. As a result, this revelation has the Lord telling him to be baptized and do missionary work. He is given great promises of power and faith and success and his first mission is to be in Ohio, not the eastern states as he seemed to think. I find it interesting the the revelation also states that in the past, he has rejected the Lord many times because of "pride and the cares of the world." And he is told, that if he rejects these things, he is rejecting the Lord. If he receives the gospel and the revelations, he is receiving the Lord.

Sometime not long after in the same month, Covill rejects the church and returns to the Baptist church. The Lord in Section 40 stated that "he received the word with gladness, but straightway Satan tempted him; and the fear of persecution and the cares of the word caused him to reject the word. Wherefore he broke my covenant, and it remaineth with me to do with him as seemeth me good." It is not known if he was ever baptized.

This reminds me of the parable of the sower. Of the seeds the sower cast, some were cast on stony places. In Matthew 13, the Lord says, "But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended." A true gospel will always require rigorous discipleship. Our blessings must in some way result from the kind of effort that reflects an appreciation for the price that has been paid in our behalf.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

D&C Section Thirty Eight

During December, Joseph had finished Moses Chapters 6 and 7. These dealt with Enoch and the city of Zion in Enoch's day. Sometimes we ask "Why?" when asked to do something. Here the Lord begins by saying who is doing the asking and then why he is asking them.And what he is asking is for the saints to gather in Ohio and teaches the importance of the gathering of Israel and establishing Zion. The gathering is both a spiritual and physical gathering. The spiritual gathering is missionary work bringing people to a true and correct knowledge of Christ, his atonement and his gospel. The physical gathering is the locating of saints in one geographic area to establish Zion. Zion is characterized by people who are pure in heart, worthy of the celestial kingdom. There are twelve characteristics of a Zion people given in this section:

1. They seek Zion with all of their hearts.
2. They hear the Lord's voice and follow it.
3. The are a free people who's lives are based on the Lord's laws. When he comes, the only laws will be his.
4. They teach one another according to the offices or callings they have received.
5. Every person esteems his brother (sister) as himself.
6. They practice virtue and holiness before the Lord.
7. They are united as one, as to the doctrine of the gospel.
8. They live the law of consecration.
9. They are endowed with power from on high. This power is both priesthood keys and an outpouring of the Spirit.
10. They see to the needs of the poor.
11. They are rich in both temporal and spiritual things.
12. They are mindful of pride and shun it.

There are some great individual verses in this section. Here a few:

"They day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day."

"Ye are clean... and there is none else with whom I am well pleased."

"I will be merciful unto your weakness."

"Hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people."

"Be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine."

"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear."

"Go out from among the wicked... Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord."

Friday, March 25, 2011

D&C Section Thirty Seven

Section 37 serves as an introduction to Section 38. There are about 200 members of the church since it was organized 8 months ago. This is the first mention of a gathering of church members. Or in a more correct sense, the Lord is beginning to teach what the gathering of Israel is through the conversion of church members. The Lord instructs the saints that they are to relocate in Ohio after the members have been strengthened, especially those in Colesville who the Lord says have been praying with much faith. In the days of the early church, they gathered at various locations to flee persecution, but to also establish Zion. These first years, the church was fragile. Many doctrines and ordinances were not yet introduced that would later prove to be a great protection and strength to them. The leadership is being schooled by the Lord and they are young in terms of experience and knowledge. The greatest dangers to the church were physical persecution and dissension within. These two challenges would continue to be a problem until the church finally arrives in Utah.

While the church continues to face persecution from some fronts, it no longer is in physical danger as a whole. In our day, the gathering is still taking place through missionary work. But what is important for us is to recognize the threats we face as individual members. Since Satan can no longer hinder the church like he did in Joseph's time, the vast majority of his efforts are on individual members. Using the fly fisherman as an example, Elder Ballard taught how the fly fisherman creates a special lure for snagging a particular fish. The lure designed to look enticing to draw the fish in to bite. Once the fish bites, he is hooked and under the fisherman's power. Sexual immorality is so accepted in today's world that it is now considered a normal activity. Columbia University held a debate in which they voted that pornography was a societal valuable tool of communication. It is now considered an intrusion on the rights of the individual to teach that sex out of the bounds of marriage is wrong. What is ignored is the price that individuals as well as society are paying as a result. More than ever, there needs to be a Zion (a place for the pure in heart). We need to gather to the gospel, to have a place of protection against the wave of immorality and sin that is gradually engulfing our lives.

Monday, March 21, 2011

D&C Section Thirty Six

This is a revelation given to Edward Partridge. He was a hatter who owned his own store after serving as an apprentice for four years. He listened to missionaries but would not be baptized until after he had read the Book of Mormon and heard the prophet speak. After hearing the prophet, he told Joseph Smith that he was ready to be baptized and requested a revelation regarding what he should do. Section 36 is the revelation that was given. He became the first bishop of the church, a position that he felt incapable of pleasing his Heavenly Father in because of what he said were his inadequacies. In the church films on the Prophet Joseph Smith, a person is tarred and feathered in Missiouri and this is Bishop Partridge. He bore the tar and feathering so meekly that his attackers and the onlookers were overtaken with sympathy for him and they backed away and let him go in peace. He said he felt the Spirit so strongly at that time and his heart was so filled with the love of God that he felt no animosity towards his attackers. As a result of the persecutions in Missiouri, he fled to Far West and then to Nauvoo in poverty and ill health. He died in Nauvo at the age of 46, ten days after the death of his daughter. His funeral was the first major funeral of importance in Nauvoo. The Lord said he was a man without guile and in a later revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord said that he had received Edward unto himself.

There is one verse in this section that in some ways does more to explain the role of the priesthood than any other. The Lord says, "I will lay my hand upon you by the hand of my servant Sidney Rigdon, and you shall receive... the Holy Ghost." That makes so clear the sacred role that priesthood holders bear when they conduct any ordinance in the church. Through the priesthood holder, the Lord is laying his hands on the head of the person receiving the ordinance. Or with other ordinances such as the sacrament, it is as if the Lord is speaking the words of the sacrament prayers. The principle can be applied to any ordinance. The priesthood holder is representing the Lord.

Verse 8 is the first reference to a the temple in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

D&C Section Thirty Five

Sidney Rigdon's involvement in the church is so fascinating that books have been written about him. When he was 26, he became a licensed minister in the Baptist church but left it feeling that many of it's teachings weren't scriptural. He joined two other men and started a religious movement based on the scriptures known as the Campbellites, named after the founder Alexander Campbell. Their congregation in Ohio provided many converts to the church when it moved to Kirtland. In 1830, Sidney was 37 years old, so he was thirteen years older than Joseph Smith. Sidney would take part in many significant and important church events.

I think it's interesting that the Lord basically says that Sidney, up to the time of his joining the church, has done a great work. Now the Lord tells him he will do a greater work, that he will be sent forth to prepare the way before the Lord. I think there are many people who are sent to do this who are not of our faith. As it says in one my commentaries, "It would be well to point out that we ought not to judge the actions and affairs of others. The Lord may be doing His work through means we know not of. Suffice it to say that many people in many lands under many circumstances may now be working, at least in part, to bring about the Lord's holy purposes." There are many good ministers of other religions who bring people closer to the Lord and who is to say they are not inspired and doing what they were placed on the earth to do?

One of the first things that the Lord commands Sidney to do is to be a scribe for Joseph as he translates the Bible. This will lead to important discussions between the two that will in turn lead to important visions and revelations. I think it's to Sidney's credit that he was able to leave a successful ministry, accept the fact that he did not have priesthood authority, and be humble enough to accept someone else's leadership who was younger, less educated and less experienced. In verse 13, the Lord tells Sidney he is calling "upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised" to do his work. I like this quote from President Joseph Fielding Smith: "Think of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was without training or education, only in the simple grades, so far as the learning of the world is concerned. Yet the Lord called him and educated him and he has confounded the entire religious world and brought to naught their false doctrines."

There is a wonderful promise the Lord gives to the church in verse 24 which I think applies to individuals as well, "Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye are bound; and I will cause the heavens to shake for your good, and Satan shall tremble and Zion shall rejoice..." If we only knew how much the angels help us though we are unaware of it, moving things, changing events in our behalf, bringing other people into our lives at critical times, inspiring out thoughts and actions. And if we could only see how Satan trembles in the face of one righteous person. Nothing stops Satan cold and reduces him to total weakness like righteousness. We're told that it is because of the righteousness of the people that he will be bound for the duration of the millennium.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

D&C Section Thirty Four

This revelation is given to Orson Pratt to be a missionary. Orson is nineteen and was converted by his brother Parley P. Pratt. After hearing the gospel and being baptized, he traveled 200 miles to meet Joseph Smith at the Peter Whitmer farm. He then served a number of missions. Orson was ordained an apostle at age 35 and was a great mathematician and did much to help the saints as they crossed the plains.

The Lord calls Orson his son. Through baptism, we become the spiritual children of Christ. The Lord says "that as many as believe might become the sons of God, wherefore you are my son." King Benjamin said that because of the covenant we make with the Savior, we become his sons and daughters. The Lord says that he "so loved the world he gave his own life." You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving. The measure of Christ's gift is equal to the how much he loves us. I just cannot fathom the depth of that love. And the Savior continues to give and to bless. It is no wonder that King Benjamin says we are all unprofitable servants. On top of the gift of the Atonement, with each effort to live a commandment, to serve in some way, to give or sacrifice, the Lord blesses us more.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

D&C Section Thirty Three

Without doubt, the Lord wants us to fearless in taking the gospel to the rest of the world. In three straight verses, he says open your mouths. In Section 60, he says that he is not pleased with some because they will not open their mouths because of their fear of men. I think there are several ways that we can "open our mouths." Obviously, we should be prepared and unafraid to talk to others about the gospel. So many people are interested and we assume they aren't. Before I was a member, I would have been willing to listen had someone approached me about it. There were some who said they prayed about talking to me but felt impressed to wait and that is probably why I didn't hear the gospel until the time that I did. Often it's just as important to live the gospel as best we can and through our examples we "open our mouths." And almost as important in my mind is to love all people and be accepting of them. Love is a very powerful way of "opening our mouths." It has been cheapened in the world and seems to only have reference to sex anymore. Trust, commitment and devotion have become the exception rather than the norm. But when people experience our love and see the love in our relationships, they will want to experience something deeper. It is important that they experience the Savior's love through us.

In the end of this section, the Lord says we should always have our lamps trimmed and burning. If the wick of a lamp is trimmed, it burns brighter. If our lives are disciplined in the gospel, the Spirit will shine brighter in our countenances. What other people see will be the very thing they are seeking in their own lives.

Ezra Thayer, who this revelation is directed to, came into the church having experienced some miracles including the appearance of an angel. He was faithful, though struggled from time to time, and demonstrated his faith through serving missions and being a member of Zion's Camp. He was the person assigned to purchase land in Kirtland, Ohio and purchased the land the Kirtland Temple was built on. In 1835, his membership was suspended for impropriety, we do not know what happened, and he eventually settled in Rochester, New York and then Michigan where he later become a high priest in the reorganized church.

Friday, March 4, 2011

D&C Section Thirty-two

In this revelation, Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson are called to go with Oliver Cowdery Peter Whitmer on a mission to the Lamanites. This was an assignment to leave Fayette, New York and go beyond the borders of the United States which at that time was the western side of the Missouri River in Kansas territory. This was a journey of fifteen hundred miles and notice the month of the revelation. They would be traveling in the winter, all most all of it walking and and having to depend on the generosity of those along the way for their food and lodging. During this trip, they waded through deep snow. It's hard to imagine how difficult a trip it was. They didn't have much success with the Lamanites, but while traveling through Kirtland, Ohio, Pareley P. Pratt had a strong impression they should stop and preach for a while. As a result, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams joined the church along with a number of others. And once the church settled in Kirtland, many more would join.

Ziba Peterson had been baptized 6 months previous to this revelation and was in his late teens or early twenties. Ziba was one of several who had a strong desire to teach the gospel to the Lamanites. In 1831, he was chastised by the Lord in a revelation for trying to hide his sins and three days later he confessed them. Two years later, he withdrew from the church and was excommunicated. In 1848, he took his family and moved to a mining town called Dry Diggins, California where he became a sheriff. He caught and hung three outlaws and then died shortly after that. And interesting side note is his widow moved to Napa Valley, California where she purchased land from the Lilburn Boggs, the former governor of Missouri who expelled the Saints.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

D&C Section Thirty-one

In Section 30, the Lord chastised David Whitmer and with Section 31 we get a complete contrast in the revelation given to Thomas B. Marsh. The Lord blesses Thomas and because of his faithfulness the Lord says he will bless his family. The promises for Thomas are: his tongue will be loosed and the hearts of the people will open up to him. He will be able to establish many congregations of the church and see many converts (sheaves upon his back). The Lord promises that when opposition comes, he will be strengthened and he will have to Comforter who will guide him in what he should do and say. If he is faithful, the Lord promises he will be with him.

For a time, these blessings held true and Thomas quickly rose in stature in the church. But it's interesting that after rising so far, he will have his day of failing. When he was president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he left the church over a trifling matter of his wife being found guilty of taking an unfair share of cream off the milk shared by another member. Rather than settling the difference, they pushed clear to the high council of the church. Rather than admit what they had done, her rebelled against the church and signed an affidavit that went to Governor Boggs falsely accusing of Joseph and others of crimes they didn't commit. The affidavit led to the exterminating order issued by Boggs and put Joseph and the others in Liberty Jail. Of the affidavit, Joseph said it was filled with "all the vilest slanders, aspersions, lies, and calumnies towards himself and the church that he could invent... He had sworn falsely and [was] ready to take the lives of his friends."

Thomas fled Missouri and wandered about for many years. Eventually, he came to Salt Lake City and asked Brigham Young to help him back into the church. He was accepted and re-baptized, but died a pauper and never regained the spiritual stature and eloquence of speech he once had. John Taylor pointed out the contrast in his spirituality saying he heard him speak in a ward in Salt Lake and it was nearly nonsense. This was from a man who once was in a high church position and powerful in proclaiming the gospel, someone who likely would have been the next prophet instead of Brigham Young had he remained faithful. In a meeting with some other apostates he told them, "You don't know what you are about; if you want to see the fruits of apostasy, look at me."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

D&C Section Thirty

This is actually three separate revelations that were combined as one section for publication. There had been much discussion about Hiram Page's stone and the "revelations" he received through it. David Whitmer was especially deceived by it and so we find him being chastised by the Lord for his accepting directions from someone the Lord had not called. His disobedience had several factors that were listed in the revelation. Each of these factors is a reminder to me of the importance of following the Spirit, following the counsel of the Lord's anointed leaders, and not worrying about what the world or people think of what we believe. The Lord tells David that what brought about his problems were his (1) fear of man, (2) his concentrating on the things of the world more than on the Lord, (3) His failure to give heed to the promptings of the Spirit, and (4) His failure to follow those who the Lord had authorized to be his servants. As a result of this, the Lord says he was "left to inquire for [himself]." To me, this means that in all of questioning, he was left without the Spirit to try to find truth and that just isn't possible. Not finding it through the sources he should, he turned to other sources that were false. What he should have done was respected the Lord more than people, kept his focus on the Lord instead of worldly things, listened to and followed the Spirit, and followed the counsel of the Lord's servants.

I firmly believe that the best way to to narrow the distance between ourselves and the Lord is, to immerse ourselves in the scriptures. President Kimball promised that if we do this: "The distance narrows between ourselves and our Father in Heaven. Our spirituality shines brighter. We love more intensely those whom we should love. It is much easier to follow counsel. The lessons of life our learned more readily and surely."