Wednesday, April 13, 2011

D&C Section Forty Eight

There were two questions that the brethren had. One was what were they supposed to do to assist the saints who would be coming from New York to Ohio as far as finding them a place to reside. The other was how permanent would this be. The Lord tells them to procure and buy as much land that is necessary and they are able even though this is not permanent, but is for the "present time." Section 51 says they are to gather in Ohio for a season. Section 64 clarifies that the season is for approximately five years and later they will learn when and where they will establish Zion. Like the church as always done, wherever they settled, they improved the land and made it productive, sought to build a temple, and greatly improved the quality of life in that area in spite of their poverty. If for nothing else, the saints were always looked upon as productive.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

D&C Section Forty Seven

Previous to this time, Oliver Cowdery had been keeping a history of the church but was so busy that Joseph Smith asked John Whitmer to be the church historian. John didn't want to do it and asked Joseph to obtain a revelation from the Lord and said he would do it if it was the will of the Lord. He was not a very faithful historian. Over the next seven years until 1838, he only wrote 85 pages and much of that was taken up by the revelations Joseph received. He was one of the presidency of the church in Missouri but the saints there refused to support him. One of his responsibilities was to purchase land in Missouri, but financial irregularities led to an investigation where he was asked to hand over the records for all purchases. He refused to do this and was subsequently excommunicated. He refused to give the history he had been keeping to the church and it was until years later the church was able to obtain a copy.

As a result, Joseph and others began dictating a detailed history of the church from its beginning to assigned clerks and this became the History of the Church that is published still today. John remained in Far West, free from the atrocities because he was no longer a member. With the Saints gone, he was able to purchase most of the town of Far West at a cheap price and stayed there until his death in 1878. During these last years of his life, he continued to write the final chapters of his history and it revealed his bitterness towards Joseph Smith and Mormonism. As one of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon, he never denied his testimony. His testimony was told often and one account late in his life said, "Old Father John Whitmer told me last winter, with tears in his eyes, that he knew as well as he knew he had an existence that Joseph translated the ancient writings which was upon the plates which he saw and handled."

Monday, April 11, 2011

D&C Section Forty Six

In the early days of the church, confirmation meetings were held once a week where newly baptized members were confirmed. Only members could attend these. Now the Lord is commanding the church to allow all people to attend all of their meetings and no one is to be kept from attending. He only warns that those members who are unworthy to partake of the sacrament should be counseled not to. There is an important promise in verses 7 and 8. If we do everything prayerfully we will not be seduced by false doctrine, by evil, or by false statements or beliefs of men. In other words, we can know the difference between what is true and what isn't. And most of all, if we can discern what spiritual gifts we have been given and faithfully use those gifts, we will not only avoid all deception, but will be able to be a blessing in the lives of others.

I feel this is one of the least utilized revelations in the church. We have all been given one or more spiritual gifts and we're promised that we can seek and obtain others. For some reason, we often seem to lack faith in ourselves and think we don't have spiritual gifts or we really don't have the ability to use our spiritual gifts. Often our spiritual gifts are mentioned in our patriarchal blessings. If a spiritual gift is talked about in our blessing, we possess it. And if we think and ponder about it, utilize it, and seek to improve our ability to use it, it will grow. It's much like talents which I think are also spiritual gifts. As we use them and practice using them, they improve.

There are 13 spiritual gifts mentioned in this section. One of the most interesting two gifts are in verses 13 and 14. To some, the gift is given "to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful." This should end all comparing in the church, especially that comparing where we put ourselves down because we doubt our own spirituality in comparison to others. Not everyone has to have an equal testimony. It is alright if we cannot say "I know" something. It is enough to believe and keep the commandments. Hopefully, if we do not have knowledge of something, we'll seek that knowledge and the promise is we will eventually obtain it. I think there will always be things in the church we "know," and things that we believe. For example, from the time I joined the church, I have known that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I have never doubted. It's just second nature to me. I know it as sure as I know there's no hair on the top of my head. I have questions about some things, but the questions have never dented that knowledge. But for years, I struggled to have a knowledge and testimony of the Savior. I believed it, but I couldn't say I knew it. That knowledge has come gradually over many years. It is something I have had to work for and it definitely has room for growth

Think what a great promise this is. If, as the Lord says, we ask in the Spirit, it will be done. We can obtain and be blessed by spiritual gifts. But asking must come after study and thought and righteous living. These are great gifts that are not given on a whim. There is a price we must be willing to pay, but paying the price brings such great blessings.

Friday, April 1, 2011

D&C Section Forty Five

Two prominent men have joined the church in Ohio, Ezra Booth and Symonds Ryder. Ryder was greatly influenced by Booth to join the church but hesitated until a prophecy was made by a young Mormon girl that there would be a great earthquake in China. A few months later, there was an earthquake that destroyed Peking and that seems to be the turning point for Ryder. Ryder was baptized and ordained an elder and in the certificate he received, his name was spelled Rider instead of Ryder. He felt that if the Spirit were truly with the church, it would have dictated the correct spelling of his name. What he really seemed to have difficulty with was the law of consecration. He had a large farm and was fearful of the church taking it from him. Both he and Ezra Booth became vicious apostates and leaders of a mob that was intent on driving the Mormons out of Hiram, Ohio. It is believed, but not entirely known, that Booth and Ryder were the leaders of the mob that tarred and feathered Joseph because Joseph heard someone in the mob call Symond's name on at least three occasions. Booth published many false articles about the church in the local papers and both Booth and Ryder refused to publicly debate Sidney Rigdon concerning the church. In the midst of all of this, Joseph received the revelation in Section 45 which the members took great comfort in.

Section 45 is best understood if you realize that most of it (verses 16-59) is what the Lord spoke to his disciples in Jerusalem. The disciples realized it would be a long time after their deaths before the second coming and feared that the separation of their spirits from their bodies would be a bondage. The Lord first tells them what will happen to the Jews and Jerusalem after his resurrection (verses 18-24), and then what the signs of his second coming will be (verses 25-44). It's obvious that the Jews felt that their temple could never be destroyed, but the Lord tells his disciples that not one stone will be left standing on another. The Romans destroyed the temple around 70 a.d. and only portions of the wall that surrounded the temple remain. Of the twenty signs of the Lord's second coming given in this section, the most interesting to me is something that is also found in Isaiah 66 and Zechariah 12 where it's prophesied how the Jews will recognize the Messiah at his second coming and ask him what the wounds in his hands and feet are. He will tell them that they are the wounds he received in the house of his friends, and then they will comprehend that they were the ones who persecuted and crucified him. What a terrible day that will be for them.

At the end of the section, the Lord instructs the church to do three things. First, they are to begin gathering to the western lands, and second, build up the church there. Third, they are to gather all of the wealth they can to purchase the land needed to establish the New Jerusalem or City of Zion. The church has not forgotten this commandment. There is a person who works for the church his assignment is to purchase land in Missouri, especially around the original temple site, and so the church continues to purchase land as it becomes available. The most notable purchase it will eventually make will be the site originally dedicated by Joseph for the temple. This lot remains empty across from the church's visitor's center in Kansas City. It is owned by a break-off group of the church that is so small now it no longer has enough male members to complete a quorum of 12 apostles like it originally attempted to organize itself with. Also by the temple site is the temple of what used to be called the re-organized church.