Sunday, July 31, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Nine

What amazing revelation this is. At the time the Word of Wisdom was given, none of this was known by science. Some of it was known by experience, but for the most part, this went counter to what was practiced by everyone in that day. The Word of Wisdom has been pretty much relegated to the big four, coffee, tea, tobacco and alcohol. Drugs are now a part of it, and I think you could basically include all addictions at this point. The revelation tells us to eat fruit, berries, grains and herbs. It tells us to eat meat more sparingly. In those days, meat was eaten at every meal. Some take this to an extreme, focusing on one thing like herbs. For the most part, we ignore the overall message of eating healthy. For example, with grains, when I was eating well, including oatmeal and Mom's homemade bread for breakfast, my cholesterol dropped 60 points in just a few months. I felt stronger and had more energy than at anytime that I can remember. I have to confess I don't feel that way at this moment.

The Lord states that this is a principle with promise. The principle is eat healthy and take care of our bodies. They are miraculous gifts that we tend abuse every day. The promise is health, strength and increased intelligence and inspiration, and untimely death. A good verse to relate to this is 88:124, "... cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." That's another one I need to improve on. I have no doubt that if we really applied this, we would be amazed at how much better we would feel, a lot of our excess weight would fall off, and our minds would be more alert.

Friday, July 29, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Eight

At a 141 verses, Section 88 is the longest in the Doctrine and Covenants. So I'm sorry this comment is so long. It is one of the most important sections though and I hope you take the time to read it and also read this and I think you'll see why. I'll do part today and part tomorrow.

There are a number of saints in Missouri who are critical of the prophet and other leaders of the church. When Joseph sent this revelation to W. W. Phelps in Missouri, he sent it saying the revelation was evidence of God's approval and acceptance of those in Kirtland. He also sent it as an olive branch of peace. The revelation is undoubtedly proof of God's approval of Joseph as it contains some of the most sublime and revealing doctrine in all the revelations.

We first learn about the Holy Spirit of Promise. The Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Ghost placing his stamp of approval upon every ordinance performed in the church. It is the promise and assurance that the blessings associated with the ordinances will be received IF the proper authority is used in performing the ordinance and the individual receiving the ordinance is worthy and righteous.

Next we learn the four functions of the Light of Christ. The first is, the Light of Christ is the creative power by which all things are created. This gives to me the assurance that there is purpose to all creation, that nothing exists by chance, that there is a God who is in control of the universe. The second function is to enlighten, to give knowledge, and to give us our conscience so that we have a basic understanding of right and wrong, good and evil. The third function is to give life to all things. The Light of Christ is the power that sustains life. Science has never been able to explain why something lives, only that there is some mysterious energy that sustains everything. And the fourth function of the Light of Christ is governing, it is the power by which all things in the universe are governed. We could have a lengthy and deep discussion on that this all implies, but there is so much more in this section.

The next part of Section 88 talks about the resurrection. It is here that we learn that the body and the spirit are the soul of man. We are the only church that believes that we will have a physical body after this life, and yet it is in all the scriptures. In the Old Testament, Job states that though his body will be destroyed, "yet in my flesh will I see God." In Luke 22, the resurrected Christ had the apostles feel his hands and feet, he ate with them, all to prove he wasn't a spirit only, and then did the same with the Nephites in the third Nephi.

To me, one of the most important things we learn in this section about the resurrection also makes the most sense to me. First, there is a sequence to the resurrection of mankind. Everyone will be resurrected, but not in the same order. There is the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust. The sequence is, first those who are celestial in nature will be resurrected, then those who are terrestial, those who are telestial, and lastly those who will be cast into outer darkness. This is all interesting, but the most important thing taught about this is whichever of these natures we are, it is because that is the level of growth we have ultimately achieved. In other words, the higher the law that we choose to live by, the higher the spiritual achievement. We cannot change our nature. We are who we are; we become what we choose to become. So the Lord says if we abide by the law of the celestial kingdom, we become able to abide a celestial glory, and we receive a celestial body. Those who choose less in life, become less, receive a body and lower glory because they have abided by a lower glory. This is true of everything. Those who sacrifice to develop a talent, achieve more and become better at that talent than others who do not. People who choose to gain more education and knowledge are different from those who choose not to be educated. In life, we become what we choose to become by the choices we make and the effort we put forth to become that person.

Everyone has the spiritual potential to become a celestial person. The level of glory we obtain after this life will be the result of the laws we choose to abide by. Those who live by celestial principles become "sanctified from all unrighteousness" through the atonement and are "prepared for celestial glory." Those who can't abide by celestial principles have to settle for something less because they have grown less. To me this makes sense. It would irritate me to no end for someone to come along who never put forth the effort to practice and put in the hours I did at the piano and be able to play and teach at the level I do. It wouldn't be fair. Those who end up with less, do so because, "they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

All of this is based on law. There are principles which have always existed. When we choose to live by those principles, there are natural outcomes. It is when we try to alter those principles and "become a law unto ourselves" that we inhibit our growth, justify our sins or misdeeds, and disqualify ourselves from ultimate benefits of the atonement and the promised sanctification.

Monday, July 25, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Seven

Section 87 is a remarkable prophecy concerning the civil war and the wars that will follow and eventually spread all across the world prior to the second coming. Even though it's more than two decades before the civil war, Joseph correctly prophecies that it will take place following South Carolina's attempt to secede from the union. It perhaps wasn't terribly difficult to predict the civil war as others were also at this time. But what was remarkable was the prediction that the civil war would be the catalyst, the beginning of many wars that would eventually spread over time and fill the earth. This part of the prophecy is remarkable and has been and continues to be fulfilled.

And interesting part of the prophecy is where the part concerning wars in the latter days after the civil war states that slaves are predicted to rise up against the Gentiles and vex them. This is similar to what is in third Nephi where it says, "And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocked sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth and and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver." In this case, we can be considered Gentiles and the Lord admonishes us to "stand in holy places" for our protection. Holy places in this case is are the stakes of the church. A careful reading of 1 Nephi 22 also helps to reassure the need to live righteously to avoid the destruction of war and plagues that will eventually consume the earth. For the saints, the reality of plagues was especially real as cholera was rampant in the major cities of the world at that time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Six

Joseph had been reviewing and editing his manuscript on the Bible and received this revelation in answer to a question regarding the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew. The revelation explains that the original apostles at the time of Christ were the sowers (planters) of the seed. After their deaths, Satan sowed tares (weeds that commonly appear with and look similar to wheat) that choked the wheat (the church) and drove it into the wilderness, meaning the church was driven into apostasy. Now, at the time of the restoration of the church, the field is being sown again in the last days and the wheat is sending for blades of growth. The angels are waiting for the command to go down and destroy the tares but must wait until the wheat is fully grown and ready for harvest. If the angels were allowed to come down now, much of the wheat would be destroyed along with the tares because the church's faith isn't sufficiently strong enough at this time. A separation of the wheat and tares must take place also. This separation of the righteous and the wicked is happening now in our day as the tares bind themselves together by gravitating to groups that are similar to themselves. Much destruction of the tares will take place within themselves as they seek to destroy each other.

It is through the priesthood that the wheat will be saved. Priesthood holders can be both rightful heirs to the priesthood and legal heirs. A legal heir is one who has claim to the priesthood because of his lineage or ancestry. A rightful heir is a legal heir who can act in the priesthood because of his righteousness. So even though a person is a legal heir, he cannot necessarily act in the priesthood unless he is righteous. According to this revelation, if a person is a righteous heir, through the priesthood he is a savior to Israel or the Lord's the people. All of this will be explained further when we get to Section 121 and the Lord explains that the priesthood can only be used in terms of righteousness.

Friday, July 22, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Five

This is taken from a letter written to W.W. Phelps in Missouri. It's an example of an inspired writing that has been accepted as revelation by the church. Phelps had been appointed to be a clerk for Bishop Edward Partridge in Missouri. Partridge was exceeding his authority in some cases and was not acting in accordance with the instructions he had received from Joseph Smith. So Phelps wrote to Joseph and this Joseph's response. It's important to remember that this did not pertain to the church at large, but to Partridge. Joseph exclaims that the Lord is unhappy with Partridge and if he doesn't repent, the Lord will remove him from his office and send someone mighty and strong to replace him. Partridge did repent, someone mighty and strong was not sent to replace him, and in the future the Lord would declare how pleased he was with him.

The letter also explains to Phelps the importance of his keeping records of those who faithful and those who turn in apostasy, those who keep the law of consecration and those who don't. Now those records pertain to tithing and not consecration along with apostasy. Those who turn to apostasy and do not pay tithing will be cut off from the church, and because of this they cannot receive the ordinances of the temple or any assistance from the church. Without the ordinances of the temple, a person is cut off from being in God's presence after this life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Four Continued

The second half of Section 84 is filled with wonderful promises to those who preach the gospel. Verses 65 to 73 lists a number of miracles that can be experienced with the instruction that if someone experiences a miracle, it is for their personal benefit and should not be mentioned to others or boasted of. I have no doubt that we are unaware of the countless miracles that have happened in the church. For example, it is rare to hear of someone being raised from the dead for example, but there are recorded instances where apostles have done this is in our day.

Other wonderful blessings are:

1. They shall not be weary in mind, body, limb, or joint and (I like this one) a hair of their head shall not fall to the ground unnoticed.
2. They will not go hungry or athirst but will be provided for.
3. If the words of life are treasured up continually (to me, that means consistent scripture study), it will be given them what to say. I experienced this in the MTC at the time I was a first counselor under Tomm Chapman, a CES Institute director I had great respect for. After I had spoken to the missionaries in sacrament meeting one Sunday, he told me it was time to put away the notes and just speak what the Spirit directed me to. I didn't have the same confidence of my gospel knowledge that he had of me, but I followed his instruction and never used notes again. I was amazed at what I experienced when I was assigned to speak, especially amazed at what I learned.
4. The Lord states he will go before our face, be on our right hand and left hand with the angels around us to support us. As we have been taught, I believe that those angels are our ancestors. I firmly believe that they influence our lives far more than we know.

The remainder of the section deals with providing for those who have less or who are weak. The Lord affirms that every person and every calling is equally important, that the system is perfect and will remain that way as long as there is no pride and the Spirit gives life to the body of the church. One of the most difficult challenges for the church as always been imperfect people administering a perfect system. I have to acknowledge how patient the Lord must be to allow us who are so imperfect to conduct his work on earth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Four

The Doctrine and Covenants contains revelations and inspired writings. This section is one of the great revelations in the D&C. It's filled with topics that you could spend pages and pages on. If you study it closely and with the Spirit, you can be taught many things that are deep and filled with multiple meanings and applications to our life. Only a prophet could reveal something like this. This section is known as the great revelation on the priesthood. I'm only going to outline the main points.

1. It has been known by all the prophets from Adam to Abraham to Moses, Enoch and others that the purpose of the priesthood in the latter days is to establish Zion through the preaching of the gospel. All of the ancient prophets knew that the City of Zion would be established on this continent in the latter days. Establishing Zion is at the heart of gospel because it is to Zion that the Lord will come.

2. There are two priesthoods, the lesser or Aaronic and the greater or Melchizedek. The lesser priesthood holds the keys of the ministering of angels and preparatory gospel of repentance and baptism. It prepares people for the greater priesthood. The greater priesthood administers the ordinances of the church and it is through the ordinances that the power of God is manifest. It is the priesthood ordinances that enable a person to be transfigured and see God without being consumed and destroyed.

3. A person who receives the Melchizedek Priesthood must enter into the oath and covenant of the priesthood. The oath is the Father's promise that he will give the priesthood holder all that he has. The covenant is the agreement the priesthood holder makes with God to magnify his priesthood, to "give diligent heed to the words of eternal life... [to] live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God."

4. Our minds can become darkened when we forget the Book of Mormon and its commandments. It is important that we not only say, but do the commandments contained in it.

5. If we bear testimony to the world of the restored gospel and what the Lord has revealed in the latter days, our sins are forgiven us. The church should go into all the world and bear testimony of the Lord's work.

Tomorrow, I'll go over the promises the Lord gives in this section.

Monday, July 18, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Three

This section instructs the church that they have a responsibility to take care of the widow, children and others who are faithful members of the church but have no father or husband to take care of them. I like the wording that says they have right to make a claim of the church. The revelation uses the word maintenance which means financial support and according to President Kimball means spiritual support also. Enemies of the church who were once members have no claim. I can think of no other organization that takes care of its people like this church does. When I was a bishop, I saw first hand how generous the church was. I never felt restrictions concerning my judgment. The only restriction I had was when the amount I was writing a check for exceeded five thousand dollars I was to confer with the stake president. The best thing about the way the church helps the poor is how much it works to also maintain their dignity. In no way should a member ever feel humiliated or ashamed because they were accepting help. The church expects work in return wherever possible so that the assistance is earned. If you ever want to get an assurance that this church is inspired, do an in depth look at the welfare system.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Two

Joseph Smith has made the second of four trips to Missouri. A conference is held there where he is sustained by the saints as the President of the Church in the same manner he had been sustained in Ohio by the saints there. In an intermission of the conference, Edward Partridge and Sidney Rigdon settled some differences they had had between themselves. In this revelation, the Lord uses this instance of forgiving to teach important principles concerning forgiveness and how he forgives. He first warns the saints that having received greater light, were they to sin, there would be greater condemnation. When the Lord gives us sacred knowledge, if we ignore it and sin against it, the sin is greater than someone who never knew and sinned in the same manner. The sobering thing about this is, when we seriously sin, we lose the benefits of baptism and all our former sins return that had previously been made clean. On the other hand, when a person repents, all the sins removed and the Lord promises he will never mention them to us. He says he will not lay any sin to our charge. This is something he is bound to by divine law.

The other principle taught here is something that was taught to the Ohio saints concerning the Law of Consecration and is made more clear here. He says he is doing this because he want them to be equal, "or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties... so that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents... " Talents in this case refers to wealth.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

D&C Section Eighty One

You have to wonder how a person can be highly esteemed enough to be called as a counselor to the prophet and then shortly thereafter fall far enough to be excommunicated. What a great opportunity was squandered by Jesse Gause. One key point in verse two is the Lord saying that the keys of the kingdom always belong in the first presidency of the church. A prophet can fall, a counselor can fall, but the keys remain with the presidency. A year from the date of this revelation, the first presidency will be formally organized. Eventually, they keys will be also be given to the 12 apostles, but not the right to exercise those keys unless they become a part of the first presidency.

The basic duties of a counselor in the presidency (or in any presidency) are listed in this revelation.

1. Be faithful in counsel. To me a good counselor never holds back, but speaks frankly, even if those words are contrary to what others are saying. Once the decision is made, the counsel ends and should turn to absolute support of the decision.
2. Pray always. A good counselor always maintains his spiritual power so that he can be in tune with the Lord and the quorum.
3. Proclaim the gospel. A counselor should have a strong grasp of the doctrine and be able to teach and speak convincingly.
4. Be faithful. A good counselor is a rock. He can be counted on to be steadfast and immovable in his allegiance.
5. Stand in the office to which you have been appointed. To me, this means fulfill all of your duties to the best of your ability.
6. Succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, strengthen the feeble knees. Like the Savior did, the most important thing a priesthood holder does is care for those who have needs beyond their means.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

D&C Section Seventy Nine & Eighty

Joseph Smith called Jared Carter a man of mighty faith. Section 79 is a four verse revelation that is typical of the missions men were called on. Carter is called to the eastern countries, from place to place, city to city. No specific location, not specific time frame, and not quite the same as being called to the New York Rochester Mission for one and a half or two years. The Lord promises Carter that he will have the Holy Ghost with him to teach him what is true and to show him the way that he should go. In Section 80, the mission call to Stephen Burnett and Eden Smith is even more general. They are called to preach and the Lord says it doesn't matter if they go north, south, east or west. The Lord promises that no matter where they go, they "cannot go amiss."

Once in Salt Lake City, the mission locations would become more specific as would the mission assignments. The only challenge then was that you never knew when, if or where you would be called until your name and mission was announced in general conference. I am always amazed how these people would uproot themselves, sometimes more than once, and go to places that they knew were going to be extremely difficult. They considered St. George to be a tough call to receive so I can imagine how difficult it would have been to be the first ones called to the Las Vegas area. Two of the men called to be the first to settle in the Vegas area reacted in opposite ways as told by their daughters. One man refused making his daughter very happy. The other daughter cried when her father's name was also called. The first daughter asked her if she was crying because her father accepted the call. The other daughter replied that she would have been disappointed in her father if he hadn't accepted. But the fact that she was crying showed how difficult it was

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

D&C Section Seventy Eight

This is the first revelation that gives details into establishing a Bishop's Storehouse to make sure that all the saints are provided for. In the second verse, the Lord specifies that he has ordained Joseph Smith and is giving the commandment through him. One thought on ordination. Ordination gives a person authority, but does not give them power. Power comes as a result of God's help because we are worthy to receive it. Sometimes, unfortunately, priesthood holders assume that because they have authority, they have power. A priesthood holder who understands the nature of his authority, know he has no power to exercise that authority unless he is receiving power beyond his own abilities.

The reasons for establishing the storehouse are:

1. v.3 There has to be an organization in place for providing for the poor.
2. v. 5-6 There must be equal opportunity for all members to obtain heavenly things, so there must be equal opportunity to obtain temporal things. This doesn't mean everyone is equal, only that all have an equal opportunity to achieve.
3. v. 7 This is a celestial law and is based on celestial principles.
4. v. 14 Regardless of what happens to the church or what may be happening in the world, the church needs to be able to stand independent so that it never relies on an outside source for assistance. Were that the case, say if it called upon the government for help, it would then always be beholding to the government and the government could then exercise some control over the church. The church has shown that this principle is inspired. There are few, if any, organizations, who can claim the self reliance the church does.

Monday, July 11, 2011

D&C Section Seventy Seven

This is a series of questions that Joseph had concerning the Book of Revelations and the answers he received. Since we've already covered the Book of Revelations, there is just one thing I would like comment on in this section and it's verse two. In this verse, we learn that everything that lives as a physical presence and a spiritual presence and the two of them are in likeness of each other. In other words, our spirits pretty much look like our bodies. I am convinced that our conception of what is beautiful is going to change drastically when it is no longer limited to this world's standards. I think we will see more beauty in more things, and what we previously would have cast aside as not beautiful will look beautiful to us. The lesson to me is I should see more beauty in the things and in the people around me. I have a feeling I would enjoy life a bit more if I did.

Friday, July 8, 2011

D&C Section Seventy Six

This section is always referred to in terms of the three kingdoms of glory. But what is often ignored are the numerous and wonderful promises the Lord makes to those who believe in him and follow him. The other thing that's often overlooked is the fact that this is a vision that encompasses everything with Joseph and Sidney seeing things from the beginning premortal life to after the millennium. Joseph is only sharing a very small portion of what he and Sidney saw. And like Nephi in 1 Nephi 14, and people the Lord appeared to in 3 Nephi 26 and 27, and the Lord's instructions to his apostles in Mark 9, Joseph is commanded not to write what he saw. In this case, the Lord says that it's not possible for man to know these things unless it's shown them by Holy Ghost. Which means that the power of the Holy Ghost was the "engine" in this vision.

In the first vision, Joseph was overcome by the glory of the Father and Son. One can only wonder how more overwhelming seeing the Father and the Son in their celestial glory surrounded by numberless angels must have been. And then the contrast of getting a glimpse of outer darkness must have been monumental. In describing 11 different qualities the people have who are worthy of the celestial kingdom, there is one key verse for me, verse 69. The Lord says that these people are those "who are just men [and women] made perfect through Jesus" and his atonement. They did not make themselves perfect, but the Savior completed this last level of growth. This is comforting to me, especially when I get on myself for falling short.

Another thing that is interesting to me is that in describing the different degrees of glory, the Lord points out that it isn't just a difference of brightness, but a difference of glory. For example, the moon's glory is a reflection of the sun's while the sun produces it's own brilliance and is not a reflection of something.

When Joseph and Sidney say this vision, there were others in the room. They say that Joseph and Sidney were translucent, glowing white in their countenance. Joseph would say something like "I'm see this" and Sidney would say "I see the same." When it was over and Joseph and Sidney were riding back in the wagon, Sidney had to lay down in the wagon's bed as he was totally overcome with exhaustion. Joseph laughed and remarked to another person with them, "Sidney isn't as used to this as I am."