Wednesday, August 31, 2011

D&C Section Ninety Seven

As you can see in the heading, the saints in Missouri had been forced to sign an agreement about 10 days before this revelation to leave Missouri. They had been under severe persecution and literally had no choice. It's interesting that the Lord now commands that a temple be built there, but more interesting that there are certain conditions for the people to meet in order to see it built. The Lord warns that there will be a scourge that will vex all the people and the saints will not escape it unless the observe what the Lord commands. So on one hand, you have the Lord promising a temple if the saints will meet the Lord's standards, or the promise of further problems if they do not. What's most interesting is that Joseph would not have received word of the persecution and its results yet in Kirtland.

The Lord's conditions for a temple to be built would not be easy to achieve. They must be a Zion people. A Zion people are united, are pure in heart, they observe and keep the covenants they have made with the Lord, and are they willing to sacrifice for the Lord's kingdom. I believe this sacrifice is meant to be inward and outward. Inward, unrighteousness is sacrificed. Outwardly, earthly things are sacrificed When a person is willing to sacrifice outwardly, it removes selfishness.

Should the temple be built, the Lord promises that his presence will be there, but also states that no unclean thing can enter it or his presence will not be there. Through the temple, the Lord promises that the people will be perfected in their understanding of doctrine, and receive power. Whenever the Lord builds a temple, he promises that his people will be endowed with power. I believe this is the power of righteousness. If this is the case, it's no wonder that every time a temple is proposed, Satan unleashes his power to oppose it and tries to prevent its construction.
I love the final promise of the Lord, "I will bless her (the church) with blessings, and multiply a multiplicity of blessings upon her , and upon her generations forever and ever."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

D&C Section Ninety Six

The Lord had commanded that Kirtland be built up as a stake in Zion. To fulfill this command, and the building of the temple is at the center of this, the brethren decided they should purchase three farms. Men were assigned to find out how much each of these farms would cost. When the cost was known and the decision to buy them was made, the brethren were undecided how to divide the Peter French farm which they were going to buy for five thousand dollars. Since the farm was going to be divided into lots for church buildings and for members to live on, the Lord appointed the bishop to make that decision remembering that those who lived on those lots were to be members who sought to live by celestial standards. The Lord indicates that the purpose behind all of this was the teaching and spreading of the gospel. If you think about it, every aspect of the church, every organization, has the ultimate responsibility of teaching the Lord's words and gospel.

Monday, August 22, 2011

D&C Section Ninety Five

A year and a half before this revelation was given, the Lord had commanded the saints to build a temple (in Section 88). For some reason, this command was forgotten, overlooked, or maybe postponed. I tend to think it was the latter since it would take a lot of revenue to build a temple and having spent all they had just to get to Kirtland, they did not have the resources. The temple was needed so that the missionaries could be endowed with power as they went out to the nations of the earth. This would not be the temple endowment as we know it today, but it would be an endowment of priesthood keys and authority. Because they haven't started, the Lord chastises them in the manner a parent should chastise. Three times he tells them he loves them, that he is chastising them because he loves them. The chastisement is followed by two important things, one is the promise that if they keep the commandments they can accomplish building the temple because he will help them, and the second is instruction about how to go about it. The saints began four days later with George A. Smith bringing the first load of stone and Hyrum Smith and Reynolds Cahoon digging the trench for the walls.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

D&C Section Ninety Four

In three years, the church in Kirtland will grow from 150 members to to 1300 members in 1833 when this revelation is given. At this time, there are no buildings owned by the church. They are renting rooms for their meetings and so a building committee is established. The building committee continues to function today. This revelation instructs that buildings be built, one for the presidency of the church and one for printing church materials. These are not large, basically big enough to for one room. The Lord also instructs that lots for home be planned for members that spread out from this point in the community. I feel the Lord is setting a precedence for the church, one that continues today, in having a room for the first presidency to meet, carry out business, and greet officials who come to visit. Back in the 1970's, for example, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale visited the First Presidency and described the room and their meeting in these words:

"I met with these men of God in the room which [President] Woodrow Wilson said was the most beautiful room in the United States - and it is indeed magnificent.... I said to the president, because I felt that he was so deeply spiritual, "PresidentKimball, will you bless me?" He replied, "You mean you want me to give you a blessing such as I give our people?" I said, "Yes." So he came around behind me with the two other presidents and they put their hands on my head and President kimball in his quiet, sincere, loving manner prayed for me by name. As he prayed, I began to be very broken up and touched, and then of a sudden I had a wondrous feeling of the Presence and I said to him, "Sir, He is here; I feel His presence."

Verse eight promises that if no unclean thing comes into this room, "my presence shall be there."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

D&C Section Ninety Three Continued

Beginning in verse 19, the Lord is speaking directly to Joseph Smith rather than quoting the apostle John. After learning from John's quotation that the Lord grew from grace to grace until he received a fulness of the Father's glory, the Lord tells Joseph that if we keep the commandments, we will grow from grace to grace and through Christ, receive a fulness of the Father's glory also. Then he explains how this is possible. There are three or four things he tells Joseph that we need to consider and then I'll tie them all together. Bear with me because this is good stuff!

1. Verse 36, which everyone is familiar with, says: "The glory of God is intelligence,or, in other words, light and truth." You will remember that God's glory is described as that of the sun, much more so. We always stop at the word intelligence and fail notice what God's glory actually is, light and truth.

2. Verse 29: The Lord explains again that "Man was also in the beginning with God." Then he says Intelligence, or light and truth, was not created or made."

3. Verse 28: "He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things."

4. Verse 31: "Here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man"

Here is what I believe. There is not any official church doctrine regarding some of this, but I think it's true. We have always existed. Our state of being was first as an intelligence. As an intelligence, the first step in our progression was to again a spiritual body, then a mortal body, and in the final step, our spirit will be united with an immortal body. As verse 33 says, when the spirit is connected with an immortal body, that is when it receives a fulness of joy. We become complete and whole as we were meant to.

Because we existed first as an intelligence, light and truth were basic and natural elements of our being. As we progressed in the premortal life, we received more light and truth, we grew in glory, just as the Savior did. We did this by keeping the commandments . We grew to a high enough level that to continue to grow, we needed the mortal experience. Here, I believe the mortal body masks the glory we are gaining to a large degree (However, a righteous person is often described as some one whose countenance glows). You will remember that in Section 88, the Lord said that those who abide a celestial law will receive a body in the resurrection that is celestial in glory. Those who do less, will grow less and in the end, become less.

So in essence, what I believe is that as we keep the commandments, we receive light and truth, or glory. Light and truth are eternal elements that have been a natural part of beings from the beginning. In mortality, this is opposed and we experience the ultimate test of our agency, to choose whether we are going to receive more light and truth or not. If we do, we will eventually receive all the glory the Father has. If we don't, we will have to settle for less. This is why there are so many different levels of kingdoms after this life, why there is a telestial glory, a terrestial, or three levels of celestial glory. In the end, we are what we have chosen to become.

Two last points: Here is why the statement, "Here is the agency of man," is so important. Notice verse 39, "And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth through disobedience." Sin brings darkness. Evil people are dark and have no light in them. On the other hand, darkness cannot abide light. If you are in a perfectly dark room and light a match, the darkness around that match flees. The brighter the light, the more the darkness flees. The question is, how much light do we accept? In the temple endowment, the lights are dimmed to a "telestial" level. I'm always sobered by how used to it I become because when the lights are brightened to a terrestial level, it is very noticeable and I'm reminded how easy it was to become accustomed to only a telestial level. Having entered a terrestial level of light, we then prepared for the symbolism of entering a celestial level of light and glory by entering the celestial room where everything is even brighter. What a great demonstration of our eternal growth that is.

Finally, I find it interesting that the main point of all of this is a chastisement of Joseph and Sidney. The Lord states that children are innocent in their infant state. The Lord says that even though they have been instructed, they have not taught their children light and truth as they should have. This is an important reminder for all of us who are parents because teaching light and truth to our children helps them to grow in their most natural and eternal way. The Lord says, "What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

D&C Section Ninety Three

This is another one of my favorite sections in the D&C. To me, it is fantastic and has doctrine that is so obviously revelation because we learn things that are found no where else in scripture. It also provides deeper insight into things that are alluded to but not fully explained in scripture. So I'm going to spend a couple of days on this section (maybe three!) before tying it all together. The first 18 verses of this section are part of a revelation that the apostle John received anciently. The purpose of all that we learn in this section is in verse 1 which says, "It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." And the purpose of this section is also contained in verse 19 where the Lord says, "I give you these sayings so you may understand and know how to worship and know what you worship, that you may come unto the father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness." If you think about it, these are two incredible promises.

In verse one, it's important to remember that he doesn't say he that perfectly cometh to me, perfectly calleth on my hame, perfectly obeyeth my voice, and perfectly keep my commandments. What's important is that we are trying to do that, that we're willing to pay a price in effort. The two promises, "shall see my face" and "know that I am" can be fulfilled in at least two ways. One way is to physically see the Lord and know. The other is that we can see and know spiritually. These first 18 verses are also John's testimony of the Savior and how the Savior became equal with the Father in glory. He tells us that the Savior grew from grace to grace until he received a fulness of the Father's glory. The promise is that we can do the same. This promise and the former promise of knowing and seeing the Savior are tied together.

Monday, August 8, 2011

D&C Section Ninety Two

Only two verses long, the revelation is a command for the brethren to receive Frederick G. Williams into the United Order. The order was a group of the brethren in the church who united all of their temporal affairs into a sharing organization to benefit the church. The revelation instructs Williams to be a "lively" member. I always like the story of President Harold B. Lee when he was talking to a group of missionaries. He instructed one of the missionaries to push over a pillar in the building they were in. The missionary responded that he didn't think that he could. When asked why not, the missionary said that weight of the ceiling on the pillar made it impossible. President Lee asked him if the ceiling were removed, would he be able to push it over then? The missionary responded that he thought he could. President Lee then said, "Now, brethren, you and I are like one of those pillars. As long as we have a weight of responsibility in this church, all hell can't push us over, but as soon as that weight is lifted off, most of us are easy marks by the powers that drag us down."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

D&C Section Ninety One

The Bible that Joseph Smith was translating from must have been an older one because it contained the apocryphal books of the Greek Septuagint. This is the Old Testament version used by the apostles. The origin of the books is not known and so their veracity has always been in question. The Catholic Church included these books in their Bible. Protestant churches did until the early 19th century. There are about 15 of them. Some apocryphal books of the New Testament have also emerged since the time of Joseph Smith and I think what Joseph learned in this revelation applies to them also. Joseph is told he does not need to translate these books and the Lord told him four things about the apocrypha in this revelation. 1. Many things in the apocrypha are true. 2. It is translated correctly for the most part. 3. There are many things that are not true because of things that men have added. 4. The apocrypha should be read with the Spirit to determine those things which are true and which are not.

Friday, August 5, 2011

D&C Section Ninety

There are two important principles in this revelation. One principle deals with the keys of the kingdom of God. The keys relate to the priesthood and refer to the power to direct the use of priesthood authority. These keys always belong to the First Presidency of the Church. Joseph is told in this revelation that he will always hold these keys, both in this life and in the next, and they will never be taken from him. This is because he stands at the head of this dispensation of the gospel. All prophets after him are subject to him just as he subject to Michael (Adam) who holds the keys for the salvation of all mankind. Michael is subject to the Savior. Wilford Woodruff said that if Joseph would have had his desires, he would have led the Saints to the west and the Rocky Mountains, but it was necessary for him to seal his testimony with his blood and then continue his ministry, particularly directing the temple work for the dead, in the spirit world.

The other principle mentioned in this revelation is the oracles of God. In the scriptures, the term oracles refers to the prophets and the revelations they receive and teach. We're counseled to be mindful concerning how we receive the oracles since they represent the Lord and the Lord's mind and will. I firmly believe in the counsel we have been given that if we follow the brethren we will not be led astray. I have never heard anything from the lips of prophets and apostles that wasn't good counsel, or was contrary to how I feel. My biggest challenge is to keep myself in line with what they teach because when I do is when I am the happiest and my life is the most productive and has the most purpose.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

D&C Section Eighty Eight Con't

The next part of this revelation deals with events that will be a part of the last days before the second coming of Christ. There will be seven angels who will sound trumpets with each series of trumps heralding specific events. I don’t know whether the sounding of the trumpets is symbolic or actual, but the first angels will announce the need to prepare for Christ’s coming, that the great and abominable church has been destroyed, and that church represents the tares or evil people and organizations of world. The righteous of the world will be caught up to meet Christ. This trump represents those people who are celestial. The second trump announces the redemption of those who have accepted the gospel in the spirit prison who are of a terrestial nature. The third trump is the redemption of those who were evil and are telestial in nature. The fourth trump is casting into outer darkness the sons of perdition or people who had a perfect knowledge of Christ and his glory but still denied him and fought against him. The fifth trump represents the restoration of the gospel and that all people will come to know Christ and confess his that he is just and fair. The sixth trump announces the fall of Satan and his followers. The seventh announces that Christ’s work is finished.

Then each of the seven will sound their trumpets again each one will represent one of the seven thousand years of existence of mankind. I believe that each of these thousand years are actually a long period of man’s existence and not a thousand years exactly. Then it says that after the thousand year reign of Christ, Satan will be let loose for a brief period and then Michael and his army will cast him out for good.

The last part of this revelation instructs the priesthood holders how they can organize and prepare themselves. The most important thing they can do is to build a temple because it is in the temple where our greatest preparations take place. The brethren are also instructed to start the school of the prophets, so they can be united in love, worthiness, doctrine, and be taught in the power of the Spirit.