Sunday, June 6, 2021
Sunday, May 30, 2021
Many of us don't appreciate the significance of Independence, Missouri, in the early 1800s. It was the key point for travel westward.
In retrospect, it's easy to see how powerful it would have been for the Saints to establish Zion here. Everyone traveling west would have passed through here and learned about the Restoration.
As the lesson manual points out, though, the early Saints had a lot of work to do. They Lord didn't ask them to come to Zion. He needed them to build Zion.
Just like today.
Which is why I post on my HowtoZion blog.
Louis and Clark traveled through the Independence area in June, 1804. Today, you can visit the Lewis and Clark Historic Point at Kaw Point, which is at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers in Kansas City, not far from Independence.
The Oregon Trail began at Independence Landing, where people disembarked from the steamboats after arriving from St. Louis.
An excellent interactive map helps clarify the locations of these events in Church history.
Click on this link:
Sunday, May 23, 2021
During these months, the Saints from Colesville, New York, arrived in the Kirtland area. Leman Copley initially allowed them to settle on his farm in Thompson, but he later reneged and the Colesville Saints asked Joseph what they should do.
The Lord instructed these Saints to move to Missouri. This required tremendous faith on their part.
They had responded to the commandment to sell everything in Colesville and move to Ohio, which was disruptive enough, but now they had to move another thousand miles west to the frontier, to the "borders of the Lamanites."
In so doing, they were cautioned to "be patient in tribulation," thereby alerting them that their sojourn in Missouri would not be peaceful. (D&C 54:7-10)
Some years ago we visited Colesville and I took some photos of the Joseph Knight home where the Colesville members met. (click to enlarge)
If you enlarge the sign that lists the names of the original members of the Colesville branch, you can see Hyrum Smith, the first branch president of the first branch of the Church, along with Newel Knight, the second branch president.
The Colesville Saints left their homes for Ohio, as you can see on this map.
The revelations in these sections are profound on their own, but when understood in the context of the times, they give us perspective to help us more deeply appreciate their significance. In the context of moving their households and families to unknown frontier areas, the Lord instructed these early Saints about how to regulate stewardships and how to care for "the poor and needy, the sick and the afflicted."
The Joseph Smith Papers includes a series of useful maps, which you can see here:
If you go there, you'll find these maps.
Notice how similar the two in the middle are. These are the so-called Mission to the Indians, which was actually the mission to the Lamanites. Notice in the description, the editors of the Joseph Smith Papers put the term "Lamanites" in scare quotations because they are reframing the history. The revelations in the D&C use the term Lamanites, not Indians. Joseph Smith and his contemporaries were completely familiar with the term "Indians" but that's not the term the Lord used in these revelations.
This brings up an interesting point about the sections in this week's Come Follow Me lesson. Notice in section 54:8 that the Lord refers to Missouri as the "borders of the Lamanites."
Two important things to notice here. First, the phrase "borders of the Lamanites" appears only twice in all the scriptures. You can see this in Wordcruncher.
This is another indication from the scriptures that the modern Lamanites, the remnant of Lehi, are "the Indians that now inhabit this country," just as Moroni told Joseph Smith and as Joseph wrote in the Wentworth letter.
Second, the "line running directly between Jew and Gentile" was the line running between the Lamanites (aka Indians) and the European settlers in Missouri. This was the line that constituted the "borders of the Lamanites."
Another connection between Church history and the Book of Mormon is the location of the New Jerusalem. We'll discuss this more when we get to D&C 84, but already in D&C 45, the Lord had promised that a New Jerusalem would be established. This cross references to 3 Nephi 20:22 and Ether 13:2-6. We now know that Independence, Missouri, was the site of the New Jerusalem of which both the Savior and Ether spoke in the Book of Mormon.
When we look at the map of the travels between Kirtland and Independence, we can see how many significant ruins left by the "Moundbuilders" they passed. It's fun to also see all the modern temples in the area.
Finally, the heading to Section 57 explains that when the Saints arrived in Missouri, "Joseph Smith contemplated the state of the Lamanites and wondered: “When will the wilderness blossom as the rose? When will Zion be built up in her glory, and where will Thy temple stand, unto which all nations shall come in the last days?” Subsequently he received this revelation."
There are some helpful maps and explanations of Church history in the area of Missouri at this link:
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The specific situation involved a religious community in Ohio commonly called the Shakers. The introduction to D&C 49 summarizes the situation.
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and Leman Copley, at Kirtland, Ohio, May 7, 1831.
[These men were called as missionaries to the Shakers.]
Leman Copley had embraced the gospel but still held to some of the teachings of the Shakers (United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing), to which he had formerly belonged.
[We all retain the teachings we inherit from our families and peers. Converts retain the teachings they hold until they learn differently. Learning new beliefs and changing one's worldview is a process of recognizing a second reality.]
Some of the beliefs of the Shakers were that Christ’s Second Coming had already occurred and that He had appeared in the form of a woman, Ann Lee. [Verse 22 explains that Christ does not come in the form of a woman.]
[Ann Lee lived from 1736 to 1784. She was born in England but died in Watervliet, New York, which was about 200 miles east of Palmyra. She was mentioned twice in the Messenger and Advocate and three times in the Times and Seasons. Sidney Rigdon wrote, "The disciples of Ann Lee, Joanah Southcoat, the French Prophets, Jemimah Willkeson, Hull Barton, Matthias, Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, or Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian or any other, are all alike, as far as their salvation is concerned one is just as near eternal life as the other. It is the gift of the Holy Ghost as administered by the apostles, by the laying on of hands, which makes the difference, and it is this alone, and the society which has this power are the people of God and those who have not are not.
(Messenger and Advocate II.4:245 ¶3)]
They rejected marriage and believed in a life of total celibacy. [Verses 15-17 emphasizes the importance of marriage and family.]
Some Shakers also forbade the eating of meat. [Verses 18-21 explain that God does not forbit eating meat, although it should not be wasted.]
In prefacing this revelation, Joseph Smith’s history states, “In order to have [a] more perfect understanding on the subject, I inquired of the Lord, and received the following.” The revelation refutes some of the basic concepts of the Shaker group.
The aforementioned brethren took a copy of the revelation to the Shaker community (near Cleveland, Ohio) and read it to them in its entirety, but it was rejected.
(Doctrine and Covenants 49, Heading)
For a good discussion of the Shakers, see Leman Copley and the Shakers (churchofjesuschrist.org)
President Joseph F. Smith, in writing to one of his missionary sons, explained:
Kindness will beget friendship and favor, but anger or passion will drive away sympathy. To win one's respect and confidence, approach him mildly, kindly. No friendship was ever gained by an attack upon principle or upon man, but by calm reason and the lowly Spirit of Truth.
Now note this important concept:
If you have built for a man a better house than his own, and he is willing to accept yours and forsake his, then, and not till then, should you proceed to tear down the old structure. Rotten though it may be it will require some time for it to lose all its charms and fond memories of its former occupant. Therefore let him, not you, proceed to tear it away. Kindness and courtesy are the primal elements of gentility. (Letter of 18 May 1896 to Hyrum M. Smith, in From Prophet to Son, pp. 42-43, emphasis added.)
Saturday, May 8, 2021
The Revelations in Context book explains one of the reasons why the missionaries were successful in Ohio:
Parley P. Pratt recorded that the missionaries explained to people that
This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him Cumorah, which hill is now in the state of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County. (Autobiography of P.P. Pratt p 56-61)
[For more such references, see http://www.lettervii.com/2016/08/guest-post-one-cumorah-historical.html]
In our day, the historicity of the Book of Mormon is just as important to nonmembers as it was in the early days of the Church. People naturally want to know whether the Book of Mormon relates an actual history, and if so, where the events took place.
Once people have reason to believe in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, they are receptive to its message.
The missionaries to the Lamanites converted around 100 people in Kirtland, but they moved on. The manual notes:
As Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer Jr. left Kirtland and moved on to other fields of labor, they left over one hundred converts who had plenty of zeal but little experience or direction. There were no instructional handbooks, no leadership training meetings, no broadcasts of general conference—in fact, there weren’t even very many copies of the Book of Mormon to go around.
Of course, they had printed 5,000 copies in Palmyra. They weren't all bound at once because binding was expensive. Joseph and his contemporaries handed out some of the sheets before the books were bound.
The converts in Ohio didn't have many copies because the four missionaries couldn't carry very many copies with them on their mission. The lesson kind of conflates that problem with the later arrival of Joseph and the others from New York, when they brought the copies with them. They weren't able to sell many copies at first. That's why Martin lost the farm. They had so many available that they didn't print more copies until 1837 in Kirtland.
When I was a freshman at BYU, we were in the 46th Ward. We had a ward hymn based on D&C 46 titled "To Some 'tis Given" that I've never forgotten. Bruce Christensen mentioned our ward in his thoughtful article, here:
It was one of the best hymns I've ever heard, and I wish it was in the hymnbook. Maybe it will be in the new hymnbook?
The chorus goes,
"We'll serve him through
our service to
the least of these,
And in His name
our faith proclaim,
by living one for another."
The music is highly memorable. I can still sing the entire thing, even though I haven't heard it in decades.
D&C 46 discusses the gifts of the Spirit, similar to the way Moroni 10 does.
The introduction to D&C 46 explains the background.
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to the Church, at Kirtland, Ohio, March 8, 1831. In this early time of the Church, a unified pattern for the conducting of Church services had not yet developed. However, a custom of admitting only members and earnest investigators to the sacrament meetings and other assemblies of the Church had become somewhat general. This revelation expresses the will of the Lord relative to governing and conducting meetings and His direction on seeking and discerning the gifts of the Spirit.
(Doctrine and Covenants 46, Heading)
Sunday, May 2, 2021
The Come Follow Me manual focuses on key themes from D&C 45:
1. Jesus Christ is our Advocate with the Father.
2. The gospel is a standard to the nations.
3. The Lord's promises will be fulfilled.
4. "Stand in holy places," and be not moved.
5. Zion is a place of safety for the Saints of God.
Thinking about Zion gives us a perspective on the other themes. The manual explains:
Today the command to establish Zion refers to establishing God’s kingdom wherever we live—wherever the children of God gather to the safety of His “everlasting covenant” (verse 9). What can you do to help build Zion where you are?
Every week, my blog about Zion-https://howtozion.blogspot.com/-discusses an aspect of Zion that includes principles and ideas about how to help build Zion wherever we are.
We can gain insights from considering the intertextuality of D&C 45. Many of the revelations read as interaction between the Lord and the Prophet (and by extension, each of us) in which the Lord teaches by alluding to previous scriptures. This type of intertextuality supplies greater context and deeper meaning to many of the passages.
For example, the phrase "be not troubled" in D&C 45:35 also appears in the New Testament (Matt 24:6) and the Pearl of Great Price (JS-M 1:23). Each of these passages relate aspects of the latter days that are directly relevant to us today.
Sunday, April 25, 2021
This historical context is a good example of how people, no matter how well intentioned, cannot devise economic systems that produce a Zion society. To do that requires guidance from God and a changed heart.
The three verses below could each support an entire chapter in a book. There is a popular movement in the Church toward universalism, but these verses are difficult to reconcile with universalism.
45 Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.
46 And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them;
47 And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter.
(Doctrine and Covenants 42:45–47)
65 Behold, thou shalt observe all these things, and great shall be thy reward; for unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:65)
Here we see the Lord reiterating the passage in James that prompted Joseph Smith in the first place.
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