Sunday, May 16, 2021

May 10-16: D&C 49-50

This lesson provides a model for missionary and activation work. There is a lot of important doctrine in these sections, and the historical context makes it all the more interesting.

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 did not consider baptism by water essential. [Verse 13 emphasizes the importance of baptism]

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)

In 1979, the Ensign published a photographic tour of Church history sites. The photos are interesting to compare to today's restored sites.




There are also some useful photos on the Church's website here:

Section 49 emphasizes some key future events to keep us from being deceived:

23 Wherefore, be not deceived, but continue in steadfastness, looking forth for the heavens to be shaken, and the earth to tremble and to reel to and fro as a drunken man, and for the valleys to be exalted, and for the mountains to be made low, and for the rough places to become smooth—and all this when the angel shall sound his trumpet.
24 But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose.
25 Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed.
26 Behold, I say unto you, go forth as I have commanded you; repent of all your sins; ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you.
27 Behold, I will go before you and be your rearward; and I will be in your midst, and you shall not be confounded.
28 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, and I come quickly. Even so. Amen.
(Doctrine and Covenants 49:23–28)
_____

Section 50 expands on D&C 46, which listed the gifts of the Spirit. Here, the Lord explains how to tell if a manifestation is from the Spirit of truth or not.

21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
(Doctrine and Covenants 50:21–24)

The principle of growing in light is also demonstrated by the opposite effect, as taught in Alma 12:9. 

When we accept what the Lord gives us, we are given a greater portion of the word, until we know everything. 

When we don't accept what the Lord gives us, we get less until we know nothing.

9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.
(Alma 12:9–11)

Two areas of confusion among many Latter-day Saints today reflect this principle. Those who accept what Joseph and Oliver taught about the translation--that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by means of the Urim and Thummim--are not confused. Those who reject what Joseph and Oliver said, however, face a variety of alternative explanations, ranging from a "stone-in-the-hat" to a purely visionary experience to a composition or performance. 

Those who accept what Joseph and Oliver taught about the New York Cumorah likewise express confusion about the historicity of the Book of Mormon. There are Latter-day Saints who, having rejected the New York Cumorah, find their own "hill Cumorah" in many parts of the world. Some, having rejected the New York Cumorah, reject the historicity of the Book of Mormon altogether.
_____

In 1992, Robert L. Millet, then Dean of Religious Education at BYU, gave an important lecture about BYU as a covenant community. He observed an important aspect of missionary work.

    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.)

The end


Saturday, May 8, 2021

May 3-9: D&C 46-48

As part of their mission to the Lamanites, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer Jr., and Ziba Peterson passed through northeastern Ohio on their way to Missouri. 

The Revelations in Context book explains one of the reasons why the missionaries were successful in Ohio:

In the early part of November 1830, [Levi] Hancock’s brother Alvah brought him word of the Book of Mormon: “Four men have come and have brought a book with them that they call [a] history and a record of the people that once inhabited this land.” 

Who were the people who once inhabited Ohio?

The Book of Mormon identifies them as Jaredites and Nephites. Modern archaeologists refer to them as Adena and Hopewell civilizations.

Naturally, a history of the otherwise unknown "moundbuilders" would be of great interest to people living in Ohio among the mounds. Once he heard these men had this history, he wanted to know more. 

His interest stirred, Hancock expressed a desire to hear these preachers. “Tomorrow they are to hold a meeting at Mr. Jackson’s in Mayfield,” his brother said, adding, “They lay hands on those they baptize and bestow on them the Holy Ghost.”

Hancock described his reaction: “At these last words … there seemed to fall on me something pleasant and delightful[.] It seemed like a wash of something warm took me in the face and ran over my body which gave me that feeling I cannot describe. The first word I said was, ‘It is the truth, I can feel it. I will go and hear for myself tomorrow.’”

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:

https://rsc.byu.edu/finding-god-byu/matter-choice

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, 

our brother. 

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)

The Lord explains that it is easy to be deceived in spiritual things. We need to be wary.

8 Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
9 For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
10 And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.
(Doctrine and Covenants 46:8–10)

When we think of the Saints in Ohio in the early 1830s, they didn't have copies of these revelations, but they did have the Book of Mormon. They could "always remember" these gifts by referring to Moroni 10.

We're all familiar with Moron 10:4-5, but we don't often hear about verses 6-19. In my view, Moroni there tells us all the ways by which we can know the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit does not work solely through spiritual promptings. 

Moroni explained, And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.
(Moroni 10:8)

The Spirit can manifest truth by the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, and exceedingly great faith.

Because not everyone has each gift, we can see that people can learn truth in different ways. The example of the missionaries to the Lamanites, who attracted the attention of the people in Ohio (as well as the Indians) by explaining the Book of Mormon was a history of the ancient people who lived in that area, should teach us that the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon is one of the important ways for people to learn truth. 


Sunday, May 2, 2021

April 26-May 2: D&C 45

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.

34 And now, when I the Lord had spoken these words unto my disciples, they were troubled.
35 And I said unto them: Be not troubled, for, when all these things shall come to pass, ye may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled.
(Doctrine and Covenants 45:34–35)

4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
(Matthew 24:4–6)

22 For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.
23 Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake; and you also shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled, for all I have told you must come to pass; but the end is not yet.
24 Behold, I have told you before;
(Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22–24)
_____

Another example is the concept of Christ as our Advocate with the Father. 

In a way, it is confusing to think of Christ as both our Advocate and our Judge. Normally, we think of an advocate as a lawyer who presents a case to the judge. Satan is described as the Accuser (Rev. 12:10). 

How could a lawyer representing one side in a case also be the judge in the same case?

The Scripture Guide explains that Christ will be our Judge.

The Final Judgment that will occur after the Resurrection. God, through Jesus Christ, will judge each person to determine the eternal glory he will receive. This judgment will be based on each person’s obedience to God’s commands, including his acceptance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.


There are many scriptures that describe Christ as our Judge.


In General Conference, Elder Christofferson once said,

I am particularly gratified, and it is of great significance to me, that I may at any moment and in any circumstance approach through prayer the throne of grace, that my Heavenly Father will hear my petition, that my Advocate, him who did no sin, whose blood was shed, will plead my cause. (See D&C 45:3–5.)


One of the best discussions of Christ as our Advocate was presented by John Tanner, here:

He pointed out that:

Advocate denotes not merely a lawyer but literally one who speaks for us. The word comes from the Latin ad vocare, “to speak for.” In the 1 John 2:1 verse, the Greek parakletos, which connotes one who is at our side, is translated as “our helper.” The same Greek term is used for the Holy Ghost in His role as comforter. The idea here is that Christ is by our side, as our helper and our defender; He speaks in our behalf.

That still does not address the apparent conflict between Christ as our Advocate and Christ as our Judge.

There's another helpful analysis at ScriptureNotes, here:


Early in my career as a lawyer, it dawned on me that Christ is the advocate for those who choose to follow him, the same way that a lawyer chooses which clients he/she will represent. This is not as clear in the New Testament as it is in the Doctrine and Covenants.

1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
(1 John 2:1–2)

5 Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the kingdom.
(Doctrine and Covenants 29:5)

3 And Ziba Peterson also shall go with them; and I myself will go with them and be in their midst; and I am their advocate with the Father, and nothing shall prevail against them.
(Doctrine and Covenants 32:3)

2 And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.
3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.
(Doctrine and Covenants 45:2–5)

1 Behold, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.
(Doctrine and Covenants 62:1)

3 His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.
5 Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.
(Doctrine and Covenants 110:3–5)


_____

The Book of Mormon does not use the term "advocate" but it does refer to the concept of satisfying the demands of justice, such as in these passages:

8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—
9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.
(Mosiah 15:8–9)

14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.
15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
(Alma 42:14–15)

13 Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.
14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.
(Alma 34:13–16)


The phrase "demands of justice" is not found in the scriptures outside of the Book of Mormon, which uses the phrase 4 times. Jonathan Edwards discussed the concept here:

Hebrews 10:1–3.] Concerning the argument for the insufficiency of the ancient sacrifices from their being often offered. The Wise Man argues the vanity of all earthly enjoyments, and that temporal food is not man's true good, from that, that the occasions for eating still return. If a man eats, yet the need of eating returns. Satisfaction is not obtained; his need and his appetite remains. The demands of nature are not answered, but that still it continues demanding, so that after a man has repeated his eating from day to day many years, yet he needs, and his nature craves, as much as when he first came into the world. Ecclesiastes 6:7, "All the labor of man is for his mouth, yet the appetite, or" (as in the original)תִמָּלֵא לא וְגֵם־הַנֶּפֶשׁ "the soul, is not filled." See also Ecclesiastes 1:5–9, with the context. The argument is of the same sort with that which the Apostle here makes use of to show the vanity of the ancient sacrifices, and their insufficiency to answer the end of a true atonement, that they did not satisfy because the demands of justice still remained, and its appetite returned, as in the other case the demands of nature. They were never able to make the comers thereto perfect. The occasions of offering them returned continually. And therefore if Solomon's argument be good, the Apostle's is certainly good also.





Sunday, April 25, 2021

April 19-25: D&C 41-44

 

These sections contain some of the most profound teachings in the D&C, as I'm sure you already know. We'll look at a few specifically below.

First, I like reviewing the historical background to D&C 41 as presented by the Joseph Smith Papers. The part in bold below is especially significant.


This revelation was dictated the same day JS arrived in , Ohio, from . 
According to ’s headnote, inscribed a few months later in spring 1831, the revelation was a response to JS’s prayer regarding an offer made by new convert  to provide JS and  “houses & provisions” on his farm in , Ohio, about twenty miles east of  JS and his family were in need of housing because of their recent move, and Sidney and Phebe Rigdon had lost a house apparently being built for them by his former Campbellite congregation in nearby , Ohio, when he converted to the Church of Christ. Early published versions of this revelation did not include Whitmer’s headnote, and in their later histories neither JS nor Whitmer connected Copley’s offer to this revelation. Both histories instead place the revelation in the context of concerns about religious excesses among the new church members in . The revelation, however, does not explicitly address this matter.
In setting the scene for the revelation,  wrote in his history: “About these days Joseph the Prophet and  arrived at  to the joy and satisfaction of the Saints. The disciples had all things common, and were going to destruction very fast as to temporal things: for they considered from reading the  that what belonged to a brother belonged to any of the brethren, therefore they would take each others clothes and other property and use it without leave: which brought on confusion and disappointments: for they did not understand the scripture. After Joseph lived here a few days the word of the Lord came.” JS’s history gave a similar introduction: “The branch of the church in this part of the Lord’s vineyard, which had increased to nearly one hundred members, were striving to do the will of God, so far as they knew it; though some strange notions and false spirits had crept in among them. With a little caution, and some wisdom, I soon assisted the brethren and sisters to overcome them. The plan of ‘common stock,’ which had existed in what was called ‘the family,’ whose members generally had embraced the ever lasting gospel, was readily abandoned for the more perfect law of the Lord: and the false spirits were easily discerned and rejected by the light of revelation.”
...
’s headnote in Revelation Book 1 listed another purpose for this revelation: “pointing at [out] the office of ,” who the revelation commanded to be  as the church’s first . This is the first extant document that uses bishop as an office in the church. JS first met  businessman and hatter Edward Partridge in December 1830 in , New York. Partridge had accompanied recent convert  on a trip to  to meet JS. On 9 December, JS dictated a revelation calling Partridge to “preach my Gospel as with the voice of a Trump,” and Partridge was  by JS two days later. Partridge spent the next month and a half sharing his new faith with relatives and friends in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, an effort that his daughter Emily later characterized as unsuccessful. He returned to  from  in time to join JS, , and Sidney Rigdon in their move to Ohio during the last week of January 1831.

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)

This verse anticipates the subsequent revelations that encourage us to "seek learning, even by study and also by faith." (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118) We can ask and receive revelation (learning by faith) and knowledge (learning by study). I keep a book on my desk titled The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. It's sort of my motto for continual learning.

61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61)

The next verse is one which prompted me to write my short novel, Before the World Finds Out.

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.

68 Therefore, he that lacketh wisdom, let him ask of me, and I will give him liberally and upbraid him not. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:68)

The next passage is an important point when we're tempted to follow the scholars instead of the prophets.

5 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;
6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.
7 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, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed. (Doctrine and Covenants 43:5–7)

This verse cross-references to Alma 12:9.

10 That inasmuch as ye do this, glory shall be added to the kingdom which ye have received. Inasmuch as ye do it not, it shall be taken, even that which ye have received.
(Doctrine and Covenants 43:10)

An all-time classic.

Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.
(Doctrine and Covenants 43:34)






Sunday, April 18, 2021

April 12-18: D&C 37-40

 

Section 37 alludes to the translation of the Book of Moses. 

1 Behold, I say unto you that it is not expedient in me that ye should translate any more until ye shall go to the Ohio, and this because of the enemy and for your sakes.

(Doctrine and Covenants 37:1)

The lesson explains:

When Joseph received the revelation recorded in section 37, he had completed a few chapters of the book of Genesis and had just learned about Enoch and his city of Zion (see Genesis 5:18–24; Moses 7). Some of the principles the Lord taught Enoch are similar to those He revealed in section 38.

Section 38 begins by referring to the creation and the Zion of Enoch.

1 Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made;

2 The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes;

3 I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me.

4 I am the same which have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom; and verily, I say, even as many as have believed in my name, for I am Christ, and in mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father for them.

(Doctrine and Covenants 38:1–4)

Joseph dictated the Book of Moses chapters 1-7 from June through December 1830 while he was still living in western New York, but there is little information about the source. People have long assumed it was purely a revelation, partly because of the comment inserted by Willard Richards, "Given by revelation to Joseph Smith, Jr.," which you can see here:


Chapter 7 of Moses was first published in The Evening and the Morning Star in August, 1832.

Regarding the origin of the Enoch material in the Book of Moses, we can refer to what Moroni said in Ether.

3 And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews—

4 Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time; but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account(Ether 1:3–4)

This suggests Joseph may have obtained "the full account" of the creation of Adam and the ensuing history from the plates. Oliver Cowdery explained that he and Joseph visited the repository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in New York multiple times. Neither he nor Joseph explained much detail about these visits, but some think Joseph may have translated at least part of the Book of Moses from the plates in the repository, as Moroni told him he could.
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The reality of a Zion society appeals to everyone in the world, but no one knows where to find it. The Lord revealed the key principles to Joseph Smith and offered to make it possible, but only if we "seek it with all our hearts." 

D&C 38, which discusses the "Zion of Enoch," was given to Joseph in Fayette, New York, but it refers to the imminent gathering to Ohio. Verse 32 "for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high."

The section also invokes the example of the Nephites in verse 39. "And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old."

Many of we Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah also think the Nephite Zion of 4th Nephi was established in "the Ohio." It's interesting to consider the parallels. We could say this is a chiastic structure of time and place. 

We've previously discussed how the last place where true prophets lived on Earth (Mormon and Moroni at Cumorah in New York) became the first place where a new prophet was called (Joseph Smith near Cumorah in New York).

Now we see that the last place on earth to experience a Zion society (Ohio, per 4 Nephi) is the first place where the Zion society was restored (Ohio, per D&C 38).

That's all interesting, but what about today?

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So far, neither the Latter-day Saints nor the people of the world generally have sought Zion "with all our hearts." We love the idea, but we want everyone else to do it. If we sought Zion with all our hearts, we would heed the Lord's direction, which he emphasized here:

24 And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me.

25 And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.

(Doctrine and Covenants 38:24–25)

People have all kinds of rationalizations to justify their behavior. We can each measure ourselves by King Benjamin's address.

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
(Mosiah 4:16–18)

Because we have no statistics on Latter-day Saints specifically, we can look for proxies. The state with the highest proportion of Latter-day Saints also has the least income inequality in the United States.


That's a remarkable statistic, but the difference between Utah and the next least-unequal state, Alaska, is not that much. 

It could be that inequality among the Latter-day Saints is evident in these statistics. Thanks to the Church's program of Fast Offerings and assistance to people in need, income inequality among Latter-day Saints is probably much less than the statistics for Utah show.

I've seen the Church's programs operate in many countries around the world. Among Latter-day Saints everywhere, income inequality is undoubtedly lower than among non-Latter-day Saints.

Nevertheless, we could do better. We seek our own prosperity and do not share our wealth equally. In the midst of poverty, homelessness, and hunger, people build mansions and accumulate real estate, investments, cars, boats, and other toys. "Utah has the highest average home size in the United States, at 2,305 square feet. Utah also boasts a whopping median of four bedrooms for the typical real estate listing."


That may be attributed to the relatively large family sizes in Utah, but while there are enormous mansions in Utah, there remain homeless people. Utah ranks #30 among the states for the highest rate of homelessness.




We are all distracted by "pride and the cares of the world."
(Doctrine and Covenants 39:9)

The Lord's parable is devastating when we consider it in light of our behavior as Saints.

26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.
(Doctrine and Covenants 38:26–27)

Still, the promises remain if we ever decide to seek Zion with all our hearts.

16 And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons.

17 And I have made the earth rich, and behold it is my footstool, wherefore, again I will stand upon it.

18 And I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh;

19 And I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts.

(Doctrine and Covenants 38:16–19)

The Church has several programs to motivate the Saints to seek for Zion. The self-reliance program alone could do much to bring forth Zion if everyone participated and incorporated the lessons in their lives. The Pathway program can help bring forth Zion by elevating the educational level and talents of Latter-day Saints everywhere in the world.

But ultimately, it's the responsibility of each individual member to seek Zion in our own lives and in our own ways.

As the lesson notes,

The need to gather to Ohio has long since passed, but Saints today still unite around the same cause, the same work: to “bring forth Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 39:13). Like those early Saints, we forsake “the cares of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 40:2) because we trust the Lord’s promise: “You shall receive … a blessing so great as you never have known” (Doctrine and Covenants 39:10).

My blog on Zion, https://howtozion.blogspot.com/, discusses various ways in which we, in our day, can help to establish Zion.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

April 5-11: D&C 30-36

 


This lesson covers the Mission to the Lamanites.

I discussed this lesson separately on another blog, so I'll repost that here.

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This week's Come Follow Me lesson focuses on D&C 30-36. Sections 30 and 32 discuss the Mission to the Lamanites.

Because Church members hold a variety of theories about the identity of the Lamanites, it's always useful to review the scriptures on this topic, as well as what Joseph Smith taught, and then compare the teachings of other theories, such as the hemispheric theory and M2C. 

People can believe whatever they want, but they should at least make informed decisions.

And we know from long experience that people will confirm their biases regardless of the facts. But sometimes there are people who are willing to change their minds when they learn new information, especially when the new information comes from the scriptures and from authentic Church history instead of spin from the scholars.

For those few who have open minds, here are some facts to consider.
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There are 12 references to the Lamanites in the D&C. Five of these focus on the mission to the Lamanites.

8 And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them; and thou shalt have revelations, but write them not by way of commandment.

9 And now, behold, I say unto you that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites.

14 And thou shalt assist to settle all these things, according to the covenants of the church, before thou shalt take thy journey among the Lamanites.
(Doctrine and Covenants 28:8–9, 14)

6 And be you afflicted in all his afflictions, ever lifting up your heart unto me in prayer and faith, for his and your deliverance; for I have given unto him power to build up my church among the Lamanites;
(Doctrine and Covenants 30:6)

2 And that which I have appointed unto him is that he shall go with my servants, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, Jun., into the wilderness among the Lamanites.
(Doctrine and Covenants 32:2)

There is a nice summary of the Mission to the Lamanites here:


Separately, the Lord referred to Missouri as the borders of the Lamanites.

8 And thus you shall take your journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites.
(Doctrine and Covenants 54:8)

These verses are the only scriptural references that identify specific people as Lamanites; i.e., the Lamanites include the Indian (Native American) tribes these missionaries visited in New York, Ohio, and Missouri/Kansas. These are the tribes Joseph Smith met with when he told them the Book of Mormon told them about their ancestors. These tribes are predominantly haplogroup X2, not the Asian haplogroups ABCD that predominate in Latin America.

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Outside of the scriptures, several traditions have arisen in the Church about the identity of the Lamanites. Orson Pratt, especially, taught that the native peoples of Latin America were Lamanites. 

For example, in his 1840 pamphlet, Orson Pratt spent several pages of commentary to describe his hemispheric model of the Book of Mormon:

This remnant of Joseph were also led in a miraculous manner from Jerusalem, in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah. They were first led to the eastern borders of the Red Sea; then they journeyed for some time along the borders thereof, nearly in a south-east direction; after which, they altered their course nearly eastward, until they came to the great waters, where, by the commandment of God, they built a vessel, in which they were safely brought across the great Pacific ocean, and landed upon the western coast of South America.

In the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, at the time the Jews were carried away captive into Babylon, another remnant were brought out of Jerusalem; some of whom were descendants of Judah. They landed in North America; soon after which they emigrated into the northern parts of South America, at which place they were discovered by the remnant of Joseph, something like four hundred years after.

... The persecuted nation emigrated towards the northern parts of South America, leaving the wicked nation in possession of the middle and southern parts of the same. The former were called Nephites... the Lord gave unto them the whole continent, for a land of promise...

The second colony, which left Jerusalem eleven years after the remnant of Joseph left that city, landed in North America, and emigrated from thence, to the northern parts of South America; and about four hundred years after, they were discovered by the Nephites, as we stated in the foregoing.
They were called the people of Zarahemla....

And in process of time, the Nephites began to build ships near the Isthmus of Darien, and launch them forth into the western ocean, in which great numbers sailed a great distance to the northward, and began to colonize North America. Other colonies emigrated by land, and in a few centuries the whole continent became peopled. North America, at that time, was almost entirely destitute of timber, it having been cut off by the more ancient race, who came from the great tower, at the confusion of languages...

The Nephites and Lamanites were all converted unto the Lord, both in South and North America...

The Lamanites, at that time, dwelt in South America, and the Nephites in North America.
A great and terrible war commenced between them, which lasted for many years, and resulted in the complete overthrow and destruction of the Nephites. This war commenced at the Isthmus of Darien, and was very destructive to both nations for many years. At length, the Nephites were driven before their enemies, a great distance to the north, and north-east; and having gathered their whole nation together, both men, women, and children, they encamped on, and round about the hill Cumorah, where the records were found, which is in the State of New York, about two hundred miles west of the city of Albany. 


When Joseph Smith wrote the Wentworth letter, published as "Church History" in the March 1842 Times and Seasons, he adapted some of Orson Pratt's pamphlet. The Joseph Smith Papers notes that "“Church History” echoes some wording from Orson Pratt’s A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records."


In writing the Wentworth letter, however, Joseph deleted all of Orson Pratt's speculation about the hemispheric model. Instead, he reiterated D&C 28, 30, and 32, as well as Moroni's explanation during his first visit.

"Church History" (aka the Wentworth letter):

"The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."


"This country" is the same phrase Moroni used when he first explained the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith.

"He [Moroni] then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham." 


Orson Pratt outlived Joseph Smith. Orson inserted his hemispheric theory into the footnotes of the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon, and many Latter-day Saints accepted the hemispheric model. 

Others accept the designation in D&C 28, 30, and 32; i.e., the Lamanites are the Indians who live in the U.S. circa 1830-1842 (the northeastern tribes and those who had been removed to the borders of Missouri).

In the early 1900s, RLDS scholar L.E. Hills proposed a limited geography based on Mesoamerica, with Cumorah in southern Mexico (M2C, or the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). Eventually, LDS scholars such as John Sorenson, Dan Peterson, and Jack Welch adopted M2C. They have been promoting it ever since.
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Orson Pratt's hemispheric model retains some vitality, however. Lots of people over the years have alluded to it. 

In the modern world, people have traveled and migrated so much that bloodlines and DNA are mingled everywhere in the world. In that sense, just as Abraham's descendants are everywhere, we could say Lehi's descendants are everywhere.

The demographics of Latin America show that, apart from the indigenous populations (Amerindians) whose ancestry is north Asian (mtDNA Haplogroups A, B, C, and D), the ancestors of most of the population originated in Europe. It was the incongruence between the DNA evidence and Orson Pratt's hemispheric model (Lamanites are the ancestors of all the Latin Americans) that caused such confusion and led to rewording the Introduction to the Book of Mormon from "principal ancestors" to "among the ancestors" of the American Indians. Introduction (churchofjesuschrist.org)


The studies summarized in Wikipedia indicate that "Whites presently compose the largest racial group in Latin America (36% in the table herein) and, whether as White, Mestizo, or Mulatto, the vast majority of Latin Americans have white ancestry."

In Latin America as a whole, 36% of the population is "white" (mainly Europeans from Spain and Portugal), 30% is Mestizo (mixture of European and indigenous), 20.3% is Mulattoes (mixture of African and European), and only 9.2% are Amerindians. 


You can see the data here (click to enlarge):



As we saw at the beginning of this post, people will confirm their biases no matter what the facts are. We have M2C scholars who claim the Book of Mormon took place entirely in a limited geography of Mesoamerica, yet who also claim the descendants of Lehi are found throughout Latin America. It's unclear why they designate Latin America to the exclusion of North America, but maybe this is merely the legacy of Orson Pratt living on.

Which is fine. 

People can and will believe whatever they want.

But if you look at this issue from the perspective of missionaries teaching nonmembers, Orson Pratt's theory is probably not the strongest argument in favor of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. 

You can decide yourself whether it is a strong argument to reject D&C 28, 30 and 32 by claiming that the X2 Haplogroup Indians to whom those sections refer are not Lamanites, because the Lamanites are the A, B, C, and D Haplogroup Indians in Latin America.

But again, people can believe whatever they want.