Sunday, June 6, 2021

May 31-Jun 6: D&C 60-62

These sections give insights into how to follow the directions of the Lord even in difficult circumstances. The Lord also explains that we are responsible to use our own best judgment as we seek to do what is right.

The history and context of these revelations is also relevant to our understanding of the Book of Mormon, as we'll discuss below.
_____

Section 60 was given on August 8, 1831, to those who wanted to know what the Lord wanted them to do once they arrived in Independence. 

Remember that in June, in Kirtland, the Lord had instructed them about their journey to Independence.

D&C 52:9 And let them journey from thence preaching the word by the way, saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written, and that which is taught them by the Comforter through the prayer of faith.

10 Let them go two by two, and thus let them preach by the way in every congregation, baptizing by water, and the laying on of the hands by the water’s side.

In Section 60, the Lord explained that he was pleased they had come to Independence, but "with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but the hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man."  (verse 2)

Verse 3 sets out what I refer to as the rule of Alma 12:9; i.e., we receive knowledge according to how much heed and diligence we give to what we're given, and we gain more when we accept new knowledge and lose what we have when we harden our hearts.

And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have. (Doctrine and Covenants 60:3)

The same principle is found in other passages, such as 2 Nephi 28:30, and in Matthew, Mark and Luke: For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath (Matthew 13:12) and For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (Matthew 25:29)

Starting in verse 5, the Lord gives instructions about how to travel back to Kirtland. Review the map again to see where these events took place. (click to enlarge)


I've bolded some of the key points.

5 But, verily, I will speak unto you concerning your journey unto the land from whence you came. Let there be a craft made, or bought, as seemeth you good, it mattereth not unto me, and take your journey speedily for the place which is called St. Louis.

This passage illustrates that some things "mattereth not" unto the Lord. He left it up to the people involved to use their own judgment about how to travel, but he gave them the destination and the urgency. 

It's interesting that the Lord did not just say "take your journey speedily for St. Louis," the way most of us would say it. The phrase "which is called" is used 27 times in the Bible and 10 times in the Latter-day scriptures. This is an example of how the commandments were given "after the manner of their language" (D&C 1:24), which, in Joseph's case, was rich in biblical phrasing, both in these revelations and in his translation of the plates. E.g., "they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla." Omni 1:13.   

6 And from thence let my servants, Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, take their journey for Cincinnati

Cincinnati is the site of an important Hopewell fort called Miami Fort on a high bank at the convergence of the Ohio and the Great Miami River, forming a triangle at the top. The location is called Shawnee Lookout, high above the rivers. When I visited the site I took this photo of the Ohio River.




I also noticed that a golf course there had a museum of Hopewell artifacts found in the area that is well worth seeing if you visit the area. Actually, the golf course closed in 2019 and I don't know what happened to the artifacts, but I have photos of them. Here's one photo I took of a copper breastplate.





Miami Fort has the double wall system typical of Hopewell defensive positions. Archaeologists note that the people lived in the valleys below. Most of them say these locations were for "ceremonial purposes," but they don't explain why the Native Americans built a system of double walls which, combined with the steep cliffs on both sides, made the area easy to defend. In other words, these were "places of resort" (Alma 48:5, 8, 52:6).

The double wall, steep cliffs, and triangular shape is identical in design to the Indian Point fort near Kirtland, which is also found at the convergence of two rivers. Anyone who visits Kirtland needs to see this site. 

The historical marker explains that the walls of the Indian Point site were built around 140 BC, just when we would expect from the Book of Mormon.

That might seem like a digression but it's not really because as we'll see in upcoming Come Follow Me lessons, Joseph Smith and his contemporaries were frequently encountering the mounds of the Nephites in these areas.
_____

Sections 61-2 were given along the Missouri River, as the wonderful painting that illustrates this lesson depicts. 

The journey from Kirtland to Independence and back again was not easy. We see on the map in the Joseph Smith papers (below, click to enlarge) that the Saints traveled by land to get from St. Louis to Independence, despite traveling by river from Cincinnati to St. Louis.


That may seem surprising. We normally think of rivers as the easiest way to travel in the days before highways and motorized vehicles, but the Missouri River was treacherous for ships. A museum in Kansas City explains that "The most treacherous of the many hazards were fallen trees lying hidden from sight just under the river’s surface. These “snags” crippled and sank hundreds of steamboats from the 1820s to the 1870s."

During the 1850s and 1860s, many Latter-day Saints emigrating from England to Utah arrived in St. Louis and took steamboats up the Missouri River before joining wagon trains and handcart companies. One of these, the Steamboat Arabia, took many Latter-day Saints before it struck a snag and sunk in 1856.

Everyone escaped before the boat sank, but the entire cargo was lost. In the ensuring years, the boat was covered with silt and the river changed course. Some adventurers sought to recover the cargo. They searched the river without success until a local farmer told them he'd heard the boat was buried under his farm, half a mile away from the current course of the river. It turned out, the legend was correct: the boat was covered by 45 feet of farmland. In 1988, the boat was excavated.



Now the artifacts are on display at the museum. The web page is https://www.1856.com/. The museum also has a display about the Mormon immigration to Utah.
_____

With this context, let's look at D&C 61:4-6.

4 Nevertheless, I suffered it that ye might bear record; behold, there are many dangers upon the waters, and more especially hereafter;
5 For I, the Lord, have decreed in mine anger many destructions upon the waters; yea, and especially upon these waters.
6 Nevertheless, all flesh is in mine hand, and he that is faithful among you shall not perish by the waters.

The Steamboat Arabia was only one of about 400 steamboats that sunk on the Missouri River. These boats carried as much as 200 tons of food, liquor, weapons, equipment, clothing, tools and other supplies. Much of this cargo would be useful for good purposes, but much of it could be used for evil purposes. Perhaps that's what the Lord was referring to in these verses. 

14 Behold, I, the Lord, in the beginning blessed the waters; but in the last days, by the mouth of my servant John, I cursed the waters.
15 Wherefore, the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters.
16 And it shall be said in days to come that none is able to go up to the land of Zion upon the waters, but he that is upright in heart.
17 And, as I, the Lord, in the beginning cursed the land, even so in the last days have I blessed it, in its time, for the use of my saints, that they may partake the fatness thereof.
18 And now I give unto you a commandment that what I say unto one I say unto all, that you shall forewarn your brethren concerning these waters, that they come not in journeying upon them, lest their faith fail and they are caught in snares;
(Doctrine and Covenants 61:14–18)

In this case, the boats on the Missouri River were caught in literal snares.

These passages are also interesting to consider in light of Helaman 3. In the days of the Nephites, the waters were not cursed.

10 And it came to pass as timber was exceedingly scarce in the land northward, they did send forth much by the way of shipping.
11 And thus they did enable the people in the land northward that they might build many cities, both of wood and of cement. [Note: not stone and cement. The Hopewell constructed homes using wood and cement. Reconstructions of this technique are found in several museums in the Midwestern U.S.]

14 But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.
(Helaman 3:10–14)

Regarding the curse on the waters, the lesson manual points out:

Are all waters cursed by the Lord?

The Lord’s warning in Doctrine and Covenants 61 was, in part, a warning about the dangers His people could face while traveling to Zion on the Missouri River, which was known at that time for being dangerous. This warning should not be interpreted to mean that we should avoid traveling by water. The Lord has “all power,” including power over the waters (verse 1).


The lesson summarizes Section 62 with good questions we can each ask ourselves.

The Lord wants me to make some decisions “as seemeth [me] good.”

Sometimes the Lord gives us specific direction, and other matters He leaves up to us to decide. How do you see this principle illustrated in Doctrine and Covenants 62? (see also Doctrine and Covenants 60:561:22). How have you seen this principle in your life? Why is it good for us to make some decisions without specific direction from God?


Sunday, May 30, 2021

May 24-30: D&C 58-59

This lesson covers revelations given in Jackson County, Missouri. 

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. 

https://howtozion.blogspot.com/

_____

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. 

People traveled over the Oregon Trail by foot or on horseback from about 1811 to 1840. In 1836, a wagon trail was organized in Independence. The trail had been cleared to Fort Hall in Idaho. 



An excellent interactive map helps clarify the locations of these events in Church history. 

Click on this link:

https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/maps/historic-sites/missouri/routes-to-and-from-missouri/missouri-map-2b?lang=eng




When I read sections 58-59, and I think of the Lord's desire for the Saints to build Zion there, I think of Elder Uchtdorf's talk in the October 2020 General Conference titled "God Will Do Something Unimaginable."


How many times in the early years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did the Saints despair and wonder if God had forgotten them? But through persecutions, perils, and threats of extermination, the Lord God of Israel had something else in mind for His little flock. Something unimaginable.

What do we learn from these examples—and the hundreds of others in the scriptures?

What is needed during times of crisis is calm and clear-headed trust.

How do we do this?

We face the facts and return to the fundamentals, to the basic gospel principles, to what matters most.
You strengthen your private religious behavior—like prayer and scripture study and keeping God’s commandments. You make the decisions based on best proven practices.

Focus on the things you can do and not on the things you cannot do.

My dear friends, my beloved brothers and sisters, God will watch over and shepherd you during these times of uncertainty and fear. 

He knows you. He hears your pleas. He is faithful and dependable. He will fulfill His promises.

God has something unimaginable in mind for you personally and the Church collectively—a marvelous work and a wonder.

Section 59 was given shortly after the land was consecrated for the future temple in Independence. Here are some photos I've taken in Independence that give a sense of what it's like now. We'll discuss these in more detail in future weeks.







Sunday, May 23, 2021

May 17-23: D&C 51-57

This week covers seven sections received in Kirtland, Ohio, in May and June, 1831. When we study these sections in historical context, we can see how reading the D&C in light of the Book of Mormon tells us a lot about the Book of Mormon.  

We see why, when people take tours of Church history sites, they are also taking tours of Book of Mormon sites.
_____

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:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/media/maps

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."

Despite all of this obvious connection between the Lamanites and the "Indians that now inhabit this country," some Latter-day Saints wonder who the Lamanites are today.

_____

There are some helpful maps and explanations of Church history in the area of Missouri at this link:

https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/maps/historic-sites/missouri/routes-to-and-from-missouri/missouri-map-2b?lang=eng

Many people have visited these historic sites in recent years. The Church has done tremendous restoration work to help us understand and visualize the historic events that took place in these locations. 

I found an Ensign article from 1979 that shows how the sites looked before they were restored. 


The Deseret News also has a series titled "Picturing History" that includes the Leman Copley farm.

_____

These sections are full of awesome teachings and insights. Let's look at a few.

9 And let them journey from thence preaching the word by the way, saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written, and that which is taught them by the Comforter through the prayer of faith. (D&C 52:9)

Here we see the importance of sticking with what the prophets and apostles have written, along with what the Comforter teaches us, or prompts us to say.

So far, we haven't seen anyplace in the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord instructs us to teach what scholars and intellectuals say, or to follow them instead of the prophets and apostles.

33 Yea, verily I say, let all these take their journey unto one place, in their several courses, and one man shall not build upon another’s foundation, neither journey in another’s track. (D&C 52:33)

This simple instruction about moving to Missouri is full of meaning for each of us in our mortal journey. We're all heading to one place, but we each have our "several courses" that we take to get there. We also don't build on another's foundation because we are responsible to build our own foundation. We can't "journey in another's track" because we each have our own journey and life lessons to learn.

But regardless of our individual course, foundation, and track, "He that is faithful, the same shall be kept and blessed with much fruit." (D&C 52:34)

To use President Nelson's terminology, "lazy learners" like to rely on the foundations built by whichever scholars they prefer. They journey in the courses and tracks set out for them by the scholars. However, "engaged learners" study for themselves, create their own foundations and pursue their own courses and tracks.

The Lord also emphasized that whatever course or track we're on, we must "remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple." (D&C 52:40)

Along these lines, let's end with this passage, which emphasizes the point of establishing Zion. I discuss these principles each week in the How to Zion blog:


14 Behold, thus saith the Lord unto my people—you have many things to do and to repent of; for behold, your sins have come up unto me, and are not pardoned, because you seek to counsel in your own ways.
15 And your hearts are not satisfied. And ye obey not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.
16 Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!
17 Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!
18 But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs.
19 For behold, the Lord shall come, and his recompense shall be with him, and he shall reward every man, and the poor shall rejoice;
20 And their generations shall inherit the earth from generation to generation, forever and ever. 
(Doctrine and Covenants 56:14–20)


















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)