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.