July 12, 2007

The Mysteries of The Kingdom

Brigham Young
August 14, 1853 

I find it paradoxical that the more I read, the more I learn, the more I realize I really don't know all that much. I remember a “Zits” comic in which the teenage character tells his mom that the older he gets the more frightened he is to realize that everyone might be as clueless as he is.

Concerning being knowledgeable, Brigham Young stood before a congregation years ago and admitted much the same thing: he didn’t know everything. There are things hidden from view; even from prophets of God:

Jesus said to his disciples, to them it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them that were without, it was not given. If we were to examine the subject closely, we should learn that a very scanty portion of the things of the kingdom were ever revealed, even to the disciples. 
If we were prepared to gaze upon the mysteries of the kingdom, as they are with God, we should then know that only very small portion of them has been handed out here and there. God, by His Spirit, has revealed many things to His people, but, in almost all cases, He has straightway shut up the vision of the mind. He will let His servants gaze upon eternal things for a moment, but straightway the vision is closed, and they are left as they were, that they may learn to act by faith, or as the Apostle has it, not walking by sight, but by faith. (JD 1:264)
While this may cause consternation among some believers (not to mention those critical of the idea of prophets) the reality is no one knows everything there is to know in this mortal life; we see through a glass darkly, as Paul noted (1 Cor. 13:12).

The scriptures teach that Jesus Christ was subject to the same mortal conditions we face, that he learned as he went along, growing not just physically but also in “wisdom,” albeit perhaps in a more rapid and detailed sense (perhaps due to premortal abilities and/or accomplishments?1) Even with all Christ knew there may have been at least one thing withheld from his knowledge during his mortal life. For example, it appears he was unclear on when the second coming would occur, which seems to have been revealed after he was resurrected.2

Other prophets talked about areas wherein they lacked full knowledge. Joseph Smith seemed intent on discovering when the second coming would be, but was effectively told “you will have to wait” (see D&C 130:14-17). Likewise, when Nephi was asked by the Spirit in a vision about the meaning of some of the things he saw he replied that he knew God loved Him, but he did not know the meaning of all things (see 1 Nephi 11:17).

As further light and knowledge is revealed, seekers wouldn't worry about previously held ideas being overturned; but should be ready to embrace truth as God revealed it. Some of the doctrine easily accepted today was difficult for earlier saints to grasp. The concept of three degrees of glory, rather than their classic heaven/hell beliefs, and other doctrines sometimes troubled some.3

Joseph Smith discussed the phenomenon five months before he was killed by a mob at Carthage:
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. 
How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.4
Some revelations are too “meaty” for all to digest right now; or to even comprehend or communicate, such as when Christ was among the Nephites and prayed in a language they couldn’t even write, yet they understood (see 3 Nephi 17). Some truths are expected to be kept secret, as when Christ instructed His disciples at times to “tell no one” regarding things they had witnessed with Him (see Mark 9:9 and Alma 12:9). Other things, such as the exact age, nature and method of creation of the earth, have not been fully revealed; and are not pertinent to salvation at this time. Possibly these have perfect explanations, but it has not been revealed yet.5

Whereas some truths aren’t revealed because we don’t make personal attempts to seek them out. (1 Nephi 10:19; 15:7-8; Alma 12:10-11). How long will this process of learning take? A very long time, as Brigham said in a previous sermon:
But I am proud to say of my religion, I have studied it faithfully for twenty-two years, day and night, at home and abroad, upon the rivers, and upon the lakes, when traveling by sea and by land; have studied it in the pulpit; from morning till night; whatsoever might be my pursuit, I have studied it with as close an application any college student ever did any subject he wished to commit to memory; and I can say I have only just got into the A B C of it; it leads the vision of my mind into eternity." (JD 1:41)
When Joseph Smith said we believe all that God has revealed, all he is now revealing, and that he’ll reveal many “great and important things” in the future, he knew we must be ready for the new knowledge (see the 9th Article of Faith). Hugh B. Brown talked about our need to prepare for this further light and knowledge. He knew we would face issues that can try our faith; but with prayerful patience and humility, we can continue keeping the faith as we learn and grow:
[W]hile I believe all that God has revealed, I am not quite sure that I understand what he has revealed. The fact that he has promised further revelation is to me a challenge to keep an open mind and to be prepared to follow wherever my search for truth may lead… 
We have been blessed with much knowledge by revelation from God which, in some part, the world lacks. But there is an incomprehensibly greater part of truth which we must yet discover. Our revealed truth should leave us stricken with the knowledge of how little we really know. It should never lead to an emotional arrogance based upon a false assumption that we somehow have all the answers--that we in fact have a corner on truth, for we do not… continue your search for truth. And maintain humility sufficient to be able to revise your hypotheses as new truth comes to you by means of the spirit or the mind. Salvation, like education, is an ongoing process… 
I think the expression "Keep it cool" is peculiar to your age, but it means in reality: "Do not be impatient." Too many young people are so impatient that when they press an electric button, they can't wait for the answer... Remember, there is a power greater than yourselves upon which you may call.6
Patience, humility, prayer, study and a desire to learn the mysteries of God will help us grow from grace to grace until we know “the truth of all things" (see Moroni 10:5). Earlier Brigham commented on this, explaining what he viewed as the greatest mystery of all:
I will here remark, that it is natural for the people to desire to know a great deal of the MYSTERIES… The greatest mystery a man ever learned, is to know how to control the human mind, and bring every faculty and power of the same in subjection to Jesus Christ; this is the greatest mystery we have to learn while in these tabernacles of clay (JD 1:46-47).7

D&C 130:18-19 “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” (Coupled with Abraham 3, speaking of “keeping the first estate,” and the differences in the intelligences, perhaps this scripture also applies to the premortal life.)  

Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”  

D&C 93:12-13 “And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness…” 
Matthew 24:36 "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”  

D&C 49:7 “I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes.”  

Note before the resurrection Christ says only the Father knows but after the resurrection he does not make that distinction. This is conjecture on my part, I welcome any further light on the subject. One other instance of a lack of knowledge comes to mind: when Christ asked “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46.) though this could be read several different ways. Note also that all of the acts of Christ were not recorded: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen" (John 21:25). 

Brigham Young was somewhat thrown by the three degrees of glory:

In the days of Joseph, when the revelation came to him and Sidney Rigdon, while translating that portion of the New Testament contained in the 29th verse of the third chapter of John, in reference to the different degrees of glory, I was not prepared to say that I believed it, and I had to wait. What did I do? I handed this over to the Lord in my feelings, and said I, “I will wait until the spirit of God manifests to me, for or against.” I did not judge the matter, I did not argue against it, not in the least. I never argued the least against anything Joseph proposed, but if I could not see or understand it, I handed it over to the Lord. This is my counsel to you, my brethren and sisters… (JD, 18:247).
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.331.

Brigham Young, among others, taught that miracles or "mysteries" have logical explanations:

In reality there can be no miracle, only to the ignorant. There are spiritual agents, invisible to the natural eye, not only in us, but in the elements, in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, who are continually producing effects, the cause of which we cannot comprehend (JD 1:88).
Hugh B. Brown, "An Eternal Quest-Freedom of the Mind," speech delievered to the BYU student body on May 13, 1969.

Brigham said before we can receive more we need to improve on what we already have:

If the people are anxious to learn the ways of the Lord, if they wish to see the hand of God made manifest, if they wish to have the visions and revelations of Jesus Christ given in profusion, perhaps the Lord is now using the very means to bring them to that point where they will be obliged to seek Him for themselves. They have been besought by day and by night, and from year to year, to humble themselves before the Lord, to live their religion, and to walk in the light of eternity. They have been plead with to live so that they can know the mind and will of the Lord for themselves, and for that which they preside over: at the same time, not to be too anxious for the Lord to give revelation, and make Himself known, but rather to be very anxious and very tenacious to improve upon what He has already given-this is our duty (JD 2:279).
He also discussed mysteries and a lack of full knowledge elsewhere:

You will hear more with regard to the doctrine, that is, our "Marriage Relations." Elder Hyde says he has only just dipped into it, but, if it will not be displeasing to him, I will say he has not dipped into it yet; he has only run round the edge of the field. He has done so beautifully, and it will have its desired effect. But the whole subject of the marriage relation is not in my reach, nor in any other man's reach on this earth. It is without beginning of days or end of years; it is a hard matter to reach (JD 2:88).
Brigham said before we can receive more we need to improve on what we already have:

If the people are anxious to learn the ways of the Lord, if they wish to see the hand of God made manifest, if they wish to have the visions and revelations of Jesus Christ given in profusion, perhaps the Lord is now using the very means to bring them to that point where they will be obliged to seek Him for themselves. They have been besought by day and by night, and from year to year, to humble themselves before the Lord, to live their religion, and to walk in the light of eternity. They have been plead with to live so that they can know the mind and will of the Lord for themselves, and for that which they preside over: at the same time, not to be too anxious for the Lord to give revelation, and make Himself known, but rather to be very anxious and very tenacious to improve upon what He has already given-this is our duty (JD 2:279).

Heber C. Kimball added his testimony of a lack of full knowledge:

I reflect many times upon these things, and am thankful that I know and possess the truth in a degree, still am aware that there are thousands of things before us which I have not yet attained to. The only way for us to be useful to one another is to take a course to build upon the principles of truth, and never to suffer ourselves to cultivate any but the principles of right (JD 2:354).

July 11, 2007

Do Church leaders still receive specific revelations for the Church?

Brigham Young
Feb. 14, 1853

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes God continues to reveal His will to us through personal revelation as well as to modern prophets. The Lord told the saints in 1831:

Yea, blessed art they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall…be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time--they that are faithful and diligent before me (D&C 59:3-4).
We are promised revelations in our time, and sometimes the question is asked: “Where are the new revelations today? Why aren’t there more sections added to the Doctrine and Covenants? Does President Hinckley [now Monson] still receive direction from God?”

These questions aren’t new; similar questions have been asked since the time Joseph Smith walked out of the sacred grove in 1820. At one point Joseph instructed the brethren that they had not been careful enough with the revelations of God, and unless they kept better records they would reach a point when they needed an answer God had already revealed, and would be at a loss. This is one of the reasons Wilford Woodruff became such a prodigious journal keeper. In essence, Joseph told the brethren they should not expect God to keep revealing something he had already revealed.[1]

In 1853 Brigham Young addressed the saints on the Temple block where the Salt Lake temple was yet to be built. He had been hounded a little by members who wondered why they hadn’t received a written revelation about building the Salt Lake temple from their prophet, Brigham Young:
If the inquiry is in the hearts of the people-"Does the Lord require the building of a temple at our hands?" I can say that He requires it just as much as ever He required one to be built elsewhere.

If you should ask, "Brother Brigham, have you any knowledge concerning this?
Have you ever had a revelation from heaven upon it?" I can answer truly, it is before me all the time… if the people and the Lord required it, I would give a written revelation, but let the people do the things they know to be right…
Brigham said Joseph Smith followed the same principle:
Concerning revelations pertaining to building temples, I will give you the words of our beloved Prophet [Joseph Smith] while he was yet living upon the earth...

He was frequently speaking upon the building of temples in Kirtland, Missouri, and Illinois. When the people refused in Kirtland to build a temple, unless by a special revelation, it grieved his heart that they should be so penurious in their feelings as to require the Lord to command them to build a house to His name. It was not only grievous to him, but to the Holy Spirit also. He frequently said that if it were not for the covetousness of the people, the Lord would not give revelations concerning the building of temples, for we already knew all about them; the revelations giving us the order of the Priesthood make known to us what is wanting in that respect at our hands…

But I trust this people do not require commanding, every day of their lives, to pray, to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them: I trust they do not want a special command for this; if not, upon the same principle, they will not want any commandment upon the subject of building a temple, more than what is before them...

The Prophet's feelings were often wounded because he was under the necessity of giving commandments concerning duties that were already before the people,
until the temple was completed; but had he not done so, the temple would not have been built; had he waited until the minds of the people were opened, and they were led to see and do their duty, without commandment, he would have been slain before the keys of the Priesthood could have been committed to others, but the Lord put it into his heart to give this power to his brethren before his martyrdom...
The Lord had told Joseph and the early saints that it wasn’t “meet” for him to command us in all things, and that those who must be compelled in all things are not wise, but slothful (D&C 58:26). Indeed, the Church is still receiving revelations, though not all revelations are published in the Doctrine and Covenants.[2]

Brigham assured the Saints revelations were still "pouring" down from heaven:

We can only enjoy the kingdom we have labored to make. If you say that you want mysteries, commandments, and revelations, I reply that scarcely a Sabbath passes over your heads, those of you who come here, without your having the revelations of Jesus Christ poured upon you like water on the ground.

"Why do you not write them, brother Brigham?"

I will tell you one reason why: I expect that they will be one of these days, but I expect that you will have them written when God and His faithful servants have suffered enough from the ignorance, foolishness, wickedness, and slothfulness of the people, from their slowness of heart to believe, and from their unrighteous dealing one with another...

Many are pleading for revelations; do you suppose that Saints lack revelations? They have plenty of them, and they are stored in the archives of those who have understanding of the principles of the Priesthood, ready to be brought forth as the people need (JD 3:337).
Likewise, President Spencer W. Kimball said those revelations are still recorded today (at least, they were when he was prophet; I am assuming the same occurs today.)

A year before the last revelation published in the Doctrine and Covenants was received he said:
There are those who would assume that with the printing and binding of these sacred records, that would be the "end of the prophets." But again we testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day.

We testify also that there is, since 1830...and will continue to be, so long as the time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord. Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication. I say, in the deepest of humility, but also by the power and force of a burning testimony in my soul, that from the prophet of the Restoration to the prophet of our own year, the communication line is unbroken, the authority is continuous, a light, brilliant and penetrating, continues to shine. The sound of the voice of the Lord is a continuous melody and a thunderous appeal. For nearly a century and a half there has been no interruption.” (Ensign, May 1977, p. 78, emphasis added.)[3]
As has been pointed out by notable authorities such as President Benson, Elder Oaks and Elder Scott, God usually inspires us and the church with the overall objectives, and expects us to study it out and work out methods and details.[4]

Likewise, Brigham had seen a vision of the Temple, but also knew other inspired men could help improve it:
Concerning this house, I wish to say, if we are prospered we will soon show you the likeness of it, at least upon paper, and then if any man can make any improvement in it, or if he has faith enough to bring one of the old Nephites along, or an angel from heaven, and he can introduce improvements, he is at liberty so to do.

But wait until I dictate, and construct it to the best of my ability, and according to the knowledge I possess, with the wisdom God shall give me, and with the assistance of my brethren; when these are exhausted, if any improvement can be made, all good men upon the earth are at liberty to introduce their improvements.
Some critics accuse Latter-day Saints of blindly following their church leaders. In reality, we have been instructed to seek knowledge for ourselves, that we can know by direct revelation from God if his prophets are inspired.[5] So if all the new revelations aren't added to the Doctrine and Covenants, where can we turn? Do we have more than the Standard Works to guide us?

At least twice, President Harold B. Lee said we can turn to the most recent Conference Report:
As the Latter-day Saints go home, it would be well if they consider seriously the importance of taking with them the report of this conference and let it be the guide to their walk and talk during the next six months. These are the important matters the Lord sees fit to reveal to this people in this day ... (Harold B. Lee, April 1946, emphasis added).
If you want to know what the Lord has for this people at the present time, I would admonish you to get and read the discourses that have been delivered at this conference, for what these brethren have spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost is the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto Salvation (Harold B. Lee, April 8, 1973).
While we shouldn’t seek to be guided in all things, Brother Brigham told the Saints our duty is to obey God, keeping in mind that further revelation may occur, and that we ought to receive it cheerfully:
It is for us to do those things which the Lord requires at our hands, and leave the result with Him. It is for us to labor with a cheerful goodwill; and if we build a temple that is worth a million of money, and it requires all our time and means, we should leave it with cheerful hearts, if the Lord in His providence tells us so to do. If the Lord permits our enemies to drive us from it, why we should abandon it with as much cheerfulness of heart as we ever enjoy a blessing. It is no matter to us what the Lord does, or how He disposes of the labor of His servants. But when He commands, it is for His people to obey (Brigham Young, JD 1:277-280, all emphasis added).
In a later sermon, he summed up the principle of revelation as follows:
It is only where experience fails, that revelation is needed," (JD 2:1).
We should seek to be led by God by following His appointed prophets, as well as our own personal revelation. Prophets, like us, may not “know the meaning of all things,” but we can live by faith knowing that the Lord “loveth His children,” (see 1 Nephi 11:17). Typically, Latter-day Saints today don't expect earth-shattering new revelations. As Elder M. Russell Ballard recently explained in an interview regarding presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

In a rare interview with Elder Russell Ballard, an Apostle of the church and one its 15 top leaders, Ballard said that faithful Mormons are obliged to follow the tenets of any revelation. But major revelations are "infrequent today because the foundation of the Church is solidly in place."[6]
As we seek, one final warning is proper: Brigham warned the Saints not to ask for more than they were willing to follow, nor should they expect more when they haven't lived up to what they had already been given:

There is one principle that I do wish the people would observe, that is, do not ask God to give you knowledge, when you are confident that you will not keep and rightly improve upon that knowledge. It is a mercy in God that many are as ignorant as they are, for were it not so they would not be borne with as they are. Do not ask for revelations to dictate you in this, that, or the other, unless you are sure that you can obey them.

Do not suffer yourselves to falter in your faith, and to say that the door of revelation is closed, for I tell you that there are now too many for your good, unless you hearken more diligently than you have hitherto, unless you apply more closely in your lives what is revealed and live your religion more faithfully (JD 3:337-338).


The importance of keeping records:
See Opening the Heavens, page forthcoming.

B. H. Roberts:
“President Woodruff rendered a most important service to the church. His Journals, regularly and methodically and neatly kept and strongly bound, . . . constitute an original documentary historical treasure which is priceless. The church is indebted to these Journals for a reliable record of discourses and sayings of the Prophet of the New Dispensation—Joseph Smith—which but for him would have been lost forever.

The same is true as to the discourses and sayings of Brigham Young, and other leading elders of the church; [and] for minutes of important council meetings, decisions, judgments, policies, and many official actions of a private nature, without which the writer of history may not be able to get right viewpoints on many things—in all these respects these Journals of President Woodruff are invaluable.”
(Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 6:354–55.)

The church still receives revelation on a regular basis:
Elder John A. Widstoe of the Council of the Twelve once told of a discussion he had with a group of stake officers. In the course of the discussion someone said to him, “Brother Widstoe, how long has it been since the Church received a revelation?” Brother Widstoe rubbed his chin thoroughly and said in reply, “Oh, probably since last Thursday." (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, pp. 132-33.)

Orson Hyde on continuing revelation in the Church:
"The words contained in this Bible are merely a history of what is gone by; it was never given to guide the servant of God in the course he should pursue, any more than the words and commandments of God, given to a generation under one set of circumstances, would serve for another generation under another set of circumstances. There must be something to suggest or to draw forth the command to answer the circumstance under which we are placed at the time.
It is so with the servants of God.

There is a Spirit that is ever ready, and points out, under varied and conflicting circumstances, the very course which the servants of God should pursue. The Bible is not a sufficient guide; it is only the history of the people who lived 1800 years ago. The history of our Church in this day, presents the scenes and transactions of this people-the revelations and words of God to them; but if an individual living an hundred, or eighteen hundred, years hence, under different circumstances, were to adopt the history of this people for his guide in all things, he would not find it sufficient to answer the circumstances surrounding him," (JD 2:75).

Elsewhere, President Kimball said:
"Follow the living prophet.
I had a young man recently about forty years of age who got into the cultist program. He studied the Journal of Discourses until he nearly knew them by heart. I confess that he knew them infinitely better than I did. However, he was depending wholly upon himself and his own interpretation of the program and was moving farther and farther away from the truth. He said, "I know more about the sermons of the brethren in the days of Joseph and Brigham and Heber C. than does the President of the Church, or any of the apostles, or any of the stake presidents or the bishops. Why should I go to them?" And, I tried to point out to him that we have revelation these days as well as in the days of Joseph and Brigham and Heber C., and that the present-day leaders have exactly the same communication system and that it operates and is in effect. He would not go to his pastors, apostles, and prophets but depended upon himself. This young man became bold enough to say that President McKay may be a good man but that he was a false prophet. (11/2/62)

He is a prophet. He does not just occupy a prophet's chair; he does not just have a title of prophet, he is a real prophet and he is responsible for... more revelations in his fifteen years of leadership than are in all the Doctrine and Covenants. They are not in the Doctrine and Covenants. We do not print them anymore like that. We put them out in handbooks and by directives and by letters, and our files and vaults are full of them.... I could take time to tell you of these revelations -- temples that have been appointed, people who have been called, apostles who have been chosen, great new movements that have been established, great new eras, great new challenges as we have here today. They came by revelation. I want you to know he is a prophet. Don't you question it. I do not know who will be his successor, but whoever it is will be a great prophet, and you need not ever worry. I had a man of great promise the other day in my office and he said, "I wonder who would lead the Church when President McKay dies?" I said, "I do not know. I do not even care to know. It does not matter." But, I said to him, "Whoever it is, he will be a real prophet of God." (66-12)" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Pg.446-447).

We should not seek to be “commanded in all things”:
Ezra Taft Benson:
Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but he expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and his prophets, and then prayerfully act— without having to be commanded “in all things.” This attitude prepares men for godhood (“Not Commanded In All Things,” Conference Report, April 1965, p. 121).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
Revelations from God - the teachings and directions of the Spirit - are not constant. We believe in continuing revelation, not continuous revelation. We are often left to work our problems without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in morality. Fortunately, we are never out of our Savior's sight, and if our judgment leads us to actions beyond the limits of what is permissible and if we are listening to the still, small voice, the Lord will restrain us by the promptings of His Spirit
("Teaching and Learning by the Spirit," Ensign, March 1997, 14).

Richard G. Scott:
Most often what we have chosen to do is right. He will confirm the correctness of our choices His way. That confirmation generally comes through packets of help found along the way. We discover them by being spiritually sensitive. They are like notes from a loving Father as evidence of His approval. If, in trust, we begin something which is not right, He will let us know before we have gone too far. We sense that help by recognizing troubled or uneasy feelings
(“Recognizing Answers to Prayer,” Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1989, 38–41).

Personal revelation verifies revelation of our leaders:

President Henry D. Moyle:
We can tell when the speakers are moved by the Holy Ghost only when we ourselves are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Therefore, it is essential that the membership of the Church be just as diligent in their faith as their leaders
(“Revelation: Yesterday and Today,” Improvement Era, June 1962, 407).

Brigham Young:
What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not (Brigham Young, JD 9:150).

Harold B. Lee:
This is what has been said, in effect, in this conference: Unless every member of this Church gains for himself an unshakable testimony of the divinity of this Church, he will be among those who will be deceived in this day when the “elect according to the covenant” are going to be tried and tested. Only those will survive who have gained for themselves that testimony (Conference Report, October, 1950).

CNNPolitics.com article To understand Romney, you must understand his mission, by Gary Tuchman. Accessed 01-28-2008

July 10, 2007

"Many of the noble and great ones..."

On Priesthood and Heir-ship Parley P. Pratt April 10, 1853

It may seem a paradox that we are told “God is no respecter of persons,” and at the same time learn that God selected “many of the noble and great ones” in the pre-mortal life and foreordained them to be rulers on earth (see Acts 10:34; Abraham 3:22-23).

Was God playing favorites, then? I believe all mankind are equal, but I need to qualify that remark, defining what I mean by “equal.”

Parley P. Pratt stood in a general conference and did just that:

In the first place, if all men were created alike, if all had the same degree of intelligence and purity of disposition, all would be equal. But, notwithstanding the declaration of American sages, and of the fathers of our country, to the contrary, it is a fact that all beings are not equal in their intellectual capacity, in their dispositions, and in the gifts and callings of God. It is a fact that some beings are more intelligent than others, and some are endowed with abilities or gifts which others do not possess.

Intelligence, the substance our spirits are comprised of, is uncreated, and has its own characteristics.[1] God embodied this intelligence, becoming the Father of our spirits. The exact details of this process haven’t- to my knowledge- been revealed, but it seems any equality among God’s children, then, is based in opportunity, rather than ability.

The purposes of God in foreordaining certain intelligences to be rulers seems to be affording the best possible opportunity to everyone; placing them in the position in which they will most likely excel and most likely bless others.

Parley continued:

It is a fixed law of nature that the higher intelligence presides over, or has more or less influence over, or control of, that which is less… Although some eternal intelligences may be superior to others, and although some are more noble, and consequently are elected to fill certain useful and necessary offices for the good of others, yet the greater and the less may both be innocent, and both be justified, and be useful, each in their own capacity; if each magnify their own calling, and act in their own capacity, it is all right.

This is consistent with the point Paul was making in an epistle to the Corinthians:

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you (1 Corinthians 12:18-21).

We all need each other:

The Lord, in surveying the eternal intelligences which stood before Him, found some more noble or intellectual than others, who were equally innocent. This being so, He exercised the elective franchise upon wise principles, and, like a good and kind father among his children, He chose those for rulers who were most capable of benefiting the residue. Among these was our noble ancestor, Abraham...

If the choices we make in this life effect our condition in the next, it is consistent to understand the choices we made in the pre-mortal life effect of condition in the current life. Being foreordained, however, does not imply we lose our agency, or that our fate is fixed; the foreordination promises us the opportunity; but we must make the most of it:

But, notwithstanding this pre-election in passing the veil, and entering a tabernacle of flesh, [Abraham] became a little child, forgot all he had once known in the heavens, and commenced anew to receive intelligence in this world, as is the case with all. He therefore was necessitated to come up by degrees, receive an experience, be tried and proved. And when he had been sufficiently proved according to the flesh, the Lord manifested to him the election before exercised towards him in the eternal world. He then renewed that election and covenant, and blessed him, and his seed after him.

Abraham grew from “grace to grace,” just as the Savior did, and we are to “do the works of Abraham,” and also follow Christ.[2] He was promised that through his seed, his posterity, his descendants, the entire world would be blessed. Many noble and great ones were chosen to enter the world through a righteous family, or where the gospel would reach them:

Now, Abraham…brought upon his posterity, as well as upon himself, that which will influence them more or less to the remotest generations of time, and in eternity… It is with a view of the noble spirits of the eternal world coming through their lineage, and being taught in the commandments of God. Hence the Prophets, Kings, Priests, Patriarchs, Apostles, and even Jesus Christ, were included in the election of Abraham, and of his seed, as manifested to him in an eternal covenant.

Truly this shows that God plays favorites; but all are favorites:

What is more natural, more useful, or just, than for a father who discovers the several abilities or adaptations of his children, to appoint them their several callings or occupations?... Dressing a vine, ploughing a field, harvesting, or building is just as necessary as teaching, or administering the ordinances of salvation; one acts in one capacity, and the other in another, but they are mutually blessed and benefited by their separate callings and endowments.

Those not born into the lineage of Abraham will still be able to receive every blessing from God, if they obey the same principles:

They are of the royal blood of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and have a right to claim the ordination and endowments of the Priesthood, inasmuch as they repent, and obey the Lord God of their fathers. Those who are not of this lineage, whether they are Gentiles, Edomites or Ishmaelites, or of whatever nation, have a right to remission of sins and the Gift of the Holy Spirit, through their ministry, on conditions of faith, repentance, and baptism, in the name of Jesus Christ. Through this Gospel they are adopted into the same family, and are counted for the seed of Abraham … No matter whether we are descended from Melchizedeck, from Edom, from Ishmael, or whether we be Jews or Gentiles. On the principles of Gospel adoption, the blessing is broad enough to gather all good, penitent, obedient people under its wings, and to extend to all nations the principles of salvation (Journal of Discourses 1:257-264).

Nephi explained God's position thusly:
Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God (1 Nephi 17:35).
God's ultimate end in this plan is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” (see Moses 1:39). We’ve been taught there is a difference between immortality and eternal life. Everyone will live forever, but eternal life is God’s life; it is perfection.[3] This is a stunning truth revealed in our time by the prophet Joseph Smith, and it receives a lot of criticism. Even dreaming that we can become like God, some say, is presumptuous, it is self-aggrandizing, it is selfish. In reality, those characteristics would actually prevent one from becoming like God. Brigham Young once said the Spirit lit up his weaknesses, as well as his strengths. Lorenzo Snow talked about that principle:

…the Priesthood was bestowed upon you, as upon the Son of God himself, for no other purpose than that, through sacrifice, you might be proven, that, peradventure, at the last day, you might stand approved before God, and before perfect and holy beings: and that, in order to merit this divine approval, it may be necessary to forget self and individual aggrandizement and seek the interest of your brethren (Journal of Discourses 18:371).

Even though Lorenzo Snow was, presumably, foreordained to become a prophet in the last dispensation, he realized what the ultimate goal, the ultimate challenge really was, and encouraged all to follow:
“The position which I now occupy is nothing as compared with what I expect to occupy in the future…[our] destiny is to become like [our] Father, a God in eternity…This thought in the breasts of men filled with the light of the Holy spirit, tends to purify them and cleanse them from every ambitious or improper feeling.” (At a meeting of the First Presidency in the council of the Twelve, recorded in BYU Special collections, Microfilm Reel number 1, page 209).

Jesus Christ has shown the way to perfection, and we’ve been given the best opportunity to achieve it, if we follow Him.


[1] Joseph Smith:

"The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end…Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle" (TPJS, pp. 353-54). Parley P. Pratt:

“It may be inquired, why God made one unequal to another, or inferior in intellect or capacity. To which I reply, that He did not create their intelligence at all. It never was created, being an inherent attribute of the eternal element called spirit, which element composes each individual spirit, and which element exists in an infinitude of degrees in the scale of intellect, in all the varieties manifested in the eternal God, and thence to the lowest agent, which acts by its own will.” [Heirship and Priesthood, Journal of Discourses, 1:256-264] D&C 93: 29-30, 36:

“Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence…The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.”

If I read this correctly: you=intelligence, glory of God=intelligence, thus the glory of God=you; in addition to intelligence, speaking of knowledge. [2] D&C 93:12-16:

Christ received “not a fullness at first,” but received “grace for grace,” until He received the “fullness of the Father.” Lorenzo Snow:

"Jesus was a god before he came into the world and yet his knowledge was taken from him. He did not know his former greatness, neither do we know what greatness we had attained to before we came here…” (Office Journal of Lorenzo Snow, 8 October 1900, 181-82, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah). [3] Truman G. Madsen:

“The atonement was and is perfect because it empowers mankind for a perfect work: perfection.” (“The Highest In Us,” pg 6.) C.S. Lewis:

“There are no ordinary people… [we] live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.” (The Weight of Glory, pg 15.) (see also Matt. 5:40; 1 John 3; D&C 93; 132.)

July 9, 2007

Brother Brigham and the Imaginary Mr. B

Brigham Young July 24, 1853 At sundry times the question arises: “Are Mormons Christian?” While Latter-day Saints would answer “yes,” the question won't go away. The debate usually centers around a game of definitions; the people asserting Mormon’s aren’t Christian has a different definition of what a “Christian” actually is, and thus, because they define the term, they win the argument by default. For example, If I wanted to define a dog as a “four-legged mammal with a tail, brown fur and white spots,” I would be able to say a Golden Retriever isn’t a dog. That’s a ridiculous argument, but it represents the debates about Mormons being Christian. This isn’t a new question; the saints have been accused of being non-Christian from the beginning. When Christ established the gospel in the meridian of time the Jews called the “new” religion atheist, and labeled them “Christians.” The same is being done to the restored Church, asserting we believe in a different god, we are "Mormons." Brother Brigham discussed these issues by holding an imaginary dialog with a religionist he called “Mr. B.” He talked about how Mr. B accused the Mormons of not being Christians because they “reject the bible.” Brigham went on to show where Mr. B was actually the one rejecting the Bible, differing from it on issues such as the nature of God, the birth of Christ, continuing revelation, and authorized ordinances. Mr. B believed one is born again during a high energy meeting where they confess their sins, accept Christ, and are pronounced “saved,” nothing further needed. Brigham contrasted this belief with the Biblical and LDS view that acceptance of Christ involves participation in the life and ordinances he commanded. Being "saved" involves more than mere acceptance.

…we convert people by preaching repentance, and baptizing them for the remission of sins, and laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost...
Brigham might have remembered something Joseph Smith told President Martin Van Buren when asked what was different about ‘Mormonism’:
In our interview with the President, he interrogated us wherein we differed in our religion from the other religions of the day. Brother Joseph said we differed in mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. We considered that all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost (History of the Church, 4:42).
Brother Brigham told the imaginary Mr. B why "all other considerations" involve the Holy Ghost:
"[The] Spirit broods over them continually for their good, heals their bodies, enlightens their minds, and makes them humble, meek, and harmless as little children. When a person receives the Holy Ghost by legal authority, he is like a child in its mother's lap; all is harmony, praise to God, and good will to the children of men on the earth. He is full of peace, comfort, and salvation, and feels like crying hallelujah all the time. He is perfectly humble and passive, and the Lord can do with him as He pleases."
Notice the fruits of the Spirit as described by Pres. Young: health, enlightened minds, humility, meekness, love for others, becoming like a child, feeling joy, happiness and desiring to praise and serve God. As Alma said, you feel to “sing the song of redeeming love” (see Alma 5:26). But does that desire to sing last?
Will this state of feeling always remain? Will passion ever rise again? Yes; for you then commence a warfare, though the Comforter fills your heart, making you rejoice in God your Saviour, with the atmosphere of your existence clear and unclouded; this is not to continue, but soon the day of trial and temptation darkens the fair prospect, to teach you to lean on the Lord, and to overcome the world. Under the influence of the Holy Ghost I have felt as happy as I possibly could feel, my heart has been full of joy; I cling to that, and hold fast to the promise of the Lord in the hour of temptation, and call upon Him to give me strength to overcome.
As Brigham points out, even after receiving the Holy Ghost we are tempted, we make mistakes, and in times of trouble it is important to cling to the spirit, or at least to the memory that the spirit was with you. Alma tells us more about enduring when our troubles come, and shows that being born again is truly a process, not a single event:
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins? (Alma 5:27).
He continues, asking if we have rid ourselves of pride, envy, mocking, persecuting others, and in general, working iniquity. There is more to be done, our days of probation were "prolonged" for that purpose (see 2 Nephi 2:21):
Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely: Yea, come unto me and bring forth works of righteousness, and ye shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire...(Alma 5:26-36).
As we draw closer to God our natures are changed, our desires for these unholy acts are lessened, we become like God. Our natures are changed by the Holy Ghost as we live worthy of it. The Spirit will not dwell in unclean temples, but it will clean a temple in order to dwell there, if we allow it. This is evidence the atonement is not only real, but is working in our lives. Elder Henry B. Eyring said it this way:
The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth. You feel peace, hope, and joy when it speaks to your heart and mind that something is true. Almost always I have also felt a sensation of light. Any feeling I may have had of darkness is dispelled. And the desire to do right grows… The increase in your desire to obey the commandments came over you gradually. You felt less and less the tug of temptation. You felt more and more the desire to be obedient and to serve others. You felt a greater love for the people. One of the effects of receiving a manifestation of the Holy Ghost repeatedly was that your nature changed. And so, from that faithful service to the Master, you had not only the witness of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ but you saw evidence in your own life that the Atonement is real (Henry B. Eyring, Gifts of the Spirit for Hard Times, BYU Speeches of the Year, 10 September 2006).
Brigham cautions that this spiritual conversion isn’t all about strong emotions and amazing tear-filled moments:
Mr. B. [preaches] upon the sympathies of the people, and especially upon the tender feelings...He will tell about their children dying and picture out the sufferings of the poor, little, tender creatures. He will tell about their husbands dying, and about wives dying and how they are lying in the lowly and silent grave. Add to this subject, which is so thrilling to the sensations of mortals, a peculiar trembling, plaintive tone, and perhaps accompanied with a shower of tears streaming down the preacher's face, and it is well calculated to disturb the equilibrium of the naturally tender hearted, throw them into tears and sobs, and make them suppose it is the operations of the Holy Spirit, when in realty there is not one word of common sense or saving truth in all the preaching.
Rather than heavy tearful emotion, the Spirit will also communicate common sense and saving truth; likely involving the two great commandments of loving God and loving our fellow man, which when obeyed, invite the Spirit more. If we follow these promptings, we will become prophets, seers, and revelators in our own spheres:
…if you will follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, every man and woman will be put in possession of the Holy Ghost; every person will become a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and an expounder of truth. They will know things that are, that will be, and that have been. They will understand things in heaven, things on the earth, and things under the earth, things of time, and things of eternity, according to their several callings and capacities.
Are Mormons Christian? When they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and walk in the path He directs, they will be changed by the atonement of Christ, they will become like him and "see Him as He is" (see 1 John 3:2). Then we will know the truth of “all things”:
[most religions] have got true principles, and they possess no truth but what belongs to 'Mormonism;' for there is not a truth on earth or in heaven, that is not embraced in 'Mormonism' (Journal of Discourses 1:233-246).
For more examples from Brigham on ways Mormonism is the true biblical Christianity, see the remainder of his discourse, here.