September 14, 2007

The Spirit of Christ Is Given To Everyone

Brigham Young
December 3, 1854

The scriptures are unequivocal in teaching that the atonement of Jesus Christ wasn't a local incident; it was for everyone. Elder Dallin H. Oaks compiled some scriptures on this point:

"He suffereth the pains of all . . . , both men, women, and children. . . . And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men" (2 Nephi 9:21–22).
"The atonement . . . was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, . . . or who ever shall be" (Mosiah 4:7).
"And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, . . . all men are redeemed" (Mormon 9:13). 
"Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? . . . Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and . . . all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden" (2 Nephi 26:27–28).
It would follow that God's concern for everyone would include...everyone. I've spoken with people who tell me there isn't "one true Church" simply because people of many different religions believe they have spiritual experiences. This made me question: why do people think the spiritual experiences of those of different faiths somehow negate my own spiritual experiences? We know the "Spirit of Christ is given to every man" who enters mortality (Moroni 7:16). As Christ's atonement extends over everyone, so does His influence to do right. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes the ability of Christ's atonement to cover all, as well as the Spirit of Christ to influence all.

Brigham Young spoke about the light of Christ, expressing the belief that, even during the great apostasy, God maintained some influence over His children:
Many people believe that the Spirit of the Lord has not been upon the earth when the Gospel was not among men in its purity; they believe the Spirit of the Lord has been entirely taken from the earth since the apostasy of the Church. I do not believe for one moment that there has been a man or woman upon the face of the earth, from the days of Adam to this day, who has not been enlightened, instructed, and taught by the revelations of Jesus Christ.

"What! the ignorant heathen?"

Yes, every human being who has possessed a sane mind. I am far from believing that the children of men have been deprived of the privilege of receiving the Spirit of the Lord to teach them right from wrong. No matter what the traditions of their fathers were, those who were honest before the Lord, and acted uprightly, according to the best knowledge they had, will have an opportunity to go into the kingdom of God. I believe this privilege belonged to the sons and daughters of Adam, and descended from him, and his children who were contemporary with him, throughout all generations.
The Book of Mormon expresses the same sentiment:
[Christ's] blood atoneth for the sins of those . . . who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned (Mosiah 3:11).1
As this scripture implies, and Brigham explains, people won't be damned for following their honest beliefs. Honesty of heart is the most important factor. With this in mind, allowing men the privilege of "worshiping God according to the dictates of their own conscience," (Article of Faith 11) tolerance, is easier2:
No matter whether we are Jew or Gentile, as the two classes of people are called; though Gentile signifies disobedient people; no matter whether we believe in the Koran as firmly as we now believe in the Bible; no matter whether we have been educated by the Jews, the Gentiles, or the Hottentots; whether we serve the true and the living God, or a lifeless image, if we are honest before the God we serve…
People who fall down beneath the wheels of Juggernaut, and are crushed to death; who sacrifice their children in the worship of idols; if they act according to the best of their knowledge, there is a chance for their salvation, as much as there is for the salvation of any other person...It is what we have been taught, and what we verily believe; they have been taught the same idea, and believe it with all their hearts; then don't cast them down to hell for their honest belief.
As the atonement is universal, so is the ability of all to access God through prayer, receiving inspiration from Him:
Christ manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith (2 Nephi 26:13).
Spencer W. Kimball, in a message from the First Presidency, spoke of the inspiration given to nations of the world:
The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God´s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals…. Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal Welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father ("Statement of the First Presidency," Feb. 15, 1978).
Brigham continued his discourse, speaking of the principle of "lesser law," including governments, religion, etc. All are encompassed by Celestial Law, and all true principles, if followed, will lead to Celestial law:
The Spirit of the Lord, in teaching the people, in opening their minds to the principles of truth, does not infringe upon the laws God has given to mankind for their government; consequently, when the Lord made man, He made him an agent accountable to his God, with liberty to act and to do as he pleases, to a certain extent, in order to prove himself. There is a law that governs man thus far; but the law of the celestial kingdom, as I have frequently told you, is, and always will be, the same to all the children of Adam.
When we talk of the celestial law which is revealed from heaven, that is, the Priesthood, we are talking about the principle of salvation, a perfect system of government, of laws and ordinances, by which we can be prepared to pass from one gate to another, and from one sentinel to another, until we go into the presence of our Father and God. This law has not always been upon the earth; and in its absence, other laws have been given to the children of men for their improvement, for their education, for their government, and to prove what they would do when left to control themselves; and what we now call tradition has grown out of these circumstances.
In providing laws, God has said it is "not meet that [He] should command in all things," (see D&C 58:26). It is important for His children to learn the difference between good and evil, and act upon that knowledge:
Suffice it to say, the Lord has not established laws by which I am compelled to have my shoes made in a certain style. He has never given a law to determine whether I shall have a square-toed boot or peaked-toed boot; whether I shall have a coat with the waist just under my arms, and the skirts-down to my heels; or whether I shall have a coat like the one I have on. Intelligence, to a certain extent, was bestowed both upon Saint and sinner, to use independently, aside from whether they have the law of the Priesthood or not, or whether they have ever heard of it or not. "I put into you intelligence," saith the Lord, "that you may know how to govern and control yourselves, and make yourselves comfortable, and happy on the earth; and give unto you certain privileges to act upon as independently in your sphere, as I do in the government of heaven."
Acting independently in our sphere isn't a license to do anything we want. There are eternal laws to learn and abide by, and the nearer we get to God, the more we understand about His will. Couple the concept of "acting independently in our sphere" with the concept of the Light of Christ. If we follow the light, direction from God, it grows "brighter and brighter until the perfect day," (see D&C 50:24). Thus, any nation, kindred, tongue or people, when following the light as best they can, should act on the light of Christ as presented in the gospel, should they have the opportunity to learn of it. Brigham Young:
But when the light of the knowledge of God comes to a man and he rejects it, that it is his condemnation. When I have told all I have been authorized to declare to him in the name of the Lord, if he does not have the visions of eternity, it is all nonsense to him. To know the truth of my testimony he must have the visions and revelations of God for himself. And when he gets them, and turns aside, becoming a traitor to the cause of righteousness, the wrath of God will beat up on him, and the vengeance of the Almighty will be heavy upon him.
This comes, not because their fathers lived in darkness before them, and the ancestors of their fathers before them; not because the nations have lived and died in ignorance; but because the Lord pours the spirit of revelation upon them, and they reject it. Then they are prepared for the wrath of God, and they are banished to another part of the spirit world, where the devil has power and control over them.
Both the Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Mormon describe this process:
Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation (D&C 93:31-32).
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.

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. [The "perfect day"?]

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).
These verses from Alma practically parallel this discourse.3 As Brigham explained, Christ invites all of us to partake of His goodness, and denies none that come unto Him: "black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile" (2 Nephi 26:33; see also Alma 5:49).
No matter what the traditions of their fathers were, those who were honest before the Lord, and acted uprightly, according to the best knowledge they had, will have an opportunity to go into the kingdom of God (Brigham Young, JD 2:136-139).
The Book of Mormon also mentions one of God's methods of teaching His children, including the use of angels, and doesn't limit that use to "members of the LDS Church."
And after God had appointed that these things should come unto man, behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them; Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory. And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works (Alma 12:28-30).
Joseph Smith encouraged us to be tolerant, and realize that good truths can come from many sources: "We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true "Mormons," (History of the Church 5:517). Ecumenism isn;t a recent phenomena among certain LDS leaders.

Elder Orson F. Whitney said the gospel "embraces all truth, whether known or unknown. It incorporates all intelligence, both past and prospective. No righteous principle will ever be revealed, no truth can possibly be discovered, either in time or in eternity, that does not in some manner, directly or indirectly, pertain to the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (Elders´ Journal 4, no. 2 [Oct. 15, 1906]:26).

Parley P. Pratt emphasized that good men would be found under all creeds: The question is often asked: "Are there any honest people among this sect, and the other party?" I tell you there are honest men in every sect of religionists, and if you try to classify men, you will have a difficult job, for you will find honest men in this class and the other, and, in fact, among all classes and sects of men. You need not suppose that honesty depends upon our traditions, or upon where a man was born; but there are honest people in every community, and in every sect under heaven, and there are those that hate the truth, and that would not aid in the spread of light and truth, nor lend their influence to any servant of God under the heavens (Journal of Discourses 3:177).

Joseph Smith emphasized that he believed others had truth, and that we ought to encourage them to embrace that which they have regardless of whether they will accept ours: "The inquiry is frequently made of me. 'Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?' In reality an essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of 'Mormonism' is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may. We believe in the Great Elohim who sits enthroned in yonder heavens. So do the Presbyterians. If a skilful mechanic, in taking a welding heat, uses borax, alum, etc., and succeeds in welding together iron or steel more perfectly than any other mechanic, is he not deserving of praise? And if by the principles of truth I succeed in uniting men of all denominations in the bonds of love, shall I not have attained a good object? If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. Do you believe in Jesus Christ and the Gospel of salvation which he revealed? So do I. Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other, and cultivate the principles of union and friendship in their midst; and they will do it before the millennium can be ushered in and Christ takes possession of His kingdom....Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, etc., any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true 'Mormons'" (TPJS, 313, 316).

As is typical for a Brigham Young discourse, a few tangential points deviate from the main topic as outlined in this post. One tangent described the redemption of the Jews who will gather to Jerusalem. According to Brigham, they will be fully restored to their lands without the specific aid of missionary work by the Church:
"Jerusalem is not to be redeemed by our going there and preaching to the inhabitants. It will be redeemed by the high hand of the Almighty. It will be given into the possession of the ancient Israelites by the power of God, and by the pouring out of His judgments," (Brigham Young, JD 2:136-145).

September 13, 2007

Thoughts On The Spirit World

Brigham Young December 3, 1854 Alma the younger's rebel son Corianton had some concerns about death, and in a personal letter now published for all to read, Alma explained the concepts of death, resurrection, and the spirit world to his prodigal son, among other things:

Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection— Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.[1]

And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest,a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth," (Alma 40:11-14).

This use of the word "state" instead of "place" or "world" is instructive in relation to Brigham's sermon, which explains: 1. Where the spirit world is, 2. Who's in it, and 3. What they are doing.
It is understood, and is so written, that when the inhabitants of the earth pass through what is called the valley of death, that which is in the tabernacle leaves it, and goes into the world of spirits, which is called hades or hell. The spirits that dwell in these tabernacles on this earth, when they leave them, go directly into the world of spirits. What, a congregated mass of inhabitants there in spirit, mingling with each other, as they do here? Yes, brethren, they are there together, and if they associate together, and collect together in clans and in societies as they do here, it is their privilege. No doubt they yet, more or less, see, hear, converse, and have to do with each other, both good and bad. Jesus himself went to preach to the spirits in prison; now, as he went to preach to them, he certainly associated with them; there is no doubt of that. If the prophets went and preached to the spirits in prison, they associated with them: if the Elders of Israel in these latter times go and preach to the spirits in prison, they associate with them, precisely as our Elders associate with the wicked in the flesh, when they go to preach to them.
This reminded me of the much-misunderstood statement by Christ to the thief on the cross:
To day shalt thou be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).
Taking a closer look, the Greek word in the verse translated as "paradise" is "hades," which was translated into the Latin "infernus," and later into the English "hell." This was seen by ancient Christians as a waiting place, a place of rest, a "refrigerium," where the soul (what we would call the spirit,) waits until the resurrection when they will be judged. Modern Protestantism holds that fate is fixed at death, one is exalted to heaven or damned to a literal fiery hell. This tradition stems from the Pharisees, as noted presently: The New Testament sometimes uses the Jewish word Gehenna, for example, when Christ said "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt. 23:33), hell is translated from gehenna. In the Old Testament, Gehenna, or "Ben Hinnom valley," referred to an actual place on the southern border of ancient Jerusalem, stretching from the foot of Mt. Zion, eastward, to the Kidron Valley where pagans sacrificed children to the gods,(see Jeremiah 19:2). In Christ's day, according to Smith's Bible Dictionary, “[this valley] became the common lay-stall garbage dump of the city, where the dead bodies of criminals, and the carcasses of animals, and every other kind of filth was cast." This explains a reason why hell is now literally pictured as a fire where people burn. The restored gospel aligns not with the Pharisaical view of gehenna as hell, but with the ancient concept of paradise/hades/hell- the resting place, where righteous and wicked mingle until the resurrection. (Wikipedia has a few interesting bits on Hell.) Brigham lamented that some Christian sects deny this view of the spirit world, including the opportunity people have to learn the gospel there:
It is the ignorance and superstition of the people that contradict future progression in the world of spirits, for the Gospel does not. There is an opportunity for men who are in the spirit to receive the Gospel. Jesus, while his body lay in the grave two nights and one day, went to the world of spirits to show the brethren how they should build up the kingdom, and bring spirits to the knowledge of the truth in the spirit world; he went to set them the pattern there, as he had done on this earth. Hence you perceive that there, spirits have the privilege of embracing the truth.[2]
What's a sermon on preaching the gospel to the dead without some information on Temples?
You may ask if they are baptized there? No. Can they have hands laid upon them for the gift of the Holy Ghost? No. None of the outward ordinances that pertain to the flesh are administered there, but the light, glory, and power of the Holy Ghost are enjoyed just as freely upon this earth; and there are laws which govern and control the spirit world, and to which they are subject. Can we do anything for them? Yes. What are we trying to build a Temple for? And we shall not only build a Temple here, if we are successful, and are blessed and preserved, but we shall probably commence two or three more, and so on as fast as the work requires, for the express purpose of redeeming our dead. When I get revelation that some of my progenitor's lived and died without the blessings of the Gospel, or even hearing it preached but were as honest as I am, as upright as I am, or as any man or woman could be upon the earth; righteous, so far as they knew how, as any Apostle or Prophet that ever lived, I will go and be baptized, confirmed, washed, and anointed, and go through all the ordinances and endowments for them, that their way may be open to the celestial kingdom.
This quote is significant because it is one of the rare sermons mentioning ordinances in behalf of the dead other than baptism. Proxy endowments didn't begin until January, 1877, at the St. George Temple. Proxy work for the dead is a daunting task if we consider how many people have ever lived and died upon this earth. One lapsed member of the Church said to me "there's no way the Mormons can finish all that work." Brigham had somewhat to say on the seeming impossibility:
As I have frequently told you, that is the work of the Millennium. It is the work that has to be performed by the seed of Abraham, the chosen seed, the royal seed, the blessed of the Lord, those the Lord made covenants with. They will step forth, and save every son and daughter of Adam who will receive salvation here on the earth and all spirits in the spirit world will be preached to, conversed with, and the principles of salvation carried to them, that they may have the privilege of receiving the Gospel; and they will have plenty of children here on the earth to officiate for them in those ordinances of the Gospel that pertain to the flesh.
This shouldn't cause us to slack in our temple work for the dead; in becoming "saviors on Mount Zion" (Obadiah 1:21) by performing work for the dead we have access to the Temple; we have the opportunity to experience the endowment repeatedly. In doing these proxy endowments is it possible that one could be performed for a "wicked person," so-to speak? Indeed; endowments for the living, likewise:

Among those we administered the endowments to in Nauvoo, do you not think we administered to some who were devils, or in other words, full of the devil?

You wish to see a Temple built, and, when it is done, some poor miserable beings will come up, and say ‘We were baptized by brother So-and-so. Brother Brigham is a charming man, and what an excellent woman his wife is! Cannot we have our endowments this winter, brother Brigham?’

And they will plead with brother Kimball, and sympathize for this or that man, saying, ‘Do let him have his endowment, for he is so generous and loving; he gave a sister a pair of stockings and shoes; cannot he have his endowment?’

Well, he gets his endowment, and what for? To go to California, and reveal everything he can, and stir up wickedness, and prepare himself for hell (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:136-145).

In a subsequent discourse, Brigham explained the Spirit World will be a nice place, that we have no reason to fear, and there we will wait until the resurrection:
Do you reflect, and realize that your fear is all pertaining to your bodies, that it not pertaining to your spirits? Let me tell you, when the spirit is once separated from the body, it is one of the most beautiful and delightful objects that you could contemplate, and there is nothing that can give a pure spirit so much joy as to have the privilege of being separated from the body, and of going back to its Father in heaven, to await the morning of the resurrection.
Having an immortal body will be far greater than this temporal, mortal organization:
I am afflicted with it just as you are, but what do my judgment, the revelations of Jesus Christ, the Scriptures, and the spirit of the Gospel teach me? That my tabernacle is of comparatively small value, although it is a pretty fair one, and one that I am willing to take in the morning of the resurrection. The Lord gave it to me, and I am thankful for it. When it is the will of my Father that my spirit should return to Him, what do I care about the mouldering tabernacle, so that the spirit is unlocked, and set free from its prison-house of clay? It can go to the Father who gave it, until the body is resurrected, when the spirit will again be reunited with the tabernacle, to be exalted to thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, and spread abroad, and to the increase there shall be no end (Journal of Discourses 2:248).
For more on the Spirit World, see my former post on Orson Pratt's funeral sermon, and for canonized views, see the vision of Joseph F. Smith as found in D&C 138. [1] For further information on being "taken home to God," click here to see footnote one of the "Funeral Address" post. [2] "Oh, death, where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Christ opened the gates of hell, the grave, hades, to "free the captives," etc. During His mortal ministry, Christ told Simon Peter the gates of hell [Greek: hades, the grave] could not prevail against the Church. Christ was about to break the bands of death, visiting and teaching the spirits "in the prison" who were promised they would be visited, thus death would not have the victory in the end.

(See Matthew 16:18; 1 Peter 4:6; Isaiah 24:22; Isaiah 61:1; Topical Guide, et al.)

September 11, 2007

Omnipotence? of God

George A. Smith
March 18, 1855

In the Clementine Recognitions (written around the second century A.D.) Clement happens across a man in the street giving a religious discourse to a passing crowd in Rome. The preacher's name is Peter, the apostle, and Clement describes the scene:

Truly I perceived that there was nothing of dialectic artifice in the man, but that he expounded with simplicity, and without any craft of speech, such things as he had heard from the Son of God, or had seen. For he did not confirm his assertions by the force of arguments, but produced, from the people who stood round about him, many witnesses of the sayings and marvels which he related.
Peter was bearing testimony along with a few other witnesses, some people were impressed, but then the heckling began:

Now, inasmuch as the people began to assent willingly to the things which were sincerely spoken, and to embrace his simple discourse, those who thought themselves learned or philosophic began to laugh at the man, and to flout him, and to throw out for him the grappling-hooks of syllogisms, like strong arms (Clementine Recognitions 1.7-1.8).
These syllogisms included questioning why God created a little gnat with six feet, whereas a giant elephant has only four. This instantly reminded me of certain philosophical questions sometimes asked of theologians: Can God microwave a frozen burrito so hot that even He can't eat it? Can He make a rock so big He can't move it?

The basis of these questions intimate God is not "all-powerful," that He is somehow limited.

We want to have faith in an omnipotent God, a God with the power to save. The Lectures on Faith[1] claim in order for "rational beings" to exercise sufficient faith in God they must understand or believe He actually exists, have a correct idea of His character, perfection, and attributes, and finally, know that their choices in life are according to God's will (see Lecture 3:2-5).

As for the second requirement-- having a correct idea of His character, attributes, etc.-- the philosophical questions about God's power require more than a superficial toss-away answer. Though the questions themselves seem ridiculous, you might stop and think for a moment. Can God do anything?

The Lectures on Faith say we need to know God has "power over all things, and [is] able by his power to control all things, and thereby deliver his creatures who put their trust in him from the power of all beings that might seek their destruction, whether in heaven, earth, or hell" (see Lectures on Faith 4:12b).

Again- is God's power unlimited in the complete sense? Does He have any needs? Does He ever need help? George A. Smith had an interesting answer; for his text he took Matthew 23:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matthew 23:37).
After quoting the verse he continued:
"These words were uttered by the Savior while looking at the vast city and surrounding country which was then inhabited by the Jews, who were residing there in security, surrounded with plenty, and were at the same time almost universally in open rebellion against the law of heaven.

It has been a very common saying in the world that the Lord was able to do everything, that he could do anything he had a mind to do, and accomplish what he pleased; that he possessed universal power, and could accomplish what he, undertook. But what says our text? 'How oft would I have gathered you, but you would not.' This indicates that he could not do it, because they were not willing; that is the way we understand the language."

God's work and glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, is a rock so large He cannot move it on His own. Moving this rock requires our submission; God is gathering us back under His wings, but if we will not, he cannot.

George A. explained the purpose of this gathering:

Among the first principles that were revealed to the children of men in the last days was the gathering; the first revelations that were given to the Church were to command them to gather, and send Elders to seek out a place for the gathering of the Saints.

What is the gathering for? Why was it that the Savior wished the children of Israel to gather together? It was that they might become united and provide a place wherein he could reveal unto them keys which have been hid from before the foundation of the world; that he could unfold unto them the laws of exaltation, and make them a kingdom of Priests, even the whole people, and exalt them to thrones and dominions in the celestial world (George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 2:211).
This gathering requires our own willingness to participate. God won't, perhaps can't, force salvation upon anyone; to do so would be contrary to eternal laws, (see 'the law of restoration' in Alma 41).

I think it is fair to say God is omnipotent in every area He ought to be in order to save His children. However, in order to exalt His children, God does have needs- he needs us to submit:

The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we 'give,' . . . are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God's will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give! (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 1995, 24.)


The Lectures on Faith is a set of seven lectures included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (The title "Lectures on Faith" was not given until 1876 by Orson Pratt). While Joseph Smith was most likely involved in their preparation and/or publication (see History of the Church 2:169-170 and 2:180) the actual authorship is in question. It has been argued, for example, the lectures were written mainly by Sidney Rigdon (see Noel B. Reynolds, "The Case for Sidney Rigdon as Author of the Lecture on Faith," Journal of Mormon History, vol. 31 Fall 2005) and that others helped in writing them, as well (
see the FAIRWiki article "Lectures on Faith Removed From Doctrine and Covenants," accessed April 2008). As the wikipedia entry explains, the Lectures "were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in the 1921 edition, apparently without a vote by the church body, with an explanation that the Lectures 'were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons'. (See Introduction , 1921 edition.)" An interesting discussion on Lectures was started by "Jacob J" on the New Cool Thang blog.

September 10, 2007

Obscure Thoughts on Adam

Brigham Young October 23, 1853

Did God the Father come into the Garden of Eden, take a patch of mud and fashion man like a sculpture? LDS theology offers a unique view of Adam; and for that matter, all of God's children. Adam existed before his physical tabernacle was created, and was named Michael.
In the Bible, Luke offers a small glimpse into the literal Fatherhood of God when he lists the genealogy of Jesus Christ, who was:
...the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi...[insert about 64 names]...Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God (Luke 3:23-38).
This literal fatherhood is likely what Brigham Young had in mind when he talked about the Biblical account which says man was "formed of the dust of the ground," (see Genesis 2:7). Was this literal or figurative? In the theology of the restored gospel, matter is uncreated and eternal.[1] This adds a little weight to a more figurative interpretation of the scripture as found in Genesis. I don't use the immortality of matter as proof of Pres. Young's statements on Adam, but mention it to ponder the implications of what the "dust" was.
At any rate, this brings me to the discourse wherein Brigham Young discussed the creation of Adam.[2]
In typical Brigham prose, his discourse covered a range of topics: the importance of the sacrament, the effects of baptism, the perfecting influence of persecution, the philosophical aspects of eternity, curbing a bad temper, and of course, what goes better with those doctrines than the nature of the creation of Adam?
Brother Brigham:
Listen, ye Latter-day Saints! Supposing that Adam was formed actually out of clay, out of the same kind of material from which bricks are formed; that with this matter God made the pattern of a man, and breathed into it the breath of life, and left it there, in that state of supposed perfection, he would have been an adobie to this day. He would not have known anything.
So Adam would have been nothing more than a brick, should we take the Biblical account literally. That is pretty blunt and straightforward, but Pres. Young isn't finished; just in case you missed the point. As an aside he says people can write to the United States about his doctrine; he was aware of recent noise being made in the eastern papers about what the renegade 'Mormons' were preaching out in the wilderness:
You believe Adam was made of the dust of this earth. This I do not believe, though it is supposed that it is so written in the Bible; but it is not, to my understanding. You can write that information to the States, if you please-that I have publicly declared that I do not believe that portion of the Bible as the Christian world do. I never did, and I never want to. What is the reason I do not? Because I have come to understanding, and banished from my mind all the baby stories my mother taught me when I was a child (Journal of Discourses 2:29-43).
Footnotes: [1]
Eternity of matter
"...there is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes" (D&C 131:7).
"The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end…Intelligence [generally speaking] is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle" (Joseph Smith, TPJS, pp. 353-54).

[2] I should add the statements of Pres. Young are not official doctrine of the Church, whether I believe them or not. A recent press release explains:

"Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. The mistake that public commentators often make is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church’s purpose and placing it at the very center. This is especially common among reporters or researchers who rely on how other Christians interpret Latter-day Saint doctrine."