This is an LDS site that is dedicated to the invitation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to awake and arise to the great promises of redemption and transformation.
My name is Todd Mclauchlin and I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have a love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and would like to share openly my feelings, testimony, and personal perspectives of the Doctrine of Christ.
I currently reside in Draper, Utah.
What is your true self? Your true self is the person you are when truth flows through you unimpeded. It is the version of you when you are full of love. Truth and love are the same thing looked at in different ways. Truth is the light of God filling you so that you see everything as it is. Love is the feeling and desire that we have for all things when the light of God flows through us. But it goes even deeper than that.
We, in the very essence of our being, are the truth of God. It is not only who we are, but what we are. Truth is a fundamental identity. It is an existential question. There is nothing more fundamental than the fact that the sum and substance of what we are is the spirit of truth.
Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth.
D&C 93: 23
Our spirits were born of God. A child, when formed in the womb, receives his mother’s blood, and flesh, and is formed from the same matter that the mother gives him from her own body – he is created from her substance. And when birthed he becomes an extension of her body. They are of one flesh and therefore inextricably connected. A mother is bonded to her child as if they were one being.
Unable to attend to all of the eternal mysteries bound up in the truths of creation, let us learn from the natural processes of birth and allow them to teach us about heaven. Just as a child on earth is a physical extension of his parents, particularly the mother, so are we spiritual extensions of heavenly parents. In ways more literal than we perhaps imagine, we are born of their spirits and are extensions of their very beings.
And so, just as God the Father, and Jesus Christ are the “spirit of truth”, we too, are of the same eternal nature, having been born of them. Our true selves are when we live in that truth and receive of their organizing light and love. We become our true selves because we return to the state of nature of being in the truth – which resonates with who we are at our very core.
Love, truth, and light – the very substance of God, is our substance as well. It is the reality of our being. The more God becomes real to us and we comprehend him, the more we will comprehend ourselves. To know God is to know ourself.
If we want to become “who we are”, and “find ourselves”, we must single-mindedly seek to become full of the light and love of God. Discovering God is the same path to discovering the true self.
Any deviation to this nature, when we resist the truth of God in any degree, is a resistance of our true self. It is a sin against our own nature. To reject God by resisting light, truth, and love is a rejection of our selves. We cannot sin against God without also, at the same time, sinning against our very divine being.
If this is who we are at our core, and we are an extension of the truth of God in our very being, why is it that conflict, duplicity, division of will, self-deception, and internal chaos are the conditions we all struggle with? Why are we at war with ourselves?
When we were in the presence our heavenly parents – where the truth of who and what we are flowed to us without compulsory means, and we lived and existed in the perfect awareness of our true nature and who God is in relation to us, we were at deep rest. We experienced the peace of the knowledge of who and what we are – because we had perfect clarity of who’s we were. Through the fall we became cut off from the source of that knowledge. We were separated from the presence of heavenly parents who’s very identity and substance we shared. We became veiled from God, and therefore, veiled from ourselves.
“But behold, it was appointed unto man to die—therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth—and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man”
Alma 42: 6
We are cut off from the Tree of Life – which is a mystery of eternal layers – it representing the love of God – which is comprehensive of representing our Mother in Heaven, our Savior and his atonement, God our Father, being in the presence of Heavenly Parents and receiving exaltation – and all things pertaining to eternal life. We are severed from God, and we are also severed from our true self.
And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will.
Alma 42: 7
We became subjects. To what are we now subjects? Following our own will. When we are severed from the presence of God, we lose knowledge of the good and it must be restored to us. We gain a knowledge of evil, what it is to be separated from God and our true self, and what that tastes like, and we experience it in reality of our being. We lose a clarity of our divine identity, and take on a “will” contrary to the will of God that violates the nature of that identity. In fact, it runs even deeper than that. Because we are divested of an awareness of a fulness of truth, and are veiled from our eternal reality, we create a false self.
The False Self
This false self is a creation of our making. It is the forming of an identity in a fallen and veiled state that is trying to reclaim the secure, solid, clear, and peaceful state of our former existence. It is hard for everyone to breathe on this earth. Deep down everyone is in existential crisis. We all know that we are in a death and all are desperate to preserve and gain their a sense of a remnant of a former identity. We are all desperate for life not really understanding what the source of that life is.
Cut off from the will of God that gave us life, we enter into a spiritual vacuum – and therefore have developed an alternative will. It is through this will that we try to reclaim an identity. Just as the scripture teaches us, we are subjects to our will. That is, the false will. The one at odds with God. The will that violates our own eternal nature.
Our will becomes the thing that we guard and protect the most because it is an extension of our new identity. We have to establish an identity because we live in the insecurity of not knowing our true one. This is the creation of the false self. It is more than just an image that we put forward to the world, it is a way of being that is trying to establish an identity equal to the eternal but forgotten, self – it is an existential crisis of the deepest kind.
The false self relates to the world by seeking its approval. By seeking judgment. It lives in fear of protecting and establishing itself. The false self must always be fed, and must constantly be justified. The collection of evidence for its worthiness is an exhausting and constant endeavor. For most of us, to one degree or another, it consumes our entire life. But this is natural, and it is what happens to everyone in a state of nature. It is, very literally, the natural man.
The natural man relates naturally to the world through fear. As the opposite of love, fear is a condition we experience when we are cut off from truth and love. It’s an existential experience. Our souls understand that we are cut off from the source of its life, and that we are going through a spiritual death. We are existentially desperate to reconnect with the tree of life, even if we don’t understand that fact. We are desperate for God even if we reject him and don’t believe in his existence.
What we are all trying to do with the false self is reclaim Eden. We want to go back to the garden. We fundamentally all desire to be back in the presence of God. Without this knowledge of the reality of our desperate situation, we try to recreate Eden on earth by building our own kingdoms. We try to reconnect with God my making ourselves into our own Gods.
All of these efforts are futile, and will yield nothing in the end. They are exhausting and vain. We may be able to create a beautiful kingdom for ourselves of the honors of men, the possession of wealth and comforts, and the best things a telestial kingdom has to offer. We may be able to divert ourselves through food, sex, entertainment, and hobbies. But deep down, no matter how we use the things of this world to insulate us, we know that all of these things are weak and temporary. Only that which is established on the light and truth of God is eternal. Fundamentally, we intuit that only eternal things can satisfy us eternally.
Perhaps the worst sort of the false self is the adoption of the religious posture to both satisfy the eternal requirement, but in reality using it as a brick in the wall of our earthly kingdom. Do we mimicking the forms of godliness in order to bulletproof the false self? This can be the hardest false identity to shed – taking upon ourselves the image of having the image of Christ, when in reality we are trying to make God’s of ourselves. Perhaps finding Christ in the chaos will take us through that path, but at some point, if it this image and false self is a temptation to us, it must also be put in the grave.
As C.S. Lewis observed:
“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good.”
C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity
So, it is the sacrifice of this false self that we are awakened back to God. It is the laying down of the false identity. It is submitting the insulation of the creation of the will and our ego. But with this death of the false self, we are brought back into the creation of a new person – that is, the person that is willing to sacrifice all things to recover their eternal identity and allow the love of God to flow through them unimpeded by fear or falsehood. They allow the truth of God to be the dominant and animating impulse of their being. They find themselves again. They are strong, solid, secure, and in deep rest. And they love others and the things of God freely, without coercion and without constraint. There is no need to fearfully protect the false self. The only reality they now experience is that of the love of God for all of creation and desire his will in all things. Their will is Heaven’s will. And they are liberated. They are free to love and are divested of fear and control. No longer needing to protect and secure the false self, they are at peace and full of the deepest desires.
They now understand the lie that they have been told – that obedience and yielding to God is control and the suppression of their self. It’s not a total lie. What needs to die is the false self. From the perspective of the false self this seems like a death of the deepest kind. The thought of it strikes fear deep within the natural man. But allowing the false self to die is the channel through which we are reborn to our eternal awareness and truth about ourselves and our divine origins. In this death what we find is liberation and return to our eternal identity – as the extension of the truth of God.
How does the false self die? First, don’t focus on killing it. Don’t give it any attention at all. It dies by committing wholeheartedly to yielding to the spirit of truth. We must be restored to the truth by thinking truthfully, feeling truthfully, speaking truthfully, and acting truthfully. We yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit at any cost and single-mindedly (Mosiah 3: 16).
Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound.
And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
D&C 88: 66-67
We abandon ourselves to the spirit of truth. We pray for it, we sacrifice for it, we allow it to birth us back to an awareness of God. It will teach us not only that he is real, but that he is the sum of all reality. There is nothing more real than God. And when we have that revealed to us we will both understand how we are the shadow and he is the light. And unless we are infused by his intense light, love, and truth, we are nothing (Moses chapter 1).
It is not sufficient to “know” the truth in order to be free. We must become the truth. We must embody it. As we receive of the transformative spirit of Christ he can bring us back to our true self. We can put the natural man in the grave and be redeemed on this earth. We can become ourselves again. We can become, again, who we are.
In high school I liked a girl who’s dad would tutor me in chemistry. It was a great excuse to go to her house. I was learning chemistry, but she wasn’t feeling it. So that wasn’t successful – but I learned from her dad a nugget of truth that has been very helpful over the years when applied to spiritual principles.
The nugget was finding the “one thing”. My tutor taught me that when you are stuck on a problem you have to back out of it and discover the more basic thing underlying the problem that you are missing. Problems rarely are created at the level you are working, you have to go back into your assumptions, or more basic work, to figure out where you went wrong. He constantly told me, “you have to find the ‘one thing'”.
Of course this works really well in the gospel – a lesson my tutor may not have intended (and I probably should have applied this to dating in my earlier life). If you are stuck on a gospel question, revisit your premises. And if you can’t find the problem there – revisit your premises’ premises. Deconstructing in this way can be very hard, but it really does produce results. If we get something wrong, or skewed, or incomplete in our foundational understanding, at some point we get stuck. We have to always revisit our premises. You have to find the “one thing” that is distorting everything else.
Writing these recent essays on priesthood has required me personally to reassess the entire foundation of my understanding of the gospel. And I found many “one thing”s. For example, priesthood is not a power, it is an order. And to enter into an order you have to follow a pattern (ordination is only one little part of that pattern). Is there power in the priesthood? Yes, of course. But you have to understand how and why. If we get the priesthood is an order part wrong, then we will get the whole thing wrong. It will be confusing and our knowledge of the priesthood will be distorted.
The next “one thing” had to do with keys. If we think we have power or authority because we have been given a key we are mistaken. Receiving a key means we receive a charge. It’s a charge authorized by heaven, but nonetheless, it is only a charge. Until we turn the key fully, which means we fulfill all of the patterns associated with that key, we do not have the inherent authority or power of that key. A key is only useful insofar as we discover and fulfill its pattern. Exercising a key without fulfilling its pattern is usurping unrighteous dominion.
After keys, the next “one thing” was in regards to ordinances. They are not physical rituals. They are events where something on earth takes its heavenly form. They are transition points. They are ascensions into higher forms. Ordinances are manifestations of holiness. If the power of godliness was not manifest, an ordinance was not completed. Physical rituals with out the manifestation of godliness become keys, or patterns, for us to fulfill to get the actual ordinance.
And finally, the assumption that the oath and covenant of the priesthood is contained in D&C 84. This “one thing” assumption had driven general gospel confusion in my life since I was about 12 years old. From 12 yrs old to 40, it felt like one fumbling explanation after another. Until the realization came that D&C 84 was teaching ABOUT the oath and covenant, and was not THE oath and covenant, itself, I spent many, many hours trying to sort out those cryptic D&C 84 verses that we are all familiar with. In reality, they are very powerful and provide revelatory insight, but “the oath and covenant of the priesthood”, they are not. The oath and covenant of the priesthood is the oaths and covenants of the temple priesthood endowment. This was a lightning strike. It is so basic. It is so fundamental. But for 30 years of my life I had been wrestling with a false premise. Once it was identified and corrected, a whole new world of gospel knowledge suddenly opened up. The doors that blocked greater light and knowledge were blown off their hinges.
And so, perhaps it is not so much that the Lord withholds knowledge and understanding because he wants us to suffer and struggle unnecessarily. Perhaps our struggling is due to distortions or faulty assumptions that are imbedded in the foundations of our understanding. He can’t reveal things to us if it reinforces false ideas – or at least at some point, he requires us to find those “one things” and fix them. So, maybe we shouldn’t always think of progression as looking forward, progress is just as much fixing the past as it is pushing into the future. When small, but foundational, things are corrected, we may find our selves standing much farther down the road than we thought. We may have advanced to places we did not know we had, and all it took was some recalibration to bring ourselves to much more exhilarating heights.
If we fail to learn pure truth we will have cracks in our foundation. They may not be noticed at first, but as we build higher and higher at some point all cracks create inherit weakness. If we build on a cracked foundation, at some point gaining further light and truth may not be the only casualty. Many times I have seen people discard the entire gospel because they weren’t aware of how the cracks and untruths in their foundation were distorting their present views. The longer an untruth or a distortion is accepted, the harder it is to discover the “one thing” and root it out.
When we are guided by the Lord to find the “one thing”, we may be shocked at the great leaps forward we experience by the hand of the Lord in a short period of time. If we are earnest and diligent in our pursuit of truth, he will mercifully lead us along, both correcting us and always preparing us for greater things.
My wife suggested a couple of days ago that I record readings of this blog for those that have a difficult time reading longer essays. So, I recorded and posted an essay from about 5 years ago – Shattering Triangles. I hope it helps those that prefer listening. Your feedback and suggestions are always valued. Thanks
It took a very long time for me to realize that faith is not wishful hoping. Many times in prayer I found myself clenching muscles and teeth in a display to God that I really meant it – that I really wanted something. Perhaps to this day that instinct still rears up when I am desperate, but faith is so much greater than that. If we learn the principle, then we know how to act in it.
In a sense, the principle of faith is really two things. It’s something you possess, and it is something you do. And this is because what you possess enables you to do something.
That thing is light. And everyone has a portion. It may be bright or it may be buried deep inside you. But we all have light within us. This is the light of God and is the core of both who and what you are.
It is the light within you that enables you to act. It enables you to perceive. Just as physical light allows you to perceive the physical world, spiritual light enables you to see the spiritual world. Physical light allows you to see “things as they are” physically, and spiritual light allows you to see “things as they are” spiritually.
When we have spiritual darkness within us we are acted upon by darkness. It oppresses us. It is the source of fear. And we are controlled by the darkness. It dims our perception and distorts our understanding of reality.
The light of God rescues us from fear. It fills us full of hope and we are enabled to see things as they are. We can then act in light, which is to say, we can act for ourselves and not be acted upon. To the degree I am full of light I can act for myself and have power to choose more light. If we continue to choose light amongst the darkness, we will grow in that light until we are perfected in it.
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
D&C 50: 24
Perhaps this is a definition of faith – to yield to light not yet in our possession. Light from God, that is sent to us, and that we actively and intentionally receive, that exists outside of the realm of our current light of understanding.
So, the light you now possess is faith. It is faith because it enables you to receive more. The more light you have, the more you are capacitated to receive more. The less light you have, the more difficult it is to act on light to receive more because of the oppression, chaos, and confusion the darkness within us produces.
Doubt, fear, darkness, confusion, chaos – these are all products of the darkness within. But we also always have light. It is through identifying that light within, and acting in it, and choosing to yield to light outside of us, that we exercise faith to displace darkness and to receive greater and greater light. This is how we become full of faith (light).
Consider the diagram above. The light you possess is the degree of faith you possess. Notice there is a boundary between the light and the darkness where three things are happening. There is light within the sphere, darkness beyond the sphere, but there is also light from God that comes through the darkness and presents itself on the outer boundary of your possessed light.
This is where the act of faith occurs. This is where we exercise faith. It is when we yield to light that we do not yet possess. When we do this, our outer boundary expands and we become more full of light.
Unfortunately, the opposite things can happen as well. Both darkness and light can be found on the outer boundary. If we choose to yield to darkness instead of light then the darkness in us increases and our light fades. We begin to lose light and our understanding becomes distorted. Our inner world grows in deception and chaos.
If we have just a particle of light we have potential to be a being full of all light. Just like a mustard seed, one little particle of light within us has the potential of filling the universe. And this little particle of light is the spark of God. It gives us a place to act. No matter how much darkness we feel, or how much darkness our past has produced, searching out a particle of light within us and giving attention to it, and using it to seek out more light of God, in mercy and grace we can grow in the principle of intelligence until we receive all that the Father has.
Sometimes our circumstances force us to this place and confront the unknown. This will always be a natural part of mortality. But if we choose to go to that place, and humble ourselves before God and his light, and learn how to live on the boundary of our faith by our own free will and choice, it enables God to compound the infusion of light and truth in much faster ways than we can imagine. When we take initiative to go to the outer boundary of our faith and are diligent in seeking greater light and truth, he opens doors for us and endows us with his intelligence. We then are liberated from the darkness of this world and are brought into the light of God.
This post is a summary of a series of conversations recently with Josh Chandler. There is so much clarity about priesthood keys being patterns that must be received from God, and that one must fulfill.
There are many, many different keys. In other words, there are many, many patterns that must be fulfilled.
Consider the following, not just as principles but as patterns.
1. Faith 2. Repentance 3. Broken Heart 4. Contrite Spirit 5. Sacrifice 6. Born Again 7. Sanctification 8. Prophesy 9. Seership 10. Revelation 11. Chastity 12. Consecration 13. True Order of Prayer
Is this a comprehensive list of keys and patterns? By no means. We don’t know what we don’t know. And it will be impossible to build a Zion society until we fulfill what we have and ask the Lord to reveal all of the keys. He will do so in the proper order if we seek his will in all things.
Can we jump ahead and seek to fulfill patterns before the preparatory patterns are fulfilled? It doesn’t work. If we try to live the law of consecration before we live the pattern of the law of sacrifice, it fails. If we seek to fulfill the pattern of the gift of prophesy before we are sanctified, we will go sideways. We must receive all the keys and in the right order.
The reception of keys to build Zion is walking the Strait and Narrow Path. It is strait and narrow because there is no tolerance for patterns outside of God’s prescribed way. We sanctify ourselves according to his patterns and timing.
Are we waiting for a day in which we are told to build it? That day will never happen, I believe, if we do not fulfill the patterns already given to us. We must turn the keys given to us. If we do so, Zion will be built.
There is a sense that if we seek the Lord with all of our hearts and fulfill every pattern given to us with single mindedness, the pattern of Zion cannot be resisted. Christ will send every needful thing. He will guide us to build a place where he can come and dwell.
One of the greatest blessing of heaven given to the Latter-Day Saints are the keys of the priesthood. Can we praise God enough in gratitude and humility for the blessing of priesthood? It is by the keys of the priesthood that we are able to turn out hell and make a heaven on earth. It should be on our minds always the great endowment of keys he has given us and for the blessing of unlocking the heavens.
What will we do with these gifts? Will we use these keys for the salvation of our families and friends, or will we allow them to rust? If we are to claim these blessings, we must understand what keys are and how to use them.
In this essay series on priesthood the concept of a pattern has been discussed at length. Here is a quick summary.
Priesthood is an association of people who follow the same order.
The Melchizedek Priesthood is the Holy Order of God. There are many portions of the priesthood, and we can think about them as “sub-orders”.
The way you enter into an order is you must fulfill the pattern(s) of that order.
The rights, privileges, and power of a priesthood is according to the order(s) that you embody by virtue of the pattern(s) you fulfill.
The purpose of the priesthood is to create heaven on earth. It is to transform the world from hell into its heavenly form. To do so the patterns of the world must be rejected and the patterns of heaven must be fulfilled.
How does a person learn or receive the pattern that they must fulfill? This is the purpose of a key. Keys have unique patterns of teeth that are designed to open specific locks. You can think of these patterns as information imbedded in the key. If you have the right key with the right pattern, you can open whatever lock you desire.
The key itself is both a charge to do something and the information of how to unlock spiritual knowledge or power. One must both possess a key legally, and also exercise it with faith in order to unlock the spiritual knowledge or power of that key.
Just like a combination lock, if you know the combination you can unlock and receive whatever is inside. A key is just like a combination on a lock – you have to discover what the combination the key gives you, and by exercising faith on the information that the key provides you turn the key. You enter in the combination. And by doing this you access spiritual knowledge, power, and/or authority according to the key.
It is not enough to be given a key. Keys are useless and have no power unless they are turned. It is not enough to possess the information of a pattern, it must be fulfilled in order to unlock.
When a key is fully turned, when a pattern is completely fulfilled, power is unlocked and we experience a transition, an endowment, a blessing, and/or power. Something will transition from a lesser form to a higher. Turning a priesthood key will transform something from its earthly form into a higher form.
In its most fundamental sense, receiving the key of repentance will lead someone to fulfill the patterns of repentance and thereby receive a remission of their sins. This is turning a key and transitioning to something more holy and heaven-like. It is an ordinance.
The same with the exercising of faith, it is turning a key so that understanding and reliance on God as a heavenly pattern is fulfilled. When the key of faith is turned transformation occurs.
Whether it is repentance, faith, prayer, baptism, a priesthood endowment, a marriage sealing; all of these keys lead to an ordinance where something transitions from a lower form to a higher.
What Does It Mean to Receive a Key?
As we will soon explore, there are different types of keys with many different types of functions. But one thing that is common between all keys is that when one receives it, they also receive a charge or an invitation. For example, if someone receives the key of repentance by reading the scriptures and learning the pattern of repentance, they are also charged with doing so. When they receive the pattern they are also receiving an invitation to fulfill it. When God bestows a key he is also bestowing a charge to do something.
For example, when a Bishop receives the keys to lead a ward, it is not sufficient that he has been given leadership rights. He must fulfill the charge given to him, and he can’t fulfill the charge unless he learns the pattern of the keys that he has received. Being given a key gives you no authority of heaven, it is a charge to fulfill a pattern so that you can unlock heavenly power on behalf of a people.
So, to receive a key means you receive an invitation or a charge. If you do not turn the key and fulfill a pattern, keys become dormant and unused. They become vain tokens. If the keys are not turned, they eventually rust.
Three Types of Keys
Sometimes the concept of priesthood keys can be confusing because we fail to recognize different categories and purposes of keys. For example, it isn’t uncommon to think of all priesthood keys as rights of leadership. Even though some keys do unlock this pattern and right, this is only a subset of the vast amount of keys available within God’s priesthood order. There appear to be three general categories. In order to gain clarity it is really helpful to divide keys into these categories and explore how they work and for what purpose they are used.
Also, it would be an impossible endeavor to be able to identify every key and the pattern it contains, the keys available to God’s children are as exhaustive as the gospel itself. But let’s look at the three categories.
Administrative Keys (keys do not give you rights, they give you charges)
Individual keys are keys you turn for yourself. You receive a direct and personal charge or invitation, you receive a pattern, and you fulfill it. You turn the key.
The first type of key an individual receives is the key to knowledge. This is the general knowledge and patterns the Lord has communicated to prophets that have been written in scripture. When Adam and Eve left the Garden it was necessary for the Lord to send messengers and begin to deliver light and truth to our first parents. As they received this knowledge and were obedient to it, they received more. The knowledge contained in the scriptures begin to teach us about faith in God, how to be obedient, to what commandments to be obedient, how to humble ourselves in order to receive more from heaven, and how to conform to truth.
As we develop faith and choose to be obedient to God, he begins to give us commandments such as sacrifice and repentance. How to be obedient, how to sacrifice, and how to repent are all keys of knowledge that he gives all of his children through the blessing of prophets and true messengers.
These are all keys. If you are given a pattern in the scriptures it is a key given to you in order to fulfill an invitation or a charge.
It is not sufficient to read the scriptures, we must discover the pattern they teach and then do it, exactly as it instructs.
It reminds me of King Benjamin when he taught the key or repentance to his people.
“And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4: 10)
Some individual keys are given to everyone through the scriptures or words of prophets. All who hear or read the words are given a key to unlock a pattern. They are invited to move into God’s order.
Gifts of the Spirit are also exercised with keys, not only do they come by the power of the Holy Ghost (which requires keys to receive) they are received through fulfilling patterns. Here is a list of individual keys a person (both men and women) can seek out in order to fulfill the patterns of the priesthood.
Key of faith
Key of repentance
Key of obedience
Key of receiving a broken heart and contrite spirit
Key of visions
Key of knowledge
Key of revelation
Key of prophesy
Key of healing
Key of casting out devils
Key of testimony
Key of teaching
Key of seership
Obtain Key: By reading in the scriptures, taught by someone who possesses key, or receive through covenant a key.
Fulfill Pattern: Learn the pattern(s) that these keys are received and used. This process may take a lot of time.
Unlock Heaven: Receive power, knowledge, or a condition directly from heaven.
Keys of the Kingdom
Of the many keys Joseph revealed to the members of the church, what he often referred to as the “keys of the kingdom” were of the most most important. The keys of the kingdom are the priesthood signs, tokens, and names that we receive by covenant in the temple in order to participate in the true order of prayer. These keys include the ability to detect adversarial imposters and to know if one is being deceived in revelation. The keys of the kingdom is learning how to pray in a way that enables us to detect adversarial counterfeits and receive knowledge and instruction that brings us through the veil and into the presence of the Lord.
Wilford Woodruff recorded the following in his private diary.
Among the vast number of the Keys of the Kingdom of God Joseph presented the following one to the Twelve for there benefit in there experience & travels in the flesh which is as follows. In order to detect the devel when he transforms himself nigh unto an angel of light. When an angel of God appears unto man face to face in personage & reaches out his hand unto the man & he takes hold of the angels hand & feels a substance the Same as one man would in shaking hands with another he may then know that it is an angel of God, & he should place all Confidence in him Such personages or angels are Saints with there resurrected Bodies, but if a personage appears unto man & offers him his hand & the man takes hold of it & he feels nothing or does not sens any substance he may know it is the devel, for when a Saint whose body is not resurrected appears unto man in the flesh he will not offer him his hand for this is against the law given him & in keeping in mind these things we may detect the devil that he decieved us not (Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, p. 6).
Towards the end of his ministry Joseph worked hard to prepare the members of the church for their priesthood endowment in a consecrated temple. He prepared both sister and brothers for this gift. It was critical for their progress to receive the keys of the kingdom. Here is an excerpt from a meeting with the Relief Society sisters.
“He said as he had this opportunity, he was going to instruct the Society and point out the way for them to conduct, that they might act according to the will of God—that he did not know as he should have many opportunities of teaching them—that they were going to be left to themselves—they would not long have him to instruct them—that the church would not have his instruction long, and the world would not be troubled with him a great while, and would not have his teachings”—He spoke of delivering the keys to this society and to the Church—that according to his prayers God had appointed him elsewhere He exhorted the sisters always to concentrate their faith and prayers for, and place confidence in those whom God has appointed to honor, whom God has plac’d at the head to lead—that we should arm them with our prayers—that the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them, that they may be able to detect every thing false—as well as to the Elders” (Relief Society Minutes, 28 April, 1842, Words of Joseph Smith 114-115).
Apostle Charles C. Rich shared the following in a Stake Conference in Idaho.
“It was a long time after the Prophet Joseph Smith had received the keys of the kingdom of God, and after Hyrum and others had received many blessings, that the Lord gave Joseph a revelation, to show him and others how they could ask for and receive certain blessings. We read in the revelations of St. John, that [of] the white stone [as follows:] ‘and in the stone a new name, which no man knoweth save him that receiveth it.’ Joseph tells us [in D&C 130:10-11] that this new name is a key-word, which can only be obtained through the endowments. This is one of the keys and blessings that will be bestowed upon the Saints in these last days, for which we should be very thankful” (Apostle Charles C. Rich Journal of Discourses, 19:250).
The keys of the kingdom, or, the keys of revelation, are not only the authorization to pray in the true order, but he also taught the patterns of prayer that unlock the heavens. These are keys in every sense of the term. It is both authorization and the pattern bestowed on the saints in the holy priesthood endowment. To become fully endowed we must exercise these keys on our behalf and receive all of the knowledge heaven has in store for us to receive the full revelation of God.
Performing an ordinance is the ability to turn a key on behalf of someone else.
When we are sufficiently prepared to make a covenant with God we seek out those that have keys to perform ordinances that are both commanded of God and purposeful. These types of keys are exercised on our behalf.
Why do we have physical ordinances?
I’d like to suggest a definition of an ordinance that reflects scriptural teaching and underscores their eternal purpose. Please consider this core principle.
The purpose of God in establishing His holy order on earth is not just to collect believers and prepare them for an afterlife – administering esoteric rights and rituals that will benefit them primarily in the hereafter. The purpose of ordinances it to transform this fallen earth into its heavenly form. This mortal experience is a form of hell. Lucifer has declared himself the God of this world and the works of God’s children on this earth are predominately after the order of Lucifer and of his purposes. Living on this earth one experiences an invitation to leave the order of a fallen world and the orders of hell that rule it.
Ordinances are the intervention of heaven. It is when power from above comes to earth and transforms it to its heavenly form. They are purposeful in transitioning this earth to an order of God, where light, truth and the patterns and orders of God redeem it from its fallen, hellish state. It is the power of God manifest in a fallen world.
We must be careful not to confuse physical ordinances that do not perform their prescribed function of endowing with heavenly power as a complete ordinance. An ordinance takes place only when the intended transition and display of heavenly power is made manifest. It must be evidenced. If it is not, we experience a vain ordinance – or a physical act without the power of heaven. They have “a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith History 1:19)
And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh
D&C 84: 21
It’s easy to assume that the this scripture means that when a physical ordinance is performed that the power of godliness is made manifest. Rather, I believe it is instructing us that unless the power of godliness is made manifest, an ordinance has not been completed.
If an ordinance is performed and the pattern is not being fulfilled in order to manifest the power of godliness, then what the Lord is providing in mercy, is a key. This is a critical point to consider. Ordinances that do not produce the power of heaven teach us in their ritualistic, dramatized forms give us a key or pattern of what is supposed to happen in that ordinance so that it may be fulfilled. When the power of godliness is not manifest an ordinance has not yet occurred, but a pattern has been given to help the individual to receive of the power of God once the pattern has been fulfilled, and all the keys have been turned.
For an ordinance to fulfill its intended purpose of transitioning something from its fallen form to its redeemed and heavenly form, two keys must be turned. The individual receiving an ordinance must fulfill the patterns prescribed that are preparatory for an ordinance to take place, and the individual charged with performing an ordinance must also fulfill the prescribed patterns so that they may provide the power of heaven to be manifest in an ordinance. Both keys must be turned. Both patterns must be fulfilled.
We cannot escape the necessity of ordinances. Joseph Smith taught very clearly the following.
The question is frequently asked, “Can we not be saved without going through with all those ordinances?” I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation. Jesus said, There are many mansions in my Father’s house, and I will go and prepare a place for you. House here named should have been translated kingdom; and any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too.
It is through holy ordinances that we are transformed and prepared to live and enjoy the presence of God. They are not arbitrary rituals. They are eternally ordained and purposeful. It is through ordinances that we are transformed.
Consider the introductory ordinances and covenants of the Gospel.
Receive the key of knowledge of how to repent sufficiently to receive a remission of your sins. We receive this key through the scriptures and those that possess it already. (You cannot give what you do not possess)
Fulfill the pattern by repenting according to the scriptures and receiving a remission of sins, this pattern is the broken heart and contrite spirit.
Fulfill the pattern by obeying the ordinance of baptism of water. Someone who is authorized to exercise this key on your behalf will conduct an ordinance that produces a blessing.
Fulfill the pattern by receiving the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. This blessing is given by someone who has this key by virtue of having received the power from heaven (this will be the subject of a future essay).
Unlock the power of being endowed with a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost from heaven.
Baptism is a holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost; it is the channel and key by which the Holy Ghost will be administered.
Joseph Smith taught about this holy ordinance when he taught the following:
The Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, cannot be received through the medium of any other principle than the principle of righteousness, for if the proposals are not complied with, it is of no use, but withdraws.
Joseph Smith, 27 June 1839, Commerce, Illinois
Notice that it is not sufficient that one receives a physical ordinance of laying on of hands to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The entire pattern must be fulfilled. The one receiving the gift must be cleansed through fulfilling the baptismal requirement of having already received a remission of sins. They must also come forward with a broken heart and contrite spirit (3 Nephi 9: 20). And they must receive it through the channel of the laying on of hands by one who has been endowed with the power of heaven to give this gift. These are all of the patterns that must be fulfilled to complete this initiation into the strait and narrow path. All of these keys must be used and turned for the transformation of spiritual rebirth to take place.
Now that we are endowed with the gift of the Holy Ghost we are invited to the temple to learn about the strait and narrow path. We receive more keys of knowledge. And we receive keys of the priesthood that unlock the knowledge of patterns that we must receive preparatory to enter into the full order of the priesthood. We learn about the pattern of how to receive true messengers. We learn the keys of praying in the true order of prayer. We receive covenants, signs, tokens, key words, and keys of knowledge of how to receive the revelatory process that the temple endowment dramatizes. We receive the keys of knowledge through the ritualistic endowment so that we know how to receive the true, revelatory priesthood endowment of knowledge and sanctification.
When Joseph was preparing the Relief Society sisters to receive their priesthood endowment he taught the following:
He [Joseph Smith] spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them with their husbands, that the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask the Lord and receive an answer; for according to his prayers, God had appointed him elsewhere.
Relief Society Minutes
The temple endowment is receiving by covenant all of the individual keys necessary to part the veil in mortality and be received into the full Holy Order of the Priesthood. Even though one receives the keys in the endowment it does not follow that they are thus endowed. Unless those keys are turned in faith the actual endowment is dormant and has no effect.
As we discussed in the essay, Melchizedek Priesthood and the Holy Order: The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, it is through the temple endowment of the priesthood that both men and women receive the oath and covenants of the priesthood. The temple endowment involves all of the covenants and keys and reception of oaths that bring us into the presence of God. The purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to bring us back into the presence of God while in the flesh (D&C 84: 19-26)
Receiving the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and many of the them must be received through the temple, is receiving the patterns by covenant that we must fulfill to enter into God’s presence.
Joseph Smith revealed the purpose of the Melchizdek Priesthood is the following.
The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—
To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
D&C 107: 18-19
The Melchizedek Priesthood is the order of coming back into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh. This process requires receiving all of the covenants, tokens, signs, and keys necessary to fulfill the pattern to become of the order. We must not confuse receiving a key with the actual power of that key. In order to receive true Melchizedek Priesthood we must exercise every key that brings us fully into that order.
Keys Exercised On Our Behalf
Individual keys are a necessary but not sufficient to bringing us into the full order of the priesthood.
Not only do we receive and possess keys that we must exercise on our behalf, but we must seek out those that have keys of the priesthood that must be exercised for us. We need both. This is according to the work and order of God.
This pattern is demonstrated all through scripture. Two (of many) great examples come immediately to mind.
Abraham Received Priesthood From Melchizedek
First, Abraham desired a priesthood. He desired to come fully into the order of God and receive a blessing of posterity. He sought out Melchizedek for this blessing.
Joseph Smith gave a sermon that taught about this even:
“Respecting the Melchizedek Priesthood, the sectarians never professed to have it; consequently they never could save any one, and would all be damned together. There was an Episcopal priest who said he had the priesthood of Aaron, but had not the priesthood of Melchizedek: and I bear testimony that I never have found the man who claimed the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The power of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to have the power of “endless lives”; for the everlasting covenant cannot be broken…
The law was given under Aaron for the purpose of pouring out judgments and destructions. . . .
There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here.
1st. The King of Shiloam (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life. Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes. God cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses.
The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things. When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned. The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law.
What was the power of Melchizedek? ‘Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, that Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam.
Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abraham and sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood” (Joseph Smith, 27 August 1843, Grove Near Temple, Nauvoo, Illinois).
This is a long quote but it is purposeful. Joseph Smith is describing two things happening to Abraham in order for him to receive the blessings he desired. He had to receive, understand, and turn the key of sacrificing all things in order to receive the priesthood order he desired. This is an individual key he received and used.
He then sought out Melchizedek to be ordained and brought into this Holy Order. Even though Abraham was great and righteous in his own right, he sought out someone who could administer the ordinance to bring him to fulfill the pattern of being received into a fullness of God’s priesthood.
As recorded in Genesis 14 JST:
“And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him” (Genesis 14: 40 JST).
Christ Seeking Baptism
Jesus Christ is the great archetype of righteousness. He demonstrated and fulfilled every pattern that we must fulfill so that we can become of his order.
“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” (2 Nephi 31: 5)
Joseph taught that Christ came to John because he was a legal administrator of baptism – that he held the keys.
“Sabbath Meeting—Joseph Read the 2 & 3d Chapters of Malachi & stated that there was a priesthood conferred upon the sons of Levi throughout the generations of the Jews, & he also said they was born heirs to that priesthood by lineage or descent & held the Keys of the first principles of the Gospel—for this—he quoted concerning Jesus coming to John to be Baptized of John that he (Jesus) Might Enter into the Kingdom as John held the Keys, suffer it to be so now &c he also brought up Zacharias pleading with the Lord in the temple that he might have seed so that the priesthood might be preserved” (Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, pp. 67).
The Savior sought out the keys of the priesthood, someone who could perform something for him that he could not perform for himself. He had to receive a blessing from someone that could turn a key for him.
The same pattern as individual keys is needed for keys exercised on our behalf – let’s call them “administrative keys”.
Although individual keys are given equally to women and men, administrative keys are almost exclusively given to men in earthly stewardships. There is a reason for this that will be explored at length in a forthcoming essay on men and women in the priesthood order.
When a brother receives an administrative key he is charged in using it (turning it) on behalf of others. In order to do so, he must use the same pattern observed for individual keys
1. He must legally acquire the key. If there is a legal channel from which to receive it he must seek out that channel and receive it according to the laws of God. If there is no legal channel, heaven can endow him with that key directly.
2. He must understand how the key works. Which is to say, he must receive the information of the key to understand how to turn it.
3. After acting in faith and fulfilling the requirements to turn the key he then can unlock the spiritual knowledge and/or power that the key provides in order to fulfill his stewardship.
As we’ve already explored, a fundamental purpose of priesthood on earth is to create heaven on earth. This happens by adopting the patterns of heaven and manifesting them on earth. This is the purpose of having a church.
Priesthood in heaven is a pattern of ordered beings condescending and considering themselves the least of all. A condescension in this sense of the word means someone chooses to suffer and sacrifice with others in order for them to ascend closer to God. It is the eternal pattern of the priesthood. Christ is the great archetype of the priesthood as he sacrificed himself for all of humanity. All those that desire to follow Christ and be of his order (priesthood) will also sacrifice and suffer with others according to his stewardship.
This is what those in church government are called to do. They are charged with performing sacrifices and works of condescension on behalf of those in their stewardship in order to prepare them to ascend closer to God. The order of the church is an order of heaven.
When a church leader receives a “priesthood key” they receive a charge. That charge is to perform the sacrifices, repentance, and patterns that the Lord gives them in order to bless the people they are charged to minister. They are called to become the least of those people.
He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all.
D&C 50: 26
An administrative key holder will receive keys that give them exclusive responsibility to manifest the patterns of leadership for their stewardship. For example, not being a bishop, I cannot go to the Lord and ask for direction on who should be the Relief Society President, or, who needs to repent in my ward, or, if we should hold a ward sacrament meeting earlier in the day. This is knowledge and patterns that only the legal key holder has access to. I cannot insert myself into that stewardship.
Just because a bishop, or an Elders Quorum President, or an Apostle hold a key, that is no guarantee that they are turning the keys. The great responsibility of priesthood leadership is that they have to turn the keys – fulfill the patterns -given to them so that they can be a blessing to the people. Possession does not mean power, but a key turned has the potential of great and miraculous power of heaven.
A called priesthood leader should constantly be asking, am I turning the keys I have for my ward, stake, or the church? Am I fulfilling all of the patterns that I am charged with fulfilling? Have I gained favor with the Lord because I am willing to perform any sacrifice, obedience, and condescension on behalf of the people in my stewardship? Have I fulfilled the patterns of heaven on behalf of the people?
This is exactly why (and how) we should sustain the leadership of the church. We should help them insofar as it is possible, to turn their keys. We should sustain them in fulfilling their assigned patterns. We can do so by supporting them, praying for them, fasting for them, and doing whatever the Lord asks of us in order for them to fulfill to turn the keys of their calling.
When a priesthood leader fulfills the patterns of their calling, they are “magnifying their calling”(D&C 84: 33).
One key that all ordained priesthood holders receive is a charge to come clean from the blood and sins of this generation. This is a calling they receive in the temple priesthood endowment. This is what it means to magnify their calling – they are called to come clean from the sins of those they are called to have stewardship. They do this by both declaring repentance, the Law of the Gospel, and suffering with their stewardship so that they can bring them into a pure covenant relationship with the Lord. Jacob, the brother of Nephi, is a scriptural pattern of the principle of magnifying your calling.
“And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day” (Jacob 1: 19)
And Jacob repeats this principle again in the next chapter.
“Now, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, according to the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with soberness, and that I might rid my garments of your sins, I come up into the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God” (Jacob 2: 2).
One of the great charges of priesthood stewardship is to come clean from the blood and sins of your generation. Declaring repentance and then loving and serving and suffering with people to bring them into a redeemed structure is a primary purpose of priesthood stewardship.
When a person is called to be a bishop, an elders quorum president, a stake president, or an Apostle, they are primarily called to come clean from the blood and sins of their generation. Their own salvation depends on fulfilling this charge. They carry the sins of the people on their own garments unless they sufficiently fulfill the stewardship and charge received through the endowment of a key. But this is not the only pattern they must fulfill. They must also go to the Lord and ask for all of the keys and patterns that they are required to fulfill to be a blessing to their people. If this is not done, they carry an eternal consequence. Priesthood callings and keys are very, very serious because of this reality. We should give ourselves completely to the sustaining and support of those that have received these holy callings and charges.
The president of the church is the chief apostle. He is the great High Priest over the church. At the time of writing this it is President Nelson. He holds all of the keys of the church. It is under his singular stewardship and responsibility to guide the church in all of its functions, and in the usage of all of the keys. This is an incredible responsibility. He deserves our respect, our prayers, and our whole-hearted sustaining in this great charge. It is an unbelievable burden to carry. President Nelson is charged with turning the keys for all of the church. He must fulfill the patterns in the same way an Elder’s Quorum President must fulfill the patterns. If we do not sustain these brethren in these calls of condescension and fulfilling the Lord’s work then we come under great condemnation.
Because President Nelson holds all of the keys of the church, all ordinations within the church will come through the authorization of the keys in his stewardship. The pattern of the Lord must be fulfilled precisely as he has prescribed.
Joseph Smith taught this principle as recorded by this recollection from Orsen Hyde.
“An angel,” said Joseph, “may administer the word of the Lord unto men, and bring intelligence to them from heaven upon various subjects; but no true angel from God will ever come to ordain any man, because they have once been sent to establish the priesthood by ordaining me thereunto; and the priesthood being once established on earth, with power to ordain others, no heavenly messenger will ever come to interfere with that power by ordaining any more.”
He referred to the angel that came to Cornelius and told Cornelius to send for Peter; but if there had been no Peter with keys and power to administer, the angel might have done it himself; but as there was, the angel would not interfere. Saul was directed to go to Ananias for instruction and to be administered to by him; but if there had been no Ananias with power and authority on the earth to administer in the name of Christ, the Lord might have done it himself. “You may therefore know, from this time forward, that if any man comes to you professing to be ordained by an angel, he is either a liar or has been imposed upon in consequence of transgression by an angel of the devil, for this priesthood shall never be taken away from this church.”
This testimony [of the Prophet Joseph Smith] was delivered in an upper room, in the south-west corner of the White Store and dwelling-house, formerly occupied by Whitney and Gilbert, situate on Kirtland Flats.
Orson Hyde, “Although Dead, Yet He Speaketh,” Millennial Star 8 [20 November 1846]:138–39
I’ve pondered a long time about the principle of unrighteous dominion and would like to suggest a possible definition. Because it is not sufficient to exercise authority by virtue of being given a key of the priesthood, and because it is through the turning and fulfilling the patterns of a key that unlocks heavenly power, unrighteous dominion is, perhaps, the exertion of authority without having fulfilled the patterns.
If someone declares authority and dominion and has not exercised the keys that grants them that dominion, then they are exercising authority without the principle of righteousness. In other words, in a very precise way, a key does not give anyone power in and of itself. It does not give authority or power by virtue of reception. The power and authority of a key exists only when it is fully turned and when the heavenly requirements of that key are satisfied.
“the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121: 36).
The “principle of righteousness” is achieved when the key is turned. It is not the key itself.
“That they may (keys)be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121: 37).
It is not possession of the key that gives authority. It is the righteous fulfillment of the patterns that give authority. It is turning a key that brings the power and authority of heaven. Without heaven’s intervention, a man has no authority and has no priesthood.
Just as a priesthood leader is charged with fulfilling the patterns associated with the keys of his call, he is also to become a pattern to the church of how to do so. Because all covenant members of the church are given keys required for their exaltation, is the duty of the leadership to model these patterns for the church. This is also a great responsibility.
One of the great callings of apostleship is to become a living witness of the living, resurrected Christ. They are charged to receive this witness for the church and for the world (D&C 107: 3). It is a key given to them, and they are to be patterns, examples, and models to the church membership of how to receive the same witness and blessings. Because the purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to be brought into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh, those that hold this high and holy office are supposed to be living examples of how to do that.
Elder McConkie taught this great principle of apostleship.
“All Christendom knows, or should know, that the ancient apostles were special witnesses of the Lord’s name; that they saw him after he rose from the dead; that he spent forty days with them as a resurrected being, teaching them all things that it was expedient for them to know pertaining to his kingdom. Those who believe the Book of Mormon are aware that, as with the Twelve in Jerusalem, so with the Twelve on the American continent: they were all witnesses of the Lord—they all felt the nail marks in his hands and feet; they all thrust their hands into his side. There is general awareness in the Church that the latter-day Twelve hold the same office, possess the same priesthood and keys, and bear the same witness of the divine Sonship of him who redeemed us as did their predecessors in days of old. It is true that the witness of the Holy Ghost is sure and absolute and that a man can know with a perfect knowledge, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God who was crucified for the sins of the world. This unshakeable certainty can rest in his soul even though he has not seen the face of his Lord. But it is also true that those who have this witness of the Spirit are expected, like their counterparts of old, to see and hear and touch and converse with the Heavenly Person, as did those of old” (The Promised Messiah, p.592).
In the Apostolic Charge given to Parley P. Pratt, we find these words: “The ancients . . . had this testimony—that they had seen the Savior after he rose from the dead. You must bear the same testimony; or your mission, your labor, your toil, will be in vain. You must bear the same testimony that there is but one God, one Mediator; he that hath seen him, will know him, and testify of him.“
The Apostolic Charge delivered by Oliver Cowdery included the following:
“It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven to yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven. Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid his hands upon his disciples, why not in latter days? . . . The time is coming when you will be perfectly familiar with the things of God. . . . You have our best wishes, you have our most fervent prayers, that you may be able to bear this testimony, that you have seen the face of God. Therefore call upon him in faith in mighty prayer till you prevail, for it is your duty and your privilege to bear such a testimony for yourselves” (History of the Church, 2:192-98.).
Few people have taught this more powerfully than Elder Bruce R. McConkie. From his book, The Promise Messiah, Elder McConkie teaches the great principle of both the witness of the apostleship and the principle of becoming patterns for others.
Apostles and prophets are named as examples and patterns of what others should be. The Quorum of the Twelve should be a model quorum after which every elders quorum in the Church might pattern its course… I repeat: apostles and prophets simply serve as patterns and examples to show all men what they may receive if they are true and faithful. There is nothing an apostle can receive that is not available to every elder in the kingdom. As we have heretofore quoted, from the Prophet’s sermon on the Second Comforter: “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.” (Teachings, p. 149.) It follows that everything stated by Elder Oliver Cowdery in his charge to the apostles could also be given as a charge to all elders. Every elder is entitled and expected to seek and obtain all the spiritual blessings of the gospel, including the crowning blessing of seeing the Lord face to face.
Bruce R. McConkie
Ultimately, the purpose of the priesthood is to exercise all keys required to bring God’s covenant people into His presence while in the flesh. It is the purpose of the church, of priesthood leadership structures, ordinances, and individual keys to come together in one great singular purpose of entering into the glory of the Lord while in mortality. If we fail to remember that purpose, and to use keys for that primary reason, we fail to both understand and exercise the keys of the priesthood.
Joseph Smith summarized this perfectly when he taught the following.
“How have we come at the Priesthood in the last days? It came down, down, in regular succession. Peter, James, and John had it given to them and they gave it to others. Christ is the Great High Priest; Adam next. Paul speaks of the Church coming to an innumerable company of angels—to God the Judge of all—the spirits of just men made perfect; to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant. (Hebrews 12:22-24.)
I saw Adam in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. He called together his children and blessed them with a patriarchal blessing. The Lord appeared in their midst, and he (Adam) blessed them all, and foretold what should befall them to the latest generation [D&C 107:53–57].
This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God. They looked for a city, etc., “whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10.) Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the Priesthood, but he could not. In the first ages of the world they tried to establish the same thing; and there were Eliases raised up who tried to restore these very glories, but did not obtain them; but they prophesied of a day when this glory would be revealed. Paul spoke of the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God would gather together all things in one, etc.; and those men to whom these keys have been given, will have to be there; and they without us cannot be made perfect.
These men are in heaven, but their children are on the earth. Their bowels yearn over us. God sends down men for this reason. “And the Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that give offense and them that do iniquity.” (Matthew 13:41.) All these authoritative characters will come down and join hand in hand in bringing about this work” (Teachings and Sayings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 104).
To summarize this essay, I hope to make clear the following points:
1. A key is a pattern that must be fulfilled to unlock the power of heaven
2. A key must be received in an authorized manner
3. Ordinances occur when keys are fully turned and the patterns are fulfilled
4. Ordinances are when someone (or something) fallen has been transitioned to a heavenly form
5. There are three types of keys – 1. Individual 2. Ordinance 3. Administrative
6. All three categories of priesthood keys have the singular purpose of bringing you into the presence of God while in the flesh. This is the primary purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood
I bear witness of the restoration of the priesthood of God on the earth. I have a witness of the Holy Ghost that the keys required to be brought back into the presence of God are once again made available to God’s covenant people. I testify that President Nelson has been given the keys to direct God’s work on the earth and that the keys of the priesthood are available for the blessing and exaltation of God’s children. It is an incredible time in which we live.
What comforts you? Have you yielded your self to the spirit of truth to know what you seek for comfort?
Are you angry because of your enemy? Then truth is not your comfort. Your comfort is your ego. It is your false self that you seek to feed and stand up before the world. Your ego is your comfort.
Is the desire of your heart to build a kingdom on this earth? Do you seek status? Is this what gives you comfort?
Do you desire the judgments of men? Do you want to be seen in a certain way? Do you desire to be judged and desired by others? Is this what gives you comfort?
Does the consumption of food, sex, or sleep bring you comfort? Does the intense distraction of pleasure relieve you from the lie that you are living? Does this bring you comfort?
Does your desire to be saved keep you from truth itself? Do you worship a religion because it promises you salvation and relieves you from having to face the lies you carry? Does your religion comfort you so that you don’t face the truth?
The Holy Ghost is the comforter because he has the power to fill you with truth, divest you of the lies you live, and sanctify you with God. But to be filled with the Holy Ghost we must become divested of all of our false sources of comfort. The ego, anger against our enemy, desire to build an earthly kingdom, seeking the judgments of men, consumption of distracting pleasure, and false religion all must be sacrificed if we are to be consumed in the Holy Ghost.
Truth is the only true and everlasting comfort. It is the only thing that can deeply satisfy you. It is the only thing that can give you rest. It is the only thing that can give you peace.
Truth is both terrible and comforting. If we are not of the truth it is terrifying. It takes faith to leave the falsehoods we’ve accepted as our reality and move into truth. It takes great faith to let go of things that we have become dependent upon for comfort. Everything untruthful in us must die at some point, and if our identity is rooted in a lie, it will feel like a true death.
But there is nothing more true than Jesus Christ. He is the truth. And he seeks to make us like he is, so that we can endure into the eternities. Our nature and deepest self is truth, and when we clothe ourselves in anything other than truth, we deny our truest and eternal self.
The Spirit can lead us through the path of becoming divested of our lies, deceptions, and reliance on false forms of comfort. It can lead us to the Savior who requires our entire hearts and minds so that he can fill us with truth. This is the path of salvation – being saved from fear, deception, and darkness.
There is no other path of eternal comfort than through Jesus Christ.
In ancient days before cars and phones and high-technology, while traveling one would make a sign from afar off to let someone approaching know if they are a friend or a foe. Making a sign allowed to communicate long distances of who you are and to discover who you are approaching.
Flags are used as signs. They signal jurisdiction, intent, and authority. Whether on a ship, on land, or a battlefield, flags signal what you are up to.
People can’t help but to show signs of what orders they are apart. Some people get tattoos. Others display signs by the cars they drive, the clothes they wear, the bumperstickers they display, or the images they portray on social media.
All of these are signs to the world of what order they belong. With signs are also given key words. The usage of key words also signals membership in an order. Think of how you feel when you hear these different words:
Black lives matter
Love is love
All of these phrases marks an individual in an order. They are key words that signal if you are a friend to the doctrine and order that they represent. This order is the secular religion of social leftism. It is the repackaged and timelessly attractive philosophy of man that calls good-evil, and evil-good.
The Lord gives us signs of the priesthood by covenant in the temple endowment. These signs allow us to signal heaven, and to communicate intention and by what order we are acting. We are given key-words, as well. The Lord gives us a true priesthood order to which we must take on ourselves with the true marks, signs, key-words of the true order of God. This brings us into communication with heaven and brings us into His order.
We need not fully abandon God’s priesthood order all at once to be received into the order of the world – we just need to carefully weave its signs and tokens; it’s key words and doctrine into our own tradition. Mingling with scripture the key-words and signs of the false orders of Babylon is a an effective way of ensuring a covenant people’s slow, but certain demise.
Babylon has its own signs and key-words. The world has its own orders. Have we chosen from which order we will seek protection ? Who’s favor do we seek? Are we seeking to give the signs to the world that we mean them no harm and that we are of their order?
Are we reassuring them that we will not be a disturbance to their kingdom?
As a youth it was always impressive that the sisters memorized and could recite the Young Women’s Theme on demand with confidence and clarity. Sitting in the front row of a stake youth fireside, a speaker decided to make a point and see if any of the young men could recite the oath and covenant of the priesthood with the same confidence. I was chosen at random to come up to the front of the fireside and give it a try. And,…. it was a disaster. I remember trying to recall roughly the verses in D&C 84 that we generally refer to as the oath and covenant of the priesthood. As I stumbled through some of the verses, the fireside speaker made a great point of how we should know this and it should be committed to memory.
What I didn’t understand at the time is that I was mistaken to believe that the oath and covenant of the priesthood was contained in D&C section 84. It wasn’t my fault, my whole life when I was taught this. In all of my priesthood and Sunday School lessons, whomever was teaching through the lesson would also stumble through verses 33-41 and try to explain the oath and covenant. As a youth, and later into my adult years, I always felt it was odd that no one really knew what the oath and covenant was, especially myself.
Later in life a discovery was made. D&C 84 did not contain the oath and covenant of the priesthood, it was only referring to the oath and covenant. This made so much sense because those verses have power in them and teach great principles, but an oath and covenant it is not. But where could I find the actual oath and covenant?
When we refer to the temple endowment we should all be very clear that it is a priesthood endowment. We are receiving covenants, key words, tokens, signs, and being clothed in the robes of the holy priesthood.
The Aaronic portion of the endowment does not come with an oath. But the culmination of the presentation of the endowment in the Melchizedek order, one receives an oath through the veil. The oath is an oath that God makes with us. It is the oath of eternal life and all of the blessings that come with being prepared to receive all that he has.
We should also understand that the endowment is not limited to that portion of temple ordinances that we traditionally call “the endowment”. It begins with our washings and anointings, and ultimately culminates with our receiving the marriage sealing and finally the second anointing. It is all an endowment.
The Purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood
Although one function of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to provide a government structure for the outward work of God, it is not the ultimate purpose. The order of Melchizedek is fulfilling a pattern that brings you into the presence of God while in the flesh (D&C 84: 19-24). The temple endowment is a a drama which we both receive under covenant signs, names, keywords, and tokens pertaining to and preparatory to parting the veil in this life. It is the purpose and promise of this Holy Order. Those that fulfill these patterns receive actual priesthood.
The veil of the temple represents the blessing and pattern of the priesthood. It does not represent death. It represents the calling and election made sure and second comforter blessings. As we have learned that priesthood is a pattern and an order, the pattern of the priesthood is taught to us in the temple. We receive it by covenant, and in order to receive those blessings and a priesthood endowment in reality, we must fulfill the actual pattern we learn in the temple.
Just as Joseph Smith taught that water baptism is only half a baptism, similarly we should acknowledge that a physical endowment is only half an endowment. We must conform to the pattern and receive in revelation what we ritualistically dramatize in the temple. It is an incredible blessing to have the priesthood endowment. But we need to avoid the mistake of believing we have received an actual endowment when in reality we have just been shown the pattern.
Receiving the calling and election made sure is the purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood. If we are not understanding this blessing, and seeking it, then we have failed to understand the priesthood and even the purpose of the restored gospel. Consider carefully this teaching from Joseph Smith:
“Compare this principle once with Christendom at the present day, and where are they, with all their boasted religion, piety and sacredness while at the same time they are crying out against prophets, apostles, angels, revelations, prophesying and visions, etc. Why, they are just ripening for the damnation of hell. They will be damned, for they reject the most glorious principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and treat with disdain and trample under foot the key that unlocks the heavens and puts in our possession the glories of the celestial world. Yes, I say, such will be damned, with all their professed godliness. Then I would exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until you make your calling and sure for yourselves, by obtaining this more sure word of prophecy, and wait patiently for the promise until you obtain it, etc” (Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, pp. 200–2 and History of the Church, 5:387–90).
Brigham Young taught the following on this subject:
“For us to think that we have an inheritance on the earth is folly, unless God has declared, and sealed it upon us, by revelation, that we shall never fall, never doubt, never come short of glorifying him or of doing his will in all things. No person, unless he is in the possession of this blessing, has the least right to suppose that he has an inheritance on the earth” ( Brigham Young. JD 17: 118).
In other words, we are not in possession of eternal life until we receive from God the blessings and assurances of eternal life.
Receiving the Priesthood
So, how does one receive the priesthood? It is not received through an ordination. The ordination is a calling to a man to enter into and fulfill an order that endows him with rights, priviliges and powers. It is not the priesthood itself. What an ordination accomplishes is the right to officiate in outward ordinances (without any guarantee of power), and it is an invitation to fulfill the pattern of the Holy Order.
We receive the priesthood as we fulfill the pattern of the covenants of the priesthood. We do not receive actual priesthood unless we both receive the covenants through the endowment and then fulfill them and receive the revelatory manifestations related to those covenants.
Until we have received it from the mouth of God, we have yet to receive in reality to oath of the priesthood (Genesis 14 JST).
The oath and covenant of the priesthood is the calling and election made sure.
Let’s go back to what we usually consider the oath and covenant of the priesthood in D&C 84. Consider this verse:
“But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come” (D&C 84: 41).
This is to become a son of perdition. In order to become a son of perdition one must have their calling and election made sure. This verse points to the fact that the oath oath and covenant of the priesthood is the promise of eternal life.
This is also the great and last promise of the Lord.
“That I may testify unto your Father, and your God, and my God, that you are clean from the blood of this wicked generation; that I may fulfil this promise, this great and last promise, which I have made unto you, when I will” (D&C 88: 75).
The oath of the priesthood is the oath God makes to us of the promise of eternal life.
I’ve heard though out my life that the doctrine of making your calling and election sure is a mystery and not part of the gospel basics. If this is the case, then we have no gospel at all. All of what we do is preparatory for this capstone blessing. Without an eye view towards this and understanding this doctrine, all of our baptisms, sacraments, covenants and doctrine is for naught. It all comes together in one great whole. Those who reject this doctrine reject the purpose of the restored gospel. They (probably unknowingly) reject the temple endowment.
When we carefully consider the oath we receive in the temple and how it relates to our posterity this teaching of Joseph Smith clarifies this supernal blessing.
“Make your calling and election sure go on from grace to grace untill you obtain a promise from God for yourselves that you shall have eternal life, this is eternal life to know God and his son Jesus Christ, it is to be sealed up unto eternal life and obtain a promise for our posterity. Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, this is the power of Elijah to seal or bind or turn the hearts of the fathers to their children sealed against all sin but the sin of sheding innocent blood and the Sin against the holy ghost” (Words of Joseph Smith, 334).
Women and Priesthood
One of the great Latter-Day questions is do women hold the priesthood? A variety of teachings and perspectives have been offered on this question along with, in my estimation, a lot of false doctrine and traditions.
Women receive the oath and covenant of the priesthood in the temple in the exact same way as men do. They are clothed in the robes of the holy priesthood preparatory to officiating in the ordinances of the Holy Priesthood. They receive the complete endowment of priesthood separately from their husband. They receive it as an individual and not in conjunction or derivative of their husbands. They receive the oath of the covenant at the veil and are prepared to enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, and finally receive the fullness of the priesthood in the second anointing ordinance.
Sisters are not ordained to offices of the priesthood through the laying on of hands. There are reasons for this that will be explored in subsequent essays. But it should be understood that the oath and covenant of the priestood is received through covenant and the reception of an oath, not ordination. Ordination is an invitation and authorization to officiate in outward ordinances – which rights are appendages to the priesthood, not the priesthood itself.
The priesthood is the pattern of covenants fulfilled that bring you into the order of those that are brought into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.
Sisters are brought into the exact same order as the brothers. They have different roles within that order and do not carry the same covenant obligations, such as coming clean from the blood and sins of their generation, but the order of the priesthood is to come into the presence of the Lord. If we confuse priesthood as just God’s system of government, or the “authority of God delegated to man” we are going to distort the priesthood, falsely believing it is an organization just made for men to provide leadership, conduct outward ordinances, and unfortunately oftentimes usurping unrighteous dominion. This is the inverse of what the Lord has intended for his Holy Priesthood.
The Melchizedek Priesthood is an order of individuals, both men and women, that have claimed the blessings of eternal life in mortality, and therefore are endowed with power to bring their families into the same order.
Men and Women’s roles and obligations will be further explored in future essays.
Bruce R. McConkie Teachings on Priesthood and the Calling and Election Made Sure
Finally, I thought I would post a long excerpt from Elder McConkie that captures the power and significance of this doctrine. As a conclusion to this essay I thought his words crystalize the invitation and obligation to receive the calling and election made sure.
“It follows that the priesthood is the power, authority, and means that prepares men to see their Lord; also, that in the priesthood is found everything that is needed to bring this consummation to pass. Accordingly, it is written: “The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.” (D&C 107:18-19.)”The keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church”! Clearly no spiritual blessing is available to mortal man on earth that can compare with personal communion and converse with the Gods of heaven. Such attainments on the part of the prophets of old are the very things that set them apart above all their fellows. Keys open doors; keys are the directing and controlling power where priestly things are concerned.
Thus, through the priesthood the door may be opened and the way provided for men to see the Father and the Son. From all of this it follows, automatically and axiomatically, that if and when the holy priesthood operates to the full in the life of any man, he will receive its great and full blessings, which are that rending of the heavens and that parting of the veil of which we now speak.
Truly, as Paul said of holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood who magnified their callings, thus qualifying to receive all of the blessings held in store for such faithful persons: “Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels”; that is, the heavens are opened unto you, and as with Enoch and Moses and the brother of Jared, nothing is withheld from your view and understanding. “Ye are come . . . To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect”; that is, you are in communion with the faithful of all ages past who now mingle together in a state of exaltation, you see God who is the Judge of all, and you commune with the departed spirits of the just. “Ye are come . . . To Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel”; that is, you see Jesus, by the sprinkling of whose blood, as it were, salvation comes. Having so taught, Paul issues this warning: “See that ye refuse not him [the Lord] that speaketh.” (Heb. 12:22-25.) Rather, accept the priesthood and let it operate in your life to the full until all these blessings flow to you as they flowed to those of old who magnified their callings.
All of the holy prophets and righteous men of old held the holy Melchizedek Priesthood. This “priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years. . . . And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.” God is known in and through and because of the priesthood; without it he would remain unknown. Through the priesthood the Holy Ghost is given to men, which Comforter is sent forth to bear record of the Father and the Son; also, through the priesthood men are able to progress in spiritual things until they gain personal communion with Deity. “Therefore, in the ordinances thereof,” the revelation continues, “the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” That is to say, in and through the holy priesthood, including all the laws and rites that go with it, the power of godliness, or in other words the power of righteousness, is brought to pass in the lives of men.
Without these priesthood laws and powers, God’s power and glory would not be revealed to man on earth. Without them they would not see the face of God, for if they did, his glory would destroy them. Sinful men cannot see the face of God and live. (JST Ex. 33:20.)”Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory. Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also.” (D&C 84:17-26.) What a calamity!
Because they did not use the priesthood for the purpose for which it was given—and it was given that they might sanctify themselves so as to “behold the face of God”—the Lord withdrew the very priesthood itself. Israel, as a people, was left with the preparatory gospel only, with the law of Moses. Her people were denied what they might have had because they did not magnify their callings in the priesthood. A little thoughtful reflection will cause us to conclude that there are those in latter-day Israel who are not striving to use the Melchizedek Priesthood for the purpose for which it was given any more than did our ancient ancestors. Again—what a calamity!However sad it is that Israel (except for isolated groups and occasional instances) failed to use the holy priesthood to sanctify themselves so as to be able to see the face of God and live, it is refreshing to know that there were other peoples in other places who did take advantage of these blessings when they were offered to them. From Alma’s great discourse on the higher priesthood we learn: “There were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish; Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb. Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceeding great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.” Though Israel failed to sanctify themselves and enter into the rest of the Lord, others did; others by faith and righteousness attained the fulness of the glory of God.
And note how many were so involved: “There were many, exceeding great many.”After having recited what others had obtained through righteousness, Alma exhorted his own people in these words: “My brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.” (Alma 13:10-13.) Along this same line, the Prophet Joseph Smith said to his brethren, the elders of latter-day Israel: “It is the privilege of every elder to speak of the things of God; and could we all come together with one heart and one mind in perfect faith the veil might as well be rent today as next week, or any other time, and if we will but cleanse ourselves and covenant before God, to serve him, it is our privilege to have an assurance that God will protect us.” (Teachings, p. 9.)
In November 1831, the Lord said to the little flock of elders so far ordained in his newly established latter-day kingdom: “It is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual. For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God. Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God, neither after the carnal mind. Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected. Let not your minds turn back; and when ye are worthy in mine own due time, ye shall see and know that which is conferred upon you by the hands of my servant Joseph Smith, Jun.” (D&C 67:10-14.) That which had been conferred upon them by the prophet was the power to see the Lord. The name of that power is the Melchizedek priesthood. Many of these first elders in the kingdom did qualify in due course, while they yet dwelt in the flesh, to see the face of their King. How much spiritual progress we have made in the Church since the day of this revelation may be measured in terms of the number of the elders of Israel for whom the veil has been rent and who have seen the face of Him whose we are.
All Christendom knows, or should know, that the ancient apostles were special witnesses of the Lord’s name; that they saw him after he rose from the dead; that he spent forty days with them as a resurrected being, teaching them all things that it was expedient for them to know pertaining to his kingdom. Those who believe the Book of Mormon are aware that, as with the Twelve in Jerusalem, so with the Twelve on the American continent: they were all witnesses of the Lord—they all felt the nail marks in his hands and feet; they all thrust their hands into his side. There is general awareness in the Church that the latter-day Twelve hold the same office, possess the same priesthood and keys, and bear the same witness of the divine Sonship of him who redeemed us as did their predecessors in days of old. It is true that the witness of the Holy Ghost is sure and absolute and that a man can know with a perfect knowledge, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God who was crucified for the sins of the world. This unshakeable certainty can rest in his soul even though he has not seen the face of his Lord. But it is also true that those who have this witness of the Spirit are expected, like their counterparts of old, to see and hear and touch and converse with the Heavenly Person, as did those of old.
Oliver Cowdery, the Associate President of the Church, who held the keys of the kingdom jointly with the Prophet Joseph Smith, having received them from holy angels sent to earth for that very purpose, was appointed to give the apostolic charge to the first quorum of apostles called in this dispensation. Speaking by the spirit of inspiration and by virtue of visions he had received, Elder Cowdery set forth, in the spirit of pure inspiration, the nature of the apostolic office and what is expected of those who hold it. We shall quote those portions of his charge which deal with the obligation that rests upon all members of the Council of the Twelve to see the face of Him whose witnesses they are.
In a special charge to Elder Parley P. Pratt, we find these words: “The ancients . . . had this testimony—that they had seen the Savior after he rose from the dead. You must bear the same testimony; or your mission, your labor, your toil, will be in vain. You must bear the same testimony that there is but one God, one Mediator; he that hath seen him, will know him, and testify of him.”In the general charge to all of the Twelve, Elder Cowdery said: “It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven to yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven.”Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid his hands upon his disciples, why not in latter days? . . .”The time is coming when you will be perfectly familiar with the things of God. . . . You have our best wishes, you have our most fervent prayers, that you may be able to bear this testimony, that you have seen the face of God. Therefore call upon him in faith in mighty prayer till you prevail, for it is your duty and your privilege to bear such a testimony for yourselves.” (History of the Church, 2:192-98.)
Few faithful people will stumble or feel disbelief at the doctrine here presented that the Lord’s apostolic witnesses are entitled and expected to see his face, and that each one individually is obligated to “call upon him in faith in mighty prayer” until he prevails. But the Twelve are only a dozen in number. There are seldom more than fifteen men on earth at a time who have been ordained to the holy apostleship, which brings us to another statement made by Elder Cowdery in his apostolic charge: “God does not love you better or more than others.” That is, apostles and prophets do not gain precedence with the Lord unless they earn it by personal righteousness. The Lord loves people, not office holders. Every elder is entitled to the same blessings and privileges offered the apostles. Indeed, an apostle is an elder; such is the title by which he is proud to be addressed. The priesthood is greater than any of its offices. No office adds any power, dignity, or authority to the priesthood. All offices derive their rights, virtues, authorities, and prerogatives from the priesthood.
It is greater to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood than it is to hold the office of an elder or of an apostle in that priesthood. The Lord loves his priesthood holders, all of whom are given the same opportunity to do good and work righteousness and keep the commandments. All of the elders in the kingdom are expected to live the law as strictly as do the members of the Council of the Twelve, and if they do so live, the same blessings will come to them that flow to apostles and prophets.
Apostles and prophets are named as examples and patterns of what others should be. The Quorum of the Twelve should be a model quorum after which every elders quorum in the Church might pattern its course. For instance, before long there will be a great sacrament meeting at which the Lord Jesus himself will partake of the sacrament. Others who will be in attendance and who will partake of the sacrament also will be Moroni, Elias, John the Baptist, Elijah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph the son of Jacob, Peter, James, and John, and Michael the archangel who is Adam. These are the ones who are listed by name in the revelation. They shall all be there. The immediate impression arises what a marvelous meeting this will be, to have the Lord Jesus and all these holy prophets in attendance. Such an impression is of course proper.But those named are listed merely to illustrate and dramatize what is to be.
After naming them as the ones with whom the Lord will partake of the sacrament, the revelation says, “And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.” (D&C 27:5-14.) In other words, every faithful person in the whole history of the world, every person who has so lived as to merit eternal life in the kingdom of the Father will be in attendance and will partake, with the Lord, of the sacrament.I repeat: apostles and prophets simply serve as patterns and examples to show all men what they may receive if they are true and faithful. There is nothing an apostle can receive that is not available to every elder in the kingdom. As we have heretofore quoted, from the Prophet’s sermon on the Second Comforter: “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.” (Teachings, p. 149.) It follows that everything stated by Elder Oliver Cowdery in his charge to the apostles could also be given as a charge to all elders. Every elder is entitled and expected to seek and obtain all the spiritual blessings of the gospel, including the crowning blessing of seeing the Lord face to face” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, Chapter 31, p.575-595).
As we understand the principle that priesthood is an order, and an order is a pattern, we can begin to unfold the ascending patterns of Melchizedek Priesthood. When we fulfill a pattern, we are of that order, and this is how we understand the nature of the priesthood in which we in reality participate.
The definition of priesthood is not power. Even though it has power associated with it, it is not a power in and of itself. There is no cosmic power that is exclusively considered “priesthood”. However, the patterns we fulfill according to the order of God can endow us with power of heaven depending on to what degree and what patterns we are actually choosing to follow.
Within the Melchizedek priesthood there are many different patters that build on each other until you fulfill the pattern of what Joseph Smith called the “fullness of the priesthood”. Until you come into a fullness, more than likely you are fulfilling a portion of the priesthood, or a sub-order of it.
“All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it” (- Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 180)
As you fulfill all of the patterns and conditions you are eventually brought into a fullness of the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood. But the bottom line is, you can be ordained and introduced into the Melchizedek Priesthood but not be participating at all in the necessary forms of what the scriptures call “Melchizedek Priesthood”. Usually, when the scriptures refer to the Melchizedek, or Higher, Priesthood it is referring to its full pattern and order. And herein lies the confusion: being ordained to the priesthood does not mean you possess anything beyond an ordination. It does not mean you have power or even rights to power. It means that you are being introduced into an order in which there are many patterns that you are expected to fulfill.
The scriptures suggest three general portions – patterns, or sub-orders of priesthood. In other words, you can receive a portion of the priesthood, enter into a “sub-order” or a partial order, in preparation to a fullness of the priesthood.
The confusion around the doctrine of the priesthood is that we don’t know how to talk about the preparatory orders of the Melchizedek Priesthood. When it is discussed or taught, it is treated as a monolithic thing that you either have, or don’t have. And if you have it, it is assumed, that you have all of it. But this creates confusion because our experience of the priesthood rarely matches the promises and powers discussed in scripture.
When we discuss Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthood I think it is helpful to map it against the three degrees of glory. The doctrine of the priesthood as taught in the scriptures seems to elegantly match this structure. Each degree has a pattern and rites and powers associated with it. As we explore these three degrees I hope it becomes clear how to ascend in the priesthood and fulfill the order into which God is calling us.
The Telestial Order of Priesthood: Being Called and Ordained
First, what exactly does it mean to be called, chosen, and sealed? In order to understand Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial portions of priesthood we must have clarity on all of these scriptural terms. When we understand them, it becomes strikingly clear that they map to each other.
To be called in the priesthood means you receive an ordination. The ordination is the calling. It is an invitation into an order. Priesthood is not “bestowed” through an ordination of the laying on of hands; it is an extended invitation. It is a call to enter into a pattern – to become part of an order.
Joseph Smith made this clear when he received Section 95.
But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen.
D&C 95: 5
Ordination is an outward ordinance. It is a physical event on earth that follows a heavenly pattern. By itself, it bestows no power or spiritual authority. The rights with this order is that those who receive the ordination are now authorized to perform physical ordinances and physical rites. There is no guarantee of spiritual power and no right to receive anything from heaven. One is just authorized to officiate in the outward ordinances of the priesthood.
Being called is the Telestial order of the priesthood. It just gives you rights to officiate in physical ordinances in a Telestial sphere. Those ordinances that are performed in the Telestial sphere stay with the earth and have no power in heaven unless the higher portions of those ordinances are also completed and received (to be discussed more fully later).
When someone is ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood it means they are “called”. This is the same use of the word called as when the Lord says, “many are called, but few are chosen”. Ordination equals calling.
What is the pattern of this priesthood? The pattern is that you are called after the manner the Lord has revealed: an authorized priesthood holder places their hands on your head and ordains you to both the priesthood and an office. That is it. If you have received that ordination you then have the right to act in that office in the physical, outward ordinances.
Pattern: Receive an ordination through the laying on of hands – you receive an invitation
Order: Called to the Priesthood
Rights and Power: You have the rights to officiate in the outward ordinances
At risk of confusing the issue, one way of thinking about it is is that you have an “Aaronic Portion” of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Just as the Aaronic Priesthood has the right to officiate in outward ordinances, this is the the right that you receive when you are ordained to the priesthood. Do you have more power than just being able to perform outward Melchizedek ordinances? No, you don’t. It is not an endowment of power, nor does it mean heaven sustains your works or will give you special heavenly authority. All you have is the right to officiate in the outward ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Those ordinances are recorded on earth and are only binding on earth. It has no binding power in heaven.
Being introduced into God’s Holy Order of priesthood by the laying on of hands is his ordained channel. It is the Lord’s prescribed pattern. If you fulfill the pattern you enter into a Telestial order of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
It is a great blessing to be invited into the order of the Holy Priesthood of God. But we should be careful not to confuse an ordination into priesthood with priesthood power. As mentioned earlier, there is no such thing as priesthood power as a cosmic force in and of itself. Power comes by virtue of the pattern you fulfill, and one is ordained they have no power, only the right to officiate in outward ordinances.
In the telestial order of being called to the priesthood and having the authorization to officiate in outward ordinances the worthiness or spiritual preparedness of an individual is not a governing factor of exercising this order of priesthood. When the pattern you fulfill has only spiritual authority to perform an outward ordinance, the spiritual preparation and worthiness of the individual does not have an effect on whether or not this order of the priesthood is being fulfilled.
To receive power one must move from being called, to being chosen. Unfortunately many are ordained, but few are chosen.
Terrestrial Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood: Becoming Chosen and Elect
The covenant of the priesthood is the New and Everlasting Covenant. They are one in the same. There is no difference. All of the covenants and oaths of the priesthood are the same as the New and Everlasting Covenant.
Just as water baptism by itself is an outward telestial ordinance and covenant, it is a sign that is made to God that one has received a remission of sins (D&C 20: 37).
When one receives a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, they are sanctified and fulfill the the full requirements of a complete baptism – they are both baptized of water and the Holy Ghost.
A baptism of the Holy Ghost means you have repented completely and have received a remission of sins, and have also received the full sanctifying blessings of the Holy Ghost. When one receives the baptism of fire they receive an endowment from heaven. It is a blessing bestowed directly from heaven (and also through servants on earth that have received the power to do so). The sanctification of the Holy Ghost sanctifies you according to the law and knowledge which you have received, and as one receives greater and higher laws they must continued to be sanctified in higher degrees until their spirit and flesh are completely sanctified and enter into the presence of God. When a young child is baptized and are prepared sufficiently they receive a baptism of fire according to their knowledge and the (very little) sin which is in them. The experience of being baptized by fire is as dramatic as the need to have the natural man burned out of them.
When one is baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost they have the spiritual and physical experience of becoming a new creature in Christ (Mosiah 27: 26). They become born again (Mosiah 27: 25; Alma 5: 49; Alma 7: 14). They put off the natural man and become quickened in the inner man. There is a spiritual transformation. When a person enters into and endures in this state they possess the Gift of the Holy Ghost. While in this sanctified state and as a possessor of the Holy Ghost they become prepared to administer in spiritual things. They enter into the Terrestrial order of the Holy Priesthood.
Being born again and a new creature in Christ puts you in the state of living a Terrestrial law and order. As you do so the power of Holy Ghost becomes the authority by which priesthood is operated. You move from the state of being called, to a state of being chosen/elect.
There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy.
And it shall be manifest unto my servant, by the voice of the Spirit, those that are chosen; and they shall be sanctified
(D&C 105: 35-36)
The Holy Ghost is the authority of the Terrestrial order of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
The complete sanctification of the Holy Ghost is what makes an individual “worthy”. As a new creature in Christ, born again, sanctified from all sin, one is prepared to act under the influence of the Holy Ghost to bless and administer and perform priesthood ordinances that produces actual heavenly power.
Consider the following scriptural examples.
Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him (D&C 20: 60).
And after this manner did they ordain priests and teachers, according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them (Moroni 3: 4).
The Holy Ghost is the power by which one is actually ordained. Ordination in this sense is to have both the calling and chosen portions bestowed upon someone. It is the ability to bestow a heavenly power or gift. It is to bestow an endowment of power.
When the disciples were given power to give others the Holy Ghost in 3 Nephi, the Lord gave them specific instructions. Consider carefully the following admonition:
“The words of Christ, which he spake unto his disciples, the twelve whom he had chosen, as he laid his hands upon them—
And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles.
Now Christ spake these words unto them at the time of his first appearing; and the multitude heard it not, but the disciples heard it; and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost”
(Moroni 2: 1-3)
Even thought the disciples received a marvelous endowment in the presence of Christ, they were still instructed to call upon the name of the Father in mighty prayer to receive authorization and power to give someone else the Holy Ghost. Their ordination was not sufficient to bestow a spiritual endowment, they had to receive the consent of heaven on a case-by case basis.
This may seem simple, but we should all be reminded that the gifts of healing, casting out devils, prophesy, revelation, discernment are all gifts of the spirit given to those that receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If we understand that receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is the authorizing power of the priesthood this all begins to make sense. Again, the New and Everlasting Covenant is also the covenant of priesthood. When you receive the gift of the Holy Ghost you are fulfilling a priesthood pattern and therefore entering a priesthood order.
The power of the Priesthood for the vast amount of people who are brought into the order is the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We receive it as we fulfill the conditions or pattern that it is governed by, and thereore we become of a terrestrial order of the priesthood.
It is this order and pattern that is being referred to in the amazing priesthood doctrine that is outlined in D&C 121.
We learned in D&C 95 that ordination means calling. And many are called and not chosen, and they walk in darkness at noon day. How do we become Chosen? By receiving the power and gift of the Holy Ghost. By becoming born again. They we receive the power of heaven.
“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness (D&C 121: 34-36).
The revelation then goes to drive a further distinction:
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true (this is ordination); but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (vs. 37).
When the spirit is withdrawn the authority of the priesthood is removed.
The Holy Ghost is the power of the priesthood. It is not a separate cosmic power. When one fulfills the conditions (and pattern) of becoming born again they fulfill the conditions and pattern of priesthood. They begin to receive the gifts of the spirit. These are priesthood powers. They are after the order of the Son of God. Gifts of the spirit are gifts of the priesthood.
Pattern: Exercise mighty faith unto repentance so that the Holy Ghost transforms your nature to become a new creature in Christ. Receive a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Become sanctified from all sin.
Order: Become the chosen and elect of God. Elect in the Priesthood
Rights and Power: You have the power and gift of the Holy Ghost. Gifts of the Spirit
Ordinations and Offices
At this point the reader may be asking questions about the need and purpose of ordinations and offices in the priesthood. The question may be asked, “If a person is received into the priesthood when they are born again and receive the covenants and ordinances of the gospel, what is the purpose of being ordained to the priesthood and into an office?”
Remember that priesthood has various orders and portions to it. Offices of the priesthood are all appendages to it. In other words, no office is higher than the priesthood itself. Offices and ordinations are assignments within the priesthood, not the priesthood itself.
Doctrine and Covenants section 107 makes this distinction.
All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood.
D&C 107: 5
“It is a precept of the Church that women of the Church share the authority of the Priesthood with their husbands, actual or prospective; and therefore women, whether taking the endowment for themselves or for the dead, are not ordained to specific rankin the Priesthood. Nevertheless, there is no grade, rank, or phase of the temple endowment to which women are not eligible on an equality with men.” Talmage, House of the Lord (1912 ed.), 94 (emphasis added)
“There is no office growing out of this priesthood that is or can be greater than the priesthood itself. It is from the priesthood that the office derives its authority and power. No office gives authority to the priesthood. No office adds to the power of the priesthood. But all offices in the Church derive their power, their virtue, their authority, from the priesthood. If our brethren would get this principle thoroughly established in their minds, there would be less misunderstanding in relation to the function of government in the church than there is. ” (Teachings of Presidents of th Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, 168).
“The priesthood is greater than any of its offices. No office adds any power, dignity, or authority to the priesthood. All offices derive their rights, prerogatives, graces, and powers from the priesthood.” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 595.
Offices in the priesthood serve purposes and are organized to provide functions – they are not the priesthood itself. They are orders within the priesthood.
When a male is ordained to the priesthood he is ordained to an office. No one is ordained to the just the priesthood, it always accompanies an office. Offices are purposeful for the service and administration of both priesthood government and for the specific ministrations of the work of God. Even though they are critical and purposeful, offices and ordinations are appendages to the priesthood, they are not the priesthood itself.
Celestial Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood: Sealed Up to Eternal Life
When one discusses the power, authority, and privileges of the Melchizedek Priesthood it is most often the Celestial order of the priesthood that is being referenced.
The ability to command elements, to be sealed to a spouse, to bind on heaven and on earth, and to transcend this earth come from the full reception of the priesthood as one is sealed up to eternal life and receives a fullness of the priesthood from the mouth of God.
The purpose of the priesthood is to bring someone into the presence of God while in the flesh. The full purpose of all of the preparatory covenants, and orders is to bring a person into a full redemption in the flesh. It is the power and order through which you receive the Second Comforter.
When one enters into the Terestrial order of the priesthood one receives the blessing of the First Comforter. As one proves that they will be faithful in all things and proceeds to become sanctified by all of the laws, covenants, and knowledge that the Lord endows them with through the Holy Ghost, they are prepared to receive the Second Comforter. It is through the blessings of the Second Comforter that a full endowment of priesthood is received.
More than being a requirement for a fullness of the Priesthood, the Second Comforter blessings are the purpose for the priesthood. If we are not seeking these blessings we are not seeking to fulfill the calling of our priesthood.
The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—
To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
D&C 107: 18-19
It is this level of priesthood that is being referenced in the the 13th chapter of Alma. The high priests in this priesthood are those that have fulfilled the celestial order of the priesthood. When Moses sought to sanctify the children of Israel he was preparing them to be brought into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh. He was preparing them to enter into the Melchizedek Priesthood. Because they feared and wanted Moses to go on their behalf the power and privileges of the higher order was removed from them.
“But [the Children of Israel] hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory” (D&C 84: 24).
The “rest” referred to is entering into a fullness of glory while in mortality. Consider then the power and pattern fulfilled by the high priests described in Alma chapter 13.
“And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest…
Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.” (Alma 13: 6; 12-13).
These high priests are after the order described in Genesis 14 JST. Although a calling to the priesthood comes through ordination, the endowment of the fullness of the priesthood in the Celestial order comes by the mouth of God. It is a direct and personal call.
Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.
And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.
And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace
(Genesis 14: 26-33 JST)
The scriptures that we have inherited is a record of prophets that have ascended into this order. One of the great examples is Nephi in the Book of Helaman. We have the record of Nephi receiving the sealing power directly from the mouth of God.
“Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.
Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.
And thus, if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain, it shall be done.
And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done.
And behold, if ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass” (Helaman 10: 3-7).
Pattern: Receive the priesthood directly from the mouth of God
Order: Sealed to eternal life and are high priests of the church of the firstborn
Rights and Power: Bind on earth and heaven, sealing power, power over elements, translation
When we understand the orders of the priesthood and how to become endowed with power according to what patterns we fulfill we can pursue intentionally to ascend into a fullness of priesthood. We won’t confuse an ordination with a fullness of priesthood, and we will begin to focus on being consumed in the Holy Ghost understanding that until we are brought into the presence of the Lord this is the power by which we operate.
He who drinks the King’s wine, sings the King’s song
Who’s wine do we drink? What structure gives us wealth? From what structure do we seek validation? In who’s good graces to we seek to be? What structure gives us life and sustains us and provides protection?
To what kingdom are we a vassal?
If we drink the wine of this world we will sing the song of this world. We will seek to be partnered, we will want to be a productive and obedient vassal.
If we drink from the true vine, we will know that the Lord will protect us from our enemies and that he will sustain us. He is our King and we are his vassal. And God’s protection allows us to build the Kingdom of God on earth. Are we building his kingdom or are we contributing to the skyline of Babylon?
Do we reject false God’s or are we building monuments to them? Are we now beholden to the false God’s because we sustain their laws, transact with their currency, and are sustained by their favor?
We are told that we have to choose our master. We can’t serve two.
So, who’s song do we sing? Do we seek to be a friend to the world or do we seek to be a light to the world?
Do we say the key words and offer up the tokens given to us by the world so they know we are a friend? That we are compliant? That we are not a threat to their dominion? Have we made a covenant not to disturb their kingdom?
Or are we building a Kingdom of heaven on earth? Do we seek Zion or do we seek to represent the best of Babylon?
The warnings of the great prophet Brigham Young keep coming to my mind:
There is nothing that would so soon weaken my hope and discourage me as to see this people in full fellowship with the world, and receive no more persecution from them because they are one with them. In such an event, we might bid farewell to the Holy Priesthood with all its blessings, privileges and aids to exaltations, principalities, and powers in the eternities of the Gods.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 10: 32
When we see the time that we can willingly strike hands and have full fellowship with those who despise the Kingdom of God, know ye then that the priesthood is out of your possession.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 10: 273
And when the spirit of persecution, the spirit of hatred, of wrath, and malice ceases in the world against this people, it will be the time that this people have apostatized and joined hands with the wicked, and never until then; which I pray may never come.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4: 327
Who’s song are we singing? The song will reveal the true King that we worship.
Have you considered that the process of creation and the process of destruction are the same? Both are the processes of separating light from darkness.
Depending on how you experience that process will determine if you are going through a destruction or a creation. If we engage the Lord and come to him and allow darkness to be separated out of us by our own free will and choice we will experience creation. If we flee God, eventually, in mercy, the light catches up with our darkness and the Lord does not allow us to persist in darkness and we have to confront the light of his existence.
This is also the definition of judgment: when the darkness of who we are is confronted by the light and truth and reality of God. In this sense, seeking a baptism of fire is seeking to have the judgment moved into the present. It is to seek judgment now – and be exposed to the fire of God’s presence.
This judgment is what purifies and cleanses and burns from us everything that is not of him. Seeking the baptism of fire is seeking judgment before the established end of our probation. The process of receiving a baptism of fire is to go through a willing destruction – submitting all that is not of God to him so that it may be removed, healed, or shaken from us.
Thus, the baptism of fire is to simultaneously submit to both the process of creation and destruction. It is to bring oneself into judgment by your own free will and choice. It is to choose to come into the presence of God while in the day of your probation.
What is a church? The best definition I can come up with is this:
A church is a group of people with a unifying characteristic.
What, then, is the unifying characteristic of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?
As I ponder on that question, it seems to me the answer is this:
A group of people who have been baptized by water and had their membership confirmed by someone who has been authorized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
In other words, it doesn’t tell you much about these people. Because there are all sorts of people with all sorts of beliefs that can be included under this enormous umbrella, it is usually not helpful to refer to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) as a homogenous body of people. In fact, it may be more helpful to describe The Church as really being comprosed of three churches in one.
The scriptures describe generally three churches. I believe all of these churches are found in the LDS church and this helps us to understand the variety of experience observable in the church.
1. The first, and largest, is the Great and Abominable Church. These are the defining characteristics of this church.
a. They desire the things of the world (1 Nephi 13:7)
b. Nice clothing (1 Nephi 13: 7,8)
c. Sexual desire outside of sanctified marriage (1 Nephi 13: 8)
d. They desire the praise of the world. They want to be cosmopolitan and in the image of the world. (1 Nephi 13: 9)
e. They oppose the establishment of Zion (through their marriage to the world) (2 Nephi 22: 14; 2 Nephi 26:12)
f. They use their own wisdom to become wealthy (2 Nephi 26:20)
g. They teach their own wisdom and their own learning (2 Nephi 26:20)
h. They marginalize miracles and power of God (2 Nephi 26:20)
i. They enrich themselves on the backs of the poor (2 Nephi 26:20)
j. They set themselves up to get the praise of the world (2 Nephi 26:29)
k. They labor for money (2 Nephi 26:31)
l. They teach that all is well in Zion (2 Nephi 28: 25)
m. They teach to trust in man (2 Nephi 28: 26)
n. They teach that since the church is prospering financially that all is well and the Lord is pleased (2 Nephi 28: 21)
o. They preach false doctrines (2 Nephi 28: 15)
p. They preach whoredoms (2 Nephi 28: 15)
q. Puffed up in pride (2 Nephi 28: 15)
r. They don’t want to receive more of the word of God, they believe they have enough (2 Nephi 28: 29)
It is also interesting, and instructive, to note that Nephi identifies the Great and Abominable Church with the members of the House of Israel.
“And the multitude of the earth was gathered together; and I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (1 Nephi 11: 35).
Even though the people were of the covenant body – they were of the House of Israel, they were also of the Great and Abominable Church.
A defining characteristic of members of the Great and Abominable Church is that they take upon themselves the name of Christ and his gospel but seek to form the church in the image of the world. They seek to dress Babylon up in the clothing of the church so that it becomes justified by religion.
Those that reject Babylon, its structures, and its enticements will always be persecuted by those in the covenant body who seek to conform to the image of the world.
The reality of Zion, the requirements of Zion, and the doctrine of Zion will always offend the membership of the Great and Abominable Church (GAC). Those that are persuaded that they are both of the “true church” and also of the GAC will persecute, marginalize, and do all they can to discourage and preach against the doctrine of Zion.
The GAC will claim that they are Zion. They will teach that they way they live is a state, or stake, of Zion. They will pervert the forms and claim the glory. Nephi uses the term both ironically and condemningly when he prophesies of future Latter-Day Saints who define themselves by the term Zion and at the same time preach that “all is well”.
2. The Second church within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Church of Christ.
The Church of Christ is defined in Doctrine and Covenants:
“Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church” (D&C 10: 67-68).
The Church of Christ is that group of people that have repented. This isn’t the type of repentance where you confess and the church tells you you can take the sacrament so you dont feel that you have any thing to repent of. This is the type of repentance that only comes to those that have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Those that repent are those that are born again. They are baptized by fire. They have received the mighty change of heart.
Those that are to be received into baptism are first supposed to demonstrate to the church that they’ve already received a remission of their sins.
And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church” (D&C 20:37).
When Nephi gives an interpretation of the Tree of Life dream and teaches the doctrine represented in the account, he identifies the gate through which we enter the path as the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. We aren’t on the covenant path until we are born again (2 Nephi 31:33).
Water baptism, as Joseph Smith reminds us, is only half a baptism. With out the baptism of spirit – without the mighty change of heart – we are not yet baptized a member of Christ’s actual church.
It is when we are Born again and receive the power and influence of the Gift of the Holy Ghost that we are new creatures in Christ, and thus a member of his Church.
3. The Third church is the Church of the Firstborn. This church is rarely spoken of, because entrance into this church is based on principles rarely taught and discussed in the general Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. To be a member of this church you must be sealed up to eternal life. You must have your calling and election made sure. This is to have your baptism sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.
The Holy Spirit of Promise is not a temporary seal of the spirit on someone who has become born again. Many in the church confuse the reception of the Holy Ghost when they are born again as the Holy Spirit of Promise. The scriptures and the teachings of Joseph Smith are clear: The Holy Spirit of Promise is the sealing of your baptism into exaltation, and/or it is the sealing of your marriage to an exaltation.
Two things are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise: Baptism and Marriage. Both are fundamental covenants of the New and Everlasting Covenant. Both bring you into degrees of the Celestial Kingdom. Both are received by both the witness of the Holy Ghost, the voice of God from the heavens, and by physical ordinance by key-holders. For the ordinance to be complete, all three conditions must be eventually realized.
“And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
They are they who are the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 76: 53-54).
“Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter (the Second Comforter), even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son” (D&C 88:3-5).
Can someone be sealed up to eternal life before they receive the ordinances? Yes, of course. They can receive the revelation of this blessing through faith and directly from the heavens. Must that person also eventually receive the physical ordinances associated with those blessings? Yes.
In the same way that a person qualifies for physical baptism they must first receive the remission of their sins, a person qualifies for the physical ordinances of calling and election by receiving the witness and revelatory experiences required to be sealed up to eternal life.
It is my view that only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints can a person receive these types of promises, and is this type of knowledge available. It is my view that a person can be of the Church of Christ and not be a baptized member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but it is my view at this time to be sealed up to the Church of the Firstborn they must receive it through the priesthood channels established on the earth. I don’t believe the knowledge to do so is available anywhere else.
Can a person be born again without being baptized? I believe so. But they also must receive the physical ordinances of that baptism and laying on of hands when made available to them. It is through the channel of physical ordinances that the power of godliness is made manifest on the earth (this will be the topic of a future post).
Understanding the doctrine of priesthood is at the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The depth of the doctrine is as deep as the gospel itself. And given the depth and complexity of the gospel, it should be no wonder that there are many different views, opinions, various teachings, and many unanswered questions regarding the doctrine. For example:
1. What exactly is priesthood?
2. Is it a power? Is it an organization?
3. Who receives priesthood? Do women?
4. How does one obtain the priesthood?
5. What is the ultimate purpose of priesthood?
Personally, In the past year, my perceptions of the priesthood have expanded regarding these questions. Of course, I don’t want to make this come across as some sort of definitive answer on these questions, but I hope it drives clarity.
What Exactly Is Priesthood?
The first question is the most fundamentally important starting point. The proposed answer in this essay seems also to not overlap with a traditional LDS definition or explanation of priesthood. I hope that this doesn’t dissuade the reader from carefully considering it.
This is the current state of the knowledge of the doctrine of the priesthood. As I have informally surveyed large groups of people to distill the doctrine of the priesthood into one sentence, I received almost a hundred different answers and views. This reflected the fact that the fundamental question of “what is priesthood?” is confused and inconsistent. If we don’t have clarity on the fundamental definition of priesthood, when we ask deeper questions like, “do women have priesthood?” or “what is priesthood power?“, we will most likely get those questions distorted and confused as well.
There is one universal definition of priesthood. It is simple and basic and must be settled in our minds in order to clearly understand all doctrines of the priesthood. This is the definition:
All priesthood means is that there is an order. But what exactly is an order?
An order is a pattern. If you follow a pattern, or embody a pattern, you are after an order. And if you are in an order you are in a priesthood.
Priesthood usually denotes a religious order, but for the purpose of laying this principled definition out, let’s expand our understanding outside of the bounds of formal religion.
For example, if you were to join the military you would be brought into an order. You would make a contract to join, you would take certain oaths, and because of your membership in the military you would be granted certain rights and privileges, and strict rules that people not in that order would not receive. You also would have a purpose, or a mission in general given to you, with many sub-missions that contribute to the over all purpose of your new “priesthood order”. The military is a priesthood order.
Consider that graduating with a degree from a university is also entering into an order. (This very fact inspired Hugh Nibley’s hilarious and controversial prayer that he delivered at a BYU commencement ceremony when he prayed,”We meet here today clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood.”)
When one graduates from a university they enter into a priesthood order. They fulfill conditions and gain knowledge and are recognized by the academy for being a member. They enter into that priesthood order because they fulfill the conditions and pattern of that priesthood. They get the rites, rights, privileges, and power of that priesthood.
It feels weird to refer to orders and patterns as priesthood, because priesthood has a religious feel to it, but it is really important to expand our understanding of priesthood to orders and patterns that are not traditionally considered religious. And there is good reason for doing so – as we explore false orders of God’s true priesthood this will become more obvious as to why we should understand that there are many orders that oppose God and create de facto orders of the priesthood in order to do so.
Priesthood, in the LDS traditional sense of the word, refers to the priesthood of God. Modern scripture reveals its formal name:
“Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God” .
(D&C 107: 3)
Even though this is the formal name, it is universally referred to as Melchizedek Priesthood (There is a reason for that which will be explored later).
But notice that the formal name of the priesthood references its order in the very name. It is the priesthood that is after the order of the Son of God. We can learn much from just the name of the priesthood – that those who are received into this priesthood are patterned after, and are of the order of God.
But to rely on the vast reference within scripture that priesthood is fundamentally an order, let us quickly review many (but not all) of the references to priesthood being an order that are in the scriptures. Consider the following passages. I highlight the common denominator in all of these records.
“Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God” (D&C 107: 3).
“We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 77: 11)
“Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men” (D&C 107: 29).
“Behold, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi, unto whom ye look as a king or a protector, and on whom ye depend for safety, behold ye know that I have spoken unto you exceedingly many things” (2 Nephi 6: 2).
“And thus in the commencement of the ninth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, Alma delivered up the judgment-seat to Nephihah, and confined himself wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to the testimony of the word, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy” (Alma 4: 20).
“For I am called to speak after this manner, according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus; yea, I am commanded to stand and testify unto this people the things which have been spoken by our fathers concerning the things which are to come” (Alma 5: 44).
“And Alma went and began to declare the word of God unto the church which was established in the valley of Gideon, according to the revelation of the truth of the word which had been spoken by his fathers, and according to the spirit of prophecy which was in him, according to the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who should come to redeem his people from their sins, and the holy order by which he was called. And thus it is written. Amen” (Alma 6: 8).
“And he began to teach the people in the land of Melek according to the holy order of God, by which he had been called; and he began to teach the people throughout all the land of Melek” (Alma 8: 4).
“And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people” (Alma 13: 1).
“And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—
This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things.
Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—
Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.” (Alma 13: 6-9).
“Now we shall say no more concerning their preaching, except that they preached the word, and the truth, according to the spirit of prophecy and revelation; and they preached after the holy order of God by which they were called” (Alma 43: 2).
“…yea, and by all those who had been ordained by the holy order of God, being baptized unto repentance, and sent forth to preach among the people” (Alma 49: 30).
“Behold it was by faith that they of old were called after the holy order of God” (Ether 12: 10).
The Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 14 is one of the great revelation on the order of priesthood. It will be discussed in greater detail later, but for now I’d like to highlight in the chapter that the priesthood is an order. Consider the following:
And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God…
For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course…
And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.
And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace (Genesis 14).
Orders and Patterns
An order is a pattern. If you conform to the pattern you receive whatever powers, rites, rights, privileges, knowledge, clothing, and authority associated with the order.
A pattern may be just fulfilling outward requirements, like taking classes in order to get a degree. Other patterns are found in what a person becomes or embodies. As one ascends into the higher degrees of priesthood of God what gives endows them with priesthood is that they fulfill the spiritual forms and nature in their very being.
The Three Degrees of The Melchizedek Priesthood
Many ordinances, principles and doctrines can be understood in terms of them having three degrees. The three degrees of glory give us a pattern to understand many gospel principles, especially priesthood. It follows the pattern of the three degrees of glory very carefully. As we understand each degree of glory associated with the priesthood we understand what power is associated with it and exactly how we can receive it.
What do the three degrees of glory teach us?
The following is a diagram that outlines the degrees of priesthood. This will be explored at length in forthcoming posts.
Like many principles and doctrines of the gospel, repentance has degrees and types. These types of repentance bring us closer to God in the kingdom of which law we abide, and also are preparatory to ascending into greater laws and covenants that bring us into oneness with God.
The three degrees of repentance are what prepare us and bring us into the three kingdoms of glory. There are telestial, terrestrial, and celestial forms of repentance. Each have a different purpose and each prepare us for our next ascension if we have the faith to press forward.
The telestial kingdom is the kingdom in which we all reside. In a state of nature, this earth is both a place of death and a place where the light of Christ sheds itself abroad to the hearts of all people. As we choose to yield to light we are able to grow in light and become brighter individuals with a greater sense of what is light and darkness. As we yield to darkness we lose light and have less ability to discern between light and darkness. We are beings that are in flux. We are divided. There is a war in our hearts and a struggle over territory for light and darkness.
Telestial repentance is the decision to follow light instead of darkness. It is to choose to add light to the current condition. This is articulated a number of ways – but telestial repentance is the path of incremental improvement.
“Do better today than you did yesterday,” is a summary of the approach of this type or repentance. It produces light. It produces progress. It is the type of progress that betters individuals and betters a telestial kingdom. As a telestial kingdom becomes a kingdom of glory, it will be inherited by numberless people of different varieties and intensities of light according to how well they succeeded at gathering light to themselves and spreading it in this kingdom.
The Lord blesses those that desire this path. “Doing better, and being better” is a path of light, and if it is followed it can lead to greater heights and greater levels of repentance (terrestrial/celestial). This path is articulate well by President Nelson.
“All of us can do better and be better than ever before… Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ
President Nelson, April 4, 2019 General Conference
Choosing light over darkness will lead a person into greater and greater levels of power in the light of Christ.
This process of receiving light is often described in this manner. This is from Elder Bednar’s talk discussing the pickle and the brine of how to become born again. It is framed from a telestial repentance perspective.
The spiritual rebirth,… does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process – not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience.
Elder Bednar, April, 2004 General Conference
The telestial path of transition and rebirth is long, slow, and almost imperceptible for a fundamental reason. Telestial paths or repentance bring light, but they can also be exhausting, slow, and deeply discouraging. The reason for this is simple and described many ways in the scriptures. It is almost impossible to both build a kingdom on earth and also a kingdom in heaven. The slow pace of telestial repentance is due to the reality that your heart is always in competition with the world. Never really leaving it, you try to both be a star citizen in Babylon and a builder of the kingdom of God. It is tiring, exhausing, long, and almost imperceptible to live the gospel in a way that neither wants to offend the world nor God.
It’s not to say it doesn’t work, it just takes a really long time. If fact, it takes precisely the amount of time that small decisions to follow light ultimately bring you to the decision point of loving God with all of your heart, or not.
Telestial repentance brings light, and it can lead a person to transition to terestrial repentance, which is the ideal, but in and of itself it only produces varying degrees of light in a telestial kingdom. Without transitioning, telestial repentance produces telestial glory.
Unfortunately, many have, in good faith, tried to reconcile this level of repentance with celestial reward. Formulations of this repentance vary, but one of the more popular teaching goes something like, “Do your best and let God do the rest.” Although this sentiment is intended to take the pressure off of someone seeking God that they carry when they believe Telestial repentance is the path to the Celestial Kingdom, the inherent untruth in reality does not provide relief. This will be explained later.
The Covenant Path
As a person learns the gospel, this type of obedience is often associated with other laws of the telestial kingdom, which are physical ordinances of the priesthood. Being baptized by water, receiving the physical ordinance of priesthood endowment, and receiving the physical sealing of marriage are all telestial rites of the priesthood as they are currently administered on earth. Telestial compliance is the price of entry. One need only comply with outward forms of obedience to be qualified to have these ordinances administered. As we receive these physical ordinances they can orient us to new levels of repentance and preparation for us to realize these blessings and higher covenants.
Receiving physical ordinances in a telestial spiritual state is what seems to be the implicit definition of the “covenant path”. It is receiving the covenants and ordinances of higher kingdoms of heaven without qualifying for the actual blessing and revelatory experiences of those ordinances and kingdoms. The covenants outline the path, but they are yet to be realized in reality.
Consider the following three covenants and ordinances and what they represent:
Baptism – Becoming fully born again and a new creature in Christ
Endowment – Receiving your calling and election made sure
Marriage Sealing – The calling and election made sure of your marriage
Those that are administered these physical ordinances rarely comply with the terms of those covenants when they are received in their physical form. Very few, if any, are receiving their calling and election made sure when they receive their endowment in the temple. Very few, if any, are having their marriage sealed in the heavens when they are married (How could it be? They haven’t been married yet to be tested according to the covenant. Can you receive the calling and election of your marriage before you have received your own personal calling and election made sure?)
So, we administer celestial and terrestrial ordinances to those that only qualify for telestial light. This seems to be the way of the covenant path.
Both Lehi and Nephi saw this in their respective visions of the tree of life. There is a distinction to be made between the covenant path and the straight and narrow path. The straight and narrow path is the actual path of realizing both the physical and spiritual manifestation of ordinances and and covenants. The covenantpath is the receiving of the phyical ordinances without the endowment of power that comes when an ordinance is completely fulfilled. Those blessings occur when passed through the repentance of the terrestrial and celestial kingdoms, which will be described in preceding sections.
Lehi described seeing this in his dream when he recorded:
“And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree which I stood.”
1 Nephi 8: 21
This is a description of the covenant path: It is those that are seeking to obtain the straight and narrow path. It is those that have received higher ordinances but have yet to repent and qualify for the spiritual manifestations and power of Godliness that MUST accompany those ordinances for them to be true and complete (D&C 84: 20-21).
Please do not mistake this as a criticism of administering physical ordinances to those that qualify on a telestial level. There is power in learning the physical representation of what should be happening spiritually. What we should be cautioned of, however, is to not mistake the physical ordinance for the real thing if the power of God associated with that ordinance is not being made manifest.
Baptism of water is an ordinance that is authorized to be fully received and administered in a telestial kingdom. It is an Aaronic order, which order of the priesthood is telestial. It is preparatory for the terrestrial and celestial orders. Baptism is the ordinance of making a sign to God that one has received a forgiveness of sins (D&C 20: 37)
But, as Joseph Smith taught, water baptism is just half a baptism.
You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Savior says, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’
As telestial repentance is the decision to choose to follow light in an incremental process, terestrial repentance is represented in the ordinance of baptism. It is full and immersive repentance. It is the movement of going “all in”.
Just as wading through water doesn’t baptise you, doing your best everyday to follow the light of Christ without the full commitment of one’s heart to follow Christ at any cost or sacrifice does not qualify you for a terrestrial kingdom.
The process of baptism represents this. Baptism of water and the Holy Ghost is the transition from telestial to terrestrial. But we should be very careful and precise what we mean by baptism. As noted by Joseph Smith, water baptism is half a baptism. We must also receive the baptism of sprit, which is the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.
If we confuse the ordinance of the laying on of hands as the reception of the Holy ghost we will be greatly mistaken about this ordinance and its full completion. One’s baptism is not complete until they are born again and wrought upon by the spirit and become a new creature in Christ. The Book of Mormon teaches this clearly and often. It is a primary message of the scriptural record.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 31: 16)
The physical portion of the ordinance is conducted by the laying on of hands, but the portion that completes the ordinance is the spiritual endowment and experience that transforms someone from the natural man to a new creature in Christ.
This is the event of becoming born again. It is a spiritual transition. It is what is being described by King Benjamin.
“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7).
Alma gives the charge that we repent and become born again. He declares, “Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if you are not born again ye cannot inhert the kingdom of heaven…” (Alma 7: 14).
Christ declares this doctrine as a voice from the heavens to the Nephites.
“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9: 20).
Some misinterpret this verse to mean the baptism of fire can be so imperceptible that you do not always recognize your baptism of fire. If we understand contextually that Christ was referring the experience at the temple in Helaman chapter 5, we understand that this was not at all the case. The Lamanites were endowed with a mighty change of heart; they most likely just didn’t know what to call it.
The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is an experience of transformation. It is the total transformation of the heart and mind to a new creature in Christ. You become in nature a son and daughter of Christ.
This transformation occurs when someone exercises terrestrial level repentance. When a person decides to come to Christ with their entire being and hold nothing back, when they fully commit at whatever sacrifice is asked of them, they enter into a state of having a broken heart and contrite spirit. This is the condition of becoming born again.
In telestial repentance, a person may commit to following Christ, but they also may not commit to having a heart fully broken of desiring things of this world. They desire further light, but not at the expense of telestial gifts and desires.
In order to become fully born again, a person must cease to desire to build their own kingdom on earth. This is a key point. It doesn’t mean that they cease their labors on this earth, but they no longer consecrate their labors to their own glory. They consecrate their labors to God and his purposes. This is the natural desire of someone who is born again; they no longer desire to build a kingdom for themselves in this world. They no longer see their wealth or status or accomplishments as evidence of their greatness. They don’t want to build that kingdom. They desire to consecrate the resources and talents they possess to making this telestial world into Zion.
This principle may be best demonstrated by the account of King Lamoni’s father. He was Aaron how he mary receive the joy of his redemption. He desired to become a new creature in Christ. He pleaded with Aaron the following:
“What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (Alma 22: 15).
This desire to forsake his kingdom and give up all that he possessed is what triggered the experience that brought him into a fully redeemed state.
If Lamoni’s father had committed to a path of incremental improvement, following the light of Christ but at the same time trying to retain and keep his kingdom for his glory, he would not have experienced the dramatic transformation that the scriptures record.
And so it is with our own repentance. If we desire to become born again as an event in our lives, in the same way that baptism of water is an event, we must fully commit everything in our hearts to God and perform the sacrifices required at our hands.
Telestial repentance can prepare us and bring us to this point over time – but that is the path of the lower road. It is long, and more painful, and carries a heavy burden. Christ says that his burden is light. This is true only when one fully accepts the burden of Christ. What is difficult is both retaining a foothold in a telestial kingdom and order, and also negotiating with the light of Christ. This becomes very onerous very quickly. If we cast off the telestial kingdom and submit to the death of the natural man in a single movement, then we receive the powerful blessings of being baptized by fire.
Those that choose the path of telestial repentance certainly can find that their path ultimately leads to this place of having to decide if they are going to go “all in” or not. No matter how slowly we take the path, we must face the decision point at some time or another to make the move from incremental improvement to complete and total immersion.
C.S. Lewis described this when he wrote the following two passages.
“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good.”
“Christ says give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work. I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent, as well as the ones you think wicked; the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself; my own will shall become yours.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
The Gift of the Holy Ghost
When someone desires to completely come to Christ with a broken heart and contrite spirit, and they are baptized with the Holy Ghost, this is what is actually meant by the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
A person who is in a born again condition is animated by the Holy Ghost in a way that their nature is changed. They no longer desire to do evil. They are full of love. They sing the song of redeeming love. They make manifest the gifts of the spirit (Alma chapter 5).
When one possesses the Gift of the Holy Ghost they are in a spiritual condition. This condition is in a state of comfort. It is the first comforter. They are in a terrestrial state of rest. In this condition they are sanctified according to the knowledge they possess. They are also in a condition of being preparatory for the Holy Ghost to reveal to them knowledge, mysteries, and their own unique path to the presence of the Savior. They are now on the straight and narrow path.
The Gift of the Holy Ghost is often confused with the light of Christ. As we are prompted by light we can increase and be warned and know the truth of things by the light of Christ. The Gift of the Holy Ghost, however, is entirely different. It is being in a sanctified state where the Holy Ghost has complete influence. It is in this state that we are endowed with knowledge and mysteries that can only come through the channel of the Holy Ghost. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is being in a born again condition.
It should also be understood that being in a born again condition is the straight and narrow path. The reason the path is straight and narrow is because it is very difficult to retain the born again disposition. We must learn how to endure to the end, which means, we must learn how to endure in this elevated, spiritual state.
Because becoming born again is not a one-time event, someone who enters the gate will learn that they must repent often, continually yielding their entire hearts back to God, again and again. They must repent continually on this path, but they must repent according to terrestrial repentance – they must be consumed over and over.
When someone is on the path they are also being taught higher covenants, laws, and principles. This comes by the tutoring of the Holy Ghost and is also patterned in the temple endowment. Each time they enter into a higher covenant structure on this path they are sanctified into a higher level of light, truth, and obedience. Each one of these ascension experiences is its own baptism of fire. Thus, along the path, as one ascends into higher covenants and understanding, they will be baptized many times. Sanctification increases as we are sanctified into higher laws.
The terrestrial kingdom is a probationary state. It is the state of being in which we will prove faithful as sons and daughters of Christ. The terrestrial kingdom is the straight and narrow path.
Water, Spirit, and Blood
I would like to suggest a reason why it is the case that as someone is baptized by fire, experiences a born again experience, and tastes the peace and love of being a new creature in Christ, how such a person could ever fall back to their old, fallen and natural ways. Because amongst those that receive a baptism of spirit, this is an inevitability.
The reason for this is that even though our spirits become sanctified and we can become full of the spirit, our bodies are still fallen and our blood has yet to transform from a fallen state to a redeemed state. Our spirits may become born again, but our flesh must go through its own transition. Until that transition is complete, one must continue to repent and submit their spirits completely to God so that it may rule over the flesh. This explains, however, why it is that even though an individual may experience a dramatic and true transformation, they will inevitably experience a fall back to their natural state. They then begin the journey of learning how to continually submit to this higher state of existing and prepare themselves to complete the full blood transformation.
Please consider the following scripture in the record of Moses. He describes three levels of baptism. There is a water level, a spirit, and a blood.
“That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6: 59-60).
Moses identifies three elements of being reborn. Water, is the baptism of water. Spirit, is the baptism of fire – the sanctification of the spirit. And then there is blood. What is interesting is that Moses identifies the cleansing of blood as what ultimately sanctifies you from all sin. The product of this sanctification is the enjoying of the words of eternal life in this world. This is the blessing of receiving one’s calling and election made sure.
In a technical way, when one is born again they are brought into a probationary terrestrial state. This is where Zion is first being built in preparation to living a celestial law. Similarly, an individual is born again through a baptism of fire they are also in a probationary state. If they endure in this state and receive increasing endowments of sanctification along the straight and narrow path they will enter into that place where their spirit, blood and flesh is also transformed for a complete sanctified state.
How does one repent so that their blood also transforms? I’d like to suggest one aspect of this process, and that is repenting of multi-generational iniquity. When we are born on this earth we inherit the DNA, habits, culture, and flesh of our extended family. We carry the weight of thousands of years of fallen matter in our bodies. We inherit generational sins and iniquities of our past family generations.
Coming clean from the blood and sins of this generation is part of this process. We cease the continuance of these iniquities and we subject the fallen matter of our flesh to the spirit, causing a physical transformation on this earth to reflect the reality and higher glory of a terrestrial kingdom. As we seek to come clean every wit of our inherited family lines we become, as the scriptures describe, saviors on Mt. Zion.
As the physical matter of our bodies starts to take the form of our sanctified spirits we receive priesthood power, which is in one sense, the process of matter begining to yield to our words as we become sanctified and the Father and Son hearken to our words as we have hearkened to their words. The transformation of blood occurs when our sanctified spirits invite our physical bodies to elevate to a singular and unified state. It is in this state that we receive a fullness of priesthood power. This is the process of Celestial repentance.
Understanding how each kingdom has its own level of repentance, that is sufficient for the kingdom in which glory it provides, but also how each kingdom’s repentance is preparatory to ascend into the next kingdom should prove extremely helpful in understanding what state of being we are receiving and according to what laws. Difficulty, confusion, and condemnation occurs when we confuse one type or repentance for another. For example, it is commonplace to mistake telestial repentance of incremental improvement as the type of repentance that occurs on the straight and narrow path. In this state, the vast majority of people mistakenly believe they are on the straight and narrow path whereas in reality they are actually striving to obtain the gate that leads to the path.
It is also not uncommon for someone to have a born again experience and then mistakenly believe they are permanently on the path, not understanding the level of repentance and focus required to stay on the path.
Another common mistake is to believe that one is not born again until they have experiences that are in reality at the level of having their calling and election made sure. Some believe and teach that the born again experience must be so dramatic that very few (if any) are actually receiving these experiences. Instead, they are conjuring up false experiences and vain imaginations in their desire to become baptized by fire.
Clarity of doctrine and the plan of salvation is critical. If the paths aren’t clear then there is a good chance that we will make the mistake of believing we are experiencing something that we aren’t. Understanding how telestial, terrestrial, and celestial repentance works will help us understand where we are on the path(s) to God and what it will take for us to make our next ascension.
I have a deep desire to defend the church and sustain the Kingdom of God. The sense is that difficult days are ahead for the church. My generation has known no difficulty in being a Latter-Day Saint. We sit at ease on the shoulders of previous generations that endured and suffered greatly for the continuance of the restoration.
Because of this, and because I want to be as prepared and strong to carry any burden asked of me in order to sustain the kingdom, I am making an appeal to the leadership of the church to act now in truth, so that the burden is not increased in the future. The more we embrace truth, the stronger we will be.
And the inverse is true – if we fail to act truthfully now, the future will be weaker. And we will have less power of God to sustain us in our responsibility to sustain and build the church in preparation for the second coming of Christ.
Understanding our complicated past with race, racial doctrines, and attitudes that were produced by those doctrines, it is really important that we act with both precision and integrity in identifying our past mistakes. Not doing so only makes things worse. It doesn’t do anyone any favors.
With a laudable attempt to produce a transparent and frank explanation of the church’s racial history, the church produced an essay that explains and summarizes the church’s history on race and doctrine of the priesthood. In this essay the church chose to frame its 150 years of racial doctrine as a theory. Here are the excerpts from that essay.
Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else…
Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced manytheories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.
It also frames its prohibition of priesthood as a policy.
In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policyrestricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination….
Nevertheless, given the long history of withholding the priesthood from men of black African descent, Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter the policy, and they made ongoing efforts to understand what should be done.
Calling something that was taught as a doctrine of the church for 125 years a “theory” is a mistake that cannot be ignored. Referring to the ban as a policy runs contradictory to three generations of saints were taught formally that it had a doctrinal justification. These were not theories. These were not simply policies. They were teachings that were repeated by apostles and church presidents alike for three generations. It was doctrine that was ingrained in the hearts and minds of saints for over a century. It was core to our doctrinal understanding of priesthood.
To emphasize that these doctrines were more than theories and policies, consider the following teachings by the highest authoritative sources of Latter-Day Saint doctrine and thought. This first statement is from the First Presidency Statement (President George Albert Smith).
August 17, 1949
The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”
President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”
The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.
Statement of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, August 17, 1949, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City
The doctrinal position of the church in inescapable. Not only was it settled by every President of the Church from Brigham Young to President Kimball, it was articulated by the most vocal and authoritative General Authorities from the church. President Joseph Fielding Smith, and Elders Bruce McConkie and Mark E. Peterson taught it authoritatively, broadly, and in texts that the church still draws upon widely even today. The most famously referenced book the LDS use for doctrinal instruction has been Mormon Doctrine. Even though McConkie was required to make revisions, one that was not required of him was the following.
“the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry.
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine
When he told Enoch not to preach the gospel to the descendants of Cain who were black, the Lord engaged in segregation.
From Mark E. Peterson:
I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation?
Is there reason then why the type of birth we receive in this life is not a reflection of our worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existent life?…can we account in any other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China, or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Latter-day Saints. There are rewards and punishments, fully in harmony with His established policy in dealing with sinners and saints, rewarding all according to their deeds….
Let us consider the great mercy of God for a moment. A Chinese, born in China with a dark skin, and with all the handicaps of that race, seems to have little opportunity. But think of the mercy of God to Chinese people who are willing to accept the gospel. In spite of whatever they might have done in the pre-existence to justify being born over there as Chinamen, if they now, in this life, accept the gospel and live it the rest of their lives they can have the Priesthood, go to the temple and receive endowments and sealings, and that means they can have exaltation. Isn’t the mercy of God marvelous? Think of the Negro, cursed as to the Priesthood…. This Negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to the earth in the lineage of Cain with a black skin, and possibly being born in darkest Africa – if that Negro is willing when he hears the gospel to accept it, he may have many of the blessings of the gospel. In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing…. to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the Celestial Kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.
We must not inter-marry with the Negro. Why? If I were to marry a Negro woman and have children by her, my children would oil be cursed as to the priesthood. Do I want my children cursed as to the priesthood? If there is one drop of Negro blood in my children, as I have read to you, they receive the curse. There isn’t any argument, therefore, as to inter-marriage with the Negro, is there?
From Joseph Fielding Smith, with the assistance of his son-in-law, Bruce R. McConkie, who was more influential in crafting 20th century doctrine than any of his predecessors.
There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we come here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less.
Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, p. 61
Not only was Cain called to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures…. they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning.
Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 101, 1935
The documentation is overwhelming.
The purpose of sharing these quotes (and there are many, many more) is not to shame the church over its doctrinal history regarding race – it is to show that these teachings were very much considered doctrinal, that they were from the Lord, and that in no way were they presented as “theories” to the church.
According to the church’s current standard for accepting doctrine they would unconditionally qualify. The church now declares that, in order to be considered authoritative, doctrine must fulfill the following conditions.
The doctrine [of the Church] is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.
It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk.
The church cannot escape the fact that it taught what it now declares as theories and policy something that was doctrinal and rooted in revelation.
Why does this matter?
It matters because the church was either wrong in its doctrinal teachings, or because it was right and now is embarrassed by its doctrine and wants to distance itself from it.
The purpose of this post is not to argue for or against a doctrine. It is to argue for doctrine itself. The church cannot be so dismissive in having taught a doctrine, from multiple presidents of the church, in many publications, establishing as fundamental in the hearts and minds of the members of the church, and then dismiss it out of hand as being “theoretical”.
If we don’t own the fact that we were taught false doctrines (which is the position of the church) how can we as a people repent of them?
If we don’t own our history we can’t sufficiently understand why we were wrong and how it came to be that we were wrong.
If we were doctrinally wrong on race, let us own it. Let’s call it for what it was. Let’s go through a collective repentance process and be taught the principles of how to detect false doctrine. This is the discussion we should be having in the church. It will make us stronger. And if the church collectively asked the question how to avoid this mistake again, perhaps the Lord would give us an actual revelation on the matter. It’s not a irrational request in a dispensation of “continuing revelation”.
I understand the resistance for the church to admit that these were false doctrines taught for 125 years. It’s not about race. It’s about undermining the central premise of the restored church – that you cannot be led astray.
But it is well established that the Latter-Day-Saints were led astray in core priesthood doctrine for many generations. In an effort to save a current false doctrine, a former false doctrine has to be cast as only a theory.
So we treat lightly and dismissively a former false doctrine, for a current one.
This undermines the actual authority and moral integrity of the modern church. If we want to have confidence in our leaders, and that they are leading us right, they need to take responsibility for their words and not throw them at the feet of the Lord unconditionally. They have to be responsible for revelation and their own actions, and stop appealing to the church that they will never be led astray. This teaching has been sufficiently disproven in light of our traditional doctrine on race.
If we don’t take responsibility for our words and teachings we undermine our integrity. Let me suggest an example.
How can the Latter-Day-Saints have faith in the current doctrinal views of the church when, with ease, they can be discounted as theoretical?
What if, in the coming years, the church announces that it disavows the theories of leaders in the 20th century regarding the nuclear family and marriage – that the Proclamation on the Family was just a product of the culture of the time.
The precedent is now established that the leadership of the church can easily disavow earlier teachings on family, sexual relations, and same-sex marriage and that all doctrinal declarations were simply, theoretical.
At what point does marriage between man and woman as God’s law become simply a “former policy”?
For those of us who are committed to defending the Kingdom of God into the future, who will fight for its truth and make the public case for its doctrine – we must be clear on something: The more we accept false doctrines to prevail and shape our views of teachings and our history, we will be weakened and exposed to greater difficulty and will lose members. Many people who leave the church do so because they cannot reconcile the dishonest positions the leadership takes.
Our moral authority to invite our people to repent is as strong only to the degree that the church collectively repents as an institution. If we don’t take seriously our failings, how as a people can we expect individuals to have courage to take seriously their own personal failings?
Because we want to maintain the doctrine that the brethren cannot lead us astray, ironically we’ve submitted the church to a deeper problem – the destabilization of all of its core doctrinal assertions.
In an attempt to secure the faith of the members of the church that they are being led right, generations of members now do not believe they carry the collective responsibility to also receive the same revelation and either sustain – or not sustain the current doctrine. It cannot be submitted to the church on the condition that the Lord cannot guide the leaders wrong. This core teaching has undermined the the church and will have continuing consequences that will prove much worse than we have seen up until now.
Can we not repent of the things we’ve taught are wrong? Can we not also receive redemption without the need to continue to perpetuate new falsehoods to cover for former ones?
These things may not ultimately kill us, but many are leaving the church because of this nonsense. The Lord has warned us that that which is not of him will shaken and destroyed. How much shaking will we choose to endure before we let go of all those doctrines that are not of him?
Is it true that debating politics is usually just two people who want the same result but just disagree on how to get there?
It depends on who is having the debate. Here’s a quick summary of the political movements and their origins:
(This is very, very simplified, but I think it still works)
The founding philosophy of America was Classical Liberalism
There are three primary premises of Classical Liberalism
The individual is sovereign and paramount. Individual freedom is the most important thing in society. Individuals are greater than the group.
Truth is not relative, but is rooted in nature. It is objective and universal as a phenomena. . (You may disagree wildly on what that truth is, but truth is a universal, nonetheless – it just needs to be discovered).
Free societies require economic freedom. Capitalism is the economic twin of Classical Liberalism
Even though the term “classical liberalism” was coined after the American revolution, this new-world view was it was born from the prominent Christian/Judaic religious tradition, and was advanced in ways the world had never seen by philosophical revolutionaries like Thomas Jefferson (even though he rejected the mystical tenets of Christianity). Natural rights. Individualism. Free Market Capitalism.
Think Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Barry Goldwater
Big Government Liberalism (for lack of a better term) emerges roughly in the early to mid 20th century.
BGL is a traditional Democrat. But they are the old-school Democrats. This is my grandpa. They accept the basic tenets of Classical Liberalism (natural rights, free markets, individualism), but are committed to addressing some of the natural challenges and problems that free societies face: Poverty, advocating for workers, economic mobility… etc. and they believe that greater government intervention and spending is the solution.
The Democratic Party has a great tradition and has been a great party.
Think JFK, LBJ, MLK; even Bill Clinton. These are roughly in this group.
In America in the 20th century Classical Liberals became to be known as conservatives, and BGL’s became to be known just as liberals.
So, to answer the question – can two people have the same aim but believe there are different ways to achieve it? Yes. If the two people that are talking are a classical liberal and a big-government liberal. They share a fundamental philosophy.
Enter a third category of political social philosophy. It is born out of the Marxist movements of the 20th century – both economic and cultural Marxism. And Marxism has an odd bedfellow, but a political ally in post-modernism.
3. Marxism and Post-Modernism – “Leftism” just for convenience. (I know that it appears to be a sloppy connection at this point.)
Leftism rejects the basic tenets of classical liberalism, and big-government liberalism which again are, natural rights, individualism, and free markets. Not only does it reject those pillars, it advocates for the philosophical inverse.
1. The group is paramount and the individual is annihilated.
2. There is no such thing as objective truth – only relative truths rooted in social power structures (herein lies the marriage of Marxism and post-modernism).
3. And free markets are only oppressive economic regimes by the patriarchal, economic classes used to oppress other vulnerable classes of people (women/minorities/marginalized members of society). Economic systems should be ultimately centralized so that wealth is distributed evenly.
Leftism is an aggressive opponent to the founding philosophy of the United States, legal structure, government, and core values of freedom of speech, religion, and due process.
So, what happened? How does this third movement of Leftism infect the American tradition of natural rights and rugged individualism?
Because it carries the same language and, ostensibly, and what appears as the same aims of traditional Big Government Liberalism. BGL morphed in large part, over time into Leftism. But to do so, it had to very carefully and overtime make the case to reject the tenets of individualism, natural rights, and economic freedom.
It was subtle. And attractive to young people in Academia not equipped to reject its romantic, but egregious tenets.
It was from the 70’s to the current era. Leftists took over the universities and thereby overtime have infected the media classes and governing classes. It also has philosophically consumed the Democratic Party. Once a great party and institution (even though I disagree with the party in the 20th century) – it has become the host and political vehicle for Marxist/Post-Modern Leftism.
What is also interesting as a phenomena, unlike Classical and Big-Government Liberalism, Leftism has taken upon itself a unique religious nature. Classical Liberals and BGL’s find religion as a natural compliment to their political and social vision. Leftists, however, naturally abandon their religious traditions for this new Marxist/Post-Modern religion.
Now, are all Democrats, Leftists? Of course not. And this is why it is so confusing for so many Democrats (and Republicans) to make this distinction in the philosophical movement. There are traditional Democrats out there that still believe in BGL; but are unaware how Leftism has become the dominant philosophy of the Democratic Party. Many, if not most, people in the Democratic party do not make a distinction between Liberalism and Leftism. They conflate the terms and ideas.
They can’t see these distinctions because Leftism is such a close counterfeit to liberalism.
This is why the modern Democratic Party rejects the philosophy of Martin Luther King, JFK, and all of their heroes 20th century. (But good-luck getting them to be honest about that one). They have divorced their 20th century heroes for the likes of with the counterfeit movements of social justice, identity politics, and political correctness. They reject the individual as paramount. They reject natural law. They reject free market capitalism. They are fundamentally racist and use legitimate racial problems as a way to advance their Marxist and Post-Modern world view – race is not a primary concern for the Collectivist.
Liberalism has the ability to ultimately defeat racism. Leftism creates and increases racism.
Failing to make a distinction between Leftism and Liberalism, the movement has a deceptive quality. Many good people fall for its tenets.
For this reason, some of the best people I know believe some of the worst things.
Can a Liberal (either classical or big government) and a Leftist agree upon the same goals but have different views of how to get there?
No, they cannot. Because the aim of a Leftistism is not freedom, the advancement of individualism, or the protection of natural rights. Their goal is equality of outcome. This, upon deep consideration, contradicts the very moral fabric of America. It will shred us apart – as we can already see. Equality of outcome as an aim requires the suspension of natural rights, freedom, and the death of individualism. It requires to oppression, totalitarianism, and the suspension of freedom. It’s produces every type of evil and murderous outcome, as we witnessed over and over when these experiments were had in the 20th century. Leftism has claimed the lives of at least 100 million people in the last century. Why does it still persist? Are we so foolish to allow one of our great American Political parties become possessed with its alluring, but ultimately lethal ideology?
The question is, can we root this ideology out before it reaches critical mass? It seems to me that we have Stage 3 Leftism in this country. Is it too late? Will the Democratic Party stop breathing life into this movement that is about to consume us?
One thing that I’ve been interested to observe about ” home church” is how often I hear people admit that they really don’t want to go back to meeting with their ward. Of course there are exceptions to this – but how often I hear people secretly admit that they love home sacrament meeting so much more than going to church, and will be disappointed when they have to return, has been genuinely interesting to me.
I’ve thought a lot about this. Why is home sacrament meeting so great? Why don’t we, in general, have the same experience and joy in our ward families?
When thinking about the sacrament there are some things that makes it a very unique ordinance. First, it is not an ordinance that is administered generally to a singe individual. We don’t insert our individual names into the sacrament prayers. It is a collective ordinance – blessed and administered to all who gather to take it together.
As a collective ordinance, we can also look at our practices and ordinances and see if there is anything else we do that is also a collective ordinance. What’s interesting is that there is another ordinance/practice that can be used to inform our practice of the sacrament.
In our temple worship we are taught the true order of prayer. As another collective ordinance, in which once again we are not individually named but are treated as a unified body, we can learn about the principles taught about how that ordinance works.
The true order of prayer is predicated on the principle of unity of feeling. We are not to have any unkind feelings towards each other. If they exist, we are invited to not participate in the prayer. This is a fantastic principle that teaches us how we need to have a condition of heart before the desired blessing of the true order of prayer can be realized.
It strikes me that the same principle applies to the sacrament. Why would it be any different? If we are coming together to collectively partake of the sacrament why wouldn’t the same principle of not having any unkind feelings between each other make the difference between having a collective spiritual experience and not?
This insight into how those that partake the sacrament together need to have the best of feelings towards each other informs our initial question. Perhaps it is because within the family unit you will find the environment where the best of feelings are felt. We feel unity. Coming together in a living room, making the choice to worship without a social expectation. Controlling the content and spirit of the meeting – all of these things are preferred to meeting in a large group of people when there is no guarantee of a unified spiritual feeling.
So this unplanned social experiment perhaps teaches us about a principle that should have been on the forefront of our minds all along. What would happen if we started keeping the principles that govern the collective ordinances we regularly practice? What would happen if a ward was able to rid themselves of unkind feelings of any kind before they came together and partook of the sacrament?
What kind of spiritual outpouring would be experienced in a ward that truly repented of their judgment, unkind feelings, backbiting, gossip, and disunity? What would that testimony meeting look like?
Impossible? Possible? Perhaps we should seriously pause before we jump back in and start taking this sacred ordinance without the qualifying spiritual unity the Lord requires for his people to possess before they partake of his emblems in his name.
Too high of a bar? How can we embrace the very real warning that “if you are not one you are not mine”?
Once a year it is wisdom for us to remember and retell the stories that are relived in every generation. The Passover is once again upon us, and even though it is no longer (unfortunately) the center-piece of our tradition, we would be wise to remember and consume its patterns and teachings.
Departing Egypt and venturing into the wilderness is the great archetype of the doctrine of Christ. It is the pattern and archetype of Nephi and Lehi’s dreams. It is also the pattern in the account of the Brother of Jared. The journeys of all of these covenant families are the pattern that we all must also go through as individuals.
Nephi and Lehi’s dream, the children of Israel fleeing Egypt, and Lehi and Nephi fleeing Jerusalem are all enactments of the doctrine of Christ. Their journey is the physical pattern of the process of salvation. All of these scriptural accounts demonstrate the pattern of the doctrine of Christ most clearly taught in 2 Nephi chapters 30-33.
Lehi’s family fleeing Jerusalem and the children of Israel fleeing Egypt is a type of baptism. It represents the complete and full commitment of leaving the world; removing oneself completely from a telestial structure and departing an old life. A baptism requires full immersion. It is not a partial commitment, it is the death of the old life and beginning a journey into a new life .
When the Lord is going to deliver us from our old life, our carnal nature, and our telestial comforts he commands us to leave and to do it in haste. It is not an invitation to take our time, to not rush, and to slowly make the preparations to leave our old selves. The command is clear: repent now and repent quickly.
For this exact reason the children of Israel were commanded to eat unleavened bread. They were not to wait for their bread to rise through the natural and slow process of leavening. They were to flee Egypt in haste. The command was for a quick departure. If they waited for the bread to leaven they put themselves in danger of not being delivered.
As we make the covenant of baptism the Lord is also making a way for our escape from our own Egypt or Jerusalem. The Lord is making a way for our escape from our fallen nature. It is not a process that requires leavening.
Leavening and yielding to the natural process of change is a slow, natural process of transition that takes a long period of time. Like repentance, if we decide to make our own spiritual transitions a long, slow, almost imperceptible change over a lifetime we choose the path of not fleeing Egypt until we are fully comfortable. It is to wait for our bread to rise before we depart.
If we depend on our own timeline for repentance, and put the burden of transformation on our own long-term habits and works we will seek to rely on ourselves for change and not the Lord’s miraculous deliverance. The baptism of fire, becoming born again, the mighty change of heart are all processes that take place miraculously in a very short period of time if we have the faith to repent with all that we have and completely.
It is the slow process method of becoming born again that puts our mortal probation in imminent danger. It is to linger in Egypt until it may not be possible to escape. It is to, as Laman and Lemuel desired, to reside in Jerusalem and enjoy our possessions all the while living out the self-delusion of believing we are righteous because we keep the statutes and law (1 Nephi 17:22).
To believe that becoming born again is a slow process over a lifetime is like unto waiting for our bread to rise before we leave our own Babylon. We must make the decision to repent and make it conclusively for us to experience the baptism of fire and Holy Ghost. Otherwise we never really leave Egypt. We never really leave Jersusalem. If we sort-of follow the gospel and mistakenly believe we are a traveler on the strait and narrow path by virture of water baptism alone, we make the mistake of Laman and Lemuel that we have left Jerusalem in body but not in spirit – therefore we really haven’t left Jerusalem at all. Thus, we become tortured souls – fighting to be good and keep the commandments all the while suffering because our hearts are still in Jerusalem – we may still long for Egypt.
C.S. Lewis articulated this problem in his own formulation of this spiritual dilemma:
“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).
When declaring the repentance sufficient to become born again Alma the Younger could not be clearer in his message (as are all true prophets that declare repentance). He warned and invited the people
And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.
Yea, thus saith the Spirit: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand; yea, the Son of God cometh in his glory, in his might, majesty, power, and dominion. Yea, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, that the Spirit saith: Behold the glory of the King of all the earth; and also the King of heaven shall very soon shine forth among all the children of men.
And also the Spirit saith unto me, yea, crieth unto me with a mighty voice, saying: Go forth and say unto this people—Repent, for except ye repent ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of heaven.
And again I say unto you, the Spirit saith: Behold, the ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea, a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire. Behold, and remember, the Holy One hath spoken it” (Alma 5: 49-52).
The message is inescapable. It is not a soft declaration nor is it an easy and comfortable invitation. It is to repent and to repent quickly. The fruit of those obeying this message is the miracle of transformation and becoming born again. It is powerful and it is swift.
We must reject the false prophets of our own making – those that prophesy to us according to the desires of Egypt and Jerusalem. Isaiah foresaw this day and the yielding to this temptation:
That thisis a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:
Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.
Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us (Isaiah 30: 9-11).
We must hear the invitation and warning of true prophets. They will always come with the same message: Repent now, repent quickly, and repent completely. Those that do will be filled with the love and redemption of the Lord. They will receive the miraculous power of Christ unto salvation. They will be delivered from Egypt and Jerusalem.
We do not have time to wait until our bread is leavened. We can receive the redemptive power of Christ now and as soon as we are willing to repent and sacrifice everything we have to receive this mighty change of heart. The passover should be a reminder that this is a time of choosing and a time of rescue. With the chaos of Egypt and destruction of Jerusalem intensifying around us, this passover message needs to be heeded now and in haste.
When the family of Lehi fled Jerusalem they provided both a literal account of a divided family following the gospel path and it presents also as an archetype of the covenant people in the last days. From this covenant family comes a great division that creating the two great nations in the promise land. We can learn much from these archetypical characters recorded in this ancient record.
One of many patterns and types we can take from the early account is that of the happiness of Laman and Lemuel. Much like the children of Israel after fleeing Egypt (Numbers 14: 4), they desired to return to the land and live in comfort and happiness of Babylon. It is important to really digest that this happens after they have been called into the wilderness.
When Nephi was receiving revelation to build a ship his brothers lamented and exclaimed:
“Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy” (1 Nephi 17: 21).
Laman and Lemuel define happiness as enjoying possessions in the land of their home. Their comforts, their home and their tradition, and the comforting cultural assumption that they are an accepted people by the Lord because they are both prospered and living ostensibly the terms of the covenant. Their priests told them so. And so they were ripe for destruction.
Laman and Lemuel defended the wicked members of the covenant who remained in Jerusalem that they were righteous because they kept the statutes of God. They argued the following:
And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us” (1 Nephi 17: 22).
The happiness of Laman and Lemuel was found in possessing their material wealth and at the same time considering themselves a favored covenant people because they judged themselves as keeping the statutes and and commandments of the law of Moses.
They were blessed to be invited out of Jerusalem, as were the Children of Israel out of Egypt. What was that path? It was very difficult. Both the children of Lehi and the children of Israel were invited out of their telestial comfort and down a path of being stripped of things telestial in order to be prepared to ascend into the Celestial. The children of Israel rejected the invitation to ascend the mount into the presence of the Lord and were thus left to learn obedience and faith by the things they suffered in the wilderness.
It was in the wilderness that the children of Lehi could make the same decision. Nephi ascended the mount into the presence of the Lord and thus had power to deliver his family to the promise land (2 Nephi 4: 25).
The choice of two paths are before us today. Will we seek to be comfortable in Egypt? Do we seek to sit in self-satisfied righteousness in Jerusalem, believing that we are keepers of covenants all the while relying on the strength and comfort of a telestial kingdom?
Do we desire to walk into the wilderness and yield to the stripping away of those things that keep us from the presence of God, or do we pray and desire return to Egypt?
We are invited by a myriad of witnesses – if we reject the warnings sent to us (see President Kimball’s The False God’s We Worship and President Benson’s A Witness and a Warning as two great examples), and these latter-day warnings fade into the distant memory of this generation, the Lord warns and awakens through the witnesses of the earth – earthquakes, plagues, economic desolation and pestilence.
We should consider ourselves all as Nephi or Laman and Lemuel. Will we seek to leave the trappings and comforts of Jerusalem and accept the invitation and venture into the wilderness – sacrificing all things so that we can partake of the Tree of Life, or will we make the case that the covenant people is righteous and keeping the statutes and we long to return to the comforts of our normal life?
Couple of thoughts on end-of-times prophecy – sort of thinking out loud here.
It seems that every generation could make a case that the events of their day satisfy the prophesies of Isaiah, John’s Revelation, and other ancient prophecies. Consider what it would have been like to live in Europe in 1942; during the Civil War; during the Saints’ expulsion from Illinois and fleeing to the west; the Vietnam War and Cold War era; or when the great plagues swept across the earth. In all of these generations the Saints could make a case that the end is on our doorstep.
It seems to me that prophesy is more useful looking backwards than it is forwards. In other words, when a prophesy is fulfilled, it is usually understood after the fact and so the people can look backwards and understand the meaning of transpired events.
Looking forward, we certainly can use future prophesies to look to predict events but the temptation and mistakes of fitting events into prophesies multiply. It’s too easy to always see what is around you as fulfillment of prophesy. It can be done in any generation with any set of events. For this reason, many err in their interpretation of current events and the vast amount of predictions using prophesies as a marker are rendered false. This leaves the faith of many deflated because things did not transpire in the way they thought the prophesy should be read.
However, I want to point out that there is one unique characteristic about this generation that may qualify us as candidates for the great destructions and revelations that have been anciently prophesied. Our day is unique in that we are a people that have broken covenants that may have been preservatives in past generations.
Never before has the Order of Nehor flourished as a dominant ideology as it does now in both the western world (namely the U.S), and even within the covenant people. Consider how many in both the church and society now support gay marriage, abortion, and the moral relativism of Leftism. This Leftism is the modern day order of Nehor. It infects us as a country as one of the two dominant political parties has adopted its philosophy as its guiding premise. Many in the church also have adopted this view and it is now starting to metastasize into some of our policies. I have to wonder, are we salt losing its savor? Are we salt losing its preservative power?
If what marks us as different from past generations is our inability to preserve the land through the keeping of covenants, perhaps it will be our generation, or the next, that will require the vineyard to be burned (Jacob 5). Will it be this generation that will experience the great division and cleansing preparatory for the Second Coming? The thought that keeps moving through my mind is that I must, and we must, repent on a level deeper than we ever thought. This is what preserved the people in the scriptures, and the scriptures and the Holy Ghost are the two primary sources of guidance today. I hope their messages and warnings are absorbed.
We see the world through the prism of our nature. If our nature is full of light, then we will see the world with light – which enables us to carefully discern darkness from light. The more light we possess, the more we can discern really sophisticated dark counterfeits and deceptions.
If our nature is carnal, and we wander in the twilight in between light and darkness, we will see the world through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). We don’t see the world as it is. We see it through the dark cell of our own darkened nature. It becomes an imagination to us. Or, as the scriptures, describe – a vain imagination.
Seeing and knowing ourselves, the people around us, the church, our society, our government – everything in our awareness – is a function of the light and darkness within us.
Even information, as logically and immovably true as we may think it is, can be twisted and warped depending on the darkness we carry. What we think is rational, or logical, will always be painted by the light in our nature. In other words, everyone believes they are acting rationally. Most people believe they see clearly. And this is what is so dangerous.
We should never trust our vision, our interpretation of our world, our comprehension of truth, unless we first achieve the state of being completely filled with light. If we are not filled with light, we will be acting in a deception.
This is also why repentance – turning our entire mind and heart to God until it is filled with divine light – is the first step to any effort. If we can’t get the light, everything will be painted with our deceptions, great or small.
This is why the world, the church, our society, our government is filled with vain imagination. It is seen through the lens of deception, and through the collusion of collective deceptions. Until we are a people filled with the light of God and there is no darkness in us at all, we will be a people guided by our vain imaginations.
Our vain imaginations cause us to act out our facades that conform to our vain views. It also makes us to make of our institutions Potemkin villages – propping up the view of perfection on the outside – hiding the corruption and impoverished spirit on the inside.
The only way to fix ourselves, our families, our institutions, and our communities is through deep, focused, whole-hearted and immediate repentance.
I believe in sustaining the authorities of the church both local and general with all of my heart. Those in church leadership have had tremendous influence over my life and I am eternally grateful for the teachings of prophets that have shaped me and my religious education. As Joseph Smith taught, “Faith comes by hearing the word of God through the testimony of the Servants of God” (Words of Joseph Smith, page 3).
My son is named after Elder Neal Maxwell. I was present in the audience when he gave his timeless address “The Inexhaustible Gospel” at BYU Education Week in 1992. It was during that talk when the spirit revealed to me that every question I had about life could be answered through the gospel. This came as a surprise to me at the time. Elder Maxwell said in this address, “our being saved by gaining knowledge obviously refers to a particular form of knowledge, a “knowledge of God” and knowledge of the things of God.”
I didn’t really understand this teaching then, but would come to learn more about this principle as I got older – that “a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge”. And that it is knowledge, endowed by the spirit and learning the things of God, that we have power to put all darkness under our feet.
And so we as Latter-Day Saints are to seek knowledge. Knowledge is the fruit of the Holy Ghost. It is knowledge that binds the adversary and gives us greater endowments of faith.
Prophets are to be revelators to the people, according to their faithfulness and according to the faithfulness of the people. Prophets are also charged with declaring repentance so that we become a people full of knowledge and power. But, as President Kimball pointed out, prophets exercise their agency the same way the members of the church do. And the responsibility rests upon both prophets and the people to seek the things of God and to be in a constant state of preparation to receive greater light and truth.
President Kimball remarked in a General Conference address:
However, it is the sad truth that if prophets and people are unreachable, the Lord generally does nothing for them. Having given them free agency, their Heavenly Father calls, persuades, and directs aright his children, but waits for their upreaching hands, their solemn prayers, their sincere, dedicated approach to him. If they are heedless, they are left floundering in midnight’s darkness when they could have the noonday sun” (President Spencer W. Kimball, April 1977 General Conference).
Because it is the charge to both prophets and the people to be “reachable,” we must all take responsibility for our own lives to receive the knowledge from heaven that will draw light into fog, confusion, and even darkness. As Brigham Young taught, we must gain the “independence of heaven”.
Who will? (become Gods) Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 1:312)
Sustaining Our Leaders Through Discernment
So, how does this relate to the way in which we should sustain leaders? We should sustain them with the light of heaven. And what I mean by this is we should gain the light of God in such a degree that we know if we are being taught truth or falsehood at all times. This is not to say that we pray until we get an answer to follow, and if we don’t get an answer that affirms the authorities we are just not getting the right answer and it’s our fault. That is not the case. We are to get the knowledge that governs the instruction given to us so that we may discern our leaders.
As Brigham Young taught:
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, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. 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. This has been my exhortation continually. (JD 9:151)
I sustain my leaders through discerning them. A prophet or a priesthood leader has the responsibility to come clean from the blood and sins of the people over which he has stewardship. If they do not come clean from that blood, they have to answer for the sins of the people. Consider the following passages.
“Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation” (D&C 88:85).
“And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day” (Jacob 1:19).
“Therefore, as I said unto you that I had served you, walking with a clear conscience before God, even so I at this time have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together, that I might be found blameless, and that your blood should not come upon me, when I shall stand to be judged of God of the things whereof he hath commanded me concerning you” (Mosiah 2:27).
“And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood” (Ether 12: 28).
O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood” (2 Nephi 9: 44).
Because church leadership on every level carries a very heavy burden of coming clean from the blood and sins of the people over which they have stewardship, when they teach us something wrong they carry the weight of justice for doing so. If someone comes under a level of deception through abiding a false teaching or command both the person that obeyed something false and the leader who taught it both receive the condemnation for doing so.
Because of this, if we as a people carefully discern through the Holy Ghost whether what is being taught is true or not, we actually lessen the burden a leader carries to come clean from our sins. If an authority teaches a falsehood, and a member discerns and rejects it, then the authority is that much less condemned for teaching something in error.
For this reason, the best way we can sustain our leadership is to discern them and relieve them of the burden of carrying our sins that they themselves may have caused. If I were in a leadership position on a local or general level I would hope that all those in my stewardship would approach my words this way. I would hope that they would relate to me through the discerning power of the spirit in order to come to a greater truth together.
President James Faust advocated for this view when he wrote:
As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by their leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover. Brigham Young said: “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” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 135). In this manner no one need be deceived.
Since each one of us has his free agency, the ultimate determination of what is inspired of the Lord, what is right and wrong, true or false, can be made by each of us. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. (1871-1961) made this statement: “The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members [themselves], whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest” (“When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to claim of Scripture?” Church News, 31 July 1954, 10). Each must bear the accountability of accepting or discarding the values of truth, which values if followed will produce his greatest happiness. (James Faust, First Presidency Message, “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” Ensign (Sept. 1998), 4-5)
The allegory of the seed in Alma 32 is a great discourse on how to discern the words of leaders. We are to consume the seed and then discern if we are tasting light. We test the words given to us to see if our “understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and [our] minds doth begin to expand” (Alma 32: 34). The effects of falsehood, sin, and “the traditions of our fathers” is that light and truth is taken from us. This has the opposite effect of receiving truth (D&C 93:39).
President Harold B. Lee gave another key of discernment.
It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they speak and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, “Well, that is his own idea!” And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works (I think that is why we call them “standard”—it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false; regardless of the position of the man who says it.
Humility is the order of the day. Both members and leaders should always be humble about the revelatory burden each holds. Just as members are accustomed to being humble about the revelation received in the church from local and general leaders, so should leaders be humble about the revelatory responsibility members have to discern their words.
Joseph Smith taught with this spirit when he declared the following.
“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” (History of the Church, 5:498–99).
We have a great responsibility to sustain the leadership of the church. This is not a requirement to rubber stamp instruction and teaching, but to carry the burden of humbling ourselves before God, getting revelation, and bearing the great burden that all leadership has to come clean from the blood and sins of this generation.
The love of Christ appeals to the light within us and expands it, and his light divides the darkness from us. He loves truth, and invites us into truth, that we may embody is nature and his like-ness.
But his love not only embraces, fulfills, and expands all that is good, it also divides separates, and deconstructs all that is dark and in the form of falsehood. That which is in us and is not of him shall be shaken and destroyed
If you are of the truth, if you seek to speak the truth, and keep it and become informed, or, in-the-form of truth, he will expand that within you. His great love will redeem you and fashion you in the form of truth
But if you lie, and love a lie, and cling to your deceptions, and love darkness more than light, then he will divide that out of you.
In this way Christ is a paradox. He comes to both comfort and to discomfort. He both heals and destroys. He both unifies and divides.
Consider the scripture:
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10: 34).
He divided the light from the darkness in the creation. And as he creates us, he will divide the light from the darkness within us. This can be painful and harsh, and merciful and gracious.
But his aim is always the highest in us. If we desire not the highest in us, and learn to love and live a lie, in mercy he will have you confront truth and that can create almost immeasurable sorrow. But his grace heals all that yield to truth and his reality.
His aim is not suffering. It is to bring his creation into the fullness of being. It is bring all of us to fulfill the measure of our creation.
But we must all yield to to the great cosmic paradox: new life requires death. With division comes ascension. Destruction is predicate to creation. We must experience a death every day if we want to receive a newness of life.
Christ in his mercy will invite us with the persuasion of an Eternal Father to ascend and path through the deaths so that we may be possessors of a fullness of life. It is his justice that will discriminately divide the light from the darkness within us as he brings us through the days of our own creation.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ideology vs. knowledge. This distinction was brought to my attention by Jordan Peterson. His argument is that ideology is the adoption of world-view, learning how to talk in the manner of the ideology – knowing the right things to say in every circumstance – but at the same time having a thin understanding of fundamental issues and doctrines. An ideologue is very predictable. Bring up an issue and you can with precision anticipate exactly what will be said and argued.
Rigidly holding to an ideology allows for a person to morally define themselves without the investment of time and hard work of earning the right to their views, opinions, and convictions. Instead of being invested in being possessors of great knowledge, the temptation is to learn the pat-answers. The ideologue believes the gospel should be simple and easy – because they believe religion should be simple and easy and they want to feel that they are on God’s side by virtue of association and not transformation and knowledge. Membership is the gate to salvation. The belief is exaltation through association – not the nature and knowledge obtained by passing through the true gate.
This general critique of political ideology applies as much to Mormonism as it does anything else. I feel a general sense of frustration often in church meetings, and particularly in many LDS forums because ideology is pursued above knowledge. In other words, for a great many Mormons (and Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Socialists, etc…. we are no different) the attraction to the church is the belief that it is the true vehicle that can deliver us to exaltation. But this is an ideological view. In perspective, the church can do very little for you. What it does do for you is critical and vital, but it is in no way, shape, or form sufficient. The vast responsibility of your exaltation depends on your ability to become a possessor of great knowledge. This is no easy task and requires the vast majority of your time and attention.
Mormon ideology, in my current view, is the greatest enemy to the church. It is also the dominant impulse of the many church classes I’ve sat through in my 44 years of active Mormon participation. It is also the dominant impulse of the Facebook LDS forums. Righteousness seems to be how well we can articulate and recite Mormon platitudes – not the commitment to become possessors of great knowledge – the mystery offered through the restoration.
Mormon ideology starves the gospel of its greatest gift: the knowledge of how to know and come into the presence of God while in the flesh. This is the sole purpose of the priesthood and restored doctrine. Anything less is a product of Mormon ideology designed to make one feel good about their standing with God without the making the sacrifice of all things.
Knowledge is the exalting factor of the Gospel. It is becoming a possessor of knowledge that empowers you to overcome all forms of darkness. It is what puts you into possession of glory. We are saved no faster than we gain knowledge. Ideological forms are just that – they are the forms of godliness that deny the power thereof. Rejecting ideological Mormonism may feel like leaving the safety of the harbor. But that safety is an illusion. The storms come into the harbors as much as they are at sea, and ultimately the harbor of ideology helps no one, and is not worth protecting.
Can the President of the Church lead us astray? It’s a question asked by many Latter-Day Saints. For many others, to even ask the questions suggests a spirit of faithlessness and even potential apostasy.
But what is the doctrine of prophets? Is the president of the church really able to lead a people wrong? Can they teach error? Is it possible for the leadership of the church to take the members down a path that does not increase in light? Or should we rest assured that being taught incorrect doctrine is an impossibility, or that the Lord will never allow the church to be led in paths not approved of the Lord?
I’ve thought long about this question, trying to reconcile the scriptures, statements from leaders, the doctrine, and inner conflict regarding this teaching. First, I’m not convinced it is scriptural. Yes, it is found in the preamble to Official Declaration 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants in a quote from a sermon by Wilford Woodruff. But this addition to the 1981 D&C was not presented to the church as scripture, nor does it seem to take the spirit or even form of scripture. The quote, as presented in the D&C, is actually truncated, omitting the words “I say to Israel”. Here is the quote in it’s entirety with the omitted portion italicized.
“I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty” (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2).
To a people accustomed to receiving revelatory and prophetic guidance by the authoritative qualifier, “thus sayeth the Lord”, hearing the words “I say to Israel” would be clear to them that this statement is the opinion and view, perhaps even the hope, of the man uttering those words. They knew exactly what he was saying and exactly what he meant. It was a language they all shared and it was clear in context of his address: we are ceasing the practice of plural marriage so that our enemies do not destroy us.
This doctrinal sentiment has been occasionally expressed through out the latter years of the 19th century, but crescendos in the latter part of the 20th century and becomes the core doctrine of the restored gospel.
A Conditional Promise
I’d like to suggest a way that this blessing may be made available to the covenant body of the church. Since all blessings are premised upon keeping a law (D&C 130: 20-121), what is the law that must be kept in order to have the guarantee that church leadership will not lead you astray? Is it a guarantee by virtue of membership in the church? After collecting teachings of Latter-Day prophets on this question, it does not seem so.
What seems much more probable, and what should be emphasized to the church, is that the guarantee that the people will not be led astray seems conditional upon the obedience of both the people and the prophets themselves.
Let’s consider the following teachings form the prophets themselves. First, this from President Kimball. His warning is that both prophets and the people must be open to instruction and are both responsible for opening the heavens.
President Spencer W. Kimball
However, it is the sad truth that if prophets and people are unreachable, the Lord generally does nothing for them. Having given them free agency, their Heavenly Father calls, persuades, and directs aright his children, but waits for their upreaching hands, their solemn prayers, their sincere, dedicated approach to him. If they are heedless, they are left floundering in midnight’s darkness when they could have the noonday sun” (President Spencer W. Kimball, April 1977 General Conference).
Brigham Young points out that the LDS will not be led astray only if they are endowed with the power of the Holy Ghost. This is for the purpose of discernment. If a people are going to be promised they won’t be led astray, it is because they have the actual power to detect if they are being taught something in error. Brigham taught on many occasions the principle that the people were responsible for not being led astray – that it was not a guarantee by virtue of unquestioned obedience to church leaders.
The First Presidency have of right a great influence over this people; and if we should get out of the way and lead this people to destruction, what a pity it would be! How can you know whether we lead you correctly or not? Can you know by any other power than that of the Holy Ghost? I have uniformly exhorted the people to obtain this living witness each for themselves; then no man on earth can lead them astray. It is my calling and office to dictate in the affairs of the Church and kingdom of God on earth (JD 6:100).
He taught this also in another sermon:
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, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. 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. This has been my exhortation continually. (JD 9:151)
Brigham Young asked the question:
“How do you know but I will bring in false doctrine and teach the people lies that they may be damned?” if I were to preach false doctrine here, it would not be an hour after the people got out, before it would begin to fly from one to another, and they would remark, ‘I do not quite like that! It does not look exactly right! What did Brother Brigham mean? That did not sound quite right, it was not exactly the thing!’ All these observations would be made by the people, yes, even by the sisters. It would not sit well on the stomach, that is, on the spiritual stomach, if you think you have one. It would not sit well on the mind, for you are seeking after the things of God; you have started out for life and salvation, and with all their ignorance, wickedness and failings, the majority of this people are doing just as well as they know how; and I will defy any man to preach false doctrine without being detected; and we need not go to the Elders of Israel, the children who have been born in these mountains possess enough of the Spirit to detect it. But be careful that you do not lose it! Live so that you will know the moment the Spirit of the Almighty is grieved within you” (JD 14:205-06).
As recorded in the Wilford Woodruff journal, Brigham Young taught this principle again so clearly.
Their is a doctrin taught from the stand & freequently taught in Public that we should follow Brother Joseph or Brother Brigham or any man who leads & do as they say & Obey them & that is all that is required. But this is a fals doctrin in one sense. For I will say that no man should trust to the testimony of another but he should go to God & get the testimony for himself. This evry man & woman should do. I might have heard Joseph Smith preache & testify of the truth of the Book of mormon & of this work untill he had been as old as Methuselah & in the end I should have snaped my fingers at him & said to him you are a foolish old man & turned upon my heels & walked off if I had not have had some other testimony besides his. But I went to the Lord & the Lord revealed to me that it was true & that it was his word & I received it upon that principle, & I have lived upon that principle from that day untill now & it is the right privilege & Duty of evry man & woman to get the revelation of Jesus Christ for themselves & evry person should get the spirit of God & live by it” (Wilford Woodruff Journal, 11 Jan. 1857; Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff Journal (Signature Books 1983-1985), 5:6 (hereinafter “Wilford Woodruff Journal”), spelling in original (emphasis added).
President James E. Faust also taught this same principle that the membership of the church bears the responsibility of not being deceived.
As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by their
leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover. Brigham Young said: “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” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 135). In this manner no one need be deceived.
Since each one of us has his free agency, the ultimate determination of what is
inspired of the Lord, what is right and wrong, true or false, can be made by each of us. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. (1871-1961) made this statement: “The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members [themselves], whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest” (“When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to claim of Scripture?” Church News, 31 July 1954, 10). Each must bear the accountability of accepting or discarding the values of truth, which values if followed will produce his greatest happiness. (James Faust, First Presidency Message, “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” Ensign (Sept. 1998), 4-5)
President James E. Faust quotes J. Reuben Clark in a First Presidency Address:
“There have been rare occasions when even the President of the Church in his
preaching and teaching has not been “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” You will recall the Prophet Joseph declared that a prophet is not always a prophet.
To this point runs a simple story my father told me as a boy, I do not know on
what authority, but it illustrates the point. His story was that during the excitement
incident to the coming of Johnson’s [sic] Army, Brother Brigham preached to the people in a morning meeting a sermon vibrant with defiance to the approaching army, and declaring an intention to oppose and drive them back. In the afternoon meeting he arose and said that Brigham Young had been talking in the morning, but the Lord was going to talk now. He then delivered an address, the tempo of which was the opposite from the morning talk. I do not know if this ever happened, but I say it illustrates a principle–that even the President of the Church, himself, may not always be “moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” when he addresses the people. This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of a highly speculative character) where subsequent Presidents of the Church and the peoples themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” How shall the Church know when these adventurous expeditions of the brethren into these highly speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that the announcers thereof have been “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”? The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., “When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?” Church News, 31 July 1954, republished in Dialogue 12, no. 2 (Summer 1979), 73 (emphasis added). Elder D. Todd Christopherson quoted President Clark’s article in the April 2012 general conference. See D. Todd Christopherson, “The Doctrine of Christ,” Ensign (May 2012).
Some may say, “Brethren, you who lead the Church, we have all confidence in
you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your
superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am.” I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, “If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,” this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Every man and woman in this kingdom ought to be satisfied what we do, but they never should be satisfied without asking the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether what we do is right. When you are inspired by the Holy Ghost you can understandingly say, that you are satisfied; and that is the only power that should cause you to exclaim that you are satisfied, for without that you do not know whether you should be satisfied or not. You may say that you are satisfied and believe that all is right, and your confidence may be almost unbounded in the authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ, but if you asked God, in the name of Jesus, and received knowledge for yourself, through the Holy Spirit, would it not strengthen your faith? It would” JD 3:45 (emphasis added).
Brigham Young counseled the Saints that it is possible that they could be led wrong.
“Do as you are counseled to do by the spirit of revelation from the Lord. . . . Go to with your might, seek unto the Lord your God until you have the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ upon you, until your minds are open, and the visions of heaven are plain to you. Then follow the dictations of the spirit, and watch Brother Brigham, and see if he counsels you wrong” (Thomas Bullock minutes, 8 May 1854, Church Historical Department, quoted in D. Charles Pyle, “Questions to Ask Your Mormon Friend: Challenging the Claims of Latter-day Saints in a Constructive Manner,” FARMS Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 8, no. 2 (1996), 238
Another warning from Brigham:
How many hundreds and hundreds of times have you been taught that if people neglect their prayers and other daily duties, that they quickly begin to love the world, become vain in their imaginations, and liable to go astray, loving all the day long to do those things that the Lord hates, and leaving undone those things that the Lord requires at their hands? When people neglect their private duties, should their leaders lead them astray, they will go blindfolded, will be subject to the devil, and be led captive at his will. How useless this would be! How unnatural, unreasonable, and unlike the Gospel and those who believe it! (JD 4:298 (emphasis added)
President Harold B. Lee also taught this principle. It is upon the heads of the church members to determine if they are being led astray or not.
President Harold B. Lee
It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they write. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, “Well, that is his own idea.” And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard church works, you may know by that same token that it is false, regardless of the position of the man who says it. We can know or have the assurance that they are speaking under inspiration if we so live that we can have a witness that what they are speaking is the word of the Lord. There is only one safety, and that is that we shall live to have the witness to know. President Brigham Young said something to the effect that “the greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord. (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places (Deseret Book 1988), 162-63 (emphasis added)
President George Q. Cannon was a powerful teacher of this principle.
George Q. Cannon:
The Lord designs that the principle of knowledge shall be developed in every heart, that all may stand before Him in the dignity of their manhood, doing understandingly what He requires of them, not depending upon nor being blindly led by their priests or leaders, as is the universal custom, and one of the most fruitful sources of evil to the people on the face of the earth. . . . If we, in our experience, have not yet proved the truth of the words of the prophet – “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, or maketh flesh his arm” – probably we will do if we live long enough. There is a curse attending every man and woman who does this. . . . We must all learn to depend upon God and upon Him alone. Why, the very man upon whom we think we can rely with unbounded confidence, and trust with all we possess, may disappoint us sometimes, but trust in God and He never fails. We can go before Him at all times, and upon all occasions, and pour out our souls and desires before Him, and we feel that we lean upon a rock that will not fail, and upon a friend that will not desert us in the day of trial” (JD 12:45-46 (emphasis added).
George Q. Cannon:
Now if we were left without any testimony of our own, and had to receive the
ipse dixit of some man in authority, and to act blindly upon that, it would be very
different, it would require a much greater degree of faith than we have to exercise at the present time. But how was it in the days of Joseph? Was there a doctrine taught which was not accompanied by the testimony of the Spirit to the minds of the people? Certainly not. How has it been in the days of the Prophet Brigham? It has been the same. When the servants of God proclaimed that God had established his Church, that he had restored the everlasting Priesthood and its ordinances, they were told to go and ask God for themselves, and they had an opportunity of testing the truth of that which was taught unto them, and there was no chance for imposture. Many think that the people called Latter-day Saints are a deluded, ignorant set, led by cunning priestly leaders, who exercise power over them because of their shrewdness and ability, and that the people are a blind herd led at the will of these shrewd deceivers. We know that this is not the case. We know that the most frequent appeals that have been made to the Latter-day Saints have been to investigate for themselves and to know for themselves. When we started out from Illinois and traveled over these plains, were we following President Young because he said, “Come on?” Were we striking out blindly into the wilderness, hoping that he would find some place, and trusting to his sagacity and shrewdness? Certainly not, that was not the feeling; but every Latter-day Saint who crossed the Mississippi river, who was indeed a Latter-day Saint, had a testimony that he or she was going in a direction that God was leading, and when night came each was as confident that he was in the path that God required him to walk in as ever the children of Israel were when led out of Egypt. When I look back at those days, and consider the circumstances that surrounded the people, I wonder and am astonished at the faith, calmness and confidence they manifested” (JD 17:341-42).
President J. Reuben Clark also taught this principle:
“We can tell when the speakers are moved upon by the Holy Ghost only when we, ourselves, are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak.” (President J. Rueben Clark, 1954 CN-7/31/54)
President Benson provides an insight as to why the Lord has allowed so many fallen men to become apostles. His observation, echoing President George Q. Cannon, is to teach the people to trust in Christ, and not in the flesh. It is interesting that he also emphatically connects trusting in the arm of flesh as trusting in church leadership.
President Ezra Taft Benson:
“Six of the original twelve apostles selected by Joseph Smith were excommunicated. The three witnesses to the Book of Mormon left the Church. Three of Joseph Smith’s counselors fell–one even helped plot the Prophet’s death. A natural question that might arise would be, if the Lord knew in advance that these men would fall, as he undoubtedly did, why did he have his prophet call them to such high office? The answer is, to fill the Lord’s purposes. For even the Master followed the will of the Father by selecting Judas. President George Q. Cannon suggested an explanation, too, when he stated, “Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places IN ORDER THAT HIS SAINTS MAY LEARN TO TRUST IN HIM and NOT in ANY man or men.” And this would parallel Lehi’s warning: ‘put not your trust in the arm of flesh’ (2 Nephi 4:35)… It is from WITHIN the church that the greatest hindrance comes. And so, it seems, it has been. Now the question arises, WILL WE STICK WITH THE KINGDOM AND CAN WE AVOID BEING DECEIVED?…Brigham Young said: The Adversary presents his principles and arguments in the most approved style, and in the most winning tone, attended with the most graceful attitudes; and he is very careful to ingratiate himself into the favour of the powerful and influential of mankind…Such characters put on the manners of an angel, appearing as nigh like angels of light as they possibly can,…The good which they do, they do it to bring to pass an evil purpose… Those of us who think ‘all is well in zion’ in spite of Book of Mormon warnings might ponder the words of Heber C. Kimball, who said:… “the time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to that extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God. Then, brethren look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall; for I say unto you there is a test, a Test, a TEST coming.” (Ezra Taft Benson: God, Family, Country p. 335 – 337)
It is important to emphasize that the Lord gives the church revelation in D&C 107 of how to bring discipline to those in the highest offices of the church. If there was no chance that they would lead to error, why would such a revelatory provision be made? Once again, Brigham Young sheds insight into this possibility. Note the responsibility of the church to take action upon it.
“It is written in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, that the president can be tried before a bishop and twelve high priests, or the high council of the church. There are many present this morning who were present at the organization of that quorum in Kirtland. We have here before us this morning, the high council, and bishop Whitney at their head, and we will try Sidney Rigdon before this council and let them take an action on his case this morning; and then we will present it to the church, and let the church also take an action upon it” (Times and Seasons (15 Sept. 1844) 5:647))
B.H. Roberts also makes this case masterfully.
Again, while President Smith, as we believe, has received a divine appointment
to the station he holds, he is dependent for his continuance in that office, as he was
dependent for his elevation to it, upon the votes of the people. He is subject to the laws of the Church, as much so as you or I; and a special provision is made in the laws of God for a tribunal before which, for acts of irregularity and unrighteousness, he can be called to account, testimony taken against him, and if his offenses are of sufficiently serious a nature he may be dismissed from his high office, and excommunicated from the Church; and the revelation which provides these arrangements concerning him says that the decision of the court in question is the end of controversy in his case. I know that some men, in their over-zeal to exalt the office of President of the Church have advanced extravagant ideas upon the subject such as saying that no complaint must be made of those occupying that position; that the people must go on performing their daily duties without question, and then if the President should do wrong, God would look after him. Such teachings have now and then been heard; but I call your attention to the fact that the Church Of God is greater than any one man within that Church, however exalted his station may be; that the Lord has provided means by which the Church can correct every man within it, and can-dismiss the unworthy from power. That right is resident in the Church of Christ; and the Church don’t have to wait till God kills off unworthy servants before a wrong can be righted. The power exists within the Church to correct any evil, of whatever name or nature, that may arise within it, and that without disrupting the Church, or creating anarchy, but all things are to be done in order, and as God has appointed them. I could give you references to the D&C covering all these points, but it is a matter of such common knowledge among you that it is not necessary. Again, the decisions of the First Presidency of the Church are not final in relation to matters of administration and government in the Church, if such decisions are made in unrighteousness, but from such decisions of the First Presidency appeals lie to the general assembly of all the quorums of the Priesthood, which constitute the highest spiritual authority in the Church, that is, all the quorums of the Priesthood are greater than any one quorum, even though it should be the First Presidency. (Doc. and Cov. sec. 107). Neither “monarchy” nor “monarch” can exist where these principles are recognized, as they are recognized in the Church” (B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, 2 vols. (Deseret Book 1907), 1:222-23 (emphasis added)
Brigham Young here emphasizes the need to be able to answer for yourself spiritually. That it will not be in obedience to another that will guarantee a celestial inheritance.
There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in
their thoughts, actions, and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. “I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own,” say they, “to introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Joseph, upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgment is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; your spirit is better than mine, therefore you can do good for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem.” . . . . Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the, celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them, They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer.” (JD 1:312 (emphasis added)
Joseph Smith warned the Relief Society sisters that depending too much on a prophet would lead to a darkened mind. That it is a gospel principle to stand for yourself, and to not spiritually depend on another person.
“In a sermon to the Relief Society in May, 1842, Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel and said that “the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church.” He applied the chapter to the “present state” of the church and stated that the people “were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds” ( TPJS 237-38).
We also get this warning from the Joseph Smith Translation of Mark chapter 9.
“Therefore,” Jesus taught, “let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another. . . . And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out” (JST Mark 9:44)
The following is a fascinating sermon from Orson Pratt which is important to note. It is in no way used to diminish or undermine the brethren that are called as apostles, but it should remind us that office alone does not bestow power and authority, nor should we assume that by virtue of holding an office someone fulfills the obligations of that office. It cannot be assumed. It must be discerned.
“This failure to realize all the blessings and powers of the Priesthood does not apply to the elders and lesser Priesthood only; but it applies to the higher quorums, and comes home to ourselves, who are Apostles of Jesus Christ. We are presented before the Church, and sustained as prophets, seers and revelators, and we have received oftentimes the gift of prophecy and revelation, and have received many great and glorious gifts. But have we received the fullness of the blessings to which we are entitled?No, we have not. Who, among the Apostles have become seers, and enjoy all the gifts and powers pertaining to that calling? Still it is our privilege to become prophets, seers and revelators, for these blessings were promised us through the Prophet Joseph, in the year 1836. Now I don’t think many of us have attained to these gifts, but it is not the fault of the Almighty, but the fault is in ourselves. And can they be realized by us? Certainly they can, if we are faithful in seeking for them.The Prophet Joseph would not have attained to these glorious gifts if he had not lived for them, and he would not have held out these inducements to us, unless they could have been obtained.These things were renewed at our last fall Conference, and they are brought home to us, and it is our privilege to live for them and enjoy them in their fullness, according to our faith.Brother Charles C. Rich has had visions from the Lord, and revelations through which he has been forewarned of dangers that threatened him; by which means his life has been preserved from time to time. And these are some of the gifts of God, and should be cultivated in our feelings and in our faith, for God is no respecter of persons, but is willing to give to all men liberally, and upbraid not. . . . And I have thought the reason why we have not enjoyed these gifts more fully is, because we have not sought for them as diligently as we ought.I speak for one, I have not sought as diligently as I might have done.More than forty years have passed away since these promises were made.I have been blessed with some revelations and prophecies, and with dreams of things that have come to pass; but as to seeing things as a seer, and beholding heavenly things in open vision, I have not attained to these things. And who is to blame for this? Not the Lord; not brother Joseph—they are not to blame.And so it is with the promises made to you in your confirmations and endowments, and by the patriarchs, in your patriarchal blessings; we do not live up to our privileges as saints of God and elders of Israel; for though we receive many blessings that are promised to us, we do not receive them in their fullness, because we do not seek for them as diligently and faithfully as we should” (JD 25:145-46 (emphasis added).
Can we lose the priesthood and its power on this earth? Yes, we can. We should not be aware of the principles that keep us in possession of the priesthood, and we should be discerning of our collective standing with the Lord. Once again, Brigham Young warns:
“When Mormonism finds favor with the wicked in this laid it will have gone into the shade; but until the power of the Priesthood is gone, Mormonism will never become popular with the wicked.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 4:38)
Finally, it is true that the members of the church can live so that they are not led astray, but they bear the burden of that promise. If we fail to keep the covenant and be consumed in the Holy Ghost, we are vulnerable to being taught incorrect teachings, and led contrary to the path the Lord would take us.
Light attracts light, and darkness attracts darkness. What we are attracted to in others reflects in us the dominant impulse in our own beings. If I find myself judging others, and noticing the worse in others, it reflects my own nature. If my impulse is to find the light in someone else, even if that light is buried deep down, it reflects that charity is becoming the governing aspect of my nature.
I have found myself in recent years really fighting the desire to judge others. Especially those that I feel are judging me. It has been a chastisement to come to realize that this is because I have allowed so much darkness to govern my awareness. It is such a chastisement to come to understand this, but as with all chastisements, it also comes with instruction.
When I feel to judge others and to see darkness in them, and to withhold love because of their darkness, there is a way to shift your focus and awareness. When we encounter someone we are tempted to judge, we can ask the Lord to reveal to us the light within them. All people have the spirit of truth in them. The Lord can reveal that to us and we can single-mindedly learn to focus on it.
In one sense, this seems one way in which we can fulfill the invitation to have our eye single to the glory of God. We make our awareness single to the light of others in those that may be hard to love. If our eyes are single to the glory of God in others, than our whole body can be filled with light, and we can see things as they are, and we can comprehend all things – including the ability to charitably discern other people.
What a blessing and power! To be able to see people as they are, and to begin to love them the way the Lord loves them. This is a game changer. This can radically transform our awareness of others. Our ability to be servants of Christ will exponentially increase. We will be endowed with power to bless and bring others to Christ.
Our eyes can be single to the glory of God in those that are hard to love. Searching for that light invites the Holy Ghost to expand our awareness and to become full of the love of Gods ourselves. Learning to do this will certainly activate the promise of having our eye single:
Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God (in others), and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will. (D&C 88: 68)
When a pilot is flying an airplane they may experience a frightening phenomena called “vestibular disorientation”. When pilots can’t see outside and aren’t able to orient themselves with physical landmarks they sometimes feel like their plane is turning. Or banking. Or rolling in a way that it is not. A pilot who experiences vestibular disorientation feels in their body something that is happening that isn’t actually happening. Their inner sense of balance, their whole body, may scream at them that they are turning or banking when it in reality it may be completely level. A pilot’s physical senses cannot be trusted when they cannot orient themselves to outside landmarks.
For a pilot to overcome vestibular disorientation they have to focus intensely on their instruments. They focus on exactly what the indicators say are really happening with the plane. They may feel with their whole body that they are rolling but they must trust the instruments that tell them they are flying level. It takes total faith in an instrument when your senses and feelings are sending off alarms and deceiving you to do something that would lead to your destruction.
This is, for example, what is believed to have happened to John Kennedy Jr. when he crashed into the Atlantic ocean. He was flying in zero visibility. He thought that his plane was banking and so he corrected. He didn’t trust his instrument readings. Unfortunately it was his correction that caused him to spiral into the ocean.
The metaphor of vestibular disorientation in aviation is a powerful one. Because our natures are fallen, and because we “see through a glass darkly”, it is easy for us to be overpowered with spiritual disorientation. It is possible that our body – our whole being – can give us false revelation. A body that is not sanctified can be a powerful false revelator.
When we are under the influence of our flesh it can seem like we are getting true revelation. If these senses are so powerfully real, then how is it possible to know if we are getting true or false revelation? We must learn to distinguish between the spirit and the flesh. In other words, we must learn how to taste and recognize light.
The light of Christ is the external instrument panel that can bring us out of our disorientation. The more we learn how to taste and identify the light of Christ, the better we will be at coming out of spiritual disorientation. But just as a pilot has to fight his core physical instincts and trust his instruments, we too, will experience a similar struggle. When abandoning ourselves to the requirements of the light of Christ may feel like an epic struggle. We may want to trust our bodies and desires instead. Having faith to yield to light instead of the flesh can feel like an epic battle.
But if we have faith to do exactly as the light of Christ invites us we can be quickly relieved from the disorientation of our fallen nature. Sometimes for a pilot they have to fight their disorientation and act against their physical instincts for 10-15 minutes before their bodies recalibrate. Likewise, we have to have faith to follow the spirit in exactness for some time before our flesh aligns with the will of the Spirit.
This could be considered “faith unto repentance”. It takes faith to act against our fallen instincts until we become recalibrated to the light of Christ. This “recalibration” is the process of becoming sanctified.
Sanctification is the state of being where our flesh, mind, heart, emotions, desires – all that makes up our very being – becomes aligned with the Spirit of Christ. It is to become one with Christ. Coming into this state requires us to act in faith on the light of Christ, even when it’s promptings and invitations seem to violate our senses. We may falsely believe that if we yield to a prompting that we will become uncomfortable, or unhappy, or become vulnerable to something we have worked hard to protect ourselves from.
I remember one day when I was in graduate school and had a long and tiring day in class. I had a lot of stress and a lot of school work to finish. In the evening, I just wanted to escape. Even though I had hours of work ahead of me I just wanted to go see a movie. I grabbed my keys and was walking out the door when I went to war with myself. The spirit instructed me to stay and do the homework. Everything else in me fought the prompting, making the case that I was tired, overworked, and “deserved” a break. I felt that if I didn’t go to a movie that my whole world would fall apart. It was a very dramatic internal showdown.
I decided to yield to the spirit in this case. Even though my flesh was screaming at me to flee my work and relax in a theater, I acted against my instincts and followed the prompting. It wasn’t 10 minutes later that I felt light, empowered, and full of focus and energy to finish a workload that was nowhere near as overwhelming as I had built it up in my mind.
Imagine if I had instead chosen to go the movie? I am sure that the work that I had put off would later seem unbearable. I would have been consumed in darkness, depression, and probably without hope. When we subject ourselves to our fallen world-view we become overcome with a false sense of the world. Everything gets painted in a distorted way. We do not see things “as they are.”
What’s also interesting is to think about the ripple effect this decision had. If I had resisted the prompting to stay home and study do you think I would have had a greater temptation to see a movie that I shouldn’t? I believe so. That night, when I prayed to the Lord, were my prayers different? The next day, when faced with a greater temptation, did I have more or less strength to be faithful to the spirit?
There are no small decisions. Everything we do has an eternal rippling effect. Thankfully, the invitation to repent is constantly before us. We can always choose to start faithfully following the promptings of the light of Christ.
We are all constantly living in a state where the Lord in his mercy and grace will give us promptings at anytime we want them. We can always ask the question, what does the light of Christ require of me right at this moment? I believe the Lord will always answer. Even if it’s small. It may be a prompting to simply sit up straighter and take a deep breath. It may be a prompting to continue praying in patience. Be aware of exactly what you are being invited to do.
Here are some questions that we can always ask. If we respond to our first impressions to these questions, our world can transform quickly.
What does the light of Christ require of me right now?
What does love require of me?
What is the loving thing to do?
What is the faithful thing to do?
What can I change that I know I am procrastinating?
The Lord intensely wants us to return to him. If we engage him faithfully he will carve a path through stone and lead us to him. We will become beings full of light. We will become so that we “comprehend all things” (D&C 88:67). We will come to “know the mysteries in full” (Alma 12). We become the kinds of beings that will “shake at the appearance of sin” (2 Nephi 4: 31). We will see him as he is because we will become “pure, even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:49).
Thinking about the connection between repentance and gaining spiritual knowledge. If we want to gain knowledge we need to seek the requisite repentance for that knowledge. The reason is that the whatever portion of the natural man that is not under the influence of the Holy Ghost – that isn’t sanctified – will be leveraged against us if we are seeking revelation.
For example, if we carry a lust for power or esteem then we can receive false revelations that feeds the desire for esteem or power. We may easily mistake this as being from the Lord if that part of us isn’t sanctified. If we lust for sex, then we may receive false revelations that could satisfy those lusts. Consider that it is possible to lust for spiritual experience, or revelation, or for spiritual blessings. The natural man can desire things that may seem paradoxical – that we can even desire things like our calling and election made sure can be driven by a natural man lust for an experience for an impure reason.
Spiritual lust can be very hard to detect. I sometimes think that blessings are withheld in part because we want them for the wrong reason. Becoming born again, receiving revelation, seeking our calling and election made sure – all have to be sought with an eye single to the glory of God. If not, they are withheld in mercy.
If we continue to seek higher manifestations without purifying ourselves in repentance then we become vulnerable to the Adversary to give us the counterfeit experiences of these revelations. Yes, it is possible to have a counterfeit born again experience, revelation, and especially a counterfeit calling and election made sure experience. Because our lusts can be sophisticated, and the natural man can be sophisticated, the false revelations of knowledge can also be very sophisticated. So how do we protect ourselves against false revelations? We repent completely of the natural man. We must become born again and have all of the impurities burned out of us.
How do we know we have sufficiently repented? The Alma 5 questions are a good guide. Are you full of love? Do you have a disposition to do evil? Are you stripped of pride? Do you have any envy? Do you seek to consume any lusts? Money? Sex? Recognition? Are you willing to sacrifice anything for the Lord? Do you seek to be the least and servant of all? Do you have hope and faith to receive a greater portion?
If we are in a state of being sanctified by the Holy Ghost then we can receive the revelations that are at the level of our state of sanctification. It is only then that the Lord can distill greater and greater knowledge, mysteries, and revelations. We must repent with all of our hearts to be prepared to receive the word of the Lord in its fulness.
It’s not uncommon for members of the covenant to point out that the use the form of the word “strait” is a winding channel between two bodies of water, or as a mountain pass. This is pointed out to suggest that the course could wind and not be in a straight line. But this would be a misuse of the definition of “strait”. When people reference strait in the sense of a channel between mountains or connecting bodies of water, they are referencing the noun form of the word.
The scriptures use the adjective form of the word. This form of the word simply means: narrow or close; not broad.
When the Lord refers to the strait and narrow path he is emphasizing how narrow the gate is, and how narrow the path remains. We should be careful not to infer that the path is winding, or meanders. The Adversary is working hard to dilute, confuse, counterfeit and teach the philosophies of men regarding the path. These philosophies carry the risk that would lead us off of the strait and narrow path and on to strange paths. We must be vigilant in our rejection of anything that does not comply to the pure doctrine of Christ.
Christ says of his own path:
For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round (D&C 3:2)
When the Lord refers to his paths as being straight. We are commanded to keep them this way. It is upon us to Prepare “the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (D&C 65: 1).
It is a commandment to keep his path straight. We keep it straight by walking on the straight path and by also keeping his doctrine pure.
Nephi uses the term strait and straight interchangeably. This should drive clarity about the path.
Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name (2 Nephi 9: 41).
Overcoming the world is the process of keeping our paths straight. Nephi again teaches us through the record of his own experiences:
O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy (2 Nephi 4: 33).
Those that declare the pure gospel of Christ will all echo the same message as Alma who taught the way of the path with precision and purity. And he also reminds us that the path we walk in is the Lord’s path. They both must be straight. This is when we are righteous and in “the way”: It is when we make the Lord’s path our own.
But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth (Alma 7: 9).
It is us that meander. It is us that wander. We may cross over the strait and narrow path a thousand times in our life – but that does not make the path crooked. We are to come into possession of the path and then learn how to keep the path – we must learn to endure on it.