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This is the second part of a talk given at a conference in Aravada Springs, NV on March 27, 2021.
We’ve cobbled together a light that reflects, I think, the same sort of motif as the “redneck Rameumptom” (as they’ve named it). And I can actually see this!
Look, just a couple comments while people are still settling in. In order to talk about the subject I want to talk about, it’s necessary to rely upon content in the Book of Abraham. But the Book of Abraham has been under assault by critics for a long time. I was satisfied about the reliability, authenticity, and scriptural value of the Book of Abraham long ago, but after being satisfied I quit buying and reading the exchange that’s gone on back and forth. So, as this subject was something that I intended to talk on, I really needed about eight years’ worth of material to catch up on the give and take between the arguments that have gone back and forth. So, I had to buy a new “last eight years” library supplements to all of the Book of Abraham: bitching and moaning and defending and parading and… Went and picked up a copy of Ritner’s book, that I’ve referred to…
MAN: Sorry [referring to the light on the podium].
DENVER: Well, that’s fine. It’s like a lighthouse—none of you in a boat are gonna hit shore with that up here as your beacon.
I didn’t know anything except this guy had been interviewed on Mormon Stories… I think he was jointly interviewed by (what does Corbin call himself?)… Radiofree Mormon and John Dehlin did a joint interview with him. So, I had to go buy his book. I went and bought his book, and when I got home I… Used a credit card; I didn’t realize how much the infernal thing was. It’s a really, really expensive book!
Well, as I got to the end and I read everything (all the way through the back matter), I found out that it’s a very limited printing, and I bought the last one that this local book dealer had of the thing. So, I guess I’ve got a… I marked it all up. I’ve hemorrhaged all over it. I’ve interlineated. And it would have been a collector item, and I would have auctioned it off tonight, except I’ve wrecked it by all my interlineations.
So… But what I’ve been doing is catching up on the arguments involving the Book of Abraham so that if someone reads this paper or listens to this talk at some point in the future and they see I’m referring to the Book of Abraham, they know that I’ve not done that without showing the courtesy to the polemics and the apologists for their give and take. I’m not just talking; I’ve read the stuff, and I’ve cited in the footnotes, and I’m not going off without having paid attention to the ongoing dialogue.
But as you’ve already heard, I think the overwhelming majority of the dialogue that has been invested in the give and take in the Book of Abraham is completely off-point and has no value in trying to determine the authenticity of the book. The last one to weigh in is a book that came out last Wednesday, so I had to spend last weekend reading Dan Vogel’s book (that I read you a few of the quotes from) in order to let whoever got the last word to actually have my ear in expressing their last word. But if you’re interested in the library of material, the footnotes in this talk will reference it, which will be up on my website tomorrow evening. We’ll get home and get it up.
Angels, including John, minister to chosen vessels. It’s the responsibility of mortal ministers to preach the message. The message must be accepted and acted on for faith in Christ. The Holy Order must be held again by mortals and must be returned voluntarily back to Christ in a second Adam-ondi-Ahman. That is the arrangement made before the foundation of the Earth. God gave dominion over the Earth to Adam, and Christ will receive back the right of dominion before His return in glory.
All knowledge can be misused. The more the Holy Order is understood, the more sobering it becomes. Greater knowledge is being employed today to abuse, control, and subjugate people. The Scriptures warn of evils and designs which will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days (T&C 89:2). Any advantage one individual holds over another can be improperly used to subjugate, oppress, and exploit. Therefore, the hidden mysteries that reach into the highest heaven and contemplate the darkest abyss will include knowledge capable of misuse. Mysteries are guarded, cloaked in sacred ritual, confined to a qualified group of trusted and proven initiates.
The Holy Order will return lost knowledge to the Earth. The specifics have been withheld from Scripture, but the scope of that knowledge has been referred to often. Abraham had the records of the first Patriarchs, and he described some of what was included in the sacred texts:
But the records of the Fathers, even the Patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord, my God, preserved in my own hands. Therefore, a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, [as] also of the planets and…the stars, as they were made known unto the Fathers, have I kept…unto this day…. (Abraham 2:4 RE, emphasis added)
Knowledge to be revealed through the Holy Order will include information about the beginning of this Creation. At the beginning, “The order that God brought focused on people in his image to join with him in the continuing process of bringing order, but more importantly on the ordering of the cosmos as sacred space” (The Lost World of Adam and Eve, p. 150). We disturb this Creation because we are disorderly. We’re the opposite of what God intended for us.
…human sin has blocked God’s purposes for the whole creation; but God hasn’t gone back on his creational purpose, which was and is to [bring] in his creation through human beings, his image-bearers. In his true image-bearer, Jesus the Messiah, he has rescued humans from their sin and death in order to reinscribe his original purposes, which include the extension of sacred space into all [of] creation, until the earth is indeed full of God’s knowledge and [the] glory as the waters cover the sea. God will be present in and with his whole creation; the whole creation will be like a glorious extension of the tabernacle in the wilderness or the temple in Jerusalem. (Ibid. pg. 176)
Restoring the Holy Order will add knowledge about the religious significance of the planets and stars. They were ordained as “signs” to establish “seasons.” That does not mean times of the year but also means times of dispensations, ministries, and judgments.
The gospel of Christ and the mysteries of His kingdom are vast. The doctrine of Christ is succinct. The entire doctrine of Christ is set out in one paragraph of Third Nephi. Christ was emphatic that His brief statement of His doctrine is solely and exclusively all of it; there can be nothing added to it. He warns us:
Whoso[ever] shall declare more or less than this, and [establish] it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil and is not built upon my rock, but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell standeth open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. (3 Nephi 5:9 RE)
But the records of the first Patriarchs handed down to Abraham include the Creation, the discussion of planets and stars, and “greater knowledge.” The reason so much more was
reserved [revealed] and preserved in the records of the Fathers is because the gospel of Christ includes all truth.
From the Scriptures, it is clear many of those involved with the Holy Order—as well as dispensation heads and prophets—were taught truth far beyond the doctrine of Christ.
Enoch, for example, was given seership by the Lord and through it uncovered hidden things:
And the Lord spoke unto Enoch, and said unto him, Anoint your eyes with clay and wash them, and you shall see. And he did so. And he beheld the spirits that God had created, and he beheld also things which were not visible. And from that point forward came the saying abroad in the land, A seer has the Lord raised up unto his people...
Enoch was shown all eternity by the Lord:
The Lord spoke unto Enoch and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men. Wherefore, Enoch knew and looked upon their wickedness and their misery, and wept, and stretched forth his arms. And he beheld eternity, and his bowels yearned, and all eternity shook. (Genesis 4:3,18 RE, emphasis added)
The Lord showed Moses everything about this world:
And it came to pass that Moses looked and beheld the world upon which he was created. And…Moses beheld the world, and the ends thereof, and all the children of men who are [or] who were created, of the same he greatly marveled and wondered. (Genesis 1:2 RE, emphasis added)
The Brother of Jared saw everything through the ends of the earth:
He shewed unto the brother of Jared all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also…that would be. And the Lord withheld them not from his sight, even unto the ends of the earth. For the Lord had said unto him in times before that if he would believe in him, that he could shew unto him all things, it should be shewn unto him. Therefore, the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could shew him all things. (Ether 1:15 RE)
From these few Scriptures, we learn that Enoch, Moses, the Brother of Jared, and Abraham learned and experienced:
- Knowledge about the spirits God created,
- Things not visible to the eye of mankind,
- All the doings of mankind,
- Beholding eternity,
- The creation of this world and the end thereof,
- All the inhabitants of the world past, present, and future, and
- All things.
Others had many “mysteries” revealed to them. Remember that knowledge of the mysteries of godliness is obtained only through obedience to God (T&C 159:31). That’s why Abraham’s desire to get additional knowledge was so he could receive instructions and keep God’s commandments. Obedience earns more knowledge, and more knowledge requires greater obedience. They move together in one eternal round.
In one sense, the religion of the Fathers is based on a direct connection to God. Reduced to one thought, it is that as long as God is speaking directly to a body of people, giving them commandments, they have the most essential element of the religion of the Fathers. If they remain true to that connection, all things can be restored to them.
Commandments given to others belong to them, and only commandments God gives to us belong to us. Joseph Smith explained this matter, after referring to the New Testament:
[Al]though we cannot claim these promises which were made to the ancients for they are not our property, merely because they were made to the ancient Saints, yet if we are the children of the Most High, and are called with the same calling with which they were called, and embrace the same covenant that they embraced, and are faithful to the testimony of our Lord as they were, we can approach the Father, in the name of Christ as they approached Him, and for ourselves obtain the same promises. These promises, when obtained, if ever by us, will not be because Peter, John, and the other Apostles…walked in the fear of God and had power and faith to prevail and obtain them; but it will be because we, ourselves, have faith and approach God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, even as they did; and when these promises are obtained, they will be promises directly to us, or they will do us no good. They will be communicated for our benefit, being our own property (through the gift of God), earned by our own diligence in keeping His commandments, and walking uprightly before Him. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 66, emphasis added)
This is affirmed in our Scriptures:
I admit that by reading the scriptures, of truth, the saints in the days of Paul could learn, beyond the power of contradiction, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had the promise of eternal life confirmed to them by an oath of the Lord; but that promise or oath was no assurance to them of their salvation, but they could, by walking in the footsteps and continuing in the faith of their fathers, obtain for themselves an oath for confirmation that they were meet to be partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light.
If the saints in the days of the apostles were privileged to take the ancients for examples, and lay hold of the same promises, and attain to the same exalted privilege of knowing that their names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and that they were sealed there as a perpetual memorial before the face of the Most High, will not the same faithfulness, the same purity of heart and the same faith bring the same assurance of eternal life, and that in the same manner, to the children of men now in this age of the world?
I have no doubt but that the holy prophets and apostles and saints in ancient days were saved in the kingdom of God; neither do I doubt but that they held converse and communion with him while they were in the flesh, as Paul said to his Corinthian brethren that the Lord Jesus showed himself to above five hundred saints at one time after his resurrection. Job said that he knew that his Redeemer lived and that he should see him in the flesh in the latter days. I may believe that Enoch walked with God and by faith was translated. I may believe that Noah was a perfect man in his generation and also walked with God. I may believe that Abraham communed with God and conversed with angels. I may believe that Isaac obtained a renewal of the covenant made to Abraham by the direct voice of the Lord. I may believe that Jacob conversed with holy angels, and heard the voice of his Maker, that he wrestled with the angel until he prevailed and obtained the blessing. I may believe that Elijah was taken to Heaven in a chariot of fire with fiery horses. I may believe that the saints saw the Lord and conversed with him face to face after his resurrection. I may believe that the Hebrew church came to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. I may believe that they looked into eternity and saw the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant. But will all this purchase an assurance for me, and waft me to the regions of eternal day, and seat me down in the presence of the King of kings with my garments spotless, pure, and white?
Or must I not rather obtain for myself, by my own faith and diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord, an assurance of salvation for myself? And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers and listen to my cries as soon as he ever did to theirs, if I come to him in the manner they did? (T&C 99:14-17, emphasis added)
Whatever the status of other believers may be today, there are promises that have been given by God directly to us. There is now more revelation and more commandments than at any other time. Beginning with the “Answer to the Prayer for Covenant” and the accompanying Covenant, God has given new commandments. If they are followed, the promises made to this people will increase in light and truth until the perfect day. We are not reading the promises made by God to other people because we have God’s commandments and promises given to us.
The commandments given directly by God include, but are not limited to, the following:
- God’s will is to have us love one another, but we lack the ability to respectfully disagree among each other. The Lord compares us to Paul and Peter whose disagreements resulted in jarring and sharp contentions. We have been commanded to do better.
- Wisdom counsels us to align our words with our hearts, but we refuse to take counsel from Wisdom. There have been sharp disputes between us that should have been avoided.
- Satan is a title and means accuser, opponent, and adversary; hence, once he fell, Lucifer became or, in other words, was “called” Satan because he accuses others and opposes the Father. The Lord rebuked Peter and called him Satan because he was wrong in opposing the Father’s will, and Peter understood and repented. We sometimes act as Satan: accusing one another, wounding hearts, and causing jarring, contention, and strife through accusations. Rather than loving one another, some have dealt unkindly—as if they were the opponents, accusers, and adversaries. In this, we’ve been wrong, and the Lord has rebuked us for our error.
- We have the duty to bind the spirit of the accuser (Satan) within us so that we give no heed to accuse others. It’s not enough to say we love God; we must also love our fellow man. Nor is it enough to say we love our fellow man while we—as Satan—divide, contend, and dispute against any person who labors on an errand seeking to do God’s will.
- We’ve been warned that even a single soul who stirs up the hearts of others to anger can destroy the peace of the Lord’s people. All must equally walk in God’s path, not only to profess but to do as professed.
- We’ve scarred one another by our unkind treatment of each other; we bear the scars on our countenances, from the soles of our feet to the head, and every heart is faint. Our visages have been so marred that our hardness, mistrust, suspicions, resentments, fear, jealousies, and anger toward our fellow man bear outward witness of our inner self; we cannot hide it. When the Lord appears to us, instead of confidence, we feel shame. We fear and withdraw from the Lord because we bear the blood and sins of the treatment of our brothers and sisters. We’re commanded to come to our Lord, and He will make sins as scarlet become white as snow and will make us stand boldly before Him, confident of His love.
- We’re commanded to forgive one another, to be tender with one another, pursue judgment, bless the oppressed, care for the orphan, and uplift the widow in her need—for the Lord has redeemed us from being orphaned and taken us that we are no longer a widowed people. We’re told to rejoice in the Lord and rejoice with our brethren and sisters and to be one.
- We’ve been commanded to measure our words before giving voice to them and to consider the hearts of others. Although a man may err in understanding concerning many things, if we regard one another with charity, then our brother’s error in understanding will not divide us.
- We’re commanded to study to learn how to respect our brothers and sisters and to come together by precept, reason, and persuasion, rather than sharply disputing and wrongly condemning each other, causing anger. God warns us to take care how we invoke His name.
- God’s cautioned us that a greater work remains yet to be done. His covenant requires that we abide in it (not as in the former time when jarring, jealousy, contention, and backbiting caused anger, broke hearts, and hardened the souls of those claiming to be His saints during Joseph Smith’s life), but we’re commanded to receive it in spirit, in meekness, and in truth.
- We cannot be at peace with one another if we take offense when none is intended. We’re commanded to not judge others except by the rule we want used to weigh ourselves.
- We’re to let our pride and our envy and our fears depart from us.
- He’s asked us to covenant with Him to cease to do evil and to seek to continually do good.
- God’s covenant with us requires we receive the Scriptures approved by the Lord as a standard to govern us in our daily walk in life, for us to accept the obligations established by the Book of Mormon as a covenant, and to use the Scriptures to correct ourselves and to guide our words, thoughts, and deeds.
- God has asked us, by covenant, to seek to become of one heart with those who seek the Lord to establish His righteousness.
- We’re commanded to teach our children to honor the Lord and to seek to recover His lost sheep and to teach them of the Lord’s ways, to walk in them.
- We’ve been instructed that tithes of this people are to be used for the poor.
- God instructed us to trust His words and proceed always in faith, believing that with Him all things are possible.
- We’ve been commanded to stop murmuring and complaining against all who labor, because the Lord is pleased with all those who are grateful and merciful who will have Him to be their God. (See T&C 157 and 158.)
Consider the question posed by the Lord to us: What have you learned? What ought you to have learned? (T&C 176:2,12). The Lord’s question is still pending. It seems apparent to me that these questions are designed to make us talk to one another.
There’s a gulf between knowledge and wisdom. We may have access to greater knowledge, but we often display very little wisdom. Knowledge can be arrogant. Wisdom is humble. Knowledge inflates our pride, but wisdom cautions us that we are still very far from being godly people.
Great spiritual development by individuals in isolation will never equip the individual to fit into a spiritually developed society. Alone, we seek connection to God. God represents the highest ideal in compassion, acceptance, and kindness. It’s easy to make a place for God in our hearts. But other people are not always compassionate, easy to accept, or kind. God is pure, and mankind is not. When called “good” by the rich young man, Christ responded, Why do you call me good? None is good save one, that is God (Luke 10:9 RE). If Christ would not allow Himself to be called “good,” then there is little reason to call one another “good.”
Individual spiritual development and group spiritual development are two very different challenges. Recent revelations focus on the development of a group. Everything points to God’s desire to have His people turn to Him and live in harmony with one another. It is clear the Lord’s objective is Zion and not merely to make us better individuals.
There’s a Buddhist story about an enlightened monk who lived near a city having difficulties and conflicts. People from the town asked the monk to come into town to guide them so they could resolve their conflicts, but he refused. He preferred living alone and meditating. The town sent more representatives to ask again, and the monk refused again. Finally, a great crowd of people went to ask the monk for his help because, without it, they said they could never reach peace. At last, he relented. On the way back to town, in the joyful crowd, an old woman stumbled into the monk, pushing him to the ground. This made him very angry.
It’s far easier for a hermit to live in quiet meditation than to live in harmony in a community. We are called into a dispensation with more expected than individual salvation and enlightenment. For the salvation of souls today, the primary focus of God’s religion is to gather a community. God’s purpose for the end times is focused on making people of one heart and one mind.
God’s spirit is withdrawing from the world. In the Covenant of Christ Conference in September 3rd, 2017, we were told:
Those who have entered faithfully into [this] covenant this day are going to notice some things. The spirit of God is withdrawing from the world. Men are increasingly more angry without good cause. The hearts of men are waxing cold. There is increasing anger and resentment of gentiles. In political terms, it’s rejection of white privilege.
Language of [scripture] gives a description of the events now underway and calls it the end of the times of the gentiles. This process with the spirit withdrawing, will end on this continent, as it did with two prior civilizations in fratricidal and genocidal warfare. For the rest of the world, it will be as in the days of Noah in which, as that light becomes eclipsed, the coldness of men’s [heart] is going to result in a constant scene of violence and bloodshed. The wicked will destroy the wicked.
The covenant, if it is kept, will prevent you from losing light and warmth of heart as the spirit now steadily recedes from the world. The time will come when you will be astonished at the gulf between the light and truth you will comprehend and the darkness of mind of the world. (“Closing Remarks,” Covenant of Christ Conference, September 3, 2017, p. 1, emphasis added)
We have seen astonishing increases since September 3rd, 2017 of darkness, lies, deceit, and conflict. Lies imprison people. The chain Enoch saw that Satan had over the world was constructed of lies. The “chains of darkness” that hold men in prison after death are also lies. Today those chains of darkness hold fast many people, and their numbers are growing. Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 1:17 RE). Confusion over what is light and what is dark and the difference between sweet and bitter comes from widespread lies being accepted as truth.
As the light of Heaven withdraws, it is all the more important for us to keep it within us. But we also have many “thinking errors.” Recent revelations from God make it clear we are being challenged to be fit to live in peace with one another. The Scriptures tell us we should see God in our fellow man.
On His way to Jerusalem to be sacrificed, Jesus was asked by a rich young man, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is: Listen, and hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is like [it]: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 5:44 RE, emphasis added)
Why would love of your neighbor as yourself be compared to the commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, might, and mind? It is because God is in every person you will ever meet. All life is a gift from God. God loans us the breath of life:
God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted [unto you] that [you] should live in peace [with one] another — …ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and art preserving you from day to day by lending you breath that ye may live, and move, and do according to your own will, …even supporting you from one moment to another…. (Mosiah 1:8 RE)
God sustains us all from moment to moment. Through His power, we live and move. If God is sustaining every living person from one moment to another, then God is within all of us. If He loves them enough to support them, lend them breath, give them power to move and do according to their will, sustaining their life continuously, how can we hate them?
There are sincere people who pray and ask God questions, and they get answers. Often the answers given to one might be different than the answer given to another. Both believe they have intelligence from God and desire to stay true to the answer they’ve received. In these circumstances, are conflicts inevitable? Well, of course. But does that mean that harmony is impossible? Of course not.
This conflict is like another Buddhist story about a monk who accompanied a great teacher to learn how to help others. Throughout the day, the monk listened to the teacher as he gave answers to those who came for help. At the end of the day, the monk was disappointed and told the teacher his answers contradicted one another. The teacher had told one to do the opposite of what another was told. It made no sense to the monk. The teacher replied that there is only one road, but those who depart to the left must be guided back to the right. And those who departed to the right must be guided back to the left. The road does not change, but finding [it] after it has been lost depends on where the individual has wandered away.
What does it mean for us when there is a contradiction between God’s answer to one prayerful soul and His answer to another prayerful soul? If discussion is warranted, it means that by talking through their disagreements, they may both be guided back to the one path to be followed. Sometimes that discussion will take time, experience, and careful, solemn thoughts. Even if the communicating takes a great while, why rush through a process that is designed to bring greater understanding? What if conversation does not produce an agreement? There’s nothing wrong with tabling a discussion that has not reached everyone’s approval and then resuming the discussion another day. Why the rush?
In legal disputes, there’s a conflict resolution process called “mediation.” Mediation involves a third-party mediator who helps the parties reach a settlement. The overwhelming majority of mediated cases reach settlement. However, I’ve seen many cases fail to reach a resolution, and the parties walk away from the mediation table still in conflict. But later, after the parties have taken time to reflect on the mediation, most of those unresolved cases will eventually settle as well.
I think the “Answer to the Prayer for Covenant” is the Lord pleading with us to take the time to talk through our differences. There is nothing in those words of counsel that require us to quickly resolve matters. Quite the opposite. The “Answer” is filled with instruction to us about the process, leaving the result to be obtained eventually—through a respectful process, no matter how much time may be needed. To the extent the Lord cares about time at all, He warns us against “haste.”
The “recommended means” to reach harmony are persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul; without hypocrisy and without guile… (T&C 139:6, emphasis added).
During the Scriptures project, there were many conflicts and differences to resolve. These conflict’s resolutions delayed the project far beyond what any of us thought it would take. When the two independent groups were first combined, both groups thought their respective project was complete (or nearly so). But it was quickly apparent that the projects differed, and there were issues to resolve. It took months, and when all believed the end was approaching again, new source materials and new research was uncovered that required more than half of the project to begin again.
More than a year after expected conclusion, the project continued. At one point, I sent an email expressing my view of how I hoped to conduct myself:
I would rather submit to the decision of the group than insist that my view be followed. For me, harmony between brethren is more important than getting what I think best to be followed. I believe harmony can lead to much greater things than can merely enforcement of even a correct view. I know how difficult it is to have a correct view, because of how often [I’ve] been corrected by the Lord. Sometimes [I’m] humiliated by my foolishness when the Lord reproves me. Humiliation can lead to humility, but my experience is that the humiliation is accompanied by shame, whereas humility can proceed with a clear conscience.
My experience with others leads me to conclude that if we can have one heart first, eventually we can likewise come to have one mind. But if we insist on having one mind at the outset, we may never obtain one heart together. (Teachings and Commandments—Epigraph, emphasis added)
A friend sent me a Facebook rant from a man who wants to teach others and very much demands attention and respect. His angry rant ended by telling those who were insufficiently respectful of his great writings that they were “hypocrites and pollutions, and unless you fall down before God in humility, you will suffer horrors you can’t imagine. …The greater the reasons you resist, the more you will be damned.” The approach reminded me of the enlightened hermit monk who became angry once jostled. Zion cannot be established in solitary meditation. It requires a community. And community requires us to see God in one another. It requires we listen to and understand one another. That cannot happen if we do not talk with each other about even difficult subjects and serious disagreements. The sharper the disagreement, the more we need to learn! As the Lord explained, There have been sharp disputes between you that should have been avoided. I speak these words to reprove you that you may learn, not to upbraid you so that you mourn. I want my people to have understanding (T&C 157:3, emphasis added). Those may be some of the greatest words God has ever condescended to give to any people, at any time—and we treat them as if they’re a rebuke for someone else and not ourselves, as if we needn’t heed them.
Also, we’ve been taught:
Study to learn how to respect your brothers and sisters and to come together by precept, reason, and persuasion, rather than sharply disputing and wrongly condemning each other, causing anger. Take care how you invoke my name. Mankind has been controlled by the adversary through anger and jealousy, which has led to bloodshed and the misery of many souls. Even strong disagreements should not provoke anger, nor to invoke my name in vain as if I had part in your every dispute. Pray together in humility and together meekly present your dispute to me, and if you are contrite before me, I will tell you my part. (Ibid. vs. 54)
From the foregoing, it is clear that the Lord has, in His mercy, chosen to speak again. God has renewed His covenant and provided commandments. But His instructions and commandments are to guide a community into godly harmony. It is only possible to rise up and become that community by following the instructions of God.
I’m ashamed of every conflict I’ve caused. I regret any discourtesy I’ve shown to another. But I do not recall ever demanding someone submit to me. At every turn, I have intended only to persuade and invite, not demand and insist. I am no one’s commander, president, or church authority. You cannot make me anything more than your equal, because I refuse to rise above anyone else. We are all fellow-servants (and often, unprofitable ones, at that).
It is important to God that the Book of Mormon has been accepted as a covenant. It’s a bond between God and man. God has made for Himself a people and “numbered us among the House of Israel” (see T&C 156:15,48; 158:10, emphasis added). But remember that Israel has a long history of rebellion, disobedience, and rejection. Those who remain faithful and obedient to God are those who will vindicate His prophecies, covenants, and promises. Among other things, the people who keep His covenant will be called upon to build the tabernacle where He will take up His abode on Earth in the New Jerusalem. On July 14, 2017, He gave this revelation:
Whenever I have people who are mine, I command them to build a house, a holy habitation, a sacred place where my presence can dwell or where the Holy Spirit of Promise can minister, because it is in such a place that it has been ordained to recover you, establish by my word and my oath your marriages, and endow my people with knowledge from on high that will unfold to you the mysteries of godliness, instruct you in my ways, that you may walk in my path. And all the outcasts of Israel will I gather to my house, and the jealousy of Ephraim and Judah will end; Ephraim will not envy Judah and Judah will not provoke Ephraim. (T&C 157:41, emphasis added)
Knowledge that will unfold the mysteries of godliness and instruct in God’s path is designed to be embedded in the House of God. At this point, the prophecy waiting to be fulfilled states:
…when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law…. (Isaiah 1:5 RE)
The first Fathers had teachings and beliefs that included much more than what has been preserved from Joseph’s day. We should expect greater information to be passed along to us. But knowledge without the tempering presence of wisdom will prove to be dangerous. Aspiring and ambitious men are unwise. They cannot be trusted.
There are those who think circumcision originated with Abraham through his covenant with God. That was a restoration of circumcision, not the origination of it. In the beginning, when a son of Adam and a daughter of Eve covenanted to marry, the son of Adam shed blood by circumcision in order to seal the marriage covenant. Once healed, the marriage was consummated, at which point the virgin daughter of Eve shed blood to complete the sealing of the marriage covenant. Insomuch as Abraham and Sarah had been married for many years prior to the covenant, it was ordained that circumcision for all of Abraham’s descendants would take place at the eighth day. Because of the restoration of the covenant—and God adapting it for Abraham and all the faithful who would follow him as their Father—circumcision was expected to be done at birth. This remains an obligation for all the righteous.
The much later Law of Moses perpetuated the Abrahamic practice of circumcision at eight days. Even non-Israelites who wanted to observe the Passover were required to be circumcised to participate in the Paschal meal. Although the Law of Moses is no longer in effect, restoring circumcision through Abraham pre-dates Moses by nearly seven centuries and is still in effect. Fulfilling and ending the Law of Moses did nothing to change the earlier covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
There were other practices known to the first Fathers that have been lost. We should expect to learn the earliest worship was not limited to a “Father in Heaven” but included a Divine Family. I’ve already addressed this subject in “Our Divine Parents.” The first Patriarchs understood there to be a Father, Mother, and a Divine Son who were all recognized as Divine. There was also a Heavenly Council or Divine Counsel who were among a recognized “hosts of heaven” who also held positions of authority.
In addition to a Sabbath day of rest, the first Fathers were given three Divinely appointed religious festivals or holidays (more correctly, “Holy Days”) that were to be observed yearly. These were tied to the Creation to remind mankind of God’s wisdom and mercy in organizing this world for mankind.
Because of apostasy, numerous other festivals or religious observances have been added by men. For example, the Jews added Hanukkah, Purim, and Yom HaShoah. Christians added Lent, Ash Wednesday, and Christmas (among others). When the original religion returns, the original religious festivals—always centered in a sacred site or temple—will also return.
before that Abraham entered Egypt before he entered Egypt, he received a great revelation about the stars, the heavens, events among the pre-existent spirits of mankind, the fall of Satan, and the Creation of this world. This list summarizes part of the knowledge associated with the Holy Order; God wanted the husbandman, shepherd, and High Priest to comprehend:
- Why this Creation was organized,
- Man’s position in the cosmos,
- Who the “hosts of heaven” were,
- That there was a cosmic rebellion in the heavens,
- That a cosmic covenant was established that framed the Creation, established conditions for mankind to gain experience, and through which mankind could progress,
- That all things in nature—including the light of the sun, moon, planets, and stars— were purposefully organized and governed by a covenant with God.
Abraham, like Adam (at the beginning) and his descendant, Enoch, were caught up into Heaven and received a tutorial endowment from God. The purpose was simple enough: helping each of them to understand what came before and what comes after this life. This was to help rescue them from death and hell. In a very real sense, the curriculum of the Holy Order is designed to give both a personal and a cosmic context to Christ. The Holy One of Israel is the redeeming Messiah who has been our constant Protector, Example, and Guide from the foundation of Creation.
The Messiah was the central figure in the Creation. The Messiah was the foremost figure opposing the rebellion in the Heavens. The Messiah came to save the Creation by His self-sacrifice. Man’s universal death is reversed by their universal resurrection, made possible by the Messiah. And it will be the Messiah who judges mankind and will assign them to various conditions following mortality. It is the Messiah who occupies the central position in all the mysteries of godliness. The members of the Holy Order understood this best and, therefore, were most trusted to preach, teach, testify, minister, and watch over the posterity of Adam (and later, the posterity of Abraham).
The most useful and obedient servants of the Lord have been those who have been exposed to the greatest understanding of His eternal role. The opening paragraph of Abraham’s book is a direct statement of the relationship between knowledge and obedience.
From the first generation, the Patriarchs used ritual to convey a great body of information (a theatrical revelation) to initiates. The Book of Abraham itself appears to be a ritual text.
…the book of Abraham, far from being merely a diverting or edifying history, is a discourse on divine authority, which also is the theme of the three facsimiles. The to the three plates make it perfectly clear that they are meant as diagrammatic or formulaic aids to an understanding of the subject of priesthood on earth. (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, p. 178)
Enoch’s account (now in Genesis of the Restoration Edition of Scriptures) also appears to be a ritual text. Hugh Nibley calls Enoch,
…the great initiate who becomes the great initiator…
His is the independent intelligence always seeking further light and knowledge. He is the great observer and recorder of all things in heaven and earth, of which God grants him perfect knowledge. The great learner, he is also the great teacher: Enoch the Initiator into the higher mysteries of…faith and secrets of the universe; Enoch the Scribe, keeper of the records, instructor in the ordinances, aware of all times and places, studying and transmitting the record of the race with intimate concern for all generations to come. He offers the faithful their greatest treasure of knowledge. He is the seer who conveys to men the mind and will of the Lord. (Enoch the Prophet, p. 19, 21)
The religion of the Fathers cannot be adequately conveyed if it is separated from ritualized knowledge. By using symbol, movement, gesture, dress, architecture, sound, orientation, and setting, it is possible to embed light and truth in a way to engage the mind, spirit, and heart of mankind. The temple can be the house in which it is possible to stretch the mind of man both upward and downward by the things presented there. “The temple itself was but a copy of the heavenly temple, the liturgy on earth a shadow of the worship of the angels” (Margaret Barker, The Great Angel, p. 118). It is through covenant-forming ordinances—including rituals—that the power of Godliness has been manifested to mankind. The order of the House of God has and ever will be the same, even after Christ comes, and after the termination of the thousand years it will be the same, and we shall finally roll into the Celestial Kingdom of God and enjoy it forever (T&C 117:4).
When writing from a dungeon in Missouri, Joseph Smith’s reflection on what is needed to save souls clarifies the function of a temple:
…because the things of God are of deep import, and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Your mind, O man, if you will lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of eternal expanse. You must commune with God. …None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.
How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations: too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of his will from before the foundation of the world, to hold the keys of the [mystery] of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation until now, of which some have tasted a little, and which many of them are to be poured [out] from Heaven upon the heads of babes, yea, the weak, obscure, and despisable ones of this earth. (T&C 138:18-19)
Accordingly, there is always going to be a temple when the Holy Order is present in its fullest manifestation. Abraham also is directly associated with temple ritual. As Nibley explained, “There is a wealth of tradition now being zealously studied to show that the temple ordinances really go back to the beginning, as Joseph Smith declared. The four names associated with the tradition are those of Adam, Enoch, Abraham, and Elijah” (Temple and Cosmos, p. 78).
To return a complete Restoration, a temple will be required. As the Lord revealed to Joseph, a temple is always required of God’s people:
For your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments [in]…beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, and honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name. (T&C 141:12)
The required temple in Nauvoo was not built. The fullness was not restored during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Instead of blessings, the saints were cursed. Not only did the January 1841 revelation warn of cursings—including forcible expulsion from Nauvoo—but 22 months following that revelation (in an editorial on October 1, 1842), Joseph Smith pled for renewed focus on the temple. He wrote:
Perhaps [we’ve] said enough on this subject, but we feel the importance of it and therefore speak plainly. It is for you, brethren, to say whether the work shall stand or progress; one thing is certain, that unless that is done all our efforts to aggrandize or enrich ourselves will be vain and futile. We may build splendid houses but we shall not inhabit them; we may cultivate farms but we shall not enjoy them; we may plant orchards, or vineyards, but we shall not eat the fruit of them. The word of the Lord is build my house, and until that command is fulfilled we stand responsible to the great Jehovah for the fulfilment of it, and if [it is] not done in due time we may have to share the same fate that we have heretofore done in Missouri. (JSP, Documents, Volume 11, p. 127)
Joseph’s warning did not inspire the saints. Their neglect and disobedience changed the warning into prophecy. They suffered the same fate as before in Missouri, even though the Lord wanted (and expected) better of them. There’s no reason to repeat their failure, because the Lord does not reward the disobedient. He offers blessings, and it is up to His people to receive them through obedience. But if His offer is rejected, there are no secured promises.
In the “Answer to Prayer for Covenant,” the Lord assures us that if we are faithful, we will be given His temple:
I will visit my house, which the remnant of my people shall build, and I will dwell therein, to be among you, and no one will need…say, Know ye the Lord, for you [shall all] know me, from the least to the greatest. I will teach you things that have been hidden from the foundation of the world and your understanding will reach unto Heaven. (T&C 158:15-16)
The first and most complete religion belonged to Adam and Eve. They lived with God, and after being cast out, they retained a memory of living in God’s presence. The first Fathers were taught they could talk with God, receive answers from Him, and return to His presence. The experience of Enoch—seven generations after Adam—records that direct contact between mankind and God was part of the true religion. After the fall of mankind, the process of the ascent of man into Heaven to commune with God has remained the heart of the religion. That process will reverse, and contact between mankind and God at the end will involve the descent of God from Heaven to visit His tabernacle:
And Enoch beheld the Son of Man ascend up unto the Father, and he called unto the Lord, saying, Will you not come again upon the earth? For inasmuch as you are God, and I know you, and you have sworn unto me and commanded me that I should ask in the name of your Only Begotten, you have made me, and given unto me a right to your throne, and not of myself, but through your own grace. Wherefore, I ask you if you will not come again on the earth. And the Lord said unto Enoch, As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfill the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah. And the day shall come that the earth shall rest. But before that day, the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth. And great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve. And righteousness will I send down out of Heaven. Truth will I send forth out of the earth to bear testimony of [mine] Only Begotten, his resurrection from the dead, yea, and also the resurrection of all men. And righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [mine] own elect from the four quarters of the earth unto a place which I shall prepare, a holy city, that my people may gird up their loins and be looking forth for the time of my coming. For there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem. And the Lord said unto Enoch, Then shall you and…your city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom. And they shall see us, and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other; and there shall be my abode. (Genesis 4:22 RE, emphasis added)
So that there are no false assumptions, the Scriptures explain that God’s covenant with Enoch includes an actual temple to be built today. And the Lord has reiterated in His Covenant: I will come to my tabernacle and dwell with my people in Zion, and none will overtake it (T&C 157:64, emphasis added).
The religion of the Fathers involved direct communion, contact, and connection between mankind and God. The Holy Order is an important part of the return of that direct association. The original religion of the Patriarchs enabled the faithful to hear directly from the Lord His promise of eternal life. God would seal them by covenant into His Heavenly Family. We can, if faithful, obtain all that the original Fathers received from God at the beginning:
What I, the Lord, have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself. And though the heaven[s] and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants [it’s] the same. For behold and lo, the Lord is God and the spirit bears record, and the record is true, and the truth abides for ever and ever. Amen. (T&C 54:7)
As a servant of God, I say with His authority that these promises are true, and He intends to fulfill them for His covenant people Israel. In the beginning, mankind was placed in a family. The first commandment to Father Adam and Mother Eve was to multiply and replenish the Earth. The first man and woman were married. Their union produced the family of mankind. Every soul born into this Creation came from parents and were all intended to be in a family.
The plan of salvation is covenantal and familial. The government of God is a family. If a family is established by covenant with God, it will be the only order that can survive death. In a very real sense, the salvation of mankind now comes only through the family of Abraham. The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob covenanted with these three successive generations that they would stand at the head of all who would be saved after them. The God of Israel requires some part of mankind—however small—to be sealed into that line or be utterly wasted at His coming.
God has explained in Scripture how He intends to identify covenant Israel in the last days. After the death of King Solomon, Israel divided into two kingdoms:
- The first was the Northern Kingdom. After the division, they were sometimes called “Ephraim” or the “Ten Tribes” or “Israel” (in the Old Covenants).
- The second was the Southern Kingdom, called “Judah” and, later, “the Jews.”
The Northern Kingdom was conquered, taken captive, and removed from their land by Assyria in 722 BC. When freed by Assyria years later, they crossed the Euphrates River and disappeared from our records into a far land. They were only lost to our limited record of history.
The Southern Kingdom was conquered in 598 BC by Babylon, taken captive, and removed from their land. When Cyrus allowed their return in 538 BC, only a remnant returned.
Because of these two great exiles, the Ten Tribes were scattered and lost to our history, and the returning Jews were reduced to a small remnant of their original population. Today’s Jews descended from that small remnant. The greater part of Israelite blood is in the Middle East. These descendants of the exiled Israelites remained, intermarried, and today are among the ancestors of Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, Turks, Jordanians, and Arabians. Israelites were also scattered into northern Europe and Asia among Europeans, Russians, and Scandinavians. As God promised to Abraham: Over the centuries, intermarriage and migrations has sent his Israelite descendants into “all nations.” Today, almost all Israelite blood runs through the veins of people regarded as Gentiles because, after being scattered, they assimilated and lost their original identity.
Today’s Jews are only a tiny fraction of the original Israelites. Their history has been marked by continual persecution. Their perseverance has been heroic. They are a people of destiny and prophecy. However, many of the prophecies concerning Israel do not involve the Jews. In addition, Jews do not know the record of the Nephites. They have not been taught the prophecies of Joseph Smith. They are unaware of the covenant God renewed in 2017. Accordingly, many prophecies are unknown to and will not be fulfilled through the Jews.
It will only be through Israel that we can be sealed by a covenant with God to Heavenly Parents through the Fathers. Salvation is still through Israel. The question is: Where are we to find the prophesied latter-day Israel now?
The Book of Mormon relates how religious identities are changed by God. Jacob, the brother of Nephi, prophesied that the gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel (2 Nephi 7:4 RE). His brother prophesied: As many of the gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord… (2 Nephi 12:11 RE, emphasis added). Therefore, God promised to number Gentiles as people of Israel by covenant. That promise was realized in 2017 when He ordained a covenant for the Gentiles to re-establish them as His people.
The Jews are still a remnant of covenant people. However, they can forfeit their status if they reject the covenant offered by the Lord in 2017: As many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off. For the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel (Ibid.).
How we respond to God affects our covenant status. When the resurrected Messiah visited the branch of Israel in the Americas, He quoted His Father about future covenantal realignment of identities. Covenant-status is now based on how individuals respond to the Holy One of Israel. But if the gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold, they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel (3 Nephi 7:6 RE, emphasis added).
The Messiah explained the process for a Gentile change of their identity:
The gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel — and when these things [shall] come to pass, that thy seed shall begin to know these things, it shall be a sign unto them that they may know…the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are…the house of Israel. (3 Nephi 9:11 RE, emphasis added)
The Messiah quoted a prophecy from Isaiah to confirm it was always God’s plan to change Gentiles into Israelites:
And then shall that which is written come to pass: Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife [Children of the desolate are the Gentiles; the married wife was Israel] saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of thy tent and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes, for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the gentiles and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. (3 Nephi 10:2, quoting from Isaiah 19:4, both RE, emphasis added)
As Moroni finished his father’s abridged record, he added his own prophecy of the last-days’ New Jerusalem to be built on the American continent. The occupants of that holy city are described in his prophecy: And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who [shall] dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel (Ether 6:3 RE, emphasis added). “Numbered among.” Numbered among: Covenantal.
The New Jerusalem will be built by covenant Israel. The group whom the Lord regards as His Israel is covenant-dependent. But a covenant must be kept.
There are two identifiable remnants of previous covenant people. One group is Native Americans who descend biologically from the Israelite-Nephite covenant people. The other is the Jews. Both are biologically connected to Israel, but they will be “cast off” if they reject the covenant now offered by God. And Gentiles may or may not be biologically connected to Israel but are numbered with Israel if they accept the covenant.
The New Jerusalem is to be built by a remnant of Israel, or to be more precise, it will be built by a remnant the Lord regards as covenant Israel. The Lord’s “Answer to the Prayer for Covenant” accepted a body of believing Gentiles as His people of Israel. God’s promises and prophecies about Israel in the last days began to be fulfilled in 2017 when the covenant He offered was accepted. The Lord said to those people:
I will number you among the remnant of Jacob, no longer outcasts, and you will inherit the promises of Israel. You shall be my people and I will be your God, and the sword will not devour you. And [to] those who will receive [more will] be given, until they know the mysteries of God in full. …I have redeemed you from being orphaned and taken you that you are no longer a widowed people. (T&C 157:50, emphasis added)
The Gentiles who accepted the Lord’s Covenant have been promised that they:
…are now numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel…
God’s Answer goes on to assure covenant Israel:
And I, the Lord your God, will be with you and will never forsake you, and I will lead you in the path which will bring peace to you in the troubling season now fast approaching.
I will raise you up and protect you, abide with you, and gather you in due time, and this shall be a land of promise to you as your inheritance from me.
The earth will yield its increase, and you will flourish upon the mountains and upon the hills, and the wicked will not come against you because the fear of the Lord will be with you.
I will visit my house, which the remnant of my people shall build, and I will dwell therein, to be among you, and no one will need…say, Know ye the Lord, for you [shall all] know me, from the least to the greatest.
I will teach you things that have been hidden from the foundation of the world and your understanding will reach unto Heaven.
And you shall be called the children of the Most High God, and I will preserve you against the harvest.
And the angels sent to harvest the world will gather the wicked into bundles to be burned, but will pass over you as my peculiar treasure… (T&C 158:10,12-18, emphasis added)
…a second literal Passover.
The Lord’s “strange act” is approaching completion. The promises made to the Fathers are being vindicated. The Restoration has recommenced, and if we’re faithful, it will not be paused or interrupted again. Although Israel’s numbers are few, there have never been great numbers willing to sacrifice everything for God. One requirement for faith has always been the same: A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation (Lectures on Faith 6:7 RE). The Lord has said this about our day: I tell you that [I] will come, and when [I do] come, [I] will avenge my saints speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, shall [I] find faith on the earth? (Luke 10:6 RE).
There are two groups God has (or will) covenant to preserve against the coming harvest.
- The first are those who made and keep the covenant the Lord offered in 2017. It changed all those who accepted it into covenant Israel. They have the right to inherit this land and will be preserved. As stated in His “Answer to Prayer for Covenant”: And the angels sent to harvest the world will gather the wicked into bundles to be burned, but will pass over you as my peculiar treasure (T&C 158:18).
- The second are those who will become part of the Holy Order and receive and practice the religion of the Fathers. God alone will decide how many and who will be invited into that order. We have no control over it. We have no right to decide who is worthy or unworthy to receive it. It is entirely the Lord’s choice because we are rarely able to determine other people’s hearts. The Lord told Joseph Smith bluntly that he was unable to tell the righteous from the wicked. We are in no better position than was Joseph. Therefore, we should leave it with the Lord to determine whether or not to invite men and women and, if so, who and how many. The Holy Order is as much—or more—a burden as a blessing.
As Hyrum Smith explained, God imposes restrictions:
For the mysteries of God are not given to all men; and [to] those to whom they are given they are placed under restrictions to impart only such as God will command them, and the residue is to be kept in a faithful breast, otherwise he will be brought under condemnation. By this God will prove his faithful servants, who will be called and numbered with the chosen. (T&C 152:2)
The Egyptian imitation of the Patriarchal religion kept hidden the most important parts of their religion away from public disclosure. Hugh Nibley explained:
Bleeker duly notes that “certain parts of temples were inaccessible to ordinary people” and that “the Egyptian temple was not meant to let the masses of the people participate in the religious services.” (The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, p. 86, citing CJ Bleeker)
This was because:
The rites, “revealed to men by Osiris, the first mortal to be resurrected,” were nothing less than the “Great Secret” of how mortals may become gods, taught in the temple “the place of the great secret.” (Ibid. p. 88, citing A Moret)
Margaret Barker explained the Christian tradition of restricting information available even to the faithful. She likened the early Christian practice of concealing some truths from believers by referring to Origen’s Homily 5 on Numbers, explaining:
…the secrets of the temple which were guarded by the priests. Commenting on Numbers 4, the instructions for transporting the tabernacle through the desert, he emphasized that the family of Kohath were only permitted to carry the sacred objects but were not permitted to see what was in the holy place; then they had to cover the sacred objects with veils before handling them to others, who were only permitted to carry them. The mysteries of the Church were similar…. (The Great High Priest, pp.76-77)
Clement of Rome recorded that Peter quoted an unwritten teaching of Christ that admonished: “Keep the mysteries/secrets for me and the sons of my house” (Clementine Homilies 19:20). The resurrected Messiah taught His closest peers things that were not told to other believers.
Knowing God’s plans does not always produce immediate joy. Solomon made this comment after a life of learning: In much wisdom is much grief; and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:3 RE). We should not be surprised to learn that initiation into God’s mysteries can be troubling, disquieting, and even a burden.
If asked to carry a burden by God, do it willingly. If not asked, do not envy. Remember Alma’s statement: Behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish, for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me (Alma 15:12 RE). It is our common enemy who stirs us up to jealousy and envy rather than patience and meekness. Great works of God fail because mankind will not wait on the Lord.
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen, and why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are [so set] 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. …when we undertake to cover our sins or…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. (T&C 139:5, emphasis added)
The more God gives, the greater the peril. Weaknesses of appetites, ambitions, passions, and covetousness is akin to trying to navigate through a narrow pass, guarded by a great beast, pitiless and cruel, that destroys all those whose zeal and impatience brings them into the reach of the beast (see T&C 163). God has provided to us guidance on how to reach Zion. It requires self-discipline and meekness to follow the Lord rather than racing ahead of Him to destruction.
Our first Fathers experienced visions, ascended into Heaven, obtained promises of exaltation, and were transformed by their experiences from men into angels of God. Joseph Smith attempted to bring this back as part of the Restoration. Margaret Barker has written about the use of the term “angel” anciently to identify those who had encountered God’s presence. She also explains a Dead Sea Scroll text foretelling a return of that religion: “The Qumran Melchizedek text has a possible reading about people in the last days whose teachers have been kept hidden and secret; perhaps they have been preserving the older ways” (The Great High Priest, p. 79). The return of that religion will more likely be through a last-days’ restoration rather than through a preservation. But she is correct to anticipate its return.
The Book of Mormon has account after account of prophets receiving an audience with God the Father and His Only Begotten Son. This is the older, heavenly ascent religion that began with Adam in the Garden.
Joseph was called to become a minister of salvation when he saw the heavens open. He taught the idea of direct association with Christ as the promised Second Comforter during a visit to Ramus, Illinois on April 2nd, 1843. After quoting Christ’s promises to not leave His followers comfortless because He and His Father would come to them and take up their abode with them, Joseph explained, “Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ himself…. When any man obtains this last Comforter he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him or [to] appear unto him from time to time” (TPJS, pp. 150-151, emphasis added). The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and…Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false (LDS D&C 130:3; originally found in JSP, Journals, Volume 2, pp. 323-6, emphasis added). This appearing of the Father and the Son began with Adam and was intended to continue in every generation.
Although the teaching of Christ as the Second Comforter was taught by Joseph Smith and believed by LDS Mormons, it is now one of the teachings that has dwindled from LDS teaching. In a Boise LDS meeting, church apostle Dallin Oaks denounced the teaching of mortals needing to see the Lord as “a tactic of the adversary” (“Boise Rescue,” June 13, 2015). Following that, the LDS Church removed a footnote from their King James Version John 14:16, which previously referred to Jesus Christ and replaced it with a reference to the “Holy Ghost.” At the time I wrote the book, The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil, in 2006, the text explained orthodox LDS belief. Since then, however, that sect has abandoned the teaching. If that book were written today by a faithful member of that church, it would have to be revised to reflect the church’s changed view. By leaving the text unchanged, it provides a current example of continuing dwindling in unbelief. Changing belief into unbelief happens very quickly. The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil was published in 2006, and the doctrine was denounced as a “tactic of the adversary” by an LDS apostle in an official church meeting in 2015—only nine years later.
Joseph Smith’s mission was to recover and restore. He may have seemed every bit an innovator and revolutionary, but the truth is that he was the greatest religious reactionary since Jesus Christ. The recovery through Joseph ended with his and Hyrum’s murder, after which dwindling began. Dwindling in unbelief continued until a group repented and the Lord removed His condemnation in 2017. Now we hope to continue faithful. Christ commanded in the Sermon on the Mount: Wherefore, seek not the things of this world, but [first seek] to build up the kingdom of God and to establish his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 3:39 RE).
There is a chapter in a Hugh Nibley book, Temple and Cosmos, entitled “One Eternal Round: The Hermetic Tradition.” That chapter goes from page 379 through 433, and it is worth reading in its entirety. However, I am going to lift a few quotes from his explanation of history that should seem familiar:
In each dispensation the world went bad while the prophets united in futile protest, as in the days of Samuel, Hezekiah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. In the powerful phrase of Ether, “the prophets mourned and withdrew from among the people.” …When not preaching it was their custom to keep a low profile, or simply to depart from the scene in the time-honored manner of the Rechabites, a pattern we find repeated over and over again in the Book of Mormon and vividly depicted in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The holy outcasts would form with their followers a community of saints, a church, waiting and working for Zion. Zion itself is a model of such a retreat from the world: “And from thence went forth the saying, ZION IS FLED.” In their retreat the righteous refugees take particular pains to preserve the sacred records—we think of Moses, of John, of Ether, of Moroni, etc., preserving studying,…editing the sacred writings by special command.
…the esoteric community was limited to those who understood and could be trusted with the deeper meaning of…doctrine.
…Throughout the Book of Mormon the church itself regularly splits into a worldly society, notably the religion of the Nehors, and others consisting of “a few…humble followers of Christ” to whom special gifts and revelations were given.
…The gospel that the retreating wise men take with them into hiding is guarded as a secret, and that by express command. Why seek it? The jealousy and envy of others can be dangerous; they resent being shut out from something great and mysterious, like boys excluded from the club tree house. They usually take out their wrath and frustration by wrecking the place.
…[True worshipers] are naturally drawn to each other and excite ever-mounting distrust, suspicion, and envy of those excluded from the magic circle. “I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his (Satan’s) kingdom,” said Joseph Smith. …We all know how the public received the prophet Joseph, who was placed in the greatest danger, not from angry outsiders, but from his jealous followers, like the Higbees and the Laws. The ancient Ephesians passed a law banishing [the] great achievers from the city—they were a standing rebuke to the rest: “If they must excel”…“let them go and excel over [someone] else.” …Anything they don’t understand makes dogs and people uncomfortable, distrusting, and dangerous.
…We may consider the gospel as the most advanced knowledge on earth, known to but a few because it is accepted and believed by but a few and can be understood by no others.
…In ancient times, apostasy never came by renouncing the gospel but always by corrupting it. No one renounces it today, and so we have…strange paradox of people stoutly proclaiming beliefs and ideas that they have no intention of putting into practice.
…We seek knowledge as our greatest treasure, while the poverty of most of our manuals and handbooks defies description.
…The great apostasy [at] the time of the apostles was not a renouncing of the faith but its corruption and manipulation.
…Everywhere we find myths and legends about how the primal bond that existed between heaven and earth in the Golden Age was broken by the wickedness of men; the great common assemblies ceased and the gods departed. But, as Aristotle notes, some bits of the old knowledge always survived to the next age. …the three things in the mysteries that Herodotus would never talk about were (1) the grand mystery of the true nature and character of God, which could be known only by revelation, (2) the ordinances by which the mysteries were taught and implemented, and (3) the doctrine or rationale of the whole, including that which explained the rites.
…Philosophy is the road, not the goal, which it never reaches. If you want answers to the questions which it proposes, you can get them in the end only by revelation.
…Joseph Smith points this out: “As Paul said, ‘the world by wisdom know(s) not God,’ so the world by speculation (is) destitute of revelation.” Religion answers by private but nonnegotiable spiritual experiences.
…[Isaac] Newton also talked as Joseph Smith did, that “truth had been given by God [at] the beginning, but had been fragmented and corrupted in the course of time; its traces survived in enigmatic form[s] in these different sorts of literature, but had to be recovered by a sort of dialectic between hard, disciplined inquiry and the ancient sources.”
…Joseph explained to the brethren the ordinances and covenants “on to the highest Melchizedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which anyone is enabled to secure the fullness of those blessings which have been prepared for the church of the First Born, and come up and abide in the presence of the Eloheim in the eternal worlds.”
These few excerpts from Hugh Nibley illustrate the tension between sacred knowledge and dwindling in unbelief. Facsimile No. 2 in the Book of Abraham is an example of a hypocephalus. These first appeared in 400 BC, and most examples reckon from very late in the Ptolemaic era. These documents were developed because the priests realized that sacred knowledge was slipping away and needed to be preserved. One recent study of the hypocephalus concluded these circular funerary documents were “a synthesis of the widespread theological knowledge of the priests… (Tama Mekis, The Hypocephalus: an Ancient Egyptian Funerary Amulet, p. 75).
They were used in only few burials. “It is clear that the use of the hypocephalus never became widespread. Hypocephali remained exclusive pieces of funerary equipment reserved for the clergy and for the members of their [family] who occupied priestly positions in the pallacide of the temples” (Ibid. p. 2).
The Facsimile No. 2 was produced at the end of the dwindling Egyptian religion in its final stages, still seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first Patriarchal reign, even…the reign of Adam… (Abraham 2:3 RE). That facsimile is both a powerful symbol of what the Restoration promised and how it has dwindled. The original hypocephalus was intended to preserve sacred, hidden knowledge for use by the faithful and initiated priestly inner-circle. But it was written at a moment when the priests realized their sacred knowledge was slipping away. They were only able to make a gesture to preserve it by sketching a montage of ancient hieroglyphs to echo their dwindling religion. That document aptly symbolizes Joseph’s calling to restore the original, sacred, lost knowledge. But Joseph’s efforts have also dwindled for nearly two centuries. The opportunity to recover and practice the original religion still exists if the conditions of God’s covenant are met.
God overthrew the Egyptian gods by sending Moses. God overthrew the kingdom of the Jews by sending John as forerunner for His Son, the Messiah. God overthrew the Christian gods by sending Joseph Smith. Last of all, God renewed and restored life to His people in 2017 when He made a new covenant. Every time God acts, He overthrows all other false faiths to reaffirm His own religion. God’s goal is always to revive it in its fullness, but that has been rarely achieved. He is actively seeking to restore it again today. This work is His, and it will continue until reaching its fullness. I am a witness of His hand moving, His voice speaking, His will being revealed, and His guidance being provided continually as His work unfolds line upon line, precept upon precept. We will see it succeed if we have the faith and patience to allow it to do so.
“Each of the great dispensations of the gospel has come in a time of world upheaval, when the waywardness of the human race has been matched by…climactic restlessness of the elements” (Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, p. 164).
The overthrow of Egypt’s gods by signs and wonders has inspired people (from ancient Israel to modern writers) with thoughtful reflection. When the signs and plagues are viewed from the Egyptian religious perspective (to the extent we have been able to reconstruct that view), the God of Israel directly challenged the gods of Egypt.
servants [serpents] described in Exodus 4:11 was a direct conflict between the power of Israel’s God and the Egyptian magicians. To Egypt, the serpent symbolized Apophis, the force of chaos. For Israelites, the brass serpent was to become a symbolic representation of their future Messiah. A serpent made of brass, raised up on a pole for suffering Israelites to look upon to be healed, foreshadowed the atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah.
Moses’ staff became a serpent that ate the Egyptian magicians’ serpents. The incident demonstrated the Messiah’s power to overthrow destruction and chaos. The event should have taught the Egyptian Pharaoh that Israel’s God held all power.
The plagues that began with Egyptian water turning to blood was a direct defeat of the Nile god, Hapi. That first plague and the final destruction both involved authority over water. Gabriel poisoned the Nile at the beginning and completed the overthrow when the waters of the Red Sea returned to drown Pharaoh’s horsemen and chariots.
Pharaoh witnessed the defeat of other Egyptian gods. Hathor was overthrown when the Egyptian cattle died, while the Israelite cattle were spared.
Geb was overthrown when dust under Uriel’s stewardship was sent to afflict the Egyptian’s skin with boils.
Fire was sent by Raphael with burning hail and loud thunder. Later, a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night unmistakably signified Raphael’s protection for Israel.
Michael sent the east wind and locusts to destroy the crops of Egypt. Then Michael blocked the light of Ra, overthrowing the Egyptian deity believed to have power over all creation, including the underworld. Michael removed the breath of life from every firstborn in Egypt that finally led to Egypt’s surrender. The power of Israel’s God and the combined acts of His archangels proved too much to resist.
Egypt believed there were “four sons of Horus.” This idea was left from the Patriarchal era and was their apostate belief that roughly corresponded to the four archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. Yet Egypt chose to fight against these four until they were destroyed. Once Egypt was defeated, for centuries Israel’s religion increased, and Egypt’s waned. Eventually, this led to the ultimate death of Egypt’s religion. So complete was the God of Israel’s overthrow of Egypt that the Egyptian language itself was altogether lost until the Rosetta Stone made it possible to reconstruct (in part) the identities of some of Egypt’s defeated gods and fragments of Egypt’s ancient beliefs.
In another conflict, John the Baptist was ordained by God’s angel when eight days old to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews. Joseph Smith explained John the Baptist “wrested the keys, the kingdoms, the power, the glory from the Jews, and by the holy anointing and decree of heaven” (TPJS, p. 276). He went before the Messiah, as foretold by Gabriel to his father, Zechariah. The Messiah’s forerunner fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy and testified to the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah. Once the Messiah had been lifted up, God destroyed the Jewish nation and demolished their temple.
After nearly two millennia, Joseph Smith ended the Christian God’s silence by declaring the heavens had opened and the Father and Son had appeared to and spoken with him. In the following two decades, ancient Scripture from Adam, Enoch, Melchizedek, Abraham, and Moses were restored, the Bible corrected and expanded, new revelations and commandments provided, and lost authority to act in God’s name was returned.
In 2014, God revoked the authority of the LDS hierarchy. In the ensuing few years, that institution has continually stumbled into darkness and disarray, with their temples closed and services altogether interrupted for a year. They have voluntarily altered and abandoned parts of their temple rites. They have voluntarily chosen to destroy the original Salt Lake Temple and replace it with a modern substitute lacking the original symbolism and meaning. They have continually surrendered to popular opinion and increasingly adopted the worldly agenda of accepting sexual confusion, political intolerance, and censorship of opinion. When viewed as trends, it becomes apparent the LDS Church’s leadership is rapidly moving in a direction contrary to its original roots.
In contrast, a small group has been repenting and returning to the original roots established by God through Joseph Smith. By 2017, a more accurate version of the Book of Mormon was recovered, the JST Bible revisions were accurately published for the first time, the Lectures on Faith returned to the canon, additional Scriptures added, and a new covenant with God was established. Overthrowing and returning are repeated cycles, and they are underway again today. But the overthrow and the returning are not yet complete. The overthrow will bring a full end to all nations and religions, but the returning will be determined by covenant-keeping.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.