Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Joseph Smith Receives the Aaronic Priesthood

Today I finished reading the Joseph Smith History, verses 66 - 75, and by extension, the Pearl of Great Price. In this final section, Joseph Smith meets Oliver Cowdery for the first time who serves as a scribe for the translation of the Book of Mormon. Prior to this, Emma had been serving as a scribe for Joseph after Martin Harris lost the 116 pages that he had served as a scribe for. I've personally never really liked it when people in the church brag that it only took Joseph 30 days to translate the entire Book of Mormon, or what ever period of time they say it took. I don't like it because it is misleading and in my opinion a little deceitful. The facts are, that Joseph got the plates in September 1827 and the Book of Mormon was not published until March 1830. Joseph first did translation work in December 1827 by his own account and Oliver Cowdery did not arrive until April 1829. Even from the time Oliver arrived to the time the Book of Mormon was published was almost a full year! Now I realize that he was not engaged in translating full time, but the fact of the matter is that it took almost 2 years to do the work of translation because of persecution and economic concerns.

I bring this up because like I said, it is a pet peeve of mine and bothers me because in my opinion it is borderline deceitful. I mean, if an author is writing a book, and he is fleshing out the idea and the back story and spending all this time, and then he only spends 8 months doing the actually writing, if you ask that author, most of them will include the prep time it took them to write the book. I am currently reading a book that the author did the writing in about 4 months, and it is a HUGE book of over 1000 pages, but by his own admission, it took him 10 years to write this book. So, I understand that Joseph did NOT write the Book of Mormon and it is what he says it is, a translation of an ancient text containing the revelations and teachings of prophets here in America, but opponents of the Book of Mormon and Joseph could easily state that that first year and a half Joseph "had" the plates was prep work and the actual writing took place in 30 days. That's why I don't like saying he translated the Book of Mormon in only 30 days, it sounds too defensive. I prefer when I am asked, which honestly is not that often, that he received the plates in 1827 and the book of was published in 1830.

Anyway, enough about pet peeves. The rest of this chapter is a recount of one of the most beautiful, wonderful events in human history, the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. It is always so amazing to me that Joseph did not take more care to record the dates such amazing events took place. We do not know the day, or even the month for that matter of the First Vision. We don't know when the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored. As a matter of fact the only date we know of for sure is the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, and by extension the baptism of Joseph and Oliver. It honestly makes me wonder if the reason we have that particular date is because Joseph told someone right away about it and THEY recorded it, perhaps even Emma, his wife. I do not say that as a slight against Joseph, I think it perfectly logical that he would not think to write down the date given what he was experiencing and how often it was happening. Nevertheless, I would personally like to know when those wonderful, world changing events happened. But I must be content with what I have.

I think I have mentioned that I have often wondered what it would be like to meet an angel. I'm pretty sure it would scare the wits out of me, but I still think it would incredible. But to not only have an angel appear but one so famous as John the Baptist would be an experience beyond words. However, even if an angel appeared, it would not be the experience I hope for I don't think. Angels always come with a set agenda. They are not there to answer questions and "get to know" me. No, really I guess I should say I long for the day when I can just meet historical figures and just talk with them. Among those I can't wait to meet one day are, in no particular order: Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, Alma the Younger, George Washington, Mahonri Moriancumer and others. Those men always fill me with wonder when I read about them and read their accounts.

But I stray from the purpose of this post. On May 15,1829, for the first time in almost 2000 years, the Aaronic Priesthood was had by righteous, worthy men on the earth. Oliver and Joseph were then commanded to baptize each other and to re-ordain each other to the Aaronic Priesthood. I've always thought that was kind of weird. Why did they need to ordain each other again to the Aaronic Priesthood? I really don't have an answer except to maybe set the precedent that only baptized members of the church can hold the Aaronic Priesthood. I really don't know and it's kind of strange to me to be honest. I guess I will know one day. But oddities aside, this is probably the most important event to happen since the Atonement of Christ. I say it is even more important than the obtaining of the Gold Plates containing the Book of Mormon because salvation can occur without the Book of Mormon, but salvation CANNOT occur without the saving ordinances and they cannot be performed without the Priesthood. The restoration of the Priesthood was that important, although Joseph and Oliver did not realize it at the time.

Well, that finishes our discussion on the Pearl of Great Price. Tomorrow we will start the New Testament and the life of our Savior. I have been looking forward to this for a while now so we are going to skip the Old Testament for now. I can't wait! Until tomorrow.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Joseph Marries Emma and Martin sees Prof. Anthon

Today I read the 4th section of Joseph Smith's History, from verses 55 - 65. In this section Joseph Smith is employed by a man to dig for a silver mine near Harmony, Pennsylvania and meets and marries his wife. So many Latter-day Saints have a problem with Emma because of the choices she made later in life, but they are forgetting what the Lord said about Emma in the Doctrine and Covenants section 25, that she is an elect lady.

Emma was a true helpmeet to Joseph during all his trials and she probably had a harder life than anyone else in the church during those years. She had children die as a direct result of mob violence on Joseph. She had to move multiple times, under less than ideal circumstances. She had her husband imprisoned for months at a time on false charges. She put together the first hymnal of the church. And through it all, she stood by Joseph and her own testimony of the truthfulness of the work.

Not only that, but she went against the wishes of her parents and married Joseph by eloping because her father would not consent to her marrying the prophet. She is not the first, nor the last to go against her family by aligning herself to the church. I have always had great respect to those who can give up so much for the truth and the Gospel. I feel very sad and downhearted for those families which cannot accept that their son or daughter, brother or sister choose to go another way and would rather pretend that they have no such son or daughter than enjoy the time they have with them here on the earth in whatever fashion they have. Hopefully I will not have to find an answer to that question on my own, but time will tell.

The rest of this section deals with Martin Harris and the lost 116 pages, or rather the first part of that story where he takes the translated pages and the rubbings of the characters to two noteworthy professors of linguistics. I remember once I was in a Sunday School lesson about something that I cannot now recall, but we were talking about Pride at the time and what professions have a lot of pride, again I cannot now recall why. But I remember a member of the ward who was a professor mentioned that few industries, as a whole, can match the pride that one can find in academia. Even then I agreed with him that it is very true but as I have grown I have really come to appreciate his statement. Anyone who has attended college has likely come across a man, or woman, who is very full of their own self importance and knowledge and acts like they are the best thing to walk the earth. I was able to attend BYU and luckily most of those men and women who chose a life of service in teaching are humble but I did come across one or two of them who nicely fit into the former category.

We do not have a complete account of the conversation that Martin had with the second professor but it sure seems that we have a clear example of the haughty and the humble professor in Martin's story. Most Latter-day Saints are very familiar with this story. Martin took the pages to Professor Anthon who said that the translation was most correct and that the characters were of Egyptian origin as well as Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic. He even gave him a certificate stating as such. However, when he learned that this was a record that had been obtained through the power of God, he tore up the certificate and said that there were no more visitations. This action has always intrigued me because, if he did not want his name associated with the plates, as is the only reason I can think of that would cause him to tear up the certificate, why would he then agree to translate the book himself? For the glory of the world certainly, but did he not realize that even if he did it himself, it would always be said he got it from Joseph Smith and STILL he would be associated with a visitation of God? Sometimes I wonder if people think at all.

And then Martin took the rubbings and the translation to a Dr. Mitchell who agreed with what Professor Anthon had said 100%. Now, the story does not tell us whether or not Martin offered up to Dr. Mitchell that these came from a record that was revealed of God or not. I would assume that he did and that Dr. Mitchell was ok with it, but we are not told. This instance, as we have already discussed, is a fulfillment of prophecy given by Isaiah many hundreds of years ago, almost 2000 years from the time when it happened by current reckoning. It is strange that there are all these proofs out there for the learned and yet they will always turn their noses up at them because it is of God and really a testimony of the truthfulness is required, which most men and women will not obtain because it requires a certain level of humility.

Now, obviously I am making a gross generalization here and not all of academia is this bad, not by a long shot. But as with all stereotypes and generalizations, there is an element of truth in them and they get started for a reason. But academia does not have a monopoly on people too proud to give the Book of Mormon a chance, not even close. The world is an enemy to God and will be forever until it learns humility and to put the things of God before its' own wants. Sadly, we know from the scriptures that this will never happen and so it is up to us to remove ourselves our of the world instead. Only when we have done that can we become profitable servants to God. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Joseph is Visited by the Angel Moroni

Today I read the third part of the Joseph Smith History, from verses 27 - 54. In this section, Joseph has his famous interview with Moroni and learns of the Book of Mormon and the Nephites for the first time. Everytime I read this, I smile at the innocence of children. And while Joseph was 17 the first time this vision took place, he was still very much a child in many regards. He states that he prayed fulling intending to receive another vision since it had happened the first time.

And he was not disappointed. After he prayed he had a visit from a heavenly messenger, a resurrected being named Moroni who lived around 360 AD and the last known record we have of him being around 421 AD. Just as had happened with the First Vision, the first thing Joseph noticed was light appearing in the room. He also gives us a very detailed description of Moroni's clothing and lets us know that he has a body of flesh and bone as he could see his feet, hands, and chest.

I wonder what went through Joseph's mind as he listened to Moroni's message? He tells Joseph, who is only 17 years old, that his name will be had for good and ill among all nations. For most 17 year olds that would go straight to their head. But Joseph is of course not a normal seventeen year old. Although he tells us in this section that he was normal as far as levity and rambunctiousness is concerned. I suspect it was not really all that serious, more just kids being kids than anything, but Joseph was concerned enough to find out his standing before the Lord and also wanting to know what he should be doing.

I've often found it interesting that opponents of Joseph Smith cite this story of the angel Moroni and the First Vision as proving that Joseph Smith was a liar. They will point out that there are 4 different versions of the First Vision story and they are all different. Or they will point out key differences between Joseph's telling of Moroni's visit compared to his mother's version of it. I usually have a hard time not laughing at such people outright that their argument is essentially someone telling a story, even a true one, didn't tell it the same way every time. Generally when this happens, I am able to compose myself and I ask them a question. Have you ever told a story to someone? Have you ever told that same story to a different person, even just a few minutes later? Did you include every single detail in both tellings? Did you add some details and remove some others depending on your audience? How about years later? Did you tell the story the same way you first told it, 20 years later? Did you remember very single detail then? If they are humble enough that will usually get them thinking about it and perhaps open them up to other possibilities than Joseph was lying. Unfortunately usually the people are too stubborn to actually listen to what I say about it.

I'm also impressed in this story, as well as the whole of Joseph's history, by his family, particularly his father. With so many other people disbelieving him and his story of what happened to him, Joseph must have taken great comfort in the fact that his family never doubted him. His parents were particularly supportive of him and the visions he had. Now, I do not doubt for a moment that when Moroni told Joseph to go tell his father what had happened that Joseph went right to his dad and did not hesitate to follow the command of an angel, but I do wonder what Joseph must have thought as he walked back to his father to tell him.

As we well know, Joseph saw the plates later that same day, but was not permitted to take them because he was not ready. In most versions it is because his mind was not yet wholly on the glory of God and he allowed himself to be distracted. In other versions it just says Moroni told him that the time had not yet come for him to receive the plates. Regardless, Joseph would not receive the plates for another 4 years, but we know that Moroni taught him many things about the Gospel and about the Nephites in those 4 years that he then passed along and taught his family, including his brother Alvin who would die before Joseph actually received the plates.

Those must have been very interesting times for Joseph and his family and it is something I can't wait to talk to him about when I meet him some day. What ever the nitty gritty details of how it all happened, I am extremely grateful it did and that we have the Book of Mormon today and the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope that is what you find most important too. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Joseph is Persecuted for telling the Truth

Today I read the second part of Joseph Smith History, verses 21 - 26. It is so strange to me, as it was to Joseph Smith at the time it was happening, that so many people would get so excited about the fact that Joseph Smith had seen, or in their minds claimed to have seen, a vision. Have you ever noticed in our day that when someone claims things like what Joseph claimed we usually just think they are crazy and no one takes them seriously? Yet, for some reason in the 1800's, they were zealots and very reminiscent of the Israelites in the Old Testament, stamping out "corruption" where ever they saw it.

I've often wondered what causes mankind to be so paranoid about anything that is different than themselves. I mean, what caused the Bostonians to be so afraid that the Salem Witch Trials actually happened. That people would turn on their neighbors, literally people they had known their entire lives and see them killed, or "purified". We being much more civilized now, or so we think we are, look back at those days and shudder with horror at how superstitious and paranoid those people in those days were.

But it did not start there. There is a reason the period of time when the Gospel of Jesus Christ was off the earth it was called the dark ages. The decisions some people made during those centuries, especially those that claimed to speak for God, are truly appalling. I've heard it said that the two things you never talk about in mixed company are: politics and religion. Nothing seems to ignite such fierce debates and hatred as these two topics, and religion seems to be the more volatile of the two. Religious snobbery is what caused the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Extermination Order of Missouri Governor Boggs, and others that I could name if we had the time and the inclination.

If anything, the sheer amount of persecution heaped on a 14 year old boy for saying he had seen God and Jesus Christ in a vision, lends credence to what he is saying to me. Again, I think about if someone were to claim this today how would we all react? We would think he was either crazy/deranged, or that he had indeed seen a vision but it was probably not of God. But no one would pay it any mind at all and after a few weeks it would fizzle out and we would not hear anymore about it unless they did something else of note such as commit a murder or something similar. Why is that? Because it would not be truly from God. Throughout history the chosen people of God, or the Saints, have always been persecuted and had people attempt to wipe them out. The Egyptians tried it with the Israelites, the Romans tried it with the early Christians, and the Missourians tried it in the 1800's with the Latter-day Saints.

It seems to be only when there is truth is there persecution, usually. There are obvious exceptions such as the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials among others. But again, the sheer fact that Joseph Smith WAS persecuted for almost 30 years and he never changed his story even once, would be enough to convince me logically if I did not already have a testimony of the truthfulness of his words. Satan really only sits up and takes notice when someone is telling the truth. But if one of his servants sat up and claimed what Joseph Smith did, no one even cares and we just go on our way. I wonder why no one else really seems to see it? To me, people should be joining the church out of sheer logic of the facts if nothing else.

I do feel so sad when I think of poor Joseph's life though. All he was trying to do was follow God and the command he had been given and it caused him grief, pain and eventually his life. I guarantee though when we have a chance to meet that amazing man and ask him about it all, he will tell us that it was all worth it and that he would not trade one second of it or change it at all. Because he had a testimony of what was right and knew that God was on his side. And in the end, isn't that all we really need? Until tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The First Vision

Today I read Joseph Smith History verses 1 - 20. I was originally going to read all of Joseph Smith History in one sitting but as Joseph Smith has broken it down into sections, almost like chapters, I decided to keep the normal pattern up of reading 1 section per day. Some days I feel like I could actually quote the entirety of the early part of Joseph Smith's history I have studied it so much. But it always a pleasure to review it and remind myself of the First Vision.

As I read his own account I can only imagine what life in those days must have been like for Joseph Smith. To be so young and have so much tumult going on around him must have been a real challenge. Especially when even his own family was divided on the subject. His mother and a few of his siblings were in the Presbyterian faith but his father did not join with them. I would think that regardless of what faith it was, it would be hard to be in a household that did not all belong to the same faith.

It is of course really hard, if not impossible, to know how one would really react when reading such a scripture as James 1:5 for the first time. Growing up in the church, I'm pretty sure I knew the gist of that scripture at a very young age since it is part of the Joseph Smith story. But a scripture like that must have been like a lifeline to a drowning sailor to Joseph during this tumultuous time. To be told that you could ask God and not only would He give you the knowledge you seek, but He also would not chastise you for asking Him must have seemed a wonderful promise indeed. I can only imagine the excitement Joseph must have had as he read that verse and really pondered what it meant. As he made his decision that it was exactly what he was going to do, was to ask God.

Now, perhaps nothing shows just how atypical of a teenager Joseph was so much as his reaction to his attack by Satan as he tried to pray out loud on his own for the first time. Think of your typical 14 year old. If they did something for the very first time and the reaction they got was a very real attack on their person from Satan himself, what would be their reaction? In my experience, teenagers are quick to pass judgment and declare something "stupid" after only a few seconds of effort and desire to move on. Given that, I would think that most 14 year olds would have immediately stopped praying and perhaps even apologized for whatever they did wrong. They would have, rightly so, associated the presence of the devil with their praying and immediately stopped.

However, Joseph did just the opposite. Now, this is being written 18 years after the fact, so perhaps he is putting his own spin of current thinking on an even that happened long ago, we don't know. But Joseph was able to reason that his only chance for salvation from this enemy was to pray even more. And he did so and the result was what we typically in the church refer to as the First Vision. He saw light all around him, emanating from a pillar in front of him. When his eyes adjusted, he saw that there were two persons standing in the air in the middle of that light. If he had been able to distinguish it, he would have noticed that the light actually was being emitted from these two persons, but given the circumstances, I think we can forgive Joseph for not noticing this fact.

Now, Joseph does not state as such, but I suspect these two persons were almost indistinguishable from each other, perhaps he even thought he was seeing double. But as we well know, one of them said Joseph's name and pointed to the other and then introduced the Savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ. Jesus then told Joseph many things, among which was that He did not want Joseph to align himself with any of the religions of the day, that none of them had the fulness of His Gospel. Now, that is all we are told in this scripture but I am confident that Joseph asked more things than this and that Jesus told him many more things than just this.

I can only imagine Joseph's awe and wonder at having God the Father and Jesus the Son appear in person to answer his inquiry. I wonder if he even thought it was strange. He does not state what he was expecting to happen so maybe he was not surprised at all but just figured this must be what James had meant. It really is impossible to know what it must have been like for Joseph because we are looking through the glasses of hindsight and almost 200 years of experience and we know how unique this vision was. But would Joseph know? Most, if not all, his experience with things religion were coming from the Bible and the preachers of the day, which we KNOW were not preaching heavenly visitations in those days. It's really impossible to know and Joseph really does not tell us. Now we do know that because of this First Vision his idea of answers to prayer was skewed as he will tell us on the night he met Moroni.

Thank the heavens and all that is good in the world for that First Vision which ushered in the restoration of the truth and the fulness of the Gospel. Without it, I would not be sitting hear writing this and you would not be reading this. Thank goodness that Joseph wanted to know the truth and would not accept anything less than 100% certainty on the subject of which religion to join. Sadly for Joseph, it was the end of his easy life and the beginning of a life long struggle that, as you well know, ended in his death. But I guarantee if given the choice, he would not have traded it for anything in this world or the next! Until tomorrow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Signs of the Second Coming

Today I read Joseph Smith Matthew, which is a translation of Matthew 24. This chapter has particular application in our day and age since we are living in the last days and seeing some of these prophecies take place here and now. This very month in fact we had a "false prophet" predict the Second Coming was going to happen on May 21st, and like most people thought, he turned out to be wrong, although he is now saying it is going to happen on October 21st. Sadly, some people believed him and spent a lot of money on trying to spread the message. But the scriptures tell us that some of these false prophets are going to be so persuasive that they will deceive even the very elect.

Thankfully most of these people who are saying he is out in the desert or the secret places, so to speak, are very easy to spot and not too many people are taking them seriously. Although, it seems every time one does crop up, several dozen people buy into it wholeheartedly. It always makes me wonder what is going on in the lives of those people that when they hear this message they just accept it no questions asked and forget about all the scriptures that contradict what is being said to them in the present. Although sometimes, I think those preachers of supposed truth just attract the entire wrong type of people from the get go and probably have never even read the Bible, such as Charles Manson.

The other half of this though is nature in all it's majesty. The scriptures tell us that one of the ways we'll know the Second Coming is on its way is when we start to hear of earthquakes in diverse places and the sea heaves its bounds. I have noticed, ever since my mission ended back in 2001, that there have been a LOT more natural disasters in this world. We have talked about this in the past, particularly about wind. And speaking of wind, if you need further evidence of nature being out of whack, have you ever seen a spring like this one? Before last night the news was stating that we have had over 1200 tornadoes this Spring in the Midwest and the South. We had more last night. On my drive back home from work my poor car was buffeted around like a ping pong ball and I had to dodge debris including what looked like a tree about as big around as my thigh in the middle of the road.

I have never personally witnessed, or even heard of, this many tornadoes in one single season in my entire life. The closest I can even recall was back in 1997 we had several tornado scares up in Kentucky where I was living at the time, but that was nothing compared to this past month. Weather, everywhere, is changing and what used to be the norm is quickly becoming something new altogether. Some are seeing the signs, hence why we have so many people believing that a man could actually tell when the second coming is going to happen. But as the scriptures state, as long as we are preparing for the Master's return at any moment, we will not be caught off guard and will be prepared for when He does come, which will be as the sun rising in the east He tells His Apostles.

It is good to know the signs of His coming and good to watch for them, but honestly, as long as we are doing our best to live the Gospel anyway, we have nothing to worry about. If we are doing all that we can and preparing for His coming, that is all we can do. Live your life without regret and live it like you are going to live to be 100 years old and live the Gospel. As you live the Gospel and make those changes, if the Second Coming happens in our lifetime, we will be prepared and ready for it. And that's all that anyone, even the prophet, can really say about it. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The First Flesh Upon the Earth

Today I read Abraham 5, the last chapter in the book of Abraham. In this chapter we learn that the creation we have been reading about was a spiritual creation. Because after the 7th day or period when the Gods rested from their labor, we read that God had not caused it to rain yet. We also find something interesting that I'm not sure you all picked up on. Despite being created last, man was the first flesh upon the earth. We know that Adam was created on the sixth day, after everything else was created, and yet in this chapter we read that after Adam and even after Eve was created, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air were created. This is because all things were created spiritually first, in the order that we all know. But according to the scriptures, Adam was the first flesh upon the earth.

Now, he was also the first flesh upon the earth because when Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they fell and became mortal while everything else around them was still immortal. This is also true and a perfectly fine interpretation of the scriptures. The other interpretation is the one I have already given, that while Adam was created sixth or last spiritually, he was created first physically for some reason.

You will also note that in this version as well as all the others, Adam and Eve are referred to as man and wife before they partook of the fruit and fell. So again we can conclude that God married them in the Garden of Eden before there was death. Some would probably interpret this scripture as being a case where the author was overlaying current events on past ones. Or in other words, when it was written Adam and Eve were definitely man and wife, so the author was just referring to them that way even before they actually were married. But I think the scriptures are a lot more literal than we give them credit for.

Now, one other thing to notice, is that Abraham tells us that before Adam fell, the reckoning of his time was after the manner of Kolob, or 1000 of our years was the equivalent of 1 of the Lord's days. This would mean that depending on how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they may never have experienced darkness or nighttime. Think about that for a second. Not only were Adam and Eve forced to leave their home in the Garden, they were also cast out of God's presence and forced to go out alone, they also for the first time ever, most likely, came face to face with the whole world becoming dark. I wonder if that was scary for them. I imagine it would be, especially since they were still learning about the world and what they were getting into so to speak. If the earth truly was taking 1000 years to rotate even once, most likely, they had never experienced seasons while in the Garden of Eden either. It must have been a very scary prospect for Adam and Eve when they left the Garden.

Also, since there was no time like we think of it in the Garden of Eden, when the Lord said that in the day thou eatest of [the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil] thou shalt surely die, God was talking about one of His days. It then makes perfect sense why Adam was able to live over 900 years after eating of the fruit. Although just humans were able to live several hundred years is quite beyond my understanding and comprehension. Someday I will understand it all, but not today.

I am very grateful that we have these wonderful books in the Pearl of Great Price that add so much to our knowledge of the creation and the beginning of mankind. It is wonderful that even though we don't "need" to know these things, the Lord wants us to be knowledgeable and to understand His creations and the world around us. And for someone like me who loves to learn about history and things of the Gospel these books are just a treasure trove indeed. I hope you also enjoy them and the greater understanding that they bring. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Obedience of the Elements

Today I read Abraham 4, which is another version of the creation story, and actually my favorite version. The reason it is my favorite is because it contains a few things that are not found in any of the other versions. For example, in this version, it always says the Gods instead of just God. This is highly significant for obvious reasons. Most other religions don't like Latter-day Saint theology because it promises each of us the potential to become as God is. They feel that God is all there is, but in Abraham's version of the creation, we learn that there are multiple Gods, in this case though, we know from other versions, that Abraham is talking about God and Jesus Christ.

But I really like this version the best because it shows that the elements have the ability to disobey. In other versions of the creation it always seems so seamless. God spoke and it was so. But in this chapter it always says that God ordered it and it was so as they ordered. This implies that He was not stirring around a bunch of ingredients in a giant pot until it was the consistency that He liked. But rather He was speaking to the elements, the very building blocks of life, and telling them to do certain things. And what's more, according to the way this is written, it could have been that they could have chosen to disobey.

In fact verse 18 all but says this outright, "And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed." Why would they need to watch unless there was a chance it would not happen? We learned in yesterdays reading, Abraham 3, that all things have intelligence. Wouldn't it make sense then that elements too have intelligence? Of course they do, and that means that they have the ability to disobey or to obey as they see fit, just as we do. We have already explored the idea that animals can choose to obey God or not and that sometimes, some animals go against their very nature and do things that God would most definitely disapprove of, such as the Lions of Tsavo. So why can't other things disobey God and go against their nature? Let me ask you a question, why did Christ curse the fig tree? What was the point? It should have had figs on it based on the time of year, so why curse it if it was innocent? Do you really think the Savior would curse and innocent anything to prove a point? I don't. Could it be that that particular tree was meant to feed the Savior when he was hungry and it made a choice to not produce figs? I'll be honest and say I don't know for a fact, but it makes sense to me.

Some of you might find this a hard concept to bear and I understand that, it usually is at first. My wife took almost half a year to fully grasp this the first time I told her about it. I invite you all to pray and ponder on it though and if you have another interpretation of this scripture I would love to hear it. Here's one final thought on the matter. Have you ever noticed that the scripture in Luke 17:6 says if you had faith AS a grain of mustard seed? Not the size of a grain of mustard seed? We know the Savior taught in layers of meaning. When you first approach one of His teachings you are positive it is trying to teach you one thing. But as you grow in knowledge you realize there is a deeper meaning you had missed before? I'm sure that you have. Well I submit to you that both interpretations of this scripture are correct. If we had the faith the size of a mustard seed we could do what the Savior asks of us. However, if we had the faith that a grain of mustard seed has in God, well, there would be no limit to what we could accomplish because the grain of mustard seed has perfect faith in our Father in Heaven. Again, ponder and pray on it. You will discover amazing truths. Until tomorrow.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Abraham sees the Fall of Satan and learns about the Stars

Today I read Abraham 3, this is the chapter where the Lord teaches Abraham about the stars and about the time on the planet where the Lord resides. I have often wondered when the Lord gave Abraham the Urim and Thummim that he had since this is the first, and only time we hear about it. Abraham states the Lord gave it to him while he still lived in Ur among the Chaldees, but this is really the only time we hear of him having it or even using it. Nevertheless we know he had it and that, like all other prophets who have ever had it, he was able to communicate with the Lord through it and learn marvelous things.

Abraham's astronomy lesson aside this chapter is very significant and contains a scripture mastery in it. This is also the chapter where Abraham's vision of the beginning and the creation starts. It contains many gospel truths and to my knowledge is perhaps the only point in the scriptures where intelligence is discussed. The Lord here teaches Abraham that all things have intelligence but some are more intelligent than others and God is above them all. We learn from modern day prophets that intelligence is not created but has always been. Intelligence is the basis for spirit bodies of everything. Before we became spirit children of our Heavenly Father we were intelligence. That is all I am going to say on the matter since to my knowledge, that is all that is really known about it.

Abraham also saw the Grand Council in the beginning and saw the Savior volunteer to come save mankind and saw Satan offer the same. It is interesting and perhaps sad to note that the Lord talks about those who would not keep their First Estate. It would seem He was well aware that there were those of His children that would rebel against Him. That makes a lot of sense if you really think about it. We know that Heavenly Father is not the first to create worlds and that He was once a mortal man like us, so He has a Heavenly Father too and it would only make sense that our Heavenly Father had to contend with a devil when He was mortal too. So even if all things weren't before Him, it would seem to me that He would be well aware that one or more of His children would rebel against Him and the truth. Plus, He is a father and knows His children, I'm sure He could see the signs.

It still could not have been easy though. I wonder how many of us were sad that day and had considered Lucifer our friend before that day? We were all there and we were all together, I can only assume we knew him. Or perhaps only the 1/3 that followed him were those who knew him well and called him friend. Somehow that just doesn't seem right to me though. I can guarantee among the 1/3 we knew at least a couple of people we would have called our friend. So even if none of us knew Lucifer personally, we knew someone who chose to fall and lose their First Estate. It must have been a very sad day indeed.

I can only imagine how Abraham is feeling as he watched all of this unfold. I wonder if he had the scriptures prior to this or if this is the first time he was hearing about all of this? We'll know someday but I am very glad that Abraham wrote it all down so that we can have it in our day and read it and learn new truths. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Abraham is Promised the Priesthood and the Gospel

Today I read Abraham 2, where Abraham is commanded to leave his homeland and is taken to a new land that presumably is not quite as ravaged by the famine in the land. His father and his nephew also come with him and we are told about Abraham's wife for the first time. Abraham names the new land after his brother who passed away due to the famine, Haran.

This is also the chapter where Abraham is promised he will be a father to many nations and that all who have the Priesthood will be called his sons. This was probably very wonderful for Abraham to hear since he had desired the Priesthood so insistently before they left the land of Ur. And in truth this came to pass. When the Savior walked the earth, the Pharisees were prone to say they were the sons of Abraham and Abraham was their father. They put more stock in Abraham than they did in God Himself.

I've often wondered why this promise would be so appealing to Abraham, but then as I thought about it today during church I realized this must have come as a breath of fresh air to Abraham, someone who had grown up surrounded by idolatry and the worship of false gods. I imagine it would have been as sweet as if the Nephites had repented in the days of Mormon and not been destroyed. That is all he wanted in life was to see his people prosper and be righteous. For Abraham to have grown up with human sacrifice as the norm and have his own father engage in the practice of idolatry must have been the ultimate low. So to learn that his seed would not be afflicted with such wickedness and that all righteous bearers of the Priesthood throughout the history of the world must have been very, very satisfying to hear indeed.

It is sad to note in this chapter that despite being spared from the famine, Terah, Abraham's father, turned again to his idolatry while in the land of Canaan. And yet, is it really so surprising? I'll be each of you can name at least two people of your own acquaintance that when times are rough turn to God, but as soon as things clear up, they go right back to their old sinful ways. We have talked about this in the past and how that is just the nature of mankind, the natural man indeed. When a disaster happens, mankind is quick to thank or supplicate the Lord, but as soon as the danger has past, they return to their sins as a dog to his own vomit as the scriptures say.

That chapter ends by the Lord directing Abraham and his family to Egypt and the Lord telling Abraham to tell those in Egypt that Sarai, his wife, was his sister so that they would not kill him and take her from him. So instead they posed as brother and sister. This used to shock and amaze me as a teenager that the Lord would do this instead of just protecting Abraham by divine protection. I used to wonder how the Lord would authorize Sarai being with another man, perhaps even sexually. But as I have gotten older and pondered on this more, I have come to the conclusion that first and foremost, I don't think the Lord would have allowed Sarai to have sexual relations and they found out she was his wife before such a thing would have happened. I know the Lord has commanded his servants to commit murder in the past, but I just cannot imagine under any circumstances that he would command his servants to commit adultery.

I also think that this was the method which the Lord used to get Abraham in the good graces of the Pharaoh so that he could teach the Egyptian court what he had been brought there to teach. I think if the Lord had just protected Abraham or perhaps made Sarai undesirable somehow, it would not have had the same effect as when Pharaoh learned he was about to take another man's wife to bed. Suffice to say, the Lord had a reason for doing it that way and we will one day learn it I am sure.

This was probably a very sweet and also bitter time in the life of Abraham. How wonderful it must have been for him to be away from all that idolatry and to be promised the Gospel and that his posterity would always have the Priesthood. But life back then was challenging and Abraham's life was no exception. But the pouring out of spiritual knowledge must have tempered the bitterness as we will soon see. For the Lord was about to reveal great knowledge to Abraham and show him things that Abraham would then pass onto the Egyptians that would eventually give them the reputation as one of the greatest cultures in the world and the most knowledgeable about stars and the planets. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Abraham Desires the Priesthood

Today I read Abraham 1, which tells the story of how Abraham left the land of his fathers after his father tried to have him sacrificed to idols in the land of the Chaldeans. From what Abraham states the land was peopled by those who were the descendants of the Egyptians. It is also in this chapter that we learn that the first king of Egypt was named Pharaoh who greatly desired the Priesthood of his fathers. But he was a descendant of Ham, who was cursed for taking a wife not of the covenant so Pharaoh was denied the priesthood, but established his government in righteousness and future generations claimed they did have the Priesthood and thus perpetuated their government.

Over time, like most things, it deteriorated to the point that it was unrecognizable from what it began as. Eventually they came to a point that they started worshiping idols that required human sacrifice. I have always wondered how people can be tricked into believing in human sacrifice. I know it is a corruption of the Atonement, but how does it start? How does one go form believing in God and understanding the doctrine of the Atonement to worshiping dumb idols and believing they represent God on the earth and that they require the blood of innocents? One is so far from the other and the only thing they even have in common is that when done the right way, the blood of an innocent can atone for the sins of another. But they do not understand how it works and that it must be a voluntary sacrifice and must be completely sin free, which no person has ever accomplished and took a God to perform.

However, this chapter, knowing that Abraham was almost sacrificed himself, it lends a whole new light on the story of him being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Not only was he being asked to kill his only son, which I shudder at the thought of having to do that with my daughter, but he was being asked to perform a human sacrifice, something I'm sure he abhorred because of his experiences in the past. And yet despite it all, Abraham did as the Lord asked and was seconds away from sacrificing his own son. Abraham was truly a unique individual.

Part of what made him so unique though is he looked around him and all that was going on around him and knew it was wrong and that there was more out there. He desired the Priesthood that he had been taught and knew it was right. That is a challenge to do. It is a rare thing to know that what you are being taught by your parents and by all those around you is not right and to resist the popular culture. Not many people are strong enough to do that. And you can never know if you are strong enough to do it too unless you are put in the same position. It would kind of be the same thing as if you were brought up during the era of segregation when America was treating those with white skin and those with black skin so radically different. If you were a child born into that, with either color skin, would you know it was wrong to do that when everyone around you believes it and follows it? Would you be the one to stand up to everyone and declare it to be wrong? That's the type of thinking that Abraham was up against. He was fighting something that everyone believed and understood to be right and good, and he with very few others stood up for what was right against everyone else, and almost lost his life for it.

Abraham was a remarkable individual. It's really too bad we do not know more about his actual childhood because a person is the sum of who they were when they came here and their early experiences. We all have our personality more or less in place when we come here, if you need proof of that just look at two babies born to the same family. They already have a personality when they come here. But it is true that here in this life our experiences shape us and mold that personality and we can end up being very, very different from who we started out as. We can forget who we are and where we come from. That's why I like to read about the modern day prophets and read about their lives, because no one is born a prophet. A prophet is made.

The Pearl of Great Price has always been my second favorite book of scripture because I like history and knowing about people and that's all it is. It is a book of history about the first people on this planet and then about Joseph Smith. It is always a joy to read and I hope you have enjoyed it thus far as I have and look forward to continuing the read. Until tomorrow.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Noah and the Flood

Today I read Moses 8, which talks about the birth of Enoch's sons, grandsons and so on. Enoch's son Methuselah stayed behind when Zion was taken up into God's bosom because Enoch had been promised by the Lord that Noah was of his line. Methuselah's son was Lamech and Lamech's son was Noah.

This account of the days before the flood give a bit more detail and is a lot more clear than the one in the Old Testament. Part of the problem was that Noah's granddaughters were marrying men who were not part of the covenant and did not have the priesthood. Which of course, in those days, means that they and their seed lost the privilege of having the Priesthood. I have often wondered why so many people choose to date and/or marry someone outside of the church. I have dated one girl that was not a member of the church who always told me that if we did get married she would get baptized. I never knew what to make of that. People always say you cannot choose who you fall in love with but I say that's a load of bologna! You cannot help who you are attracted to, but love takes work, it takes effort. The girl I dated who was not a member I recognized exactly what was happening and knew that I could stop it, but that would mean cutting her off and losing her as a friend, and I wasn't willing to do that. I caused myself a lot of heartache, but I knew exactly what I was doing, and so does everyone else. Love takes time and input. You can only love someone that you know. That's why love at first sight is a myth. Lust at first sight happens everyday. But love requires time and knowledge.

The other reason the Lord decided to destroy mankind is a reason we should all be familiar with from the book of Mormon in the Book of Mormon. The earth was filled with violence and mankind's thoughts were evil continually. This is the same language Mormon used to describe the people in his time before the Lord destroyed them through warfare. The reason this sounds familiar is because mankind, and subsequently, the Lord, follow a pattern. The farther mankind travels from the Spirit of the Lord and the things of the Spirit they start to exhibit certain traits. These are in no particular order but every culture who has lost or is losing the Spirit exhibits these signs. Their language becomes coarser, morality leaves, music and other forms of entertainment such as books and plays or in our case TV and movies, become more irreverent. They also become more violent. This is painfully evident in our own time among all cultures here in the United States and is not limited to just one type of people.

Just like with Mormon, but on a much grander scale, the people were ripe with iniquity and ready for destruction because the only people who were righteous were Noah and his family. But unlike just a single society like with the Nephites, or a singly city like with Lot and his family in Sodom and Gomorrah, this was the entire earth. Noah, and his family were the only ones on the entire planet who were righteous. Now, Noah and his sons were preaching the entire time they were building the ark and a few of the people did believe and were converted, but it is my understanding that when such was the case they were brought up to the city of Zion, which was no long on the earth by that point. So that when the flood happened the only righteous people on the planet were Noah and his sons and their wives. Everyone else, even their grandchildren, were destroyed in the purifying waters of the flood.

And sadly, it will happen again. We are already moving in that direction. Fortunately in this case though, there will be more than just 8 people on the earth who are doing good, it will still be several million, but they will be the minority. And this time it will not be water, but a burning fire when the Savior comes again and purifies the earth. Part of me wishes it could be during my lifetime because I am saddened and sickened when I see the evil around me, but the other part of me pales at the knowledge that things have to get a lot worse before the Savior comes again and I'm not sure my heart and Spirit can take much more widespread evil. As Alma before me has said, I am content just to know that it will happen and if it is not in my lifetime, so be it. He will come an that is enough. I hope you are preparing yourself as we all should be. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Enoch's Vision

Today I read Moses 7, this is a truly fascinating chapter that details the vision Enoch is given by the Lord showing him all the generations of the world. This vision is unlike any other that the Lord has shown mankind and includes things that no other man has seen, or at least recorded. To me personally the neatest thing that Enoch is shown, is he actually got to hear the earth itself talk. How amazing would that be? Unfortunately though, from Enoch's vision, the earth is not happy because of the wickedness of mankind. Despite that, I personally think that is the coolest thing, that Enoch got to hear the thoughts of the earth.

The majority of this chapter is taken up by this vision and the wickedness of mankind. This vision also contains perhaps the creepiest thing in all the scriptures too. Enoch sees the earth veiled in darkness caused by a giant chain that Satan is holding and he and his angels are laughing and rejoicing. As creepy as this image is, it seems very true to me. I can't help but think that with all this evil and unrighteousness going on in the world right now, Satan must be extremely happy. Fortunately there are plenty of people, LDS and non-LDS alike that are still trying their best to do what is right. And as long as there are still righteous people in the world, Satan is losing!

As a mortal with finite understanding, it is hard if not impossible to completely understand the things of God. For example, the Lord tells Enoch that if mankind could number the particles that make up this earth and millions of earths just like it, that would not even be a beginning to God's creations. My mind can't even wrap around that concept. I can't even imagine how many earth's there are like that, and our God is of course just one of the Gods out there creating worlds and universes like this. It really blows my mind to even think about it. I think that is why most of the time, the Lord will only tell His prophets about this planet, because our minds cannot handle all the rest.

The other part of this chapter that I find interesting is that once Zion was established, the unrighteous people of the world started trying to fight against it. I do not understand what it is about the righteous that unrighteous people feel the need to destroy. Perhaps it is because the righteous people's lives make a mockery of the unrighteous people's lives, I really don't know. But any time there have been people that worship God in the correct fashion the world has persecuted them and tried to stamp it out. It happened in the meridian of time when Christ established His church among them and it happened when Joseph Smith restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It happened in Adam's time when Enoch established Zion.

However, unlike with Joseph Smith and the early Saints, in Enoch's time, Enoch was so mighty in the Priesthood and his people were so righteous, that the Lord fought their battles for them. When the armies arrayed themselves against Enoch and his people, the Lord moved mountains and changed the course of rivers to protect them and to destroy the wicked so that eventually the wicked got the point, there is no use trying to fight against Zion. It has long been a debate between my dad, my mom and I about this. My dad contends that if America were righteous enough, we would not need a standing army, that the Lord would fight our battles for us and he likes to cite this chapter as his reference. Whereas my mom and I like to point out that the Nephites in the Book of Mormon were commanded to take up arms to defend themselves against their oppressors as were the Israelites before them. Perhaps he is right, but I personally do not think we will ever get that righteous until the millennium and then it won't be needed.

This vision really is quite singular and worth the read if you haven't read it in a long time. The Lord has showed many people many things, but none that are recorded, that we know of, were greater. Moroni tells us that the vision of Mahonri Moriancumer was actually shown more than any other man, but we do not have a record of that vision yet. Perhaps some day we will and then we will see. But for now, there is none greater that we have record of and it is well worth the read as I have said before. I invite you all to read it if you have not done so or if it has been a long time since you last read it. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Enoch is Called to Preach the Gospel

Today I read Moses 6 which lists the genealogy of Adam's righteous posterity. It also is the first half of the mission of Enoch, the second half being in chapter 7 of the book of Moses. Enoch is an interesting character to study and the bulk of what we have and know about him in the standard works is here in Moses 6 and 7. He is the first recorded missionary. I'm sure Adam had it, but to my knowledge, he is the first recorded man to hold the sealing power. He is another person I can't wait to meet.

Most of the world think that Abraham is the first person that the Lord revealed His Gospel to because in the Bible that is the way it reads. Or perhaps they think that John the Baptist was the first prophet to baptize by water or maybe Alma the Elder. However, Enoch teaches us that Adam was baptized in the beginning and he preached repentance and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. Adam was taught from the beginning that a Savior would come and that He would atone for the sins of the world. Adam had the fulness of the Gospel that was later taken away from the Israelites because of their sins.

In a way, I find that a comfort to know that there is nothing new and all things were had since the beginning. In fact, and I could be entirely wrong on this point, but I think the only thing new that Christ introduced when He was on the earth that wasn't had in the past was temple work for the dead. I know of no place where it talks about people doing work for the dead before Christ walked on the earth. Everything else in the Gospel was taught to Adam and his posterity.

The Lord has also followed His pattern since the beginning. He called a prophet, Enoch, and purposefully chose the person who was young and as Enoch put it, "despised of all men" because he was slow of speech. Now, we don't know what he meant by slow of speech. Perhaps he had trouble talking because of a speech impediment like Moses. Perhaps Enoch was not good at making grand speeches like the rest of his family was. We don't really know. But it was apparently general knowledge that he was slow of speech, and surprisingly enough he apparently was looked down upon for it. But the Lord does not look upon man as others do as we learn in the Old Testament with David. Perhaps Enoch was more humble than most others because of his impediment and status among his family.

Whatever the reason, we know that Enoch was very effective and was able to convert an entire city but it took over 300 years to do so. It's always interesting to hear people talk about the city of Enoch because inevitably I hear them saying one of two things. Enoch did it so why can't we or it's impossible to replicate what Enoch did. First, it is silly to say the former because as I just pointed it out, it took him over 300 years to do it. The latter is just as silly because others have done it, just not to the scale that Enoch did. Our goal in this life is to become like God and to grow as close to Him as we can. That is what Enoch did. He brought his people to Christ and that is exactly what we should be doing too. Our goal is to become a Zion society and the definition is in the next chapter, having one heart and one mind with no poor among them. Basically it is the second great commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we do that we are growing towards becoming Zion.

We'll talk more tomorrow about Enoch and the incredible vision that he saw as well as discuss more in depth his city that he built, Zion. It should be a lot of fun. Don't you just love history? Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adam and Eve have Children

Today I read Moses 5, which is the story mostly of Cain and Abel and the descendants of Cain. This chapter clears up a lot of the misconceptions surrounding Cain and Abel and Adam and Eve. The first part of the chapter is about Adam and Eve and how they rejoice that they had eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They recognized that it had tremendous benefits and that it was a small price to pay, being cast out of the Garden of Eden, for so much in return. It is also in this chapter that we learn from Eve herself that they could not have had children in the Garden.

This chapter also clarifies that Adam and Eve had other children before they had Cain and Abel. It always surprises me to learn that there are Latter-day Saints who believe that Cain was Adam and Eve's first born. Such is not the case, otherwise the first half of Moses 5 is REALLY redundant! We do not know how many children Adam and Eve had before they had Cain, but we know there were several, because Moses tells us that they had already begun pairing off two by two and having more children before Cain came around. It tells us later in the chapter that Cain took one of his nieces to wife and that could only happen if there were nieces around his age already available.

I have always loved this chapter because of the insight we get into their lives at this time. They all seem so casual in their relationships with God and Satan. When Cain kills Abel and gives his offering to God, he has an entire conversation with God, not just a prayer but has an honest to goodness conversation with Him. And we learn that Satan was actually physically there with the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. It is also important to note, that per verse 13, even the people who chose to follow Satan loved God. It never says they did not love God, it just says they loved Satan more.

One of my favorite books on this period of time is by Cleon Skousen called, "The First Two Thousand Years". He talks quite a bit about this period of time and Cain and how Cain is largely responsible for Satan's initial knowledge of how to tempt us. Think about it, Satan has never had a body, and prior to this time, never known anyone with a body who would tell him about it. But when Cain because Satan's master through the oath they both made, here Satan found someone who would be more than happy to explain all about human bodies to him. I wouldn't put it past Cain to have offered Satan the chance to have him or one of his followers possess one of Cain's children at some point. We really don't know. But we do know that this was the beginning of Satan's education on how to tempt mankind physically.

In all of this, it had to be extremely hard on Adam and Eve to have all their children, that we know of, reject the Gospel in favor of Satan and the one child they did have get murdered, which was also the first death as far as we know. Now, I don't remember exactly where we learn this, but we know Cain and Abel were NOT teenagers as is the popular thought process. For what I understand, they were both grown men and Abel had been baptized and ordained to the Priesthood so we can assume that Adam and Eve found comfort in the knowledge that he was saved and they would be with him again. But I can only imagine the pain and agony a parent must feel to have their children fall away from the Gospel. Poor Adam and Eve, I can only imagine the heartbreak they must have felt and the excitement and anticipation at each new child hoping that at last this one would accept the Gospel in its entirety.

Fortunately, this is the last chapter we have that focuses on Cain's lineage and that of his unrighteous siblings and the rest of Moses' vision is on the righteous line of Adam and Eve, including Enoch and his city of Zion. We will also learn that Adam did indeed have the entirety of the Gospel and was baptized and had the Priesthood. Until tomorrow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Adam and Eve are Cast out of the Garden

Today I read Moses 4, where Satan tempts Eve and then Eve gives Adam the forbidden fruit and they are cast out of the Garden of Eden. There are lots of things in this story that I have always found very interesting. For example, I have often wondered if the snake actually had legs prior to this. I will find out some day, and I will find out the answer to all the rest of my questions one day.

It's not in this version, but in one of the versions of the creation story, Satan does not seem to think he is doing anything wrong. Now, of course we know that his real goal and purpose was to try and frustrate the plan of God so we know that is bogus to begin with, but he really does seem non-concerned with his actions. My personal belief is because he knew what the Lord was eventually going to do with Adam and Eve. In the same version of the creation story, God and Jesus tell Adam and Eve that they will be back to further instruct them. Well, what else was there for God to talk to Adam and Eve about? They had already told them the commandments, what else was there to teach them? My personal thoughts are that if Satan had not come along, God Himself would eventually have come down and talked with Adam and Eve and helped them understand the choice before them. He could not command them to partake of the fruit, because God cannot command someone to do something He has explicitly told them not to do. But He could explain the choice to them and the consequences to each course of action. That is my personal thought anyway.

And we know it was the mind of God that Adam and Eve partake of the fruit. He knew it was going to happen and had planned for it. That is why Satan fell in the first place. I personally think Satan was further punished because he once again tried to take the place of God. But the other thing I find extremely interesting, is that when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden, God commanded Jesus to clothe Adam and Eve. Now, God does not give them clothing made from linen of even leaves sewed together like Adam and Eve had tried to do. No, He commands Jesus to give them coats made from skin, the skins of animals. I find this incredibly interesting because there are so many people these days that think it is cruel to use animals for food and/or clothing, and yet when God had His pick of anything in the world to use to give Adam and Eve clothing, He chose to use animals. I do not really know why He chose to do that since it would have taken no time at all for Him to create clothing out of linen or cotton or any other type of fiber.

I also think it is significant that Adam and Eve are commanded to work after they are cast out of the Garden. While they were in the Garden they were able to just eat of the fruit in the Garden without any thought at all. We have already discussed how God is a God of work and it only makes sense that we work as well. It does not make sense and goes against the natural order of things to get something for nothing. It also lessens the value of something when you get it for nothing. Have you ever gotten something as a gift, didn't really care too much about it and so let it go to waste? But then something else that you saved up for, spent a lot of money on it, that is something you take care of and make sure to protect no matter what. I believe it is because we can value it more when we have toiled for it ourselves.

So, not so much lessons, but those are the questions I always take away from this story every time I read it. I know that someday I will have my answers and I can't wait to find them out. In the meantime I have a lot of fun just pondering on them and seeing what I can come up with on my own. I invite you to do the same. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adam and Eve were Married in the Garden of Eden

Today I read Moses 3, it is an interesting chapter where the Lord reveals that not only were all of mankind created spiritually before they were created physically, but all of His creations were created in their spirit form before they were created physically. This is really significant because it lets us know that all things, even the earth itself have a spirit. I was never one of those little boys that delighted in tormenting little animals and bugs. I was always really nice to stray cats and loved to pet the dogs in the neighborhoods. Even while catching crawdads in the creek behind our house, after I was done looking at them I would gently put them back in the water. I have never understood why so many people just seem to have a cruel streak in them, almost from birth. I wonder if more people understood that the animals they are being so mean to have spirits if it would change their attitude and how they treat them? Perhaps not.

As fascinating as it is though that all things have a spirit, it is not what has always impressed me about this chapter. This chapter is where I first realized, years ago, probably while on my mission that Adam and Eve were married in the Garden of Eden. In 3 of the 4 accounts of the creation, while still in the garden, Eve is referred to as Adam's wife. This is significant for several reasons.

First, when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, there was no death in the world. This tells us that as Adam and Eve were married in a state where there was no death, their marriage was not meant to end. How silly it would have been for God to conclude their marriage with, "till death do you part" when there was no death to do the parting! Marriage, even from the beginning, was meant to be eternal and unbreakable. Divorce was certainly not an option as there was no one else to choose from so we can rule out divorce as being of God. Now, I understand that in some cases divorce is needed so I am not saying if you get divorced you are going against the will of God, I am merely pointing out that we can conclude that divorce was not in the mind of God in the beginning.

Second, there is a common theme among some Christian religions that the reason Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden is because they had sex and that it was a sin for them to do so. Such doctrine is completely and utterly false. For starters, all 4 accounts of the creation agree that the reason mankind was expelled from the Garden is because they disobeyed God's command to abstain from eating of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Secondly, they had been given a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth, and that can only happen through sexual intercourse. So even if they did in fact have sex while in the Garden of Eden, a claim that is unprovable either way since no record of it happening or not happening exists anywhere, they would have been following the commandments of God.

Finally, as we have pointed out, Adam and Eve were married. So if they had chosen to have sex while in the Garden, it would have been perfectly fine! Sex is not only allowed between a man and his wife, it is encouraged and helps bond them so that they can grow closer together and become one flesh. Now, perhaps even given this point there is an argument to be made that the Garden was a sacred place, much like a temple, and so it was forbidden to have sex in such a place. After all, married or not, I can't picture any faithful Latter-day Saint having sex in a temple, or even a chapel for that mater. There is a time and place for everything. But even thinking along these lines, I do not think that it would have been prohibited by God since based on the language He uses with Adam and Eve, He was clearly planning on them remaining in the Garden of Eden indefinitely. However, all this aside, it is still quite evident that the sin of Adam and Eve was disobeying God and partaking of the forbidden fruit, not any immoral sin.

I don't know about you, but to me it is a wonderful thing to know that marriage is not only ordained of God, but that even from the beginning it was meant to last beyond death, for eternity. Even if I were not a Latter-day Saint I think I would be intrigued by the knowledge that Adam and Eve were evidently married before there was death in the world. That would probably make me stop and think. However it is surprising to find that despite such clear language of "till death do you part" in almost all marriage ceremonies, most couples truly believe they will still be married in the next life. Evidently the Spirit whispers truths to us on a spiritual level and helps us to realize Gospel truths without even realizing it.

I hope you too can appreciate the significance of Adam and Eve having been married while in the Garden of Eden and the hope and joy it brings me and should bring you in your own marriage. I love my wife dearly and the thought of spending eternity by her side just fills me with happiness and makes me grin like a fool. I hope you love your spouse just as much and are just as excited about the prospect of spending eternity with him/her. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Creation and Replenishing the Earth

Today I read Moses 2, which is the story of the creation as was shown to Moses. It is very similar to the other 3 creation stories found in the Old Testament, the Book of Abraham and the temple. I've sometimes wondered at the order in which God did things during the creation. Now, most things make sense, why make animals before there is dry land. But the very first thing that God did during the creation was make light appear. So why does He wait until the 4th creative period, more commonly called days, before separating the light into the sun and the moon? It does not really matter, I'm just curious.

What I wanted to focus on today was verse 28, where the Lord tells Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth. I find it very interesting that in the same breath He tells them to have children, God tells the first two people to replenish the earth. To me, that is suggestive. It seems like the Lord is telling them that the earth needs the animals and people on it.

It is very suggestive that the work of the creation was not deemed complete until man and his helpmeet, were placed on the earth. This is a far cry from what most environmental nuts would have us believe. Humans are the caretakers of the animals and the earth itself. In at least one of the creation stories Adam and Eve are commanded to take good care of the Garden of Eden that God had created for them. Now, it is entirely possible that the reason the work was not complete without mankind is because humans are the only one of God's creations that are in His own image, we are unique and have the same basic abilities for abstract thought and speech that God Himself does. But I think there is more to it than that.

Each of the plants and animal species were also commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. Just for fun I looked up the word replenish and the definition I was given is to make full or complete again, as by supplying what is lacking. This shows a clear intention on God's part that the earth is not complete without animal and plant life to inhabit it. That paints a very different picture than some in our country would have us believe, doesn't it? For whatever reason, the earth needs us to fulfill the measure of its creation.

Now, there are VERY few people out there who are capable of having children who purposefully don't. But such people, from what we read today, are not fulfilling the command that God has given them. Part of our responsibility as people is to, responsibly have children, meaning to have children only in marriage with our spouse. But those who are able to have children and don't for whatever reason, in my opinion, are just as guilty as those who have children outside the bounds of marriage. And both sets will have to answer to God for their actions one day. Children don't choose to be born and they for SURE don't get to choose their own parents. It is up to us to make sure we are creating the most loving and nurturing home that we can by preparing ourselves while we search for our companion and prepare for marriage. It is up to us to try and master our emotions while we are young so that when we are finally graced with children, we are not still raising ourselves.

It is a huge responsibility to raise a child and I have the opinion that really the only true easy way, if any way can be called easy, is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To teach them from the time they can crawl that it is important to be a good person and to learn to be like Christ. That is the true responsibility of a good parent since that is the ultimate goal of each of us anyway. It is commonly said there is no manual for parenting and doing what is right, and I humbly beg to differ. There is a manual that teaches you to be a good parent, it's called the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine of Christ. It will change you into the kind of person you want to be, and by extension, the kind of parent you want to be. And it will make being a parent just that much easier. Until tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Moses Talks with God

Today I read Moses chapter 1. I have always enjoyed the Pearl of Great Price. There’s just something about ancient history that I like to read about . As I am sure most, if not all of you, know, the book of Moses is a revelation that was given to Joseph Smith when he translated the Old Testament and is the original first 8 chapters of the book of Genesis that were removed.

In this first chapter Moses sees Jehovah and beholds His glory. He also sees Satan and beholds his lack of glory. I have always found it an odd decision on Satan’s part to appear as soon as Moses had his strength back from such a spiritual experience. I mean, with it so fresh in his mind, Moses could not help but recognize the difference between Jehovah and Satan. I have heard lots of people use this encounter to state that Satan strikes at us when we are at our weakest, and surely Moses was physically weak at this point, but he was also probably at the most spiritually strongest point he had ever been in throughout his entire life. I mean, what sense does it make?

I have also liked this chapter because like most little boys, I was always fascinated with the stars and outer space. I have always found the thought that there are other worlds out there with other of God’s children on them a comforting thought for some reason. Moses is taken up into the heavens, as best I can tell, and he is shown all things that have to do with this world, but only with this world. I have always found that interesting that the Lord is only will, or perhaps can only, show Moses the things of this world because this is the world he is part of. But I have always been intrigued, and jealous, that Moses gets to see the whole of human history. I can only imagine how this was accomplished and how draining it must have been to Moses to see it and comprehend it. I think that is the more impressive feat, not that Moses saw the beginning and the end, but rather that he comprehended it. I mean think about it, Moses probably only spoke at best, a couple of languages. He for sure did not speak all the dialects of all the people of the world throughout time, and yet and he understood the people and the events that were transpiring before him. That of course is through the help of the Savior. I just have to be patient that I too will someday get to see it all just like we all will. I have always felt that when we do see it, several of the mysteries that we have will feel kind of like a letdown when we see what the truth behind them are. Just food for thought.

Perhaps the most famous verse in this chapter would be verse 39 where the Lord reveals that His work and that which He takes glory in is helping mankind return to live with him as immortal beings. We have already talked about this verse in other posts, especially in the aspect of God being a God of work and the difference between immortality and eternal life. So I won’t really dwell on this verse in this post. But it would be a disservice to probably the most quoted verse of scripture in our church if I didn’t at least mention it.

The last thing I want to talk about today is the fact that one of the reasons Moses was able to resist Satan is because he had a correct understanding of who he is. The Lord called Moses His son 3 times, helping him to understand correctly that he was of a divine inheritance. So when Satan appeared and called him the son of man, Moses was already on his guard, probably even before he realized he had not been transfigured. Although, I have never been transfigured so perhaps it is so altering an experience that when Satan appeared, the first thing Moses noticed was that he had not been transfigured. Again, it is something I will know someday, but not anytime in the foreseeable future. But for the rest of us, one of our strongest defenses is to have a good understanding of who we are. When we know who we are, a son or daughter of God, it is a lot easier to resist temptations and to overcome the desire to do that which is wrong in the sight of God. And I don’t know about you, but I need all the help in overcoming Satan that I can get. It’s hard to know who we are though if we do not know God, and the only way we can come to know God is to follow His commandments and gain a better understanding of who He is. And that is accomplished day by day through righteous living, one correct choice at a time. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Priesthood is Available to all Worthy Males

Today I read the Official Declaration 2 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Official Declaration 2 was made in September of 1978 and it extended the priesthood to all worthy males in the church regardless of the color of their skin. Prior to this time, all those members of the church who had a skin color other than white were denied the priesthood and by extension, the blessings of the temple.

This one point has been a great stumbling block to a lot of people. I was not born until 1979 so I was obviously not alive when this happened, but my dad told me that when this was read in General Conference in September 1978 there were several members who left the church. They did not approve of extending the priesthood to all worthy men. I personally say good riddance. If such people did not have charity and appreciate what a wonderful revelation this was, then the church has no room for such bigots.

For the vast majority of the church though, this was wonderful, welcome news. To be able to extend the blessings of the restored gospel in its fulness to all men and women regardless of their country of origin and color of their skin is something most Latter-day Saints had waited for for decades. I know in particular President Spencer W. Kimball pleaded for years with the Lord until the Lord finally said the time was right.

I find it interesting that the two Official Declarations contain revelations concerning the two most controversial topics that people bring up about the church. There are lots of things the world at large does not like about the Latter-day Saint religion but nothing incites more debates and arguments like plural marriage and the priesthood being withheld from worthy men because of the color of their skin.

I remember once that a friend of mine asked me to come and attend their Wednesday church services and talk about the Latter-day Saints and explain what we believe and answer questions. They said they did this every month, they would showcase a new religion and that they wanted to know about the Latter-day Saints. As the day approaches it turns out they had also asked another LDS member to come that night, who I happened to know and happened to be the father of a good friend of mine. So we went together and we had a good time. I don't remember too much of what we said by way of explanation, but I do remember there was a lot of questions that we answered. I also remember he let me answer the question about why the priesthood was not available to all men sooner. I remember making a joke that he was letting me have all the "easy" questions. But I stand by my answer that I gave that night and it is still what I believe today. The real answer is that it was because that is the way God wanted it. God is the head of this church, not His prophets and not the Quorum of the Twelve or the other General Authorities. The Lord decreed that it should be this way and so it was. However, my person thoughts on the matter are that the world, and perhaps even the church, was not ready for it.

In 1830 when the church was founded, slavery was still very much a real thing, especially in the South of the United States. It is my opinion that if Joseph Smith had announced that they were extending the blessings of the Priesthood to all men regardless of color, the the United States would not have stood for it. At the time, as backwards as it seems to us now, people believed that people with black skin were lesser humans. That they were not as good as people with white skin. I don't know how any one could ever have believed such nonsense, but it's what people thought and believed. If they had believed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints treated their slaves as equals, there would have been no place in this country that was safe for the Latter-day Saints. Again, that is just my opinion and not doctrine. I think that 1978 was when the United States were ready to accept that all men are created equal, an idea that our Founding Fathers tried to get us to understand over 200 years prior to this revelation and that we are just now beginning to act on in this country.

It's so amazing to me that in a country that can be so technologically advanced in so many ways, that in such fundamental truths we can be so backwards. But the issue of slavery sadly still rears its head with some people. Some people cannot let it go that it happened and still choose to dwell on it and play the martyr. Thankfully most of us have moved past it and would like nothing more than to forget it ever happened. I am very thankful I did not live in such a time. I would like to think that even though I were taught it from a young age, I would have been one of the ones that realized how dumb it was and not believed it. Thankfully I'll never have to find out.

I am personally glad that the time has come when all Saints are equals and the world is able to accept that. I am so very grateful that the Lord gave President Kimball this revelation when He did and am only saddened that the world, and perhaps the church, was not ready for it sooner. It is a wonderful feeling to live in such an age and I am thankful that these are my times and that I can try and make my corner of the world a better place. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Prophet Cannot Lead the Church Astray

Today I read the Official Declaration 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Official Declaration 1 was given in regards to the Manifesto which ended the practice of plural marriage in the church. The Official Declaration 1 was actually written and given to address concerns the United States Government had that the Latter-day Saints were still practicing plural marriage despite Congress having passed a law forbidding it.

I've always found it interesting that so many people find the idea of plural marriage so distasteful and revolting and yet at the same time, these same men have no problems having a mistress or having an affair. The same women who yell and scream about how demeaning it is to women see nothing wrong with dating a married man. It really baffles me. Apparently they are not fine with God sanctioning a marriage between multiple spouses, but breaking their marriage contracts, that's perfectly acceptable.

We've already talked about plural marriage so I really don't want to focus too much on this. The interesting thing to me about the Official Declaration and by contrast, the Manifesto, is that so many people when it came out thought that Wilford Woodruff was a fallen prophet. They had a really hard time with the idea that, at least in their minds, the prophet of the Lord was bowing to the will of man, or in this case the United States Government. The major lesson of the Official Declaration 1 is that the Prophet of God is beholden to God and God alone and it was our Heavenly Father who decreed that plural marriage should end. President Woodruff did take the time to explain to the Saints that it such was not done, all the temples would be taken from the Saints, the Prophet and Apostles and many of the fathers in the church would be put in prison and that the end result would be the same.

I have often wondered why some men and women feel the need to question the decisions of the prophet. Don't they realize that they are actually questioning the will of the Lord and not just a man? Now, it does not happen very often that someone calls into question something the prophet says, rather in this day and age it is all too often the decisions the bishop or stake president makes. I have not encountered it too much in my own life where I see someone "having a problem" with a bishop or stake president. Although I find it amusing that when I have come across someone who has stopped going to church because of someone else, either through being offended or having a problem with a church leader, there has ALWAYS been some form of sin involved if you dig deep enough. It usually is Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity related oddly enough.

Now I can understand that you may learn something about a church leader that causes you to stop liking that person and be shocked by it. But instead of leaving the church or stop going until that person is no longer in that calling, the thing to do if you really cannot come to terms with it through prayer and fasting, is to go above that person and speak to another church leader. If you have a problem with the bishop, go to the stake president. If you have a problem with the stake president, I suggest starting with the bishop and go from there. But don't let someone else's actions determine your salvation. What a silly thing to do.

You should never choose to be offended, because it is a choice. When you choose to become offended, you are giving your salvation over into the hands of another person. The easiest way I know of to not get offended is to have the Spirit about you. It is a lot harder, if not impossible to be offended when you have the Spirit in your life because the barbs of Satan will just roll off you like water off a duck's back. Having a firm grip on your emotions helps too. It's a lot harder to allow yourself to become offended if you have control over your temper.

In closing, I will second what President Woodruff said over 100 years ago. The Lord will not allow any prophet to lead the church astray. If any man tried to do it, he would be removed immediately. This is the Lord's church and will be directed as the Lord sees fit. There is comfort in that. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Savior in the Spirit World

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 138, the last official section in the Doctrine and Covenants and the only recorded revelation given to the prophet Joseph F. Smith, the son of Hyrum Smith, Joseph's older brother who was martyred with him at Carthage. This revelation was given to Joseph F. Smith when he was pondering on some verses he had read in the New Testament in the book of 1 Peter concerning Christ's visit to the dead.

When Christ was crucified, he was dead for 3 days and 2 nights I believe it was. During that time, His spirit went where all the spirits of the dead go, the Spirit World, which is divided into Paradise, where the spirits of the just go, and prison where those who were not just and those who had not received saving ordinances go. Christ spent those days and nights among the spirits of the just in Spirit Paradise no doubt being ministered to in order to comfort Him as well as ministering to them.

Joseph F. Smith was pondering what had happened to those spirits that were in Prison. Did Christ go and visit them also. The answer is no, He did not. The scriptures teach us that those who have sin cannot abide the presence of Christ or Heavenly Father. So as far as we know, there is no way the Lord could have gone in person to those spirits of the dead who had not had the saving ordinances performed because they were all unclean because of their sins which they had committed in life. But this still leaves the question unanswered of how the Lord could preach to them who were dead that they might be judged according to the flesh, which Peter teaches us happened.

This vision tells us the answer. When Christ was in the spirit world, He gave to those who were righteous and had already had their saving ordinances performed power and authority to go to those who had not had the Gospel and preach it to them. They were taught the Gospel the same as if they had heard it in this life. And we know that the Saints in the days of Christ and His Apostles were performing baptisms for the dead after His resurrection because of Paul epistle to the Saints in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 15:29 states, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead baptized if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead" You'll notice that based on the way this question is phrased, Paul is assuming that baptism for the dead was a known, established fact. He is trying to prove the reality of the resurrection by citing a well know, probably by everyone, point of the Gospel.

As we discussed previously though, unfortunately, most of the spirits that were in the Spirit Prison probably did not accept the Gospel of Christ as it was preached to them. Because when we die, our same spirit and attitudes and everything that determine who we are are still there. Nothing has changed in us and the only thing we know differently at that point is yes we are still around after we die. But I'm sure a great many of them DID accept the gospel since there was no way they could have heard about it in their earthly lives and were grateful to have it.

I look forward to the Millennium, if it is to happen in my day, where we will know exactly who needs the work performed for them and who is taken care of already so that we can make sure everyone has the opportunity to accept the Gospel of Christ and the saving ordinances needed to return to live with Him. I don't understand how anyone who truly studies and learns about this Gospel can doubt its truthfulness when it is the only religion who can fully explain every question that we have about God and how to be saved. I am extremely grateful to know the Gospel of Christ and to be able to share it with others and I hope you all appreciate what a wonderful gift it is in your lives also. Until tomorrow.