A Change of Government

January 13, 2014

As of thirteen days ago, we Latter-day Saints began a year long study of the teachings of President Joseph Fielding Smith in Relief Society and priesthood meeting.  I don’t know if this is in the new manual, but we should be interested in the teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith.

In April 1972 Elder Ezra Taft Benson quoted President Joseph Fielding Smith in General Conference.  He said:

The warning of President Joseph Fielding Smith is most timely: “Now I tell you it is time the people of the United States were waking up with the understanding that if they don’t save the Constitution from the dangers that threaten it, we will have a change of government.” (Conference Report, April 1950, p. 159.)

According to the Law of Witnesses, in the mouth of two or more witnesses shall all things be established.  Here is a future President of the Church quoting the President of the Church in General Conference.  Maybe this establishes the truth by the mouth of two authorized witnesses.

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AIDS, Germ Warfare, Anti-Biotic Resistant Disease And The Gospel of Jesus Christ

March 27, 2013

 31 And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.

32 But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die. (D&C 45:31-32)

What does this mean?  It is a prophecy in the 45th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.  And I am not sure what it means.  Some possible interpretations are pretty scary.  Years ago while I was living in Ketchikan, Alaska, I attended a fireside in the Ketchikan Ward meetinghouse and the speaker was Elder Bradford of the Seventy.  After the meeting, I asked him about this scriptural passage and he said it had already been fulfilled by the AIDS epidemic.  I have also thought it might refer to the growing problem of anti-biotic resistant diseases and infections.  Or it might refer to biological weapons of mass destruction used in some future war and perhaps an attack on our nation.  Or possibly “all of the above.”  I have heard others insist it refers to the drug problem in our world, or the pornography problem.

What do you think?  What is this “desolating sickness?”  Is it still ahead?  Has it already happened? What other scriptures could help us understand this one?


Secret Societies: From the 1971 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica

December 6, 2011

The Book of Mormon has a lot to say about secret combinations and organized murder to get gain and power.  Ether 8:24 is especially important because it is worded as a commandment.  It reads:

24 Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.

The 13th President of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson, was especially interested in this topic and spent most of his 50 plus years as a general authority and president of the Church teaching about these secret combinations. So of course, I have always found the topic fascinating myself, and this is one of the most informative things I have ever read about the workings of secret societies. The article was a scholarly work published in the Encyclopedia of Britannica in the 1971 edition which I had in my home for many years. You too may find this information valuable as well. It is no longer available in current editions of the encyclopedia and has not been for many years.

From Encyclopedia Britannica. 1971 Edition. Volume 20, p. 148

SECRET SOCIETIES, any of a large range of membership organizations or associations having secret initiation or other rituals, oaths, grips (handclasps) or other signs of recognition. Elements of secrecy may vary from a mere password to elaborate rituals with a private language and peculiar ceremonials, costumes and symbols. The term may be applied to such widely divergent groups as U.S. college fraternities, the Ku Klux Klan and international Freemasonry as well as to similar phenomena in primitive cultures. For discussion of the latter see SECRET SOCIETIES, PRIMITIVE.

Among the earliest secret societies of which historical evidence exists were the oriental mystery cults and the religious mysteries of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, which had secret rites, initiations and revelations of still more ancient wisdom (see MYSTERY; see also MITHRAISM; ORPHEUS; OSIRIS; PYTHAGORAS AND PYTHAGOREANISM). Whereas the mysteries employed secrecy to guard religious truths, other groups have been forced to adopt secrecy to escape or survive suppression and persecution, as in the case of the early Christians in pagan Rome and, in their turn, of various heretical groups in the middle ages (see EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH; INQUISITION; MANICHAEISM). Medieval guilds (q.v.)resorted to solemn initiatory oaths and other elements of secrecy primarily for economic self-protection. Throughout history revolutionary, subversive and conspiratorial groups have organized secretly, as in the case of the Sons of Liberty. The repression of liberal, nationalist and republican movements in Europe in the 19th century, for example, produced an underground network of revolutionary secret societies (see EUROPE: History: The 19th Century, 1815-1914; see also CARBONARI; CAMORRA). Other examples may be found in the Fenian Irish Republican Brotherhood (see FENIANS, AMERICAN; IRELAND: History) and the Decembrists or Union of Salvation in Russia (see DEKABRISTS). The very existence of secret societies has prompted antagonisms and fostered accusations of immorality, subversion and heresy. Such accusations were made against the Roman mysteries and early in the 14th century were used to justify the ruthless suppression of the Knights Templar (see TEMPLARS). The early 19th-century Antimasonic movement in the United States offers another interesting example of opposition to secret societies (see ANTIMASONIC PARTY). Many modern secret societies were formed primarily for social and benevolent purposes and to carry out charitable and educational programs: these have been especially numerous in the United States and in the later 19th century attracted large numbers of immigrants who sought companionship and guidance among people who spoke their native language and followed their customs. In many communities such societies in the 20th century have continued to provide the principal means of members’ social and civic activities. (See FRATERNAL ORGANIZATION; FRATERNITY AND SORORITY.)

With all their diversity of type and origin, secret societies have certain characteristics of structure and function in common and some of their ceremonials reveal surprising similarities. Historic and other details of the more important groups are covered in separate articles under their own names.

Structure and Function. Secret societies are made up, ipso facto, of persons presumably oriented toward similar ends, and these ends usually manifest the characteristic differentiating secret societies from all others-that is to say, the ends are secret. Moreover, admission to membership almost always involves the explicit obligation to preserve such secrecy, and penalties for its violation are likewise explicitly stated. The explicitness involved may sometimes apply only to the members of the society, for secrecy may be so complete that even the existence of some societies is not revealed to outsiders; revolutionary, heretical and similarly subversive secret societies are cases in point. More frequent is partial secrecy: the existence of the society is publicly acknowledged or even proclaimed, as by the Ku Klux Klan (q.v.) in the U.S. after the Civil War and again in the 1920s and the 1950s and 1960s; at least some of the ends are made generally known; parts of the society’s ceremonial are performed openly; and public co-operation with other groups having fundamentally differing ends may occasionally be undertaken.

But, obviously, secret societies would lose their reason for existence if secrecy were ever entirely abandoned. Many fraternal organizations, for example, maintained the secrecy of their rituals into the second half of the 20th century although, as in the case of college fraternities and sororities, these survived largely as formalities. In most instances, the core of the binding secrecy is to be found in the society’s ceremonial. The essential part of this is rarely if ever legitimately known to those who are not initiates, particularly where the really significant ends are concerned. In order to ensure full and exact knowledge of these ends on the part of the initiates, the ceremonial’stresses painstak’ ingly accurate repetition and close guardianship. It is often designed to provide a strong emotional appeal, impressing the members with the gravity of the ceremonial occasion and the authenticity of the knowledge thereby revealed. In many secret societies the ceremonial is cast in dramatic form and contains episodes taken from holy books, revered legends, episodes thought to be of crucial historical importance, etc. Oftentimes members play parts enabling portrayal of the origin of the society, and in this portrayal the candidate for initiation usually has a key role. For instance, he may undergo a symbolic journey fraught with obstacles and temptations and at the end thereof receive the “truth” or esoteric. wisdom viewed as the society’s characteristic possession (see Ceremonials, below). In this process physical objects such as keys, pillars, swords, books, globes or staves may be endowed with symbolic meaning, so that their display on later occasions helps to reinstate, psychologically speaking, the awesomeness of the initiatory ceremony.

Many secret societies operate through a system of degrees of progressively higher rank in which secrets are revealed step by step. Initiation is therefore hierarchical; members at the higher levels are more fully aware of the ends pursued by the society than are those at the lower. Consequently, secrets of recognition are graded. That is to say, although there is ordinarily a grip, password, ceremonialized greeting in question and answer form, esoteric phrase, or secret jargon serving many of the purposes of a special language that distinguishes even the lowest initiate from nonmembers, the society has secrets within secrets. Those more fully initiated make every effort, by the use of special names; ordeals or revelations, to set themselves apart, on the one hand, and on the other to stimulate the lower ranks to the effort necessary to reach the exalted degrees.

The sedulous preservation of higher secrets serves several other, purposes. For instance, beginning initiates are thereby impressed with the necessity for silence. Not only is this the case, but the art of remaining silent without giving offense to fellow members at lower levels is imparted by direct example. rhis is especially important when “final truth” and the real ends of the society are known only to those in the more advanced degrees, and even more so when, as in a few societies, the supreme leaders remain unknown to the rank and file membership. An essential technique in all of this is that secrets remain unwritten, so far as possible; they must therefore be transmitted verbally in a sort of master-pupil situation. Frequently the transmission takes place under striking ceremonial conditions, reinforced by oaths of allegiance coupled with detailed specifications of dire punishment for traitors. In many modern secret societies such punishment seldom if ever occurs, but there have been instances of rigidly enforced discipline, especially in societies of subversive type-and some modern secret societies, in their early stages, were regarded as subversive.

The effects of secrecy on personality are many, but among them may be listed the growth of a sense of fusion, of a “mystic tie,” induced by the sharing of secrets under the appropriate ceremonial circumstances. Further, the appropriately initiated person may effectively acquire norms or standards that extend or even substitute for the norms of the larger society of which he is apparently an integral part. Some secret societies, indeed, lay claim to the total personality of the fully,devoted member, but this claim is virtually impossible of fulfillment.

Even though not fulfilled, however, the claim to the total personality means that sharp distinctions may be drawn between members and nonmembers, or in-groups and out-groups; some secret societies, even when their ends are not overtly subversive, may therefore operate in ways such that they tend to split larger societies. This being the case, supporters of various institutions within the larger society may become quite antagonistic to secret societies in general, resulting in accusations of overtly traitorous, heretical, immoral or similarly unworthy ends and their accompanying ceremonials. Political antagonism to secret societies has of course been much in evidence under totalitarian regimes—Nazi, Fascist and Communist—where all groups not controlled by the state are suppressed to the greatest possible extent.

Where secret societies effectively co-ordinate with the larger societies of which they are parts, as is often the case, the coordination is frequently linked with class affiliation. Secret societies recruited from the upper classes are more prone to support the existing social order than radically to challenge it; at most they aim at the “moral regeneration” of the larger society. Secret societies drawn from the ranks of the disaffected, however, are seldom free from subversive intentions and may become drasfically revolutionary, heretical or even criminal, as the Mafia and the Molly Maguires (qq.v.).

An astonishing number of secret societies, when thoroughly investigated, can be shown to have ceremonials testifying to common origins or, at the very least, remote historical connections. At the same time, some secret societies bearing the same name and practicing the same ceremonial, in all essentials, show striking variations from one country to another (see ROSICRUCIANISM). (HD BR.; J. K. RH.)

Ceremonials. The following ccount of the ceremonials of the ancient Chinese Hung or Triad society by Freemason historian J. S. M. Ward indicates some of the similarities in the ceremonials of different groups.

The Hung society of China was founded, or perhaps reorganized, in A.D. 386 by the Buddhist patriarch Eon or Hwui-Yin, to spread the cult of Amitabha Buddha. Contemporary with the ancient mysteries and itself a great mystery rite, it survived over 1,500 years. The Hung rituals as they evolved showed a blending of Taoist-Buddhist ideas having curious analogies with the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and with certain “higher degrees” n western Freemasonry. The ceremony symbolized the journey of the soul through the Underworld and Paradise to the Holy City of the Gods, called the City of Willows, and interwoven with this, was an allegory of the experiences of the mystic in his quest for union with the Supreme Being. As regards its analogies with Masonry, practically every important incident is found in certain higher degrees in England and America, while most of the hand signs are known to many Freemasons.

The ceremony comprised four sections. First the traditional history was given to the candidates in the anteroom before they entered the lodge. It was a moving story, wherein a body of monks who had helped the emperor were requited by him with the foulest treachery, all being murdered save five, who became the founders of the order. There were three villains, and for political purposes one was a Manchu emperor, either Khang Hsi, or, in some versions, his son, but originally the story was allegorical.

After this the candidates were “prepared” in the anteroom. The most notable incidents were (1) ceremonial wasl-iing and changing into white robes to symbolize not only mourning but.that they themselves were dead; (2) the right arm, shoulder and breast, and also the left knee, were made bare; and (3) grass slippers were substituted for ordinary boots. Meanwhile the master opened and consecrated the lodge and invested his officers.

The third section dealt with the actual admission of the candidates, who had to pass through three gates inside the lodge and take the oath of blood brotherhood by mingling their blood with that of all members present in a cup of wine, from which each person present drank. (Women as well as men were eligible.)

The last section consisted of a catechism; the master asked a series of questions, which the conductor answered for the candidates. These revealed that they had been on a long and mysterious journey, first by land and then by boat, till they reached the City of Willows. Throughout the whole of this part of the ceremony great stress was laid on numbers, which had a definite mystical significance. The triangle also played an important part in the ritual, hence the name “Triad” society. The brotherhood had many aliases, the most famous being “The Society of Heaven and Earth.” The significance of the ceremony was revealed by the opening questions:

Master: Whence come you?

Vanguard: From the East.

Master: At what time?

Vanguard: At sunrise, when the East was light.

See FREEMASONRY; see also references under “Secret Societies” in the Index.
See J. S. M. Ward and W. G. Stirling, The Hung Society, 3 vol.
(1925-26). (J. S. M. W.)

[Note about the authors of this Britannica article]
HD BR. is Howard Becker (d. 1960) Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, 1937-60.
J. K.

RH. Is John Kenneth Rhoads. Associate Professor of Sociology, Northern Illinois University, De Kalb.
J.S.M.W. is John Sebastien Marlow Ward, D.D. Is the author of An Outline History of Freemasonry; and others.

To the best of my understanding, these are the modern Gadianton Robbers prophesied throughout scripture and especially in the Book of Mormon. The prophesies are for world conditions in the last days and are hence one of the “signs of the times” preceding the Second Coming.

I hope you find this article interesting and useful. As a result of President Benson’s teachings he was thought by the mainstream press and many members of the Church as a “conspiracy theorist” and hence a right-wing crackpot and extremist, part of the lunatic fringe. Responding to these charges, President Benson once said in General Conference, “There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon — it is a conspiracy fact.”


Will animal sacrifice be restored in the latter days?

December 3, 2011

Generally I believe the things that were taught to me by the missionaries when I was converted and baptized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1962-1963.  These teachings were further reinforced when I read The Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage along with other doctrinal works such as A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards, The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, and Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie.  Since I read these during the early 196o’s when I was receiving the bulk of the personal revelation that led to my joining the Church, I tend to believe them even though they were not “official Church doctrine” which I was unaware existed in those days.  For me “official Church doctrine” is what I learned from the missionaries who taught me since they were official representatives of the Church.

These doctrinal books were amazingly consistent in their teaching of the doctrines, so much so that along with the promptings of the spirit I felt, I believed them to be true. After all, the truth never contradicts itself even though our faulty perception of the truth occasionally does.

I found especially interesting the concept of “the restitution of all things” initiated in our day by the Prophet Joseph.  It was the beginning of the ongoing restoration of ancient Christianity.  Part of that restitution was to be the restoration of animal sacrifice, something that the Prophet Joseph taught and that President Joseph Fielding Smith taught.

I have since become aware of an apparent inconsistency in the teaching of doctrine surrounding the ancient ordinance of animal sacrifice.  It puzzles me, and I am hoping that someone with a greater knowledge of doctrine and the history of doctrine can help me understand.

Joseph Smith taught:

“Thus we behold the keys of this Priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah that He talked with him [Noah] in a familiar and friendly manner, that He continued to him the keys, the covenants, the power and the glory, with which He blessed Adam at the beginning; and the offering of sacrifice, which also shall be continued at the last time; for all the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the Priesthood, under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation, therefore all things had under the authority of the Priesthood at any former period, shall be had again, bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets; then shall the sons of Levi offer an acceptable offering to the Lord….

… it is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e.,] the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in future; but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the Priesthood, or with the Prophets.

The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the Priesthood. It began with the Priesthood, and will be continued until after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation. We frequently have mention made of the offering of sacrifice by the servants of the Most High in ancient days, prior to the law of Moses; which ordinances will be continued when the Priesthood is restored with all its authority, power and blessings….

These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued.

It may be asked by some, what necessity for sacrifice, since the Great Sacrifice was offered? In answer to which, if repentance, baptism, and faith existed prior to the days of Christ, what necessity for them since that time? The Priesthood has descended in a regular line from father to son, through their succeeding generations.”—Joseph Smith (Oct. 5, 1840), in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,, 171-73.

I especially remember the phrase “the restitution of all things” when it was explained to me by the missionaries.  It made sense. It caused me to love better the Old Testament because for the first time the Old Testament was integrated into my understanding of the gospel which earlier as a Baptist was poor because the Old Testament was almost entirely ignored along with those parts of the New Testament that were not included in the writings of Paul.

But… I have since learned that there seems to be some inconsistency between this teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith and what has been taught by his successors in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have further been confused to find a passage in my study of the Book of Mormon that seems to say that animal sacrifice has been completely done away since the death of Jesus Christ in ancient times.

18 I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.

20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. (3 Nephi 9:18-20)

Other modern prophets have confirmed this:

“The law of sacrifice was ended upon the cross and a new era was inaugurated, the era of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ which would give men the opportunity to serve God in the spirit of love.”—Joseph L. Wirthlin, Conference Report, April 1948, 144.

“With the sacrifice of Jesus, ‘the performances and ordinances of the Law of Moses’ were fulfilled (4 Ne. 1:12), and his death ended the practice of sacrifices on an altar. To his disciples in the western continents, Jesus said that he would no longer accept burnt offerings, but that anyone who believes in him should offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit (3 Ne. 9:19-20; cf. D&C 59:8).”—Gloria Jean Thomas, “Sacrifice,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 3:1248.

So which is it?  Does an apostle’s statement or the The Encyclopedia of Mormonism have more authority than the first president of the Church, Joseph Smith, or the apostle who became the tenth president of the church, Joseph Fielding Smith?  Is there some other way to understand the passage in the Book of Mormon?  We know that when considering the teachings of the apostles and prophets we need to make allowance for the possibility that they were not “speaking as a prophet” as is the case when they are giving their personal opinions. We also know that the scriptures are not always correctly interpreted by accepting the first understanding that comes to mind.  Sometimes there are other scriptures that do not verify the questioned passages and even some that seem to contradict.  There is also the possibility of ancient errors in the Book of Mormon.  Those possibilities are referred to by the ancient authors of the Book of Mormon themselves.

I am pretty confused on this issue.  I do not like contradiction because I know that the truth is always consistent with itself.  Whatever was true in the early 19th century is still true today.  If there seems to be an inconsistency, it is only because our perception of truth is faulty or incomplete.

Can anyone reading this clear it up for me?  This is a gospel question.  What is the answer?


Mormon Prophecy and Secret Combinations

November 30, 2010

11 For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven—

12 Which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned; and, behold, the enemy is combined.

This is taken from the 38th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. What does it mean? I don’t know, but a have a couple of ideas.

“…all flesh is corrupted”
Could this mean that we are all mortal, living in a telestial world, and all men everywhere are filthy unless they come unto Christ and are sanctified so that they are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb?”

“…the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth”
What does the word “prevail” mean in this context?  It might mean that those who are in seats of power over the nations are in darkness, or in other words they are influenced or controlled by Satan, the great deceiver.

“…Which causeth silence to reign”
This phrase I do not understand at all.  I hope to learn more, by and by.

“…the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth”
This phrase is also mysterious.  I believe that it is literal as well as metaphorical.  Apparently angels are going to have a role in the destruction of the wicked at the end of the world.  In other words, it is not going to be entirely a holocaust by the hands of mortal men.  Who will or what will be reaped down?  I hope it will not be me.  It is a frightening verse.  If it is a reference to the wicked and their destruction at the beginning of the Millennium, who are the wicked?  How can I be sure I’m not one of them?  How is “wicked” defined?  It is a word used often throughout scripture.  It must have a meaning beyond those who are not a member of the Church, or those who are merely imperfect and sinners.

“…gather the tares that they may be burned”
I assume this does not mean literal weeds growing among literal wheat.  But how far does the metaphor go?  Does it mean that the wicked will be literally burned at the beginning of the Millennium?”  Or does it mean that something else will happen to them that is represented by this metaphorical reference?  If the latter, what could it be referring to?”

“…behold, the enemy is combined.”
Who is the enemy? I suppose it is a reference to the enemies of Jesus Christ and his covenant people, but could it mean something else too?   And what does the word “combined” mean?  I believe it is a reference to secret combinations, those who intentionally or unwittingly follow Satan in opposition to Christ and his covenant people.  They are undoubtedly organized into syndicates, cartels, and other criminal organizations.  Are these the combinations spoken of?  Is this what “combined” means in this context?  I think so, but what else could it mean?”

I find these two verses fascinating precisely because I am not certain what they mean.  I am sure there are others who understand them better.  It is my hope that such a one will find this blog post and enlighten me in the comments.


Mormon Prophecy and Calamities to Come

November 10, 2010

In the General Priesthood Session of October 1972 I sat in the Marriot Center on the campus of Brigham Young University and listened to Harold B. Lee, the President of the Church, speak of the horrors to come.  He spoke of the need for priesthood holders to learn their prophecy from reliable, scriptural sources and the dangers of learning of these things from popular, “loose” writings which had become a problem in the Church at that time largely because of a book by Duane Crowther entitled Prophecy: Key to the Future which included the notorious White Horse Prophecy as an appendix.

These words from President Lee had a great impact upon my gospel education as I have been afflicted with a great anxiety about nuclear war ever since I was a three year old boy in 1948.  Here is what President Lee said.  Some years later I typed it up and keep it in my scripture case:

One more matter: There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us. Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance.

Are you priesthood bearers aware of the fact that we need no such publications to be forewarned, if we were only conversant with what the scriptures have already spoken to us in plainness?

Let me give you the sure word of prophecy on which you should rely for your guide instead of these strange sources which may have great political implications.

Read the 24th chapter of Matthew—particularly that inspired version as contained in the Pearl of Great Price. (JS—M 1.)

Then read the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord, not man, has documented the signs of the times. [D&C 45]

Now turn to section 101 and section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants and hear the step-by-step recounting of events leading up to the coming of the Savior. [D&C 101; D&C 133]

Finally, turn to the promises the Lord makes to those who keep the commandments when these judgments descend upon the wicked, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 38. [D&C 38]

Brethren, these are some of the writings with which you should concern yourselves, rather than commentaries that may come from those whose information may not be the most reliable and whose motives may be subject to question. And may I say, parenthetically, most of such writers are not handicapped by having any authentic information on their writings.

Counsel like this from the living prophet of God is a blessing beyond measure to the faithful saints. In every age the covenant people of the Lord have enjoyed such guidance from his oracles. I recommend these words and testify to you that they are true.


Scriptures That Nobody Understands

October 30, 2008

Do you understand all the scriptures that you read?  If you do, you are a better man than I am because much of the Word of God is utterly opaque and confusing to me.  And I have learned that none of the scriptural commentaries, even those most admired, are able to shed enough light on some of them to enlighten me.  I guess I am just dense.  Or perhaps it is true that we learn line up line…, etc.  And I have many more lines and precepts to learn before I can understand them.

For instance, what does this passage in D&C 64 mean:

37 Behold, I, the Lord, have made my church in these last days like unto a judge sitting on a hill, or in a high place, to judge the nations.

38 For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion.

39 And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known.

40 And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their stewardships shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead.

41 For, behold, I say unto you that Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her;

42 And she shall be an ensign unto the people, and there shall come unto her out of every nation under heaven.

43 And the day shall come when the nations of the earth shall tremble because of her, and shall fear because of her terrible ones. The Lord hath spoken it. Amen.

Who or what are these terrible ones that will strike fear in all the nations of the earth?  And why would Zion want to strike fear in other nations?  Verse thirty-seven seems to suggest that the day will come before the Second Coming when Zion will be a sovereign and independent nation.  How can that be?  Aren’t we just a church?  Sure, we are the Kingdom of God on earth, but that is a heavenly kingdom only.  Isn’t that right?  Perhaps some might sugggest that this describes a period of Zion’s history after the Second Coming and during the Millennium.  But are there going to be nations of the wicked upon the earth during the Millennium that Zion will have to strike fear in them?  This is just a very puzzling scripture.  And when I go to the commentaries, nearly all of them just skip over this passage when they are commenting on D&C 64. I don’t understand it.

Here is another one in 3 Nephi 20:

43 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
44 As many were astonished at thee—his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men—
45 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

It is repeated in the next chapter, 3 Nephi 21:

10 But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.

I have never heard an explanation of these passages that satisfied me.  Some say the “marred servant” is Jesus.  But that makes no sense because it is Jesus that is speaking here and when has he ever referred to himself as his own servant?  It is clear to me that he is referring to a prophet.

Others say this is a reference to Joseph Smith.  But Joseph Smith was never so marred in his visage that he astonished others because of his appearance.  And the use of the word “visage” connotes and denotes a man’s face.  It calls to mind a horribly disfigured face.  Does that describe Jesus or Joseph Smith?  I don’t think so.

Still others suggest that this refers to a future prophet, one that has yet to make his appearance upon the world scene, one that will come before the Second Coming.  This explanation does not seem to contain any unnacceptable inconsistencies, but perhaps that is because it is the most open ended, the most vague.

So which is it?  I just don’t understand the passage, and it has occurred to me that perhaps no one else does either.  But I’m sure that won’t stop some from explaining it to me.  It never has in the past.  One thing that may be relied upon is the pride of those who imagine that they know a great deal more than they really do.  Ask a question on the Internet and it will always be answered regardless of whether or not the answering person has any knowledge of the subject.

Of course, my own ignorance is great too.  I simply do not understand these two passages and have been unable to obtain that understanding in spite of the efforts that I have made to do so.  Furthermore, the scriptures are full of passages like these, passages that no one knows the meaning of.  These are the passages that are the most interesting to me.  I collect them.  I find the scriptures that I do not understand to be far more interesting than those that I do.  After all, if I already understand a thing, there is no way that I can learn it, is there?  To learn, I must focus upon the unknown.  Otherwise, the concept of line upon line, precept upon precept doesn’t have any meaning.

I hope to share some of the other scriptures that puzzle me on this blog from time to time.  Are there any that puzzle you?