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Monday, November 23, 2009

Mormon Theology no. 8 - The Genius of the LDS Church Organization

On 22 November 2009 at 11:20am inside the Provo Tabernacle, I heard Elder D. Todd Christofferson testify of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Priesthood Authority that the Lord has given the LDS Church.  What are the Apostles?  Who are the Seventy?  Where and when do they fit into Jesus' original Church He set up?  In this essay, we will examine these claims.  It must always be remembered that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, and that He leads said Church.

The Council of the First Presidency
During certain occasions, the Lord Christ took with Him Peter, James, and John - and only them - to witness certain pivotal events in His ministry.  Such pivotal events were the raising of the daughter of Jairus, the raising of Lazarus, the events on top of the Mount of Transfiguration, and our Lord's sufferings in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The reason the Lord took Peter, James, and John upon the Mount was to ordain them to the Priesthood and give them the Keys that only the First Presidency can exercise.  These three able men eventually led the Church and called and ordained new Apostles such as Paul and Barnabas and Matthias.  Unfortunately, all Christ's original Apostles were killed, and His Authority taken from the Earth.  It was eventually restored under the hands of these same ancient Apostles (Peter, James, and John) upon the heads of Joseph Smith, Junior and Oliver Cowdery near Harmony, Pennsylvania in May or June of 1829.  Four years later on 18 March 1833, the Lord organized the First Presidency, then consisting of Joseph Smith, Junior, President; Sidney Rigdon, First Counselor; and Fredrick G. Williams, Second Counselor.  The First Presidency at the time of the death of Joseph Smith consisted of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith.  The First Presidency has been subsequently dissolved and reorganized at the death of every Church President since Joseph Smith.  The current First Presidency is Thomas S. Monson, President; Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor; and Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor.

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
During Jesus' mortal ministry (Matt. 10), He organized the first ever Quorum of the Twelve Apostles which consisted of Peter, Andrew, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Lebaeus Thaddaeus, Simon, and Judas.  As stated above, this Quorum was all killed off or taken from the Earth by the Lord, thus their Authority going with them.  It was reconstituted by the Lord on 14 February 1835 with Thomas B. Marsh, David W. Patten, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, William E. McLellin, Parley P. Pratt, Luke S. Johnson, William Smith, Orson Pratt, John F. Boynton, and Lyman E. Johnson as members.  As in former dispensations, at the death or excommunication of a member of the Twelve, a new person in called into the Quorum so as to always have twelve.  The current Quorum consists of: Boyd K. Packer, L. Tom Perry, Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, M. Russell Ballard, Richard G. Scott, Robert D. Hales, Jeffery R. Holland, David A. Bednar, Quinton L. Cook, D. Todd Christofferson, and Neil L. Andersen.  Together, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles hold and exercise all the Priesthood Keys on the Earth, with the President of the Church the only man authorized to exercise all the keys at one time.

The Quorums of the Seventy
In Acts 6, the Twelve Apostles chose seven able men to assist them in the work of the ministry.  The Savior had previously organized a Quorum of Seventy shortly after the organization, empowerment, and sending forth of the Twelve.  The Seventy were organized to help the Apostles lead the Church.  After the Great Apostasy, the Lord brooded upon Joseph Smith to reorganize the Seventy in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times.  Just two weeks after the formation of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles in 1835, Joseph Smith organized the First Council of the Seventy.  One of the original members was Elder George A. Smith, a cousin to Joseph, and only 19 years of age at the time

From 1835 until 1975, the Quorums of the Seventy became so numerous that they eventually became unwieldy, which eventually were put under the supervision of the Stakes of Zion.  They were so unwieldy and disorganized, that in 1975, Spencer W. Kimball, then 12th President of the Church, reorganized the First Quorum as a Quorum of General Authority Seventies, with the Stake Seventies remaining under local jurisdiction.  By 1986, the Priesthood office of Seventy was no longer a Stake position, but operated Church wide, with the discontinuance of Stake Seventies.  Also in 1986, the Second Quorum of the Seventy was constituted, also consisting of General Authorities.  Then, in one of the great administrative motions of President Gordon B. Hinckley, he, in 1997, created the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy.  Today, the Church has Eight Quorums of the Seventy.  With the creation of the Seventies Quorum, the Church can grow as large as ever God wills it, because the Quorums of the Seventy can expand to any number, whereas there will always and only be Twelve Apostles.

Seeing, therefore, that the Lord actually established a Church on the Earth when He was mortal, it stands to reason that His Church on the earth would have His same organization and offices in this dispensation as in former dispensations.  To fully know if what we have discussed is true, you, the reader, must read the Book of Mormon, carefully comparing its doctrine with the Bible.  If done with a prayer of faith, you will find that the LDS Church is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth.  I know this is true, because I have done it.  Remember the words of Jesus, "If any man will do [God's] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).  I bear witness of the Lord's establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that He established no other modern nor ancient Church or religion, save His Church.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Mormon Theology no. 7 - Jesus Christ vs. Joseph Smith

Within the past years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been in the news concerning everything from Adam to Zion. Among all of the publicity the LDS Church gets, the bystander should come away with a true understanding of the two principle persons of our religion: Jesus Christ our Savior and Joseph Smith the Prophet. One commands the other, and the other teaches the commandments and reality of the One. But who are they?

Joseph Smith, Junior is the man called "the Prophet" in the LDS Faith. That is all he was and is. He is nothing more, nothing less. He restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ, beginning with a marvelous manifestation from God the Father and Jesus Christ. He describes the event thus:

"The Lord does reveal himself to me.  I know it.  He revealed himself first to me when I was about fourteen years old, a mere boy. . . . I kneeled down, and prayed, saying, 'O Lord, what Church shall I join?'  Directly I saw a light, and then a glorious Personage in the light, and then another personage, and the first personage said [of] the second, 'Behold this is my beloved Son, hear him (The Papers of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean C. Jessee, 2 vols. [1989–92], 1:444).'"

This opened the final dispensation of the Gospel. Joseph served the Lord his whole life.  Joseph Smith was an instrument in bringing forth new revelation called the Book of Mormon.  He said, "By the power of God I translated the Book of Mormon from hieroglyphics, the knowledge of which was lost to the world, in which wonderful event I stood alone, an unlearned youth, to combat the worldly wisdom and multiplied ignorance of eighteen centuries, with a new revelation. (History of the Church, 6:74)"  Of revelation, the Prophet declared, "The plea of many in this day is, that we have no right to receive revelations; but if we do not get revelations, we do not have the oracles [prophets] of God; and if they have not the oracles of God, they are not the people of God. . . . Jesus in His teachings says, 'Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' What rock? Revelation. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 272, 274)"  The Prophet Joseph Smith taught revelation and Jesus Christ. He taught us who Jesus is very plainly.

Joseph said, "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121)."  Jesus Christ is placed at the center of Joseph's (and every other Mormon's) life, because He taught Joseph everything about religion.  So, we can see here that Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and that Joseph was merely an instrument in bringing Jesus forth to the modern world.

This I know of myself, because I have read the Book of Mormon and know, like Joseph and the Lord, that it is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen!

Mormon Theology no. 6 - Marriage for Time and All Eternity

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church which has the Authority, plain and simple, to bind families together forever. We trace the Priesthood back to an appearance of John the Baptist to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on 15 May 1829 in Pennsylvania. If this event did not occur, then the LDS Church's claim to Priesthood Authority is null and void. We are the only Church to claim Authority legitimately because we include the presence of Angels in that claim. If the Angels didn't come and restore that Authority, then the Catholic Church has it and no other. But since I have verily proven in our past lectures that the LDS Church is the only true Church, then that argument is settled.

In the Houses of the Lord scattered across the Earth, the fact is that the LDS Church DOES have the Authority to marry forever because God said in the beginning to the first man and the first woman that He had "created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth (Gen 1:28)". And also Jesus says, "What God hath joined together let not man put asunder (Matt 19:6)." We are the only religion in the world to teach that man and woman can live forever as husband and wife.

President Jedidiah M. Grant saw the Spirit World for two nights in succession before he died.  President Grant told President Heber C. Kimball of the vision.  President Heber C. Kimball quoted Grant as saying, "To my astonishment when I looked at families there was a deficiency in some, there was a lack, for I saw families that would not be permitted to come and dwell together, because they had not honored their calling here. (JD 4:136)"  The "calling" which the families did not honor begins in the House of the Lord when the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage is entered into.  The only way to be united as a family for eternity is within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Thus saith Jesus Christ, "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life. And they are they which testify of Me."
- John 5:29

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

Mormon Theology no. 5 - Repentance

After one has shown faith in Jesus Christ by reading the Book of Mormon and believing the doctrine resting therein and flowing therefrom (the doctrine that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith was and is His prophet in these last days), one must continually press forward by repenting of his sins so that he might enter the waters of baptism clean and pure.

That leads to the question "What is repentance? What does it mean to repent?" Repentance, plain and simply, is acknowledgment of one's sins and a complete forsaking of such. We know from both the Bible and the Book of Mormon that our Lord went around both the Old and New Worlds commanding people that "except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:3)." So it still is today. If we do not repent we cannot be saved, for "no unclean thing can dwell with God".

Like Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve once said, so say I, that repentance "is a rescuing, not a dour doctrine (Ensign, Nov 1991, 30)." I know that it is a rescuing doctrine, for I have and continue to repent daily. I know there is peace therein, and that we can be truly free.

Jesus Christ is the Perfect Example and has commanded to "be ye therefore perfect, even as I, or your Father in Heaven is perfect (3 Nephi 12:48)." I know we can do it if we rely on Him. In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Mormon Theology no. 4 - Faith in the Master Jesus Christ

In our previous discussions, we have focused on the Godhead, the Book of Mormon, and the Fall and Atonement. We now focus on how to bring the Atonement into effect.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that faith is the moving cause of all action, both physical and mental, and that if there was no faith, we would cease to exist. He also taught that faith is a principle of power, and that when it is increased or exercised through prayer or reading God's Word, our POWER in Christ actually increases.

Alma 32 is the most prolific and helpful sermon on faith we have on record. The prophet Alma compares faith to a seed or flower bud. In order for a flower to grow, you must weed it, water it, protect it from the elements, and do everything in your power to keep it growing upward so it doesn't wilt and die. So it is with faith: we must pull up the weeds of doubt, pour on the Living Water, protect our faith (or testimony) from the temptations that so easily beset us, and always pray to God that He will help us maintain the Holy Ghost so that our faith increases upward towards Him, therefore obtaining more power of, in, for, and from Christ.

Brethren and Sisters, let us, as Alma admonishes, nurture our faith by study of Christ's Gospel, by prayer, and by Church attendance, and therefore obtain more power in Him. I know that the Savior lives and loves us, and beckons us upward with His words, "Come, follow me." Let us always strive to follow Him in faith, and have that faith increase, I hope and pray, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Mormon Theology no. 2 - Fall of Man and Atonement

In the Book of Mormon, the Fall of Man, the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection - are taught so well that, as President Ezra Taft Benson observed, "even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation (Ensign, Nov 1986, 4)."

Our purpose on Earth can best be understood by knowing how things went from easy to not-so-easy.

When God the Father created Adam and Eve, He placed them in the Garden of Eden and gave them two commandments. One was to multiply and replenish the earth, and the second was to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Most Christians believe that the Fall was a mistake; this the Mormons refute because of new revelation given in the Book of Mormon. In that Book, the prophet Lehi taught that had Adam and Eve not transgressed (eaten the fruit) they would have remained in the Garden of Eden in a stagnant state of no progression - no knowing good or evil because they were innocent. Because of their eating of the fruit, however, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden to toil and work all their days, which would be filled with opposition to promote growth and learning (see 2 Nephi 2 in the Book of Mormon). Thus, according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Fall of Adam was paramount to our coming to Earth.

In addition to pain and suffering, sin and death also entered the world through the Fall of Adam and Eve. Because of our being mortals, we cannot rid ourselves of our sin, nor can anything sinful enter the presence of God. There must be a way for this to occur, however. But, what is the way? Only through Jesus Christ the Savior.

He, Jesus Christ, volunteered and was ordained before the world was made to be our Savior - to free us from death unconditionally and from sin if we would follow Him. He did free us from sin on the condition that we repent when He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, bleeding from every pore, as well as when He died on the Cross of Calvary. He was able to do this for us because He is a God.

Three days later, He rose from the tomb as "the first begotten of the dead (Rev. 1:5)", to use John's phrase. As this "first begotten" God, He freed all people from death. We will no longer have to suffer throughout eternity without our bodies, but will live again as He did!  What joyous proclamations should be heralded throughout the wide expanse of all the earth!!!  Freedom from death!!!  Those fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sister, sons and daughters who die, and whose siblings and spouses and parents mourn, will truly have their tears wiped away because of the Lord that is faithful!!!  If they repent while in the flesh, they shall live with their families throughout eternity. This binding of families is made available in Holy Temples, 130 of which are operating at furious rates.

So, I say to all, come unto Christ the Lord and His only true Church. Come unto the Authority that binds forever and ever and you will be saved!! This I declare in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Mormon Theology no. 3 - The Book of Mormon

To truly understand the LDS nature of the Godhead and all other doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ, one must understand where that doctrine comes from - the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is the hinge upon which the door to our other doctrines is opened. All our doctrines can be found in the Book of Mormon. But before the doctrines can be understood, the nature of the Book must be understood first.

The Book of Mormon was written between the years 600 BC and AD 421 by many prophets and apostles that lived on the American continent. The preeminent figure in the Book is the Lord Jesus Christ. The purpose of the Book is to bring all unto Christ to obtain salvation in His only true and living Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the only book in the world to be hand delivered by an angel to a boy whom God hand picked.

If the Lord's words in the Holy Bible are sufficient enough, then what of the Mormons claiming new and additional revelations? Does not the Bible contain sufficient? The answer is that it does not. Throughout the Bible, the Savior's prophets and apostles have spoken about Israel being restored a SECOND TIME to the land of their inheritance. The Book of Mormon teaches that it alone is proof of this second gathering of the Lord's people. The Mormon Missionaries are called to go to California, Chile, Korea, Japan, Germany, and all the world to find the remnants of Israel. They go out preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified through this ever-revelatory book. This preaching comes with a prescript: obey the teachings within the Book of Mormon, repent of past sins, be baptized by immersion by those having proper authority, and receive eternal salvation in the Kingdom of God or be damned for all eternity. We say this because it is a fact that if one rejects the Book of Mormon and the teachings of Jesus Christ within it, that person rejects Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

Having said this, I extend an invitation to all people. Come! Come and begin to read this marvelous book known to the world as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Doing this will answer all your questions (especially those questions about the nature of the afterlife) and will lead you to total joy. This I know because i have read the Book of Mormon and seen it change people's lives, including my own. It can change your life as well. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

Mormon Theology no. 1 - Godhead

In the Wednesday edition of the Deseret News, dated 14 September 2011, is an article which speaks about the Mormon version of Deity, and how many Christians are skeptical of a Mormon being elected President of the United States.  Therefore, The Mormon Eagle feels disposed to proclaim the True and Living God as attested by the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostle Paul.

Teachings of a Modern Prophet
President Joseph Smith, Jun. taught, "There are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 312).  He also taught, "I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods" (TPJS, p. 370).  Joseph Smith put it in another way, namely, "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit.  Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us" (D&C 130:22).  In his First Vision, the Prophet wrote, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. . . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son.  Hear Him!" (JS-H 1:16-17).  He also wrote in another account of the same vision, "I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon day" (HC 4:535-536).  Additionally, he testified, "I kneeled down, and prayed, saying, 'O Lord, what Church shall I join?' Directly I saw a light, and then a glorious Personage in the light, and then another Personage, and the first Personage said [of] the second, 'Behold this is my beloved Son, hear him'" (Interview by David Nye White, Aug. 1843, published in "The Prairies, Nauvoo, Joe Smith, the Temple, the Mormons, etc.," The Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Sept. 15, 1843, 3; reprinted in The Papers of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean C. Jessee, 2 vols. [1989–92], 1:444).

Words of the Savior on the Godhead
Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world.  He also testified of the separate Beings which comprise the Godhead.  He said, "I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).  Here it is, from the Son Himself, that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate and distinct Personages, as the Prophet Joseph Smith also testified.  The Savior also said, "I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17).  Also, this saying of the Redeemer, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).  Here we have three instances of Jesus Christ publicly testifying that His Father and Himself are separate Beings.  He distinctly refers to another Personage, even God His Father.  This clearly shows that the True and Living God is taught by the Latter-day Saints, and no other Church.

The Apostle to the Gentiles
Our beloved Brother Paul has some very telling verses, the which testify of the separate Beings which comprise the Godhead, and that there is no such things as the Trinity.  Paul taught, "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him" (1 Cor. 8:6).  Paul uses here the phrase "one God, the Father . . . and one Lord Jesus Christ" to emphasize their separate nature - that they are not one in body nor substance, but distinct and separate Beings, although one in purpose.  Paul also taught, "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ . . . and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor. 11:3).  Here Paul states that Christ rules over mankind, even as God the Father rules over Christ.  Simple enough to have proven my point. 

I have indeed shown the True and Living Gods, that God the Father is a separate Being from His Son Jesus Christ, and that the doctrine of God and Jesus being one substance is a false and foolish notion.  I know what I have taught is true.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.