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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mormon Theology no. 24 - Calling and Election Sure

The question is put that saith, "What is it to make the calling and election sure?"  That is a fair question, often asked by the student of the Bible, and misinterpreted by Popes and Pastors, Saints and sinners alike.  So, what does it mean, according to revelation to the prophets and apostles (both ancient and modern) to have one's calling and election made sure?  Elder Bruce R. McConkie, speaking of the writings of 2 Peter chapter 1, said, "Nowhere else in ancient writ do we find the door so frankly opened to a knowledge of the course men must pursue to have their calling and election made sure. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:323)"  So, let us open wide the door and let some light in, shall we?

 The Apostle Peter, as President of The Church of Jesus Christ, said, 

"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither bebarren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8, 10-11)" 

Peter here lists key attributes of God Himself - attributes of which, if we do not eventually posses, cannot save us.  Therefore it is evident from scripture that knowing about God and knowing God are two completely different things.  The Prophet Joseph Smith explains it this way.  "The principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation.  This principle can be comprehended by the faithful and diligent; and every one that does not obtain knowledge sufficient to be saved will be condemned.  The principle of salvation is given us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. (TPJS, p. 297)"   He also taught, "Take away apostles, and so forth, take away knowledge, and you will find yourselves worthy of the damnation of hell.  Knowledge is revelation.  Hear, all ye bretheren, this grand key: knowledge is the power of God unto salvation. . . . There are two keys: one key, knowledge; the other, make you calling and election sure. (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 206)"  President Smith is specifically speaking about spiritual knowledge; the knowledge that saves; specifically the knowledge of certain ordinances (baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost by those duly ordained, and the Endowment of the Holy Priesthood).

Moving on, President Joseph Smith, Junior taught what it means to make one's calling and election sure.  Said he,  

"After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), . . . then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150)"

Elder McConkie further states,  

"To have one’s calling and election made sure is to be sealed up unto eternal life; it is to have the unconditional guarantee of exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world; it is to receive the assurance of godhood; it is, in effect, to have the day of judgment advanced, so that an inheritance of all the glory and honor of the Father’s kingdom is assured prior to the day when the faithful actually enter into the divine presence. (DNTC 3:330-331)"

 Commenting on the above statement, President Smith also said, "Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation. Then knowledge through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the grand key that unlocks the glories and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. (TPJS, p. 298)"

This ordinance of having one's calling and election made sure cannot be given to one who is not married.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated, "Making one’s calling and election sure comes after and grows out of celestial marriage [or marriage for time and all eternity].  Eternal life does not and cannot exist for a man or a woman alone, because in its very nature it consists of the continuation of the family unit in eternity. (McConkie, DNTC, 3:343)"

This, my friends, is what it means to have one's calling and election made sure.  May we all, as children of God, and brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ, press onward in the faith of Jesus, trying ever-so diligently to employ His attributes in our own lives.  This I know is possible, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Murder of the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith and His Brother Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail

The most traumatic event in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the murder of Joseph Smith the Prophet and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch on 27 June 1844.  It occurred at Carthage Jail in Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois.  There are many different accounts, which we will examine here.

Carthage Jail.  The off-white non brick building was added in 1850, 6 years after the murder

Speaking prior to his incarceration in Carthage Jail, Joseph Smith said (evidently knowing of his impending death), "I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me — he was murdered in cold blood. (D&C 135:4)"

The mob stormed these stairs in order to reach the bedroom where the Innocents were

The Nauvoo newspaper Times and Seasons had this to say in regard to the murders,  

"The guard [at Carthage Jail] was surprised by an armed Mob, of between 150 to 250, painted red, black and yellow, which surrounded the jail, forced in - poured a shower of bullets into the room where those unfortunate men were held. . . . They [Joseph and Hyrum Smith] fell as Martyrs amid this tornado of lead, each receiving four bullets! (Times and Seasons, Volume 5, Number 12, 1 July 1844)"

The original door with the bullet hole through which a bullet flew and killed Hyrum.
 Elder Willard Richards describes the event he was witness to.  Said he,

"Possibly the following events, occupied near three minutes, but I think only about two, and have penned them for the gratification of many friends.

Carthage, June 27th, 1844
A shower of musket balls were thrown up the stair way against the door of the prison in the second story, followed by many rapid footsteps.   While Generals Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Mr. Taylor, and myself, who were in the front chamber, closed the door of our room against the entry at the head of the stairs, and placed ourselves against it, there being no lock on the door and no ketch [latch] that was useable.

The door is a common panel, and as soon as we heard the feet at the stairs head, a ball was sent through the door, which passed between us, and showed that our enemies were desperadoes, and we must change our position.  Gen. Joseph Smith, Mr. Taylor, and myself sprang back to the front part of the room, and Gen. Hyrum Smith retreated two thirds across the chamber directly in front of and facing the door.

A ball was sent through the door which hit Hyrum on the side of his nose when he fell backwards extended at length without moving his feet. From the holes in his vest, (the day was warm and no one had their coats on but myself,) pantaloons, drawers and shirt, it appears evident that a ball must have been thrown from without, through the window, which entered his back on the right side and passing through lodged against his watch, which was in his right vest pocket completely pulverizing the crystal and face, tearing off the hands and mashing the whole body of the watch, at the same instant the ball from the door entered his nose.
As he struck the floor he exclaimed emphatically; "I'm a dead man."  Joseph looked towards him and responded, "O dear! Brother Hyrum!" and opening the door two or three inches with his left hand, discharged one barrel of a six shooter (pistol) at random in the entry from whence a ball grazed Hyrum's breast, and entering his throat passed into his head, while other muskets were aimed at him, and some balls hit him.

Joseph continued snapping his revolver, round the casing of the door into the space as before, three barrels of which missed fire, while Mr. Taylor with a walking stick stood by his side and knocked down the bayonets and muskets, which were constantly discharging through the door way, while I stood by him, ready to lend any assistance, with another stick, but could not come within striking distance, without going directly before the muzzle of the guns.  When the revolver failed, we had no more fire arms, and expecting an immediate rush of the mob, and the door way full of muskets half way in the room, and no hope but instant death from within: Mr. Taylor rushed into the window, which is some fifteen or twenty feet from the ground.  When his body was nearly on a balance, a ball from the door within entered his leg, and a ball from without struck his watch, a patent lever, in his vest pocket, near the left breast, and smashed it in "pie," leaving the hands standing at 5 o'clock, 16 minutes, and 26 seconds -- the force of which ball threw him back on the floor, and he rolled under the bed which stood by his side, where he lay motionless, the mob from the door continuing to fire upon him, cutting away a piece of flesh from his left hip as large as a man's hand, and were hindered only by my knocking down their muzzles with a stick; while they continued to reach their guns into the room, probably left handed, and aimed their discharge so far around as almost to reach us in the corner of the room to where we retreated and dodged, and then I re-commenced the attack with my stick again.  

Joseph attempted as the last resort, to leap the same window from whence Mr. Taylor fell, when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward exclaiming, "O Lord my God!"  As his feet went out of the window my head went in, the balls whistling all around.  He fell on his left side a dead man.  At this instant the cry was raised, "He's leaped the window," and the mob on the stairs and in the entry ran out.  I withdrew from the window, thinking it of no use to leap out on a hundred bayonets, then around Gen. Smith's body.  Not satisfied with this I again reached my head out of the window and watched some seconds, to see if there were any signs of life, regardless of my own, determined to see the end of him I loved; being fully satisfied, that he was dead, with a hundred men near the body and more coming round the corner of the jail, and expecting a return to our room I rushed towards the prison door, at the head of the stairs, and through the entry from whence the firing had proceeded, to learn if the doors into the prison were open.  

When near the entry, Mr. Taylor called out, "take me" I pressed my way till I found all doors unbarred, returning instantly caught Mr. Taylor under my arm, and rushed by the stairs into the dungeon, or inner prison, stretched him on the floor and covered him with a bed in such a manner, as not likely to be perceived, expecting an immediate return of the mob.  I said to Mr. Taylor, this is a hard case to lay you on the floor, but if your wounds are not fatal I want you to live to tell the story.   I expected to be shot the next moment, and stood before the door awaiting the onset. (Times and Seasons, Volume 5, Number 14, 1 August 1844)"

President John Taylor had this to say concerning Joseph Smith the Prophet:  

"Joseph Smith, the aProphet and bSeer of the Lord, has done more, csave Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.  In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the dfulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain.  He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own eblood; and so has his brother Hyrum.  In life they were not divided, and in death they were not fseparated! (D&C 135:3)"

I also know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church on Earth, invested with the Authority to act in the name of God.  I know the Book of Mormon is true, and that Thomas S. Monson is indeed a prophet of God for our day!  I say this in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

LDS Church History no. 2 - The Printing Office

Printing Office next door to then-Elder John Taylor's home
The course of this serial of essays seems logical to progress from the Temple to the Printing Office, because just as the Temple is the preparatory step in preparing the Elders to preach the Gospel, even the Printing Office is the preparatory step in promulgating the printed Word.  The Printing Office was where The Wasp (edited by Elder William Smith), The Nauvoo Neighbor (edited by President John Taylor), and The Times and Seasons (the LDS Church's official paper, also edited by President Taylor) were printed.  The Wasp was printed until 1843, when The Nauvoo Neighbor replaced it until 1845.

The Nauvoo Neighbor was, according to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, printed from 3 May 1843 through 29 October 1845 (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 999).  Its chief editor was President John Taylor of the Twelve.  Archives of The Nauvoo Neighbor can be seen here.

Along with The Nauvoo Neighbor was published The Times and Seasons, the official LDS Church newspaper of the day. 
The Times and Seasons had a much longer life than did The Nauvoo NeighborThe Times and Seasons was published from 1839 to 15 February 1846.  It was at first edited by Don Carlos Smith and Ebenezer Robinson, but after the death of D.C. Smith in 1841, President Joseph Smith himself became chief editor, assisted by John Taylor, the latter of the two editing until the Mormon exodus in 1846.  In 1842, however, Taylor became the principle editor, assisted by Elder Willard Richards of the Twelve.  The Book of Abraham appeared serially in this paper, as well as Joseph Smith's personal history, which is now Joseph Smith-History in the Pearl of Great Price.  Also, the Wentworth Letter was published on this sheet as well. 

Times and Seaseons, Volume 5, Number 12, 1 July 1844 read, "The guard [at Carthage Jail] was surprised by an armed Mob, of between 150 to 250, painted red, black and yellow, which surrounded the jail, forced in - poured a shower of bullets into the room where those unfortunate men were held. . . . They [Joseph and Hyrum Smith] fell as Martyrs amid this tornado of lead, each receiving four bullets!"

This is a replica of the type of press that would have been used to print the Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor.  The press originally was upstairs, but now rests on the main floor of the Printing Office.

After a paper was printed, it was hung up on the ceiling, as shown above, so the ink would dry properly. 

LDS Church History no. 1 - The Original Nauvoo Temple

From 1841-1846, the main focus of the lives of the Prophet Joseph Smith and all the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois was the construction of the House of the Lord.  Originally quarried from stone located just a few miles from the Temple, that quarry is now buried under water.

This article will focus more on the interior layout of the original Temple, as we have previously discussed the meaning of the exterior stonework, as well as the interior rooms of the newly-built restoration of the Temple.

The original architect was William Weeks.  To say "architect" is misleading, because Joseph Smith retained the title of Chief Architect for himself, as he was the President of the Church, and the one to whom the revelation of what the temple would look like came. To demonstrate this point, the History of the Church gives us insight.  In the sixth volume, page 196, Joseph writes,

In the afternoon [5 February 1844], Elder William Weeks (whom I had employed as architect of the Temple,) came in for instruction.  I instructed him in relation to the circular windows designed to light the offices in the dead work of the arch between stories.  He said that round windows in the broad side of a building were a violation of all the known rules of architecture, and contended that they should be semicircular - that the building was too low for round windows.  I told him I would have the circles, if he had to make the Temple ten feet higher than it was originally calculated; that one light at the centre of each circular window would be sufficient to light the whole room; that when the whole building was thus illuminated, the effect would be remarkably grand.  'I wish you to carry out my designs.  I have seen in vision the splendid appearance of that building illuminated, and will have it built according to the pattern shown me.'

As seen in the above cross-section, the original Temple had two large Assembly Rooms, one above the other, used for meetings and the October 1845 Semi-Annual General Conference.  Above each of the Assembly Rooms were various offices, seven on each side, with a total of 28 offices underneath the attic, 14 on each of the floors above the Assembly Rooms.  The Endowments were conducted in the attic story of the temple. 

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple is an exact blueprint of the original as compared in the following two photos:

The above is a copy of a daguerreotype taken around 1847 by Louis R. Chaffin.  Notice the small building on the bottom left of the photo.  It was probably the Temple Recorders Office. 
When I was in Nauvoo the week of 14 March 2011, I marveled at the size of the temple, but most especially the fact that the early Saints built the temple with no modern-day equipment, and all within five years.

These are the eastern pulpits of the rebuilt Nauvoo Temple's Assembly Room.  The original Assembly Room took up the remainder of the first floor of the Temple after entrance through the vestibule.  The Assembly Room had two four-tiered pulpits, one on each end, with gilded lettering.  Many have wondered what the lettering on the original pulpits stated.  We have two completely different sources giving the answer.  One is J. H. Buckingham, who apparently was a non-Mormon.  He lists the following letters and meanings when he toured the Nauvoo Temple in the late 1840s (Buckingham, Papers in Illinois History and Transactions, 1937; "Illinois as Lincoln Knew It", Illinois State Historical Society, Springfield, Illinois, p. 172).  On the east end of the pulpits was set in gilded letters (from the highest pulpit to the lowest) P.H.P. (President of the High Priesthood); the next lower had P.S.Z. (President of the Seventies in Zion); the next lower had P.H.Q. (President of the High priests Quorum); and the table at the bottom P.E.Q. (President of the Elders Quorum).  The second source for the meanings of the gilded lettering of the original Nauvoo Temple pulpits comes from a Latter-day Saint who happened to be in the Temple on 1 May 1846, when it was publicly dedicated.  His testimony agrees with Mr. Buckingham.  The Mormon spoken of was James A. Scott.  He wrote in his journal the meaning of the letters (Journal of James A. Scott, p. 4, LDS Church Archives).  These initial do not appear in the current Assembly Room's pulpits, unfortunately.  Painted in gold letters in the arch above the Melchizedek (east) pulpits were the words "The Lord Has Seen Our Sacrifice - Come After Us."  It is also unfortunate that these words are not seen in the new Temple.

The west end of the Hall also had pulpits like the east end.  The west end's pulpits were reserved for the Aaronic Priesthood, and bore the initials: P.A.P. (President of the Aaronic Priesthood) at the highest pulpits; the next lower had P.P.Q. (President of the Priests Quorum); the next lower had P.T.Q. (President of the Teachers Quorum) and the table at the bottom P.D.Q. (President of the Deacons Quorum).

On 17 September 1846, the mob took control of the Temple.  Nearly a month later, first reports were given (in the Hancock Eagle, 5 October 1846) of the desecration of the House of the Lord at Nauvoo.

The damage done to the Temple is considerable.  Some who have examined it say that less that $1,000 will not cover the damage.  Holes have been cut through the floors, the stone oxen in the basement have been considerably disfigured, horns and ears dislodged, and nearly all torn loose from their standing.  Names have been chiseled in the wood engraving in the upward passage, in a very careless manner - clearly portraying the mechanical ingenuity and refinement of the authors.

The House of the Lord stood for just two years and one month before it was burned down by Joseph Agnew, an arsonist.  The town of Nauvoo stood vacant of mobocracy from 1846 until 9 October 1848, when Joseph Agnew burned the building.  From A Comprehensive History of The Church by Elder B. H. Roberts, we read on pages 22 and 23 of volume 3, "One Joseph Agnew, confessed to being the incendiary."  In Roberts' footnote to this statement, he writes that he was told this "upon the Authority of M. M. Morrill, mayor of Nauvoo, at the time of [my] visit to the city in the summer of 1885."
An account of the arson was written in The Nauvoo Patriot on 19 November 1848:

On Monday the 19th of November, our citizens were awakened by the alarm of fire, which, when first discovered, was bursting out through the spire of the Temple, near the small door that opened from the east side to the roof, on the main building.  The fire was seen first about three o'clock in the morning, and not until it had taken such hold of the timbers and roof as to make useless any effort to extinguish it.  The materials of the inside were so dry, and the fire spread so rapidly, that a few minutes were sufficient to wrap this famed edifice in a sheet of flame.
It was a sight too full of mournful sublimity.  The mass of material which had been gathered there by the labor of many years afforded a rare opportunity for this element to play off some of its wildest sports.  Although the morning was tolerably dark, still, when the flames shot upwards, the spire, the streets, and the houses for nearly a mile distant were lighted up, so as to render even the smallest objects discernible.  The glare of the vast torch, pointing skyward, indescribably contrasted with the universal gloom and darkness around it: and men looked on with faces sad as if the crumbling ruins below were consuming all their hopes.
It was evidently the work of an incendiary.  There had been, on the evening previous, a meeting in the lower room: but no person was in the upper part where the fire was first discovered.  Who it was, and what could have been his motives, we have now no idea.  Some feeling infinitely more unenviable than that of the individual who put the torch to the beautiful Ephesian structure of old, must have possessed him.  To destroy a work of art, at once the most elegant and the most renowned in its celebrity of any in the whole west, would, we should think, require a mind of more than ordinary depravity: and we feel assured that no one in this community could have been so lost to every sense of justice, and every consideration of interest as to become the author of the deed. (Nauvoo Patriot, 19 November 1848)

Despite the burning of the Nauvoo Temple, President Wilford Woodruff was satisfied that the Lord had accepted the Saints' sacrifice.  He said, "The Saints had labored faithfully and finished the temple and were now received as a Church with [their] dead.  This is glory enough for building the Temple. (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, vol. 3, 3 May 1846, Family and Church History Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 46–47)"

The west facade of the House of the Lord (with the Spire and Angel Moroni) stood until at least 1860, according to Presiding Patriarch John Smith, eldest son of Patriarch Hyrum Smith (John Smith to Joseph F. Smith, 18 April 1860, LDS Church archives; also "Sons of the Martyrs' Nauvoo Reunion - 1860", BYU Studies, volume 20, issue 4, p. 356).

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Virtual Tour of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple

The newly rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple is a marvel to behold.  It is the only Temple in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have a bell tower.  The bell in the tower was cast in Holland, and is programmed to strike with the timing of the clock.

The recommend desk is at the front of the temple, where patrons show their recommends to enter the temple.

After showing the temple recommends, patrons can look into the Assembly Room.  I was told by a Temple Worker that the Assembly Room takes up approximately three-quarters of the ground floor of the temple, can seat 500 people, and is used twice a year for devotionals, and also on special occasions as directed by the President of the Church.  Below is pictured the East Pulpits of the Assembly Room on the first floor.  When the temple was dedicated on 27 June 2002 President Hinckley and Monson sat on the brown bench at the lowest West pulpits ("Dedication of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple", Lisle Brown,  The East Pulpits are pictured below, but the West are identical. 

After the Assembly Room has been seen in all its magnificence, the Spiral Staircase is then ascended.  The first tier of circular windows (the second floor) is where the dressing rooms are located.  After one is dressed, the Spiral Staircase is ascended again, this time to the second tier of arched windows where the Endowment Rooms are located.
The Spiral Staircase from just above the Second floor
On the Third floor is located all the Endowment Rooms.  The following are the rooms in order as seen during the Endowment.
Creation Room

Garden Room

World Room

Unfortunately, I could not find a picture of the Terrestrial Room for the Nauvoo Temple.  If anyone knows where I can find one, the help would be much appreciated.

Here is the Celestial Room.  Notice the Pentagrams and Morning Stars carved into the walls.  Also, a variation of the Sunstones are carved here, too.  If you look closely on the table in the center of the Room (with the flower as the centerpiece), you will notice that the feet of the table are rams' heads.  On a side note, when the Latter-day Saints rebuilt this temple, care was taken to ensure that the furnishings were as close to the look of the 1840s as possible. 

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple holds the prize as having the largest Baptistry out of all the Temples because the LDS Church simply reconstructed it as it was in 1846.

I hope the reader has gained a greater appreciation of the House of the Lord, the Endowments found therein, and Jesus the Christ.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mormon Theology no. 23 - The Only True Church

I just read a comment which stated to the effect that the LDS Church's claim to the only true Church is a false or misguided claim.  In this essay, I will endeavor to explain how and why Mormons can claim the only true Church.

Christ's Ancient Church
When our Savior was on Earth, He promised to establish His Church when He said to His Apostles, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 16:19)"   The Redeemer in this verse uses the term "keys of the kingdom".  Speaking of this phrase a modern Apostle, Elder Boyd K. Packer, has stated, "The keys of priesthood authority [the keys of the kingdom] represent . . . the power . . . to act in the name of God upon the earth. (The Holy Temple, p. 82)"  Six days after Jesus Christ promised His Apostles the Keys of the Kingdom, He climbed the Mount of Transfiguration, bringing along the Apostles Peter (he being the President of the Twelve Apostles), James, and John to witness the event.  Jesus was then "transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. (John 17:2)"  The Bible then tells us that Moses and Elijah appeared before the four mortals.  Although no reason is given in our present Bible why Moses and Elijah came to Jesus, Peter, James, and John at this point, further insight into this occurrence is given in the History of the Church, volume 3, page 387: "The Savior, Moses, and Elias, gave the keys to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before Him. . . . Wherever the ordinances of the Gospel are administered, there is the Priesthood."  These keys enabled God's Authority to be exercised here on Earth.  Eventually the Keys were given to all of he Twelve (Matt.10) and later, to others (Acts 6).  However, the ancient Apostles of the Lord knew that Christ's Church would enter a period of Great Apostasy.

Great Apostasy
The Apostle Paul taught, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30)."  Speaking of the Second Coming of Christ, Paul also taught in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first . . ."  John the Revelator saw in vision the then-imminent Apostasy of Christ's Church.  "And [the woman] brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne.  And the woman fled into the wilderness . . . (Rev. 12:5-6)"  We learn from modern revelation that the woman is Christ's Church (see D&C 115:4)

The prophet Nephi saw a vision in chapter 13 of the Book of Nephi in which he saw, among other things, the writings of Christ's Apostles in their purity.  Nephi then saw what happened to the Bible shortly after it was compiled as we now know it.  The angel explains, 

Therefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.  And after they go forth by the hand of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the Gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. (1 Nephi 13:25-26)

I thought to add a second verse, but this seems sufficient to show that a Great Apostasy occurred in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres.

Joseph Smith's First Vision
In the spring of 1820, Joseph Smith prayed to know which church to join because he saw there were so many churches in his area, all of which claimed to be God's Church, but teaching differing doctrines.  Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught why confusion reigned.  Said he, "To the loss of the Priesthood may be ascribed most of the divisions in the Christian world at the present day, and the great doubt upon the minds of all the contending parties, which have prevailed to such an extent from the days of the primitive Christians. (Times and Seasons 2:506, 16 August 1841)"  In answer to his supplication, God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ came to Joseph.  Joseph Smith wrote about his Vision:  

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.  No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right. . . . I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.' (JS-H 1:18-19)

The Restoration of Priesthood Keys
As part of the Restoration of the Gospel, the Book of Mormon was brought forth.  During the translation process, Joseph Smith was assisted by Oliver Cowdery.  The Prophet and Oliver 

On a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates.  While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying: Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. . . . He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized. . . . (JS-H 1:68-69)

Oliver Cowdery described the event thus: "On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance.  What joy! what wonder! what amazement! (Messenger and Advocate, vol 1 (October 1834), p. 14-16)" 

Then, in 1836 at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Moses, Elias, and Elijah appeared and conferred Priesthood Keys.  These Keys were the Keys of the gathering of Israel, the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, and the Sealing Authority, respectively. 

At a conference held in Nauvoo, Illinois on 16 August 1841, President Joseph Smith said, "The time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency . . . and assist to bear off the kingdom victoriously to the nations" (HC 4:403).

Shortly before the Prophet's murder, he conferred these keys upon the heads of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, thus making them equal in Authority with the First Presidency, and therefore, the next in line to succeed President Joseph Smith after his decease.  President Brigham Young said, "Joseph conferred upon our heads all the keys and powers belonging to the Apostleship which he himself held before he was taken away, and no man or set of men can get between Joseph and the Twelve" (Essentials in Church History, p. 320).  President John Taylor wrote, "A special conference of the Church was held in Nauvoo on the 8th [of August 1844], and it was carried without a discenting [sic] voice, that the 'Twelve' should preside over the whole Church" (Times and Seasons, 5:632, 2 September 1844).  President Wilford Woodruff recalled, "I bear my testimony that . . . in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith called the Apostles together and he delivered unto them . . . all the keys and powers that God had bestowed upon him" (Statement, 19 March 1897, Church Archives).  Elder Orson Hyde remarked, "We were in council with Brother Joseph almost every day for weeks. . . . He conducted us through every ordinance of the holy priesthood . . . and said, 'now if they kill me you have got all the keys, and all the ordinances'" (Times and Seasons, 15 Sep. 1844, p. 651).

Thus it is shown that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only Authorized Church of Christ on earth - the only place where the power to act in the name of God exists.  I know this testimony is true, and I so witness it in the Name of Jesus Christ the Messiah.  Amen!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nauvoo Temple Stone Symbols

There are many symbols carved in stone on the exterior walls of the Nauvoo Temple.  We will examine some of them here and discuss the interpretation thereof.

The Pentagram is the most attacked symbol of Mormonism by the anti-Mormons.  The anti-Mormons claim that it is a Satanic symbol.  However, according to geometry in action, it is not.  The Pentagram symbolizes both mathematical perfection and eternity.  Here is why:
The Pentagrams are the two colorful stained-glass stars

When one draws a Pentagram over and over within the Pentagon constructed in the middle of a 5/2 Pentagram, the image of a geometrically perfect star goes on forever, alternating between upside-down and right-side up.

The Six-Pointed Star is symbolic of the stars in the Heavens and as a symbol of the Telestial Kingdom.  The Vision of the Prophet reads,

"And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament.  These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.  These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.  These are they who are thrust down to hell.  These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work (D&C 76:81-85)."
The Morning Star is symbolic of Jesus Christ, due to the fact that in Revelation 22:16, wherein Christ saith, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."
The Morning Star is the upside-down star with the elongated tail just above the Sunstone

The Moonstones symbolize the Terrestrial Kingdom, of which the Vision says,

"And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo, these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the Firstborn who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament.  Behold, these are they who died without law; And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh; Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.  These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.  These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.  These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.  Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.  These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God (D&C 76:71-79)."

The Sunstones symbolize the Celestial Kingdom of God, where God and Christ dwell, where families are united eternally, and where exaltation is awarded to those who are faithful.  It is filled only with members of The Church of Jesus Christ, whether they joined the Church in mortality or afterward received the Gospel, having not the opportunity to accept thereof while on earth. (see D&C 76:50-70; 137)"

I hope this article not only increases your knowledge of the Nauvoo Temple, but also of the Restored Gospel, administered only within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

LDS Temple Stained Glass Windows

This is a stained glass window (one of many) that are now in the Nauvoo Temple
The above window symbolizes eternal perfection, because upside down stars can be drawn inside the pentagon in succession (if the geometry in the lines and angles of the succeeding stars are correct), causing the design to go on forever.

Stained glass window in the Baptistry of the Nauvoo Templ
The above picture represents the need for all of us, living and dead, to be baptized as Christ our Savior was.

In the lobby of the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple
This is a depiction of the Mormon Pioneers' Trek to the Salt Lake Valley in 1846-1847.

Inside the Palmyra New York Temple (just outside the Sacred Grove)
Joseph Smith's own words concerning the events of the First Vision are:   

"After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. . . . 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 1:15-17)"

Christ and His Apostles on the road to Emaus, Manhattan New York Temple

Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden.  Hanging in the Grand Staircase in the Salt Lake Temple
The above picture is in color, but the colored version is not as impressive where I found it.  It may be see on as photo 36.  Some non-Mormons wonder why Adam and Eve were so foolish as to get kicked out of the Edenic Garden wherein they labored before the Fall.  However, Lehi, a prophet who lived in the Ancient Americas, explained why it was necessary for Adam and Eve to fall.  Said he,

"And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden.  And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.  And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.  But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.  Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. . . . And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth.  And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth (2 Nephi 2:22-25, 19-20)."

Latter-day Saints know that the Fall of Man was necessary in bringing for God's Plan of Redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Mormon Theology no. 22 - The Book of Mormon revisited

The key scripture distinct to the Mormon faith is the Book of Mormon.  But what is it, and why do we need it?  The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "The Book of Mormon is true, just what it purports to be, and for this testimony I expect to give an account in the day of judgment (Juvenile Instructor, 15 March 1892, p. 173)."  So what exactly does the Book of Mormon purport to be?

The original Book of Mormom

The Book of Mormon is, first and foremost, scripture as great as the Bible.  President Joseph Smith said, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book (Book of Mormon Introduction)."  It is "a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder (Isaiah 29:14)."  It speaks of Jesus Christ, saying of Him that "there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved (2 Nephi 25:50)."  It teaches that Jesus Christ was born of Mary "at Jerusalem . . . she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. (Alma 7:10)"

The Book of Mormon "is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites . . . Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation (Book of Mormon Title Page)."  It is written to convince the world that there actually is a God, that He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to Earth as our Savior, and that Christ's Church has been restored again to the Earth as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The Book of Mormon testifies of the Gospel as found in the Holy Bible, and the Bible testifies of the Gospel as found in the Book of Mormon, for the Gospels are one and the same!  The Lord hath said, "as your Lord and your God liveth it [the Book of Mormon] is true (D&C 17:6)." 

I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I know from the Book of Mormon's truthfulness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  I know also that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God, called of Him to restore the Church of Jesus Christ that Peter and Paul were members of.  I know the Priesthood has been restored, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only authorized Church of God upon the earth!  In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mormon Theology no. 21 - Obedience

A large amount of  quibbling from the Anti-Mormon presses has to do with how they see obedience, versus how the Latter-day Saints see it.  What is obedience, why must we obey (according to Christ), and does choice play a part, or is it just blind?  We will examine these claims.

Obedience Defined defines the word "obedience" this way: "Conformity to a monastic rule or the authority of a religious superior, especially on the part of one who has vowed such conformance."  This definition is what we are looking for.  The religious superior whom we obey is Jesus Christ.  However, it must be remembered that He speaks through His prophets - always and forever.  Secondly, the Mormon people have indeed vowed such conformance in the holy Temples.  

Remember the simple truth, "If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15)."  We show our love for the Savior by obeying His Gospel, which Gospel we receive through His prophets.  This leads to the question of, blind obedience or no?

Blind or No?
Imagine that a servant stands guard over a vineyard.  He stands on the ground, and in front of him stands a 10-foot tall wall, over which he cannot see.  Behind the servant stands a watchman upon a 50-foot tall tower.  This watchman has an unobstructed view over the 10-foot wall and outside of the vineyard where the King's enemies lurk.  If an enemy comes and the watchman sounds the alarm, the servant would do well to hearken to it, because the watchman can see what the servant cannot, and that knowledge can be life-saving.  Does the servants obey blindly the voice of the watchman?  No he does not, because the servant can see the watchman upon that tower, and knows the watchman has a clear view of what is beyond that wall.  Although the servant cannot see what is over that wall, he must come to a knowledge (through obedience) that the watchman will not misguide him.  This is the same principle the Messiah taught in John 7:17: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."  It is through obedience that we learn to truly see.

To illustrate, we have the experience of President Joseph F. Smith.

"President Joseph F. Smith, in company with Bishop Charles W. Nibley, was returning home by train from a trip to the east.  Near Green River, Wyoming, he had just stepped out onto the platform at the end of the car when he heard a voice that said, 'Go in and sit down.'  He went back into the train, hesitated a moment, and then said to himself, 'Oh, pshaw, perhaps it is only my imagination.'  He then heard the voice say again, 'Sit down.' Responding immediately, President Smith took his seat.  Just then the train lurched as a broken rail caused the engine and most of the cars to be thrown from the track.  Bishop Nibley said that if President Smith had not acted as he did, he would have been seriously injured, for although his car remained on the track, all of the cars were 'jammed up together pretty badly.'  President Smith said of this experience, 'I have heard that voice a good many times in my life, and I have always profited by obeying it (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 523–24).'"

President Smith did not obey blindly, but he exercised faith as he had in the past.

The Mormons are not blindly following their leaders.  President Boyd K. Packer taught how obedience brings freedom.  Said he:

"Some who do not understand the doctrinal part do not readily see the relationship between obedience and agency. And they miss one vital connection and see obedience only as restraint. . . . Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God. . . . There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see ("Agency and Control", April 1983 General Conference)."

I know if one obeys the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, happiness will come.  I say these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mormon Theology no. 20 - Power and Reality of Satan

In this world there is both good and evil.  The Source of all good is Jesus Christ.  The source of all evil is the devil.  The devil, known as Satan or Lucifer, "[has] fallen from heaven, and [has] become miserable forever, he [seeks] also the misery of all mankind (2 Nephi 2:18)", says Lehi.  The Prophet Joseph Smith stated,

"The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him (TPJS, p. 357)."

In this article, both ancient and modern instances of the devil's power and reality will be shown.

The great lawgiver Moses had a confrontation with Satan now not known to Bible believers.  In Moses 1, which is a prophetic revision of the Bible done by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Satan confronts Moses:   

"Behold, Satan came tempting [Moses], saying: Moses, son of man, worship me. . . . And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.  And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell.  Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.  And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.  And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not (Moses 1:12,19-22)"

Here we notice that Satan can be convincing, powerful, frightening, and hellish.  But, we also see that only by the Authority of Jesus Christ, called the Priesthood, can Satan be cast out.

We now turn to the words of Joseph Smith when he was in the Sacred Grove about to supplicate the Lord.  He writes,  

"After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God.  I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak.  Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.  But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.  It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.  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 1:15-17)"

This power that encircled Joseph Smith was real, and once again, only God can cast out Satan.  You will notice at this time that the Authority of God (the Priesthood) was not exercised here, because at that time, the Priesthood had been taken away because of the Great Apostasy.

Lastly, we will look at an event in the life of then-Elder Heber C. Kimball in 1837, when he and some companion missionaries took the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the British Isles.  On 29 July 1837, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde (both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles), Isaac Russell, and Willard Richards were literally attacked by Satan and his many hosts, in consequence of them planning a baptismal service scheduled for the following day.  The account reads:

"Sunday, July 30th (1837), about daybreak, Elder Isaac Russell (who had been appointed to preach on the obelisk in Preston Square, that day), who slept with Elder Richards in Wilfred Street, came up to the third story, where Elder Hyde and myself were sleeping, and called out, ‘Brother Kimball, I want you should get up and pray for me that I may be delivered from the evil spirits that are tormenting me to such a degree that I feel I cannot live long, unless I obtain relief.’

“I had been sleeping on the back of the bed. I immediately arose, slipped off the foot of the bed, and passed around to where he was. Elder Hyde threw his feet out, and sat up in the bed, and we laid hands on him, I being mouth, and prayed that the Lord would have mercy on him, and rebuked the devil.

“While thus engaged, I was struck with great force by some invisible power, and fell senseless on the floor. The first thing I recollect was being supported by Elders Hyde and Richards, who were praying for me. . . . Elder Hyde and Richards then assisted me to get on the bed, but my agony was so great I could not endure it, and I arose, bowed my knees and prayed. I then arose and sat up on the bed, when a vision was opened to our minds, and we could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth at us. We gazed upon them about an hour and a half (by Willard’s watch). We were not looking towards the window, but towards the wall. Space appeared before us, and we saw the devils coming in legions with their leaders, who came within a few feet of us. They came towards us like armies rushing to a battle. They appeared to be men of full stature, possessing every form and feature of men in the flesh, who were angry and desperate; and I shall never forget the vindictive malignity depicted on their countenances as they looked me in the eye; and any attempt to paint the scene which then presented itself, or portray their malice and enmity, would be vain. . . . I cannot even look back on the scene without feelings of horror; yet by it I learned the power of the adversary, his enmity against the servants of God, and got some understanding of the invisible world. We distinctly heard those spirits talk and express their wrath and hellish designs against us (Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 130-131, emphasis added)."

Later, Elder Hyde wrote a letter to Elder Kimball about the event thus,

"Every circumstance that occurred at that scene of devils is just as fresh in my recollection at this moment as it was at the moment of its occurrence, and will ever remain so. After you were overcome by them and had fallen, their awful rush upon me with knives, threats, imprecations and hellish grins, amply convinced me that they were no friends of mine. While you were apparently senseless and lifeless on the floor and upon the bed (after we had laid you there) I stood between you and the devils and fought them and contended with them face to face, until they began to diminish in number and to retreat from the room. The last imp that left turned around and apologized to me as he was going out and said, as if to apologize, and appease my determined opposition to them, 'I never said anything against you!' I replied to him thus: 'It matter not to me whether you have or not; you are a liar from the beginning! In the name of Jesus Christ, depart!' He immediately left, and the room was clear. That closed the scene of devils for that time (Ibid., emphasis added)." 

The Prophet Joseph Smith later told Elder Kimball that, "at that time you were nigh unto the Lord; there was only a veil between you and Him, but you could not see Him. When I heard of it, it gave me great joy, for I then knew that the work of God had taken root in that land. It was this that caused the devil to make a struggle to kill you (Ibid., p. 131-132, emphasis added)."

By these four accounts we know Satan is real and has real power.  But, I also know that if we rely on the Lord, read the scriptures daily, and pray unto Him we will be free from Satan and his imps inasmuch as we live the laws of God.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!