Sunday, December 5, 2010

Doctrine and Covenants, Section 4

Section 4 has to be one of my favourite section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Any Latter-day Saint that is, has or will be a missionary is familiar with this section. This section was a revelation to Joseph for his father, Joseph Smith, Sr. in February 1829. This is about Missionary Work .

"Now behold a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men." (Verse 1)

I looked at the footnotes and saw that this verse refers to the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Often in the scriptures, the term often refers to the Plan of Salvation. One thing that is crucial to that plan is bringing others to Christ.

Elder David A. Bednar said in his October 2005 Address "My beloved brethren, you and I, today and always, are to bless all peoples in all the nations of the earth. You and I, today and always, are to bear witness of Jesus Christ and declare the message of the Restoration. You and I, today and always, are to invite all to receive the ordinances of salvation. Proclaiming the gospel is not a part-time priesthood obligation. It is not simply an activity in which we engage for a limited time or an assignment we must complete as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Rather, missionary work is a manifestation of our spiritual identity and heritage. We were foreordained in the premortal existence and born into mortality to fulfill the covenant and promise God made to Abraham. We are here upon the earth at this time to magnify the priesthood and to preach the gospel. That is who we are, and that is why we are here—today and always."

Verse 2 continues with: "Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day."

This means that we must go amongst our fellow men with a love of service in our hearts AND we must serve with unfailing dedication; so that when we stand before our Heavenly Father on the day of judgement he won't say "Why did you not do this?" If we serve with everything we have, not only will we bring others to Christ but we will learn from these children of God and will gain spiritual treasures that could never be found any other way.

Elder L. Tom Perry mentions this in his April 2009 Address It should be “with great earnestness” (D&C 123:14) that we bring the light of the gospel to those who are searching for answers the plan of salvation has to offer. Many are concerned for their families. Some are looking for security in a world of changing values. Our opportunity is to give them hope and courage and to invite them to come with us and join those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s gospel is on earth and will bless their lives here and in the eternities to come.

The gospel is centered on the Atonement of our Lord and Savior. The Atonement provides the power to wash away sins, to heal, and to grant eternal life. All the imponderable blessings of the Atonement can be given only to those who live the principles and receive the ordinances of the gospel—faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Our great missionary message to the world is that all mankind is invited to be rescued and to enter the fold of the Good Shepherd, even Jesus Christ.

Our missionary message is strengthened by the knowledge of the Restoration. We know that God speaks to His prophets today, just as He did anciently. We also know that His gospel is administered with the power and authority of the restored priesthood. No other message has such great eternal significance to everyone living on the earth today. All of us need to teach this message to others with power and conviction. It is the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost that testifies through us of the miracle of the Restoration, but first we must open our mouths and testify. We must warn our neighbors."

Verses 3 and 4 speak volumes on whom should serve: "Therefore, if ye have a desire to serve God ye are called to the work;

"For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul."

This means that you don't have to be a full time missionary to serve others. I have found that most investigators and converts come to know of the fullness of the gospel through a friend or family member other than the missionaries. I know this because I was one of those investigators. I joined the church 25 February 2005 and I did it with the help of a friend about to go on his mission and his family's support. The missionaries taught me the discussions, but the members showed me the way.

The world in this day and age needs guidance through the smog and pollution of material greed and lustful desires. There are many people out there whom have a desire to live a better life. Do we not as Latter-day Saints, as Christians, have a duty to our fellow men? The field is ready to harvest, we just need to pick up our sickles and open our mouths and live according to gospel teaching.

Verse 5 and 6 commands this of us: "And faith, hope and charity and love with an eye single to the glory of God qualify him for the work.

"Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence."

These are the virtues we must live up to. These are qualifications to be an effective representative of the Lord.

President Thomas S. Monson recalled "Many years ago I boarded a plane in San Francisco en route to Los Angeles. As I sat down, the seat next to mine was empty. Soon, however, there occupied that seat a most lovely young lady. As the plane became airborne, I noticed that she was reading a book. As one is wont to do, I glanced at the title: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. I mustered up my courage and said to her, “Excuse me. You must be a Mormon.”

She replied, “Oh, no. Why do you ask?”

I said, “Well, you’re reading a book written by LeGrand Richards, a very prominent leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

She responded, “Is that right? A friend gave this book to me, but I don’t know much about it. However, it has aroused my curiosity.”

I wondered silently, Should I be forward and say more about the Church? The words of the Apostle Peter crossed my mind: “Be ready always to give an answer to every [one] that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” I decided that now was the time for me to share my testimony with her. I told her that it had been my privilege years before to assist Elder Richards in printing that book. I mentioned the great missionary spirit of this man and told her of the many thousands of people who had embraced the truth after reading that which he had prepared. Then it was my privilege, during the remainder of the flight, to answer her questions relative to the Church—intelligent questions which came from the heart, which I perceived was a heart seeking truth. I asked if I might have an opportunity to have the missionaries call upon her. I asked if she would like to attend one of our wards in San Francisco, where she lived. Her answers were affirmative. She gave me her name—Yvonne Ramirez—and indicated that she was a flight attendant on her way to an assignment.

Upon returning home I wrote to the mission president and the stake president, advising them of my conversation and that I had written to her and sent along some suggested reading. Incidentally, young men, I recommended that rather than sending two elders to this pretty off-duty flight attendant and her pretty roommate, two lady missionaries be assigned to call.

Several months passed by. Then I received a telephone call from the stake president, who asked, “Brother Monson, do you remember sitting next to a flight attendant on a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles earlier this fall?” I answered affirmatively. He continued, “I thought you would like to know that Yvonne Ramirez has just become the most recently baptized and confirmed member of the Church. She would like to speak with you.”

A sweet voice came on the line: “Brother Monson, thank you for sharing with me your testimony. I am the happiest person in all the world.”

As tears filled my eyes and gratitude to God enlarged my soul, I thanked her and commended her on her search for truth and, having found it, her decision to enter those waters which cleanse and purify and provide entrance to eternal life.

I sat silently for a few minutes after replacing the telephone receiver. The words of our Savior coursed through my mind: “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

Such is the promise to all of us when we pursue our missionary opportunities and follow the counsel and obey the commandments of Jesus of Nazareth, our Savior and our King."

The final verse quotes one of the greatest promises of the Lord: "Ask, and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened to you. Amen.

If we are prayerful in all things, we will receive and answer. If we pray for missionary opportunities, we will receive them and they will change our lives.

If any of you feel inclined, I would love to read conversion stories or missionary memories.

I can promise you that as the scriptures say "How great will be your joy if you bring even one soul unto Christ".


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Doctrine and Covenants, Section 3

The first verse of this section has a powerful presence: “The works, and designs of the God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.” Think about it. How many times has Christianity been altered, polluted and persecuted? From the time of Christ, those with hardened hearts have tried to bring down the gospel of Jesus Christ. They killed the Apostles, martyred many followers and those within the church began corrupting the ordinances and principles. After a time, these ordinances were lost to us until the Restoration.

Elder Dallin H Oaks said The collision between the speculative world of Greek philosophy and the simple, literal faith and practice of the earliest Christians produced sharp contentions that threatened to widen political divisions in the fragmenting Roman empire. This led Emperor Constantine to convene the first church wide council in A.D. 325. The action of this council of Nicaea remains the most important single event after the death of the Apostles in formulating the modern Christian concept of deity. The Nicene Creed erased the idea of the separate being of Father and Son by defining God the Son as being of “one substance with the Father.”

Other councils followed, and from their decisions and the writings of churchmen and philosophers there came a synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine in which the orthodox Christians of that day lost the fulness of truth about the nature of God and the Godhead. The consequences persist in the various creeds of Christianity, which declare a Godhead of only one being and which describe that single being or God as “incomprehensible” and “without body, parts, or passions.”

Then during the translation of the Book of Mormon, Satan inspired the hearts of others to steal the 116 pages of the manuscript Martin Harris lost and change the translation in attempt to thwart the restoration of His principles.

The verses continue with the Lord reminding Joseph that He does not “walk in crooked paths and His paths are straight and his course an eternal round” (Verse 2). He also says “that the work of God is never frustrated but only the works of men” (Verse 3).

I personally think this is very cool. No matter what men do, they will NEVER undermine the plans of our Heavenly Father. He always has control when the rest of us do not and I find that very, very comforting.

Verse 4 packs a terrible punch. It basically says that man has many abilities and powers that he is blessed with. But if he takes to much pride and doesn't listen to the counsels of the One that gave him those powers, he will incur upon himself the wrath of God.

This section was directed to Joseph after the manuscript, which we found out later was the record of Lehi. After he gave Harris the manuscript and after it was lost the Lord gave him a sound rebuke. “Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict was your commandments; and remember also the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them.

“And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.

“For, behold, you should not have feared men more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God and despise his words.

“Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble” (Verses 5-8)

Even though Joseph made a grave error in judgment, even though a part of the record was lost, God showed great mercy and love for His servant and gave him words of comfort.

“Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall.

“But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work.

“And when thou deliveredst up that which God has given thee sight and power to translate, thou deliveredst up that which was sacred into the hands of a wicked man.” (Verses 9-10,12)

The power and tender mercy of God is almost overwhelming. Even though this sin was severe and came from the man that would be a prophet, he forgave him upon serious repentance on Joseph's part. What does it mean to repent? What does it mean to be forgiven? And how can we know if we are?

We know due to Joseph's mistake, God took away the plates and other resources until he could learn some humility.

“And this is the reason that thou hast lost thy privileges for a season-

“For thou has suffered the counsel of thy director to be trampled upon from the beginning.

“Nevertheless, my work shall go forth....” (Verses 14-16)

Then the Lord shows Joseph just what the plates are. The records of those who lived here in the Americas. The light skinned Nephites whom were once a righteous people but were exterminated because of their iniquities. Also recorded were the dark skinned and cursed Lamanites whom populated the lands, especially after the extermination of their Nephite brethren.

I will close this post with a promise made concerning the Lamanites: “And that the other Lamanites might come to the knowledge of their fathers, and that they might know the promises of the Lord and they may believe the gospel and rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and be glorified through faith in his name, and that through their repentance they might be saved. Amen.” (Verse 20)


Friday, December 3, 2010

Doctrine and Covenants, Section 2

Section 2

1: Elijah will pass down the priesthood keys to earth

How many times in the Bible to we hear the promise that the Lord will send Elijah, his prophet?? I count three times with the same promise in Malachi 4:5, 3 Nephi 25:5-6 and you guessed it, D&C 2:1-2 .

Malachi 4:5-6:

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

6And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children , and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse .

3rd Nephi 25: 5-6:

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Doctrine and Covenants 2:1-2:

1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

2And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.

I have taken this to mean that Elijah will appear in the latter days to restore the priesthood keys to the Earth. If you look at the footnotes for the first verse in each reference you'll see “Priesthood, Keys” “Last Days”.

When I first read the second verse, my initial reaction was “What does that mean?” Turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and vice verso refers to the generations. The main reference focuses on Genealogy work and Temple Ordinances.

Now verse 3 had me do a double take: If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

Anyone care to guess the purpose of this one???

We all know that we were put on Earth for a good reason. We are here to gain perspective and have the experiences that only life can give us. The goal of this life is to eventually return to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. Without the proper authority and the required keys, this would not be possible.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1 Verses 24-39

The second half of the Section 1 is the clincher to the first half. I think the theme of first half is the displeasure God felt with his children. due to verses 3,7, 10, and 12. The theme of the second half is about Gaining Knowledge and Learning through Repentance.

Just as a quick side note, does anyone know what verse 26 is about? I cannot seem to get my mind around it!

The first thing that was brought to my attention was verse 28 which states: “And in as much as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.” Everyone knows the phrase “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.” This goes hand in hand with the fact that you cannot learn unless you have the desire to do so. In order to learn, one must first humble themselves and make themselves teachable in order to feel the promptings of the Spirit.

Verses 29 and 30 places Joseph Smith Jr as Prophet. Because he adhered to the counsel and commandments of the Lord he was given the powers of Heaven and the keys to do the following:

Lay down the foundation of the church.

Bring it out of “obscurity” and out of darkness.

It continues that this is the Restored true church in which the Lord is well pleased. Also He is speaking to the church individually and as a whole.

Verses 31-33 makes it quite clear that the Lord does not tolerate sin. Verse 31 states: “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” Thus all manner of sin is offensive to God.

We do have a saving grace, however. For verse 32 continues: “Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.” When we repent of our sins and we forsake them, as far as God is concerned it never happened. This requires us to confess our sins with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. This also helps us gain a great sense of humility and opens our hearts to the teachings of the Lord.

When we are baptized as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we are then confirmed and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. This means we have that constant companionship for the rest of our days on one condition: We have to be worthy of Him. Verse 33 warns: “He that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.” When we lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we can regain the presence after repentance and prayer.

The Lord promises us in verse 34 that He is willing to teach those who have a sincere desire to learn and continues by warning us that we are in the latter days and we need to prepare for the war ahead with Satan.

I found verse 36 to be quite interesting. “And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world. “ I could use some insight on this one. What reference does Idumea serve?

I think the last three verses of Section 1 and will close my post with these words of promise:

37: Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.

38: What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

39: For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen.


BYUtv - Discussions on the Doctrine and Covenants: A Voice of Warning

A Point of LDS Interest

My good friend, JB is an Evangelical Seminary student is working on a blog to go with his studies of some LDS documents called Journals and Discourses that were written by early Church Leaders and Prophets. I am reading it with him and there is much need for discussion. If you'd like to learn more and join in the discussions please feel free to check it out.



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1 Verses 1-24

Today I have began my challenge with the First Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. For background purposes it was revelation given by the Prophet Joseph Smith on 01 November 1831 in Hiram, Ohio. It is not however the first revelation.

One thing that comes to mind is the call for immediate attention. Verse Two states the following: “For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.” This reminded me of Mosiah 27:21 (Book of Mormon) which says: “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God..” I have come to take it as we will all eventually, believers and non believers alike will heed the voice of the Lord.

Verses 3-5 serve as a warning to Zion concerning iniquities and promises of sending those with the keys of Heaven to guide them as the Lord commands. In verse 6, God says the following: “Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the book of my commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, O inhabitants of the earth.” Is he referring to Prophets? Also which book is being referred to? The Book of Mormon? The Doctrine and Covenants?

The next few verses hit me like a bucket of Ice water: 7 Wherefore, fear and tremble, O ye people, for what I the Lord have decreed in them shall be fulfilled.

8And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious;

9Yea, verily, to seal them up unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked without measure—

10Unto the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.

What effects me most about these lines is the obvious call to serious repentance. I couldn't help but wonder what sins the early Saints were guilty of to receive this rebuke from God. Then I took a look at a book of church history. This was shortly after moving to Kirtland; some of the Saints became vain, selfish and began to murmur vigorously. One thing a Latter-Day Saint hears often is that ingratitude is one of the worst sins. Basically, God was telling the Saints to pull it together and humble themselves, because He really is not pleased with how things were going. He also promises them that the keys of Heaven will be restored so the fullness of the Gospel can be put to use.

Then in verses 12 to 16, He instructs them prepare for the Second Coming of Christ is coming and coming fast. Verse 13 actually frightened me a little as it says: “And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.” I cannot help but wonder, is there something in particular that is displeasing to the Lord? Or is it the world in general? We are sinful creatures but is there a line we crossed somewhere?

In verse 17 the Lord ordains Joseph Smith, Junior as his chosen Prophet and makes it clear that Joseph has the authority to receive revelation from God as His servant. The Saints are commanded to follow the Prophet and heed his words as they come from God Himself.

God commands in verse 23 that Missionary Work is to begin and that it will spread to every corner of the Earth.

I will close this post with a promise from the Lord in verse 24:

Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.”