Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
“Men have become carnal. They have become enemies to God. They are seeking for their own advancement and not for the advancement of the
In the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ the Prophet and King Benjamin taught:
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 3:19).
First, let’s define what “the natural” man is. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “The ‘natural man’ is the ‘earthy man’ who has allowed rude animal passions to overshadow his spiritual inclinations” (Ocean Currents and Family Influcences, Ensign, Jan. 1984).
Now that we know that the natural man is what allows temptations of the world to override our God-given, God-like spiritual qualities, how does someone put off the natural man and yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit?
Robert L. Millet answered when he wrote: “One does not put off the natural man by living longer. Nor does one change his nature simply by attending meetings. The transformation is accomplished only as one chooses to be changed through the mediation of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost, by means of gospel ordinances” (Putting off the Natural Man: “An Enemy to God”, Ensign, Jun. 1992).
President Ezra Taft Benson put it this way: “The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature” (Born of God, Ensign, Nov. 1985).
Establishing what this “natural man” is, then understanding how to put off this natural man through the atonement of Jesus Christ, leads us to the final step, of how we are to be, going back to the verse spoke by Benjamin again: “becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him”.
In this world filled with ambition, it is very difficult to train ourselves to become “submissive, meek, humble, patient, and full of love”. Yet this is exactly what the Savior taught about 150 years after King Benjamin when he said “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (New Testament | Matthew 22:37 - 39) and when the Savior taught the Beatitudes.
As I examine these words, I am struck with how they actually turn away from ourselves and turn to others. Putting off the natural man is all about loving and being kind to others, “as a child”. Children are not only kind and submissive, but they love unconditionally. There is nothing I treasure more when I have arrived home from work than the looks my children’s faces as them come running to the door and upon reaching me, they wrap their arms around me. We would all be much, much better people living in much, much better society if we had that kind of love for each other, or in the words of Jesus, our “neighbour”. I share this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
These are the words of a prophet, Brigham Young.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
My wife descends from George Reynolds and his second wife Mary Ann Tuddenham. In total, Reynolds had three wives. He is somewhat historic in nature, as he agreed to be offered up by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the test case for religious freedom concerning polygamy in a case taken to the United States Supreme Court. Reynolds lost and ended up spending one year and seven months in prison, being released in 1881. In 1890 he was called to the Quorum of the Seventy by church President Wilford Woodruff. He died in 1909.
I descend from Wilford Woodruff and either his third or forth wife Sarah Brown. I'm not really sure which because he married both of them on the same day! Woodruff had five total wives. He was President of the LDS Church from 1887 until his death in 1898. Much of the church's history throughout the 1800s is written due to his meticulous journal writing. On May 17, 1888 Woodruff dedicated the Manti, Utah temple. You may also notice on my side bar that this is where my wife and I were married and sealed for time and all eternity. On September 24, 1890 President Woodruff received a revelation for the church commonly referred to as "The Manifesto", officially ending the practice of continued plural marriages.
My children therefore descend from the person who was the Supreme Court test case to defend polygamy on religious grounds and they descend from the person who acting as the mouthpiece of God ended polygamy! On top of that, they descend from polygamous wives of each of these men!
You can tell that I am very proud of my heritage. I think it's rather entertaining.
However, earlier I wrote that "polygamy is wrong, it is a sin". I stand by this statement. Today polygamy is a sin. For the people of the Book of Mormon it was a sin. For Abraham it was not (plus further clarification here). But how could this be true if "Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever"? (New Testament | Hebrews 13:8). It is true because although Jesus Christ is always the same a completely perfect being with a resurrected body, at times his laws to mankind have changed. For example Jesus said that the Law of Moses was fulfilled in him:
17 ¶ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (New Testament | Matthew 5:17 - 18)
4 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.
5 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.
6 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.
7 And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come.
8 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me (emphasis added).
9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life. (Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 15:4 - 9)
Christ had begun to teach mankind the higher law, beginning with the Beatitudes. Certainly they questioned the contradiction in their hearts. It was no longer "an eye for an eye". Rather Jesus taught: "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (New Testament | Matthew 5:39).
During Christ's time his gospel was originally only taught to the Jews. That changed too. Peter was given the revelation through a dream, as described in Acts 10, to teach the gospel to the gentiles as well as the Jews.
Jesus had earlier taught Peter about the concept of his church being led by revelation when he said to him: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (New Testament | Matthew 16:17 - 18). In answering the question in reference to this verse "What rock?", the prophet Joseph Smith taught: "Revelation" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 274, qtd. in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd Ed. p. 646)
It was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that plural wives were an acceptable practice, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 132. I will not deny this nor will I call if by any false name. It was the will and mind of God, just as it was his will to rescind the law in 1890 through the Prophet Wilford Woodruff.
I testify unto that the heavens are opened! Not only are we able to receive our own personal revelations pertaining to only ourselves, but the true church of Jesus Christ, his kingdom on Earth, is truly led by a Prophet who is authorized to and does receive revelation for and in behalf of all people on this Earth. These things I know and I share in Jesus' name. Amen.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Let's do what every teenager does while speaking to the congregation for the first time. We'll explore the dictionary.
Merriam-Webster says: "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ"
Dictionary.com says: "of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith"
Merriam-Webster, or as it was formally known, Webster's Dictionary, the American classic, defining our language in most of our homes, right now, in 2008, says a Christian is "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ". Dictionary.com says virtually the same thing.
However, it seems to me that the issue of some is based on the "teachings" part of these definitions, attempting to determine who truly follows the "teachings" of Jesus Christ and who does not, such as Pat Robertson, who is a very good man, one who I believe does his very best to follow Christ, but has determined that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are members of a cult.
It seems that some have desired to more restrictively define the term "Christian" to people who believe in Jesus' words in the Bible in their particular way, preferring to ignore scriptural evidence concerning "works", to accompany faith and grace, as if "works" somehow devalues the importance of the grace of Jesus Christ.
Many of my Evangelical friends point to scriptures such as, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (New Testament | Ephesians 2:8 - 9) and "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (New Testament | John 3:16).
Those of us members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might then counter in the Bible with scriptures such as: "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (New Testament | James 2:20, 26), or the story of the man in Matthew 19:16-19 who asked the Savior what to do to gain eternal life and Christ instructed him to do many things (or "works").
Finally, we would likely quote the prophet Nephi who wrote in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 25:23).
This scripture really brings it all together for me. And quite frankly it just makes sense. We should spend our days on this Earth doing good works. However, in the end, we are fallible, mortal human beings that ARE NOT capable of receiving salvation on our own. We are not capable of overcoming death on our own or paying the full price for our sins. Only one person was. Fortunately, in the end, we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of his atoning sacrifice where "all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment" (The Purifying Power of Gethsemane, Bruce R. McConkie). There truly is no other way!
Of course, this begs the question, "If we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, then why do works matter, where do they get me?" This is yet another discussion. Suffice it to say, this is why there must be degrees of salvation, or "levels" of heaven, not simply a black and white heaven and hell. In fact, at the risk of completely invalidating everything I've written here due to this source, I believe that Yoda was speaking truth when he said: "Only the Sith speak in absolutes". (Hey I'm good with that quote because: "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things".) Concerning 'degrees of salvation, or "levels" of heaven', see 1 Corinthians 15:40, followed by Doctrine and Covenants 76, then Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4.
But in the end, who is it that is truly authorized to determine what are the true teachings, or rather, how to interpret the doctrine of Jesus Christ found in the Bible? Who has the authority to speak for Jesus Christ on this Earth? Just as in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ have given us true and living prophets to interpret and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to us, his children that he loves so much!
Now, returning to the original question, "What is a Christian?" How do I define a Christian? Do I believe that people not of my denomination, that non-Mormons are all not Christians? No way! One of the finest, truest Christians I know is not a Mormon. Ron McKenzie is the best father and one of the kindest servants of his fellow man that I have ever met. He has probably never read this scripture, but he is a true practitoner of it: "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 2:17).
I believe a true Christian is a believer in Jesus Christ who does everything in his or her power to following the teachings of Jesus Christ as far as that person understands those teachings. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon, I believe I am a Christian and I am very humbled and thankful for my other Christian brethren and sisters in this world.
It is my testimony that through Christ, after all that I can do, I will be saved by his grace, but that how I choose to use my time, or my "works" serving God rather than mammon, will determine my final estate, for I know that God is a just God. I share these words with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I beheld round the throne holy angels and hosts,
And sanctified beings from worlds that have been,
In holiness worshiping God and the Lamb,
Forever and ever. Amen and amen.
And now after all of the proofs made of him,
By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,
This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea, he lives!
And sits on the right hand of God on his throne.
And I heard a great voice bearing record from heav'n,
He's the Saviour and Only begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that careen in the heavens so broad.
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav'd by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God's daughters and sons
By the very same truths and the very same powers."
(Joseph Smith Jr., Millennial Star, vol. 4 pp. 49-55, qtd. in Mormon Doctrine, Second Edition pp. 65-66)
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I'll tell you how to vote. You read the 134th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and the 29th chapter of Mosiah, and then pray about it and you'll know exactly whom you should vote for at the election. That's how to vote" (Address to Seminary and Institute Personnel, Brigham Young University, July 8, 1966).
I recently read a story about a controversy where homosexual woman who were kissing in the stands of a Major League Baseball game were asked to stop by an usher who had received a complaint from another woman in the stands. The debate in this article was really about whose rights are being infringed upon, or what is more important, the homosexuals being free to do as they wish in a public setting or those who prefer to not be exposed to homosexual behavior in a public setting.
As this is not a political blog, I am not going to get into the controversy here of whose rights trump whose. Rather, I am going to talk about the more fundamental issue—homosexuality.
Homosexuality is wrong.
The statement that stuck out most to me in the aforementioned article was this:
"Certain individuals have not yet caught up. Those people see a gay or lesbian couple and they stare or say something.”Do not get me wrong, I do not hate homosexuals. I love them, as I do my best to love all of Heavenly Father’s children. However, there is no “catching up” to do. Simply because some people have chosen some morals are now okay does not mean the rest of us need to “catch up”. God makes it clear through his prophets in the Bible where he stands on homosexuality three distinct times:
Moses taught: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Old Testament | Leviticus 18:22).Now if you are a believer and believe this commandment has changed, you must believe one having authority through Jesus Christ—meaning a prophet or an apostle (which is a prophet)—has spoken for God and changed it, making homosexuality acceptable. If you do not believe God speaks to men on Earth any more, then you must believe that this commandment—homosexuality is wrong—is still in force.
Paul taught the Colossians: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (emphasis added), (New Testament | Colossians 3:5).
Paul taught Timothy: “THIS know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good” (emphasis added), (New Testament | 2 Timothy 3:1-3).
I will tell you what I believe. God does continue to speak to men on this Earth. There is a true and living prophet. However, since God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness on this Earth, none of his prophets have rescinded the doctrine that homosexuality is wrong. They have only reinforced it.
There is no “catching up” to do. Homosexuality is against God’s commandments. It is a weakness no doubt many have. However, we were put on this Earth with weaknesses so we could gain strength, knowledge, and power by overcoming those weaknesses. All of our weakness, or rather the combinations of our weakness, are unique to each of us, as we are unique children of God. Concerning this mortal state where we have weaknesses, King Benjamin taught:
”For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 3:19)”
I testify that as we seek to “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” and “putteth off the natural man” we will become more saintly “through the atonement of Christ the Lord”. I know that however difficult challenges and temptations are, even when the world says “it’s alright, everyone is doing it”, through Jesus Christ we can overcome those challenges, gaining greater control over our natural selves. I testify that this will only bring us closer to our Father in Heaven and his Son, Jesus Christ. This is my testimony, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
"Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing"That is what Gordon B. Hinckley, a living prophet said in 2003. Either the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true church on this Earth or it is not. It is really that simple. Why? Well that answer is biblical.
Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount, as recorded by Luke in chapter 16 verse 13: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Gordon B. Hinckely was teaching exactly what Jesus Christ taught roughly 2,000 years earlier. There is no half way, no in between. If the church is all true, you are serving God. If one part of the church's doctrine is false the entire church is false, because it would then be a fraud, answering only to the devil or mammon. Let us make one point clear, however, this is not the people of the church, this is the official doctrine, people are entirely fallible, as all humans can, will, and do error, even prophets.
This statement by President Hinckley came to my mind as I was thinking about the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the blessings of the Priesthood being extended to Blacks through revelation to the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball. It is true that many church leaders prior to 1978 said some harsh things towards blacks concerning their banishment from the Priesthood. Some of these statements sound even more harsh when read today because some of the common vernacular of that day is seen today as exceptionally inflammatory.
One Apostle in particular that I quote often, Bruce R. McConkie, was well-known to have made many harsh-sounding statements, and is where the church either being true or not true becomes part of this discussion. In 1978 Elder McConkie said:
"There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren that we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, "You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?" All I can say is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or George Q. Cannon or whoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.I do not believe it can be said any more directly than this. Either you believe the church is completely true, led by Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, who continuously receive revelation for the church from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ or you reject living Prophets and believe this church is completely false. If you believe some revelations are true and others are not, then you believe the church is completely false, for God would not allow his Prophets to lead the church astray. As Elder McConkie described how the policy changed and the gospel was no longer only taught to the Israelites, but also to the Gentiles in ancient days, God does at times changes things within his church. But again, it comes down to do you believe in modern revelation or do you not? Then you can easily accepted the Lord's will when he presents changes to the membership through his leadership.
It doesn't make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the Gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the Gentiles (qtd. from http://www.blacklds.org/Reynolds#en5 "All Are Alike unto God," an address to a Book of Mormon Symposium for Seminary and Institute teachers, Brigham Young University, 18 August 1978, as quoted in Jessie L. Embry, Black Saints in a White Church (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 34. [New Mormon Studies CD-ROM (Smith Research Associates, 1999)]."
If you are not sure and would like to find out, Jesus taught us how, as recorded in John 16:23-24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
I testify that when you do ask with a sincere heart, will real intent, the Lord will make the truth known unto you through the Holy Ghost. If you will allow it to penetrate your soul, you will feel the truth in your heart and know it in you mind. I share my testimony of this with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
I am currently reading The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, was sustained as a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. He held this office from October 1972 until his death on April 19, 1985.
Elder McConkie outlines what it takes to understand prophecy on page 44:
But in the final analysis, there is no way—absolutely none (and this cannot be stated too strongly!)—to understand any Messianic prophecy, or any other scripture, except to have the same spirit of prophecy that rested upon the one who uttered the truth in its original form. Scripture comes from God by the power of the Holy Ghost. It does not originate with man. It means only what the Holy Ghost thinks it means. To interpret it, we must be enlightened by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Peter said, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Truly, it takes a prophet to understand a prophet, and every faithful member of the Church should have “the testimony of Jesus” which “is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelations 19:10). Thus as Nephi says, “The words of Isaiah”—and the principle applies to all scripture, all inspired writing, all Messianic Prophecies—“are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy” (2 Nephi 25:4). This is the sum and substance of the whole matter and an end to all controversy where discovering the mind and will of the Lord is concerned.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
We invite all to inquire into the wonder of what God has said since biblical times and is saying even now.
President Monson, may I claim a moment of personal privilege? As the first of the Brethren invited to speak following your singular message to the Church this morning, may I say something on behalf of all your Brethren of the General Authorities and indeed on behalf of all the Church.
Of the many privileges we have had in this historic conference, including participation in a solemn assembly in which we were able to stand and sustain you as prophet, seer, and revelator, I cannot help but feel that the most important privilege we have all had has been to witness personally the settling of the sacred, prophetic mantle upon your shoulders, almost as it were by the very hands of angels themselves. Those in attendance at last night’s general priesthood meeting and all who were present in the worldwide broadcast of this morning’s session have been eyewitness to this event. For all the participants, I express our gratitude for such a moment. I say that with love to President Monson and especially love to our Father in Heaven for the wonderful opportunity it has been to be “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16), as the Apostle Peter once said.
In general conference last October, I said there were two principal reasons The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is accused, erroneously, of not being Christian. At that time I addressed one of those doctrinal issues—our scripturally based view of the Godhead. Today I would like to address the other major doctrine which characterizes our faith but which causes concern to some, namely the bold assertion that God continues to speak His word and reveal His truth, revelations which mandate an open canon of scripture.
Some Christians, in large measure because of their genuine love for the Bible, have declared that there can be no more authorized scripture beyond the Bible. In thus pronouncing the canon of revelation closed, our friends in some other faiths shut the door on divine expression that we in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold dear: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the ongoing guidance received by God’s anointed prophets and apostles. Imputing no ill will to those who take such a position, nevertheless we respectfully but resolutely reject such an unscriptural characterization of true Christianity.
One of the arguments often used in any defense of a closed canon is the New Testament passage recorded in Revelation 22:18: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of … this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” However, there is now overwhelming consensus among virtually all biblical scholars that this verse applies only to the book of Revelation, not the whole Bible. Those scholars of our day acknowledge a number of New Testament “books” that were almost certainly written after John’s revelation on the Isle of Patmos was received. Included in this category are at least the books of Jude, the three Epistles of John, and probably the entire Gospel of John itself.1 Perhaps there are even more than these.
But there is a simpler answer as to why that passage in the final book of the current New Testament cannot apply to the whole Bible. That is because the whole Bible as we know it—one collection of texts bound in a single volume—did not exist when that verse was written. For centuries after John produced his writing, the individual books of the New Testament were in circulation singly or perhaps in combinations with a few other texts but almost never as a complete collection. Of the entire corpus of 5,366 known Greek New Testament manuscripts, only 35 contain the whole New Testament as we now know it, and 34 of those were compiled after a.d. 1000.2
The fact of the matter is that virtually every prophet of the Old and New Testament has added scripture to that received by his predecessors. If the Old Testament words of Moses were sufficient, as some could have mistakenly thought them to be,3 then why, for example, the subsequent prophecies of Isaiah or of Jeremiah, who follows him? To say nothing of Ezekiel and Daniel, of Joel, Amos, and all the rest. If one revelation to one prophet in one moment of time is sufficient for all time, what justifies these many others? What justifies them was made clear by Jehovah Himself when He said to Moses, “My works are without end, and … my words … never cease.”4
One Protestant scholar has inquired tellingly into the erroneous doctrine of a closed canon. He writes: “On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the church now calls its Bible? … If the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today in the church about matters that are of significant concern?”5 We humbly ask those same questions.
Continuing revelation does not demean or discredit existing revelation. The Old Testament does not lose its value in our eyes when we are introduced to the New Testament, and the New Testament is only enhanced when we read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. In considering the additional scripture accepted by Latter-day Saints, we might ask: Were those early Christians who for decades had access only to the primitive Gospel of Mark (generally considered the first of the New Testament Gospels to be written)—were they offended to receive the more detailed accounts set forth later by Matthew and Luke, to say nothing of the unprecedented passages and revelatory emphasis offered later yet by John? Surely they must have rejoiced that ever more convincing evidence of the divinity of Christ kept coming. And so do we rejoice.
Please do not misunderstand. We love and revere the Bible, as Elder M. Russell Ballard taught so clearly from this pulpit just one year ago.6 The Bible is the word of God. It is always identified first in our canon, our “standard works.” Indeed, it was a divinely ordained encounter with the fifth verse of the first chapter of the book of James that led Joseph Smith to his vision of the Father and the Son, which gave birth to the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our time. But even then, Joseph knew the Bible alone could not be the answer to all the religious questions he and others like him had. As he said in his own words, the ministers of his community were contending—sometimes angrily—over their doctrines. “Priest [was] contending against priest, and convert [was contending] against convert … in a strife of words and a contest about opinions,” he said. About the only thing these contending religions had in common was, ironically, a belief in the Bible, but, as Joseph wrote, “the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question [regarding which church was true] by an appeal to the Bible.”7 Clearly the Bible, so frequently described at that time as “common ground,” was nothing of the kind—unfortunately it was a battleground.
Thus one of the great purposes of continuing revelation through living prophets is to declare to the world through additional witnesses that the Bible is true. “This is written,” an ancient prophet said, speaking of the Book of Mormon, “for the intent that ye may believe that,” speaking of the Bible.8 In one of the earliest revelations received by Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “Behold, I do not bring [the Book of Mormon forth] to destroy [the Bible] but to build it up.”9
One other point needs to be made. Since it is clear that there were Christians long before there was a New Testament or even an accumulation of the sayings of Jesus, it cannot therefore be maintained that the Bible is what makes one a Christian. In the words of esteemed New Testament scholar N. T. Wright, “The risen Jesus, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, does not say, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth is given to the books you are all going to write,’ but [rather] ‘All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me.’ ”10 In other words, “Scripture itself points … away from itself and to the fact that final and true authority belongs to God himself.”11 So the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge for Latter-day Saints. They are manifestations of the ultimate source. The ultimate source of knowledge and authority for a Latter-day Saint is the living God. The communication of those gifts comes from God as living, vibrant, divine revelation.12
This doctrine lies at the very heart of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of our message to the world. It dramatizes the significance of a solemn assembly yesterday, in which we sustained Thomas S. Monson as a prophet, a seer, and a revelator. We believe in a God who is engaged in our lives, who is not silent, not absent, nor, as Elijah said of the god of the priests of Baal, is He “[on] a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be [awakened].”13 In this Church, even our young Primary children recite, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”14
In declaring new scripture and continuing revelation, we pray we will never be arrogant or insensitive. But after a sacred vision in a now sacred grove answered in the affirmative the question “Does God exist?” what Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints force us to face is the next interrogative, which necessarily follows: “Does He speak?” We bring the good news that He does and that He has. With a love and affection born of our Christianity, we invite all to inquire into the wonder of what God has said since biblical times and is saying even now.
In a sense Joseph Smith and his prophetic successors in this Church answer the challenge Ralph Waldo Emerson put to the students of the Harvard Divinity School 170 years ago this coming summer. To that group of the Protestant best and brightest, the great sage of Concord pled that they teach “that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.”15
I testify that the heavens are open. I testify that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is truly another testament of Jesus Christ. I testify that Thomas S. Monson is God’s prophet, a modern apostle with the keys of the kingdom in his hands, a man upon whom I personally have seen the mantle fall. I testify that the presence of such authorized, prophetic voices and ongoing canonized revelations have been at the heart of the Christian message whenever the authorized ministry of Christ has been on the earth. I testify that such a ministry is on the earth again, and it is found in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In our heartfelt devotion to Jesus of Nazareth as the very Son of God, the Savior of the world, we invite all to examine what we have received of Him, to join with us, drinking deeply at the “well of water springing up into everlasting life,”16 these constantly flowing reminders that God lives, that He loves us, and that He speaks. I express the deepest personal thanks that His works never end and His “words … never cease.” I bear witness of such divine loving attention and the recording of it, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. For an introductory discussion on this topic, see Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (1991), 46. The issue of canon is discussed on pages 45–56. Canon is defined as “an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture” (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. , “canon”).
2. See Bruce M. Metzger, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Greek Paleography (1981), 54–55.
3. See Deuteronomy 4:2, for example.
4. Moses 1:4.
8. Mormon 7:9; emphasis added.
10. N. T. Wright, The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture (2005), xi.
12. For a full essay on this subject, see Dallin H. Oaks, “Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign, Jan. 1995, 6–9.
13. 1 Kings 18:27.
16. John 4:14.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a bsandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
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.
One of them . . . said, pointing to the other--"This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"
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!"
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 (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)--and which I should join.
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."
He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home.
To me this simply shows why there are so many denominations out there as well as single standing churches. There are many that will lump themselves under the title “The Christian Church” or "The Christian Religion," yet they are fundamentally different in that they do not teach the same doctrines and they do not have a leader who is also a prophet to declare and clarify doctrine, which is the pattern shown by the book we love and revere, the Bible.
I believe I belong to the one true church on the Earth. Do you believe your denomination is the only true church? If not, it may be time to re-evaluate what you believe.