What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Jesus GethsemaneWhat is the gospel of Jesus Christ?  We know that the word gospel means “good news.”  So, is the gospel of Jesus Christ simply good news that is meant to uplift and inspire us?  Yes, it does uplift and inspire us.  As we apply the teachings of Jesus Christ to our lives we  are better people.  Those who consistently apply the teachings of Jesus in their lives , that of love, compassion, service and charity radiate a light in their countenance.  Yes, the gospel of Jesus Christ is all this and more.  Paul teaches that” it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” (Romans 1:16)  The gospel then is an actual power that can save us.  From what are we saved ?  The angel who appeared to Joseph explained to him that the baby Mary was carrying was of the Holy Ghost and that he would “save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:22 Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21  And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Not only are we saved from our sins, but we are also saved from death.  John’s oft-quoted scripture in John 3:17 explains the dual nature of salvation.

John 3:17 16  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. 17  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Shortly before his death Jesus explained to Mary in even more explicit language that he has overcome death.

John 11:25  Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

26  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Believest thou this?

Sin and death are the two irresolvable dilemmas of mankind.   Death is the common lot of all mankind, indeed all living things, animals and plants.  We are born to die.  Our world is in a constant state of decay.  We also all make mistakes.  We each have regrets.  Sometimes our actions are hurtful to others.  We get angry.  We say things we do not mean to say.  Unintended accidents happen that are not our fault, yet cause harm to others.  Our hearts may break because of pain we cause others.  We may break the trust that someone else has in us.  In a myriad of ways we may do things against our conscience or our higher self.   Sometimes our actions are even more egregious.  On a larger scale there are truly evil acts.  What can compensate for man’s inhumanity to man?  How do we undo the harm we may have done to others?  How do we restore that which cannot be restored?

Man’s dilemma of sin

One of the things that distinguishes man from beasts is that we moral reasoning.   Instinctively man knows that it is wrong to murder, steal, lie or have another’s spouse.  He knows this “instinctively”.   We call it man’s conscience.   Interestingly a new study by the Infant Cognition Center of Yale University revealed that infants may be born with a moral code hard-wired in their brains.  (Read more at: http://phys.org/news192693376.html).  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls this the “Light of Christ.”

Doctrine and Covenants 84:46 “And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.”

Mormon 7:16  “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil. . . “

With our God-given free will or moral agency, sometimes we choose wrong and experience remorse of conscience.   (It is beyond the scope of this blog to discuss the criminal mind and those who apparently don’t have a conscience.)  Man  has an instinctive need to want to “get things of his chest.”  to confess, to want to make things right.  In her book “Guilt is the Teacher, Love is the Lesson,” psychologist, Joan Borysenko, writes the following:

“Holding onto dark, guilty secrets is similar to repressing trauma–it takes physiological work that leads to increased stress and illness.  I was at a conference once where Dr. James Pennebaker presented studies on the health benefits of confession.  His interest of first picqued by lie detector technicians who told him about all the birthday and Christmas cards they get from grateful prisoners who still remember the vast relief of confessing their crimes!”

This is man’s dilemma of sin.  How does one make up for those things which we have done wrong?  How is that searing conscience soothed?   How are these wrongs absolved?  Our conscience seems to require that a price be paid.   Our conscience seems to be connected to what is called Divine Justice.  Because we can’t completely pay the price that justice requires we need a Savior.   Jesus Christ came to earth to be our Savior.

Elder Boyd K. Packer, an apostle for the LDS Church said the following:

“But sometimes you cannot give back what you have taken because you don’t have it to give. If you have caused others to suffer unbearably—defiled someone’s virtue, for example—it is not within your power to give it back.

There are times you cannot mend that which you have broken. Perhaps the offense was long ago, or the injured refused your penance. Perhaps the damage was so severe that you cannot fix it no matter how desperately you want to.

Your repentance cannot be accepted unless there is a restitution. If you cannot undo what you have done, you are trapped. It is easy to understand how helpless and hopeless you then feel and why you might want to give up, just as Alma did.

Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ.

When your desire is firm and you are willing to pay the “uttermost farthing,”the law of restitution is suspended. Your obligation is transferred to the Lord. He will settle your accounts.”

The above is one of my favorite quotes.  What a wonderful thought!  What a relief!  There is a way to restore, heal and fix our mistakes.

How does Jesus save us from sin?

The next valid question to ask is, “Lord, how is it done?”  While we can never understand exactly how Jesus paid the price for our sins there are some things we can understand.  Jesus is the Son of God.  He lived a perfect, sinless life.  His life embodied pure love and forgiveness for everyone.   In a way inexplicable to us, throughout his life and in particular his suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross, he absorbed all of mankind’s misery, guilt and suffering.  He “descended below all things.”  He paid the price to divine justice for our sins.  Through his infinite love he conquered evil and death.  The Book of Mormon gives us some of the clearest scriptures about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

Alma 7: 11  And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to csuccor his people according to their infirmities.

13  Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

Elder Merrill  J. Bateman, a general authority for the LDS Church said the following in a general conference, October, 2005

For many years I thought of the Savior’s experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him. Through the words of Alma, Abinadi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed. Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt “our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15), “[bore] our griefs, … carried our sorrows … [and] was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:4–5).

The Atonement was an intimate, personal experience in which Jesus came to know how to help each of us.

The Creator of the universe has the power to become intimately acquainted with each of us. He learned about your weaknesses and mine. He experienced your pains and sufferings. He experienced mine. I testify that He knows us. He understands the way in which we deal with temptations. He knows our weaknesses. But more than that, more than just knowing us, He knows how to help us if we come to Him in faith.”

I, too, want to add my testimony that Jesus is my Savior.  I am infinitely and eternally indebted to him for enabling me to overcome my sins and weaknesses so that I can return to live with Him again someday.  In subsequent blogs I post about how Jesus overcame death and more about what the atonement means to me.

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How Did Mankind Learn of the Existence of God?

adam and EveGod Reveals Himself to Adam

We know that some kind religion and religious observation has been part of man’s existence from the very beginning of man’s history.  How did man first come up the idea that there was a God?  There have been many scholarly books written about the “evolution” of God or the “history” of God.  Knowing that I approach this subject rather timidly because it is only a  blog post, but I have been thinking about this and have some thoughts that I hope add to the discussion.

Although there is much archeological evidence about the beginnings of man on the earth, the first written information of the history of man is the book of Genesis by Moses.  Since Moses wasn’t alive during the time period of the book of Genesis, it is fair to ask how Moses knew of the those events before he was born.   Again there is much discussion on this subject.  He undoubtedly had access to some kind of record of the historical events he wrote about after the creation and Fall of Adam and Eve, but how did he know about the creation which happened before man came upon the face of the earth?  The following statement is from the website creationstudies.org.

“This section, [meaning Genesis 1-4] describing the initial Creation and the work of the six days,  has no human name attached to it, for the obvious reason that no man was present   at the time to record what happened. It must either have been written directly  by God Himself and then given to Adam, or else given by revelation to Adam, who then recorded it. http://www.creationstudies.org/Education/wrote_genesis.html

Moses, as the writer of the book of Moses, either had access to Adam’s record or the Lord revealed it to him, anew.  Either way, it if clear that the only way for mankind to learn of the existence of God is for God to reveal himself.  Man did not create or invent God.  God created man.  Much has been said about the “evolution” of God as if God were in a process of change, but scriptures teach us that God is from “everlasting to everlasting.”  He is the same, “yesterday, today and forever.”   At various and sundry times through the ages, it is man who has removed himself from God.

“LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalms 90:1-2)

We know that God communicated with Adam in the Garden of Eden.  He also communicated to Adam after he left the Garden.  In the last post I discussed the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.  It sheds great clarity on this subject.

“And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence.  And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.  And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.  And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.  (Moses 4:4-, 12)

God, in his infinite mercy, continued to communicate to Adam and Eve.  They knew and worshipped God.  He gave them commandments for right living and he was obedient to those commandments.  They taught their children about God because they had personal experience with Him. Joseph Smith discusses this topic in his book Lectures on Faith.”

[We have discussed] the way by which mankind were first made acquainted with the existence of a God; that it was by a manifestation of God to man, and that God continued, after man’s transgression, to manifest himself to him and to his posterity; and, notwithstanding they were separated from his immediate presence that they could not see his face, they continued to hear his voice.  Adam, thus being made acquainted with God, communicated the knowledge which he had unto his posterity; and it was through this means that the thought was first suggested to their minds that there was a God, which laid the foundation for the exercise of their faith, through which they could obtain a knowledge of his character and also of his glory. (Lectures on Faith, #2)

Adam communicates a knowledge of God to his posterity

As the above quotes states, “Adam, thus acquainted with God, communicated the knowledge which he had to his posterity.” The idea of God is first presented to each of us by another human being, usually our parents, but, certainly not always.  It is by human testimony that we have the first thoughts presented to us that there is a God.  Joseph continues:

“From this we can see that the whole human family in the early age of their existence, in all their different branches, had this knowledge disseminated among them; so that the existence of God became an object of faith in the early age of the world. And the evidences which these men had of the existence of a God, was the testimony of their fathers in the first instance. Let this class mark particularly, that the testimony which these men had of the existence of a God, was the testimony of man; for previous to the time that any of Adam’s posterity had obtained a manifestation of God to themselves, Adam, their common father, had testified unto them of the existence of God, and of his eternal power and Godhead.”  (Lectures on Faith, #2)

All through the ages faith comes by hearing the word of God

Paul teaches the same thing when he says that faith comes by hearing the word of God.

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?  and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  and how shall they hear without a preacher?And how shall they preach, except they be sent?  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:14-17)

If the faith of others could be dependent on my communication of my faith, how great is my responsibility to communicate that faith to others, to let my light shine.   I have been in the presence of great men and women of faith who have communicated their faith to me in ways that have burned into my heart.  I  had no doubt that they knew.

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The Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price

Last night we had the missionaries from our church over for dinner.  After dinner we gathered our in the living room for a message from them and a prayer.  Since it’s Thanksgiving we have two of our daughters here with us and their families, there about 15 of us gathered round.  There was a sweet spirit there as the missionaries asked each of us to express gratitude for some aspect of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  When we speak of our church as being the restored gospel, we mean that through the prophet Joseph Smith many parts of the church in Jesus’ time, which had been lost over time, were again restored to his church.  When it was my turn I expressed gratitude for the Book of Mormon and our other modern-day scriptures.  As I read them I know that Joseph, an uneducated, backwoods farm boy, could not have written such sublime, inspired words

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST)

One of the many contributions which Joseph Smith made to the religious world is a revision of many parts of the Bible. Some might take umbrage that the Bible might need revisions, but the Bible has been translated over a hundred times by various individuals and religions. With every translation of the Bible revisions have been made and attempts made to clarify the more obscure passages.  One of the more common Bibles in use in many Protestant churches in the USA is the New Revised Standard Version which is a revision of a revision.  It was revised by a committee of scholars representing Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups.  The mandate given the committee was summarized in a dictum:  “As literal as possible, as free as necessary.” (Wikipedia article, “New Revised Standard Version of the Bible”)  This revision attempted to please as many groups as possible and in the process watered down many doctrines, including changes to gender-specific language.

The official Bible of the LDS church is the King James Version.  Soon after the church was organized Joseph was commanded to go through the Bible making revisions or additions as he was directed by the spirit.  Robert J. Matthews, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU, said the following:

“We should be appreciative of the great spiritual heritage and source of inspiration that has come to us through the Bible, yet readers the world over have recognized for many years that the Bible has not come to us in its original purity and plainness. . . The thoughtful reader of the Bible soon observes that there are many passages that are vague and hard to understand and that seem to be incomplete. Some passages also appear to be contradictory. We understand that there are not so many things in the King James Version of the Bible that are incorrect, but rather, because of faulty transmission and missing parts, that which remains is often unclear and devoid of its full meaning. Joseph Smith’s work with the Bible restores some of the missing parts and causes what we have to be more meaningful.” (Ensign/1972, Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible, Robert J. Matthews)

The verses that Joseph clarified are footnoted with the changes appearing in the footnotes.  More lengthy changes are included in the appendix.  Joseph didn’t translate per se, in that he didn’t work from texts of the original languages.  As he read the Bible and prayed for understanding, he was inspired to make the changes.   As I read the JST verses I’m amazed at how changing a few simple words adds so much to the clarity.  For instance the first four verses of John read as thus in the King James Version of the Bible read as thus:

 IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Here are the same verses in the Joseph Smith Translation.  The changes are in bold lettering.   One can readily appreciate the additional understanding the Joseph Smith Translation gives to these verses, identifying the “Word” as Jesus Christ.

 In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.   The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made.  In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men;

The Book of Moses

The book of Genesis is our introduction to God.  The LDS Guide to the Scriptures emphasizes the importance of the book of Genesis.  It states:

“It is the true and original birthplace of all theology.  It contains those ideas of God and man, of righteousness and judgment, of responsibility and moral government, of failure and hope, which are presupposed through the rest of the O.T. and which prepare the way for the mission of Christ.   In latter-day revelation we find many sources of information that clarify and substantiate the record of Genesis.   Of particular importance is the book of Moses. (lds.org)

The Book of Moses  is among the greatest contributions of the Joseph Smith Translation.  It gives an account of some visions and experiences of Moses previous to and in preparation for writing Genesis.  As Joseph began studying the book of  Genesis, he was inspired to add a vision of Moses as a prologue to the story of the Creation and the Fall of man.  In this most remarkable vision Moses sees God face to face.   Moses is called to his great life work, not only as the one who would deliver the children of Israel from the bondage, but the one who is commissioned to write an account of the creation of the earth.  Moses is considered to be the author of the book of Genesis.   How did he get access to a knowledge of the creation of the earth?  Clearly God would have had to communicate this knowledge to him.  This vision contains God’s revelation to Moses of the creation and his instruction to him to write it down as dictated directly by God.

Moses burning bushMoses chapter 1 contains the first recorded words of God to man.  What does he want us to learn?   In the very beginning verses we are taught through Moses who God is and our relationship to Him.  God speaks to Moses very personally, calling him his son.  To me, this chapter is like a concentrated beam of truth and light shed on the nature of God and our relationship to him. Each of us can take comfort in this scripture and know that we are all sons and daughters of God.  God knows our name.  He is our personal, loving Father.  Moses is also taught about Jesus Christ, that he is the Only Begotten of the Father and our Savior.   What precious knowledge this is!   These truths are the foundation of Christianity.

THE words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain.  And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.  And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?  And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands. . .  And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.

Moses is then shown an expansive vision of the earth and all its inhabitants.   Afterwards he is so overcome by the spirit that his natural strength leaves him.  He is left to himself for several hours.  Moses then has an encounter with Satan and overcomes him through calling upon God.  After this test with Satan Moses is given his call to deliver Israel and is shown another vision of all of God’s creations.   Moses’ wonders at the majesty of God’s creations and desires to know more about its creation.  God tells Moses that he will show him concerning this earth and then commands him to write of the creation of the world.

 “And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.”   And now, Moses, my son, I will speak unto thee concerning this earth upon which thou standest; and thou shalt write the things which I shall speak. Moses 1:36, 40)

This is an amazing chapter!  It has so many concentrated truths that it’s best to divide it up into sections to study it.  In subsequent blogs I’ll discuss  more in depth some of these topics.

Personal application in my life:  God is real!  He communicates to his children.  He wants us to understand our relationship with Him.  He loves his children.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the same through the ages.   Joseph Smith is an instrument in the hands of God to bring forth modern-day revelation.

 

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The Testimony of Jesus during “Intertestamental” Period

King BenjaminThe greater part of the Book of Mormon was written before Christ’s coming. It begins about 600 BC during the reign of King Zedekiah. The Bible ends its narrative in about 400 BC. The Book of Mormon gives the prophetic word of God during the period of time which is called the “intertestamental period”, a term used to refer to a period of time between the writings of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament texts. Traditionally, it is considered to be a roughly four hundred year period, spanning the ministry of Malachi (c. 420 BC), the last of the Old Testament prophets, and the appearance of John the Baptist in the early 1st century AD. It is known by members of the Protestant community as the “400 Silent Years” because it is believed to have been a span where God revealed nothing new to his people.

The Book of Mormon  is especially relevant because it shows that God was not “silent” during those 400 years prior to Christ’s coming.   A continuing line of prophets bore witness of the coming of a Messiah through obedience to the sacrificial rites of the law of Moses.   The following scripture was written sometime between 399-361 BC

“Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was.  And after this manner did they teach them.”  (Jarom 1:11)

The next 200 years pass quickly  in the Book of Mormon.  Even though our current Book of Mormon is an abridgment, it is evident that God spoke to his prophets during this period.  There were periods of wickedness and righteousness among the Nephites, the ones who kept the records, yet we know that they had prophets who continued to teach them.   Undoubtedly the more complete record would be replete with the testimony of prophets.  The records were handed down father to son to brother.  Amaleki, one of the later prophets during this period, bore the following fervent testimony of Jesus.

And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.  Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.” (Omni 1:26)

A very concentrated portion of the Book of Mormon covers the 130 years before Christ’s birth.  It is rich in the testimony of Jesus born by prophets and other religious leaders.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is taught with clarity and truth.  It shows that the people continued to keep the Law of Moses as means to point their hearts and minds to Christ.

“Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled.  But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them.  Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come.”   (Alma 25:15-16)

The Book of Mormon shows how merciful God is as He continues to communicate to His children through his prophets during this time.  He was preparing a people for the coming of his Son. Why would this occur only among the Book of Mormon people? One answer might be that they were free from the oppression of foreign governments and entanglements. They were also free from the reign of tyrannical kings. About 93 BC the form of government among the Nephites peacefully changed from a reign of kings to a democracy with elected leaders.  This could possibly be the first democratic government in recorded history.   The political leaders in the Book of Mormon were often their spiritual leaders. Freedom of religion was paramount. Indeed wars were fought to protect religious liberty.

Their religious freedom was essential for the prophetic word to be taught without hindrances. Although their government was corrupt at times, prophets could still preach the truth, testify, call people to repentance and expose corruption. It appears that God had preserved a people and a government to whom he could reveal his truths during this intertestamental period.

How grateful I am the testimony of these Book of Mormon prophets! I feel like Alma did at one point when he exclaimed:

“O THAT I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.” (Alma 29:1-2)

I hope those who read this blog will read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of its truthfulness by sincerely praying about it with real intent.   I know that “If ye  ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”  (Moroni 10:4)

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Adam Was Taught the Gospel of Christ

christusIn the year 2000 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a Declaration entitled.  The Living Christ.  It opens with the following statement:

As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of his matchless life and the infinite virtue of his great atoning sacrifice.  None other has so profound an influence upon all who have lived or will yet live upon the face of the earth. . . We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.”

If Jesus’ life is central to all human history, and it is, and if salvation is only through Jesus Christ, and it is, then a loving God would surely communicate a knowledge of His Son to his children in all ages.  The question I ask myself is: when and how did God start communicating this knowledge?   Surely the answer must be that God communicated this knowledge at the very beginning of man’s existence on earth to Adam, yet we have no of this communication in the Biblical record.   The Pearl of Great Price, another of the standard works of the LDS church, contains added information to the first seven chapters of Genesis. It is precious knowledge indeed as it shows how God taught Adam the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One might appropriately ask what the Book of Moses is in the Pearl of Great Price. One of the many contributions which Joseph Smith made to the religious world is a revision of many parts of the Bible. Some might take umbrage that the Bible might need revisions, but the Bible has been translated over a hundred times by various individuals and religions. With every translation of the Bible revisions have been made and attempts made to clarify the more obscure passages.   I will do another post about the Joseph Smith Translation, but here I want to focus on the fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ was taught to Adam.

Genesis chapter 4 begins with the account of Cain and Abel  offering sacrifices to the Lord.  Cain and Abel had different occupations.  Abel was a “keeper of the sheep” and Cain was a “tiller of the ground”.  Both seemed to be legitimate occupations.  Each offered a sacrifice to the Lord; Cain, the “fruit of the ground,” and Abel the “firstlings of his flocks.”  It is not explained why Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God and Cain’s wasn’t.  It has been left to gospel scholars to try and explain this incongruence.

In his landmark book The Genesis Record, the late Dr. Henry Morris, one of the founders of the modern creation movement, speculates on why Cain’s offering was rejected:

The Bible does not actually say specifically whether such sacrifices had been commanded by God, or whether the practice arose merely as a spontaneous expression of thanksgiving and worship. If it was the latter, however, it is difficult to understand why God would not have been as pleased with an offering of Cain’s fruits as with an offering of Abel’s slain lamb. It seems more likely that God did give instructions, and that Cain had disobeyed. The entire occurrence can only be really understood in the context of an original revelation by God regarding the necessity of substitutionary sacrifice as a prerequisite to approaching God. Such revelation was most likely given at the time God provided coats of skins for Adam and Eve, and then banished them from his presence, providing, however, a specific means by which they could still commune with Him at certain times, on the basis of a similar sacrifice.

The amazing thing is that Moses chapter 5 in the Pearl of Great Price, which corresponds to Genesis 4, does indeed show that there was an original revelation by God concerning the law of sacrifice.   In Moses 5, there are several verses which explain God’s commandment to Adam to offer sacrifices, their purpose and meaning.

And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence.  And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.  And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.  And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?  And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.  Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forever.  And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will. (Moses 5:4-8)

I believe that is a most amazing scripture!  It explains fully the meaning of their sacrifices.  It shows clearly that Adam knew of Jesus Christ and that redemption is only in through Christ.  I do not believe that Joseph Smith, an uneducated, backwoods farm boy, could have written such a profound statement.

What happens next?  Adam and Eve teach the gospel to their children.  In that teaching they are assisted by the Holy Ghost.   This is the pattern, is it not?  Parents teach their children.  Parents plant in the hearts of their children their faith and testimony.

 “And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all Adam and Evethings known unto their sons and their daughters. . .  And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent;  And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned; and the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled. (Moses 5:12, 14-15)

These scriptures clearly show the gospel of Jesus Christ is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.’  One of Jesus’ last commandments to his apostles was to “go ye into all he world and preach my gospel. He that believeth and baptized the same shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.”   The scriptures in the Book of Moses fit perfectly with those in the Bible.  They augment and elucidate difficult issues. Not only does it make perfect sense to me that Adam was taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the Holy Ghost bears witness to me that it is true!

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THE POWER OF THE BOOK OF MORMON

lamp to my feetTHE TREMENDOUS POWER OF UNSEEN FORCES IN THE UNIVERSE

President Benson has boldly declared, “It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that.  It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too.  But there is something more. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book.   That is a bold statement!  He says there is “power in the book.”  What sort of power?  How is that power manifest?

Since “power” is intangible, we can only define power as we see the results of power or its effect on something.    When we speak of the power of the wind it is because we see the effects of wind.  Similarly the power of water is defined when we see its effects.   In the natural world we could substitute the word “energy” for power.

The most powerful forces in the universe are unseen.  The energy contained in gravity, electricity, radio waves, magnetism, heat, light and the sun affect each of us every day.  We are literally surrounded by unseen energy and vibration. The tremendous energy in our weather patterns are created because of the energy radiated by the sun, energy so powerful that it reaches us, though it travels millions of miles through space.  Radio waves bounce about us continually.  Vast amounts of information are transmitted instantly all over the globe via unseen energy.

All of this power has one source, the light of Christ.  In a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants, another scriptural book of the LDS church, the light of Christ is explained as the “light which proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.”  It is the “light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne.”  (D&C 88:13) :Indeed, God is not only all powerful, but the source of all power.  After his resurrection Jesus says, “all power is given unto me in heaven and earth.” (Matthew 28:18)

Man has gained great knowledge about the powers of the universe, but sometimes we think it is solely our own efforts.  We marvel at the exponential explosion of knowledge in the last 200 years and mistaken think it’s completely the product of man’s ingenuity, but it is God who has graciously allowed man to access this knowledge through the Light of Christ.  Without the Light of Christ, men’s minds are darkened.  There would be no forthcoming knowledge.   Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:3 praises God and says, “Talk no more exceedingly proud; let not arrogancy come out of thy mouth;  for he Lord is a God of knowledge.”  Many scientists have humbly acknowledged that God led them in their discoveries.  Isaac Newton considered God to be essential to nature and the absoluteness of space.  He said, “The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed  from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”  http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html

THE WORDS OF CHRIST CONTAIN GREAT POWER AND ENERGY

The words of Jesus Christ contain power.  John tells us that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. . . all things were made by him; and without was anything made that was made.” (John 1:3))   In Genesis God spoke and said, ”Let there be light and there was light.”(Genesis 1:3)  Jacob, Nephi’s younger brother describes the power of the words of Christ during the creation of the earth.  For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word.  Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?”   (Jacob 4:9)  When Jesus was aboard the ship with his disciples and a great storm arose with a tremendous wind, all Jesus had to do was speak and the wind stopped.  It was by the power of his word.  Paul teaches that Jesus “upholdeth all things by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3)

OUR THOUGHTS ARE AN ENERGY FIELD

There is great energy all around us.  Our thoughts have an energy field.  Each of us projects energy into the universe.  David O. McKay, the 9th President of the church, said the following:

“Every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone, it is not alone what he does. It is what he is. Every man, every person radiates what he or she is. Every person is a recipient of radiation. The Savior was conscious of that. Whenever he came into the presence of an individual, he sensed that radiation—whether it was the woman of Samaria with her past life; whether it was the woman who was to be stoned or the men who were to stone her; whether it was the statesman, Nicodemus, or one of the lepers. He was conscious of the radiation from the individual. And to a degree so are you, and so am I. It is what we are and what we radiate that affects the people around us.

… As individuals, we must think nobler thoughts. We must not encourage vile thoughts or low aspirations. We shall radiate them if we do. If we think noble thoughts, if we encourage and cherish noble aspirations, there will be that radiation when we meet people, especially when we associate with them.

The effect of our words and acts is tremendous in this world. Every moment of life you are changing to a degree the lives of the whole world. … So, it’s not the surroundings, it isn’t the positions; the thing that will influence [others] in this world, are personalities. No matter what you are people will feel and recognize this. You radiate, you can’t hide it. You may pretend something else, but that will not affect people.”8

President Brigham Young also talks about that “invisible influence which attends visible beings.”

“I rejoice in the privilege of meeting with the Saints, in hearing them speak, and enjoying the influence that is within and around them.  That influence opens to my understanding the true position of those who are endeavoring to serve their God.  I do not require to hear them speak to enable me to know their feelings.  Is it not also your experience that, when you meet persons in the street, in your houses, in your offices, or in the workshops, more or less of an influence attends them which conveys more than words can?. . . That knowledge is obtained through that influence which attends intelligent beings, and betrays the atmosphere in which they delight of live.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 3:225)

NATURE RADIATES POWER AND ENERGY

                Why do we love to be in a beautiful natural setting?  What is it about the green of the grass, the beauty of flowers, the majesty of mountains, or the rhythm of the ocean waves that seem to soothe us?  The earth emits life-giving energy.   Moses tells us that plants became “living souls.” And out of the ground made I, the Lord God, to grow every tree, naturally, that is pleasant to the sight of man; and man could behold it.  And it became also a living soul.”  (Moses 3:9)  A few years ago I visited Switzerland, the home of my ancestors.  I was overwhelmed with the beauty surrounding me.  It was ineffable.  The only thing I thought to do was write a poem.  I would like to share it with you.  I don’t consider myself a poet, but these words just came to me as a gift.

To Switzerland

I am surrounded by breathtaking beauty.

Encompassed by life-giving energy.

Lush shades of green envelop me,

Whispering to me that God is near.

What a feast my eyes behold!

How can such beauty be described?

My eyes see, but the grandeur enters my soul.

I become one with everything I see.

Mountain brooks sing over moss-covered rocks,

Wildflowers splash the mountainside with color

Splendid trees tower about me,

A carpet of green spreads beneath them.

Life giving water flows from mountain snows,

Moisture nourishes the earth through foggy mists,

Clouds drift in and out and everywhere,

Mysteriously revealing shadowy mountain peaks.

Ancient cabins dot the hillside,

Their wood weathered with stories,

Oh, if I could only read their secrets!

I wonder who lived and loved and died there.

Lush mountain meadows drape the hillside,

Cream colored cows graze peacefully,

Bells round their necks gently sway,

Their symphony of tones creating a magnificent bell choir.

These are my roots,

This is my ancestral home.

I was born here centuries ago.

Though I say good-by for now,

My heart will always be in my mountain home.

ALL OBJECTS RADIATE ENERGY

Not only do we as people and all of nature radiate energy, inanimate objects do as well.  Jacque Lusseyran, a hero of the French Resistance in World War II, lost his eyesight when he was seven years old.  He describes learning to discern the unseen energy and light around him.

I was aware of a radiance emanating from a place I knew nothing about, a place which might as well have been outside me as within.  But, radiance was there, or, to put it more precisely, light.  It was a fact, for light was there. . . [It was] a light so continuous and so intense [and] was so far beyond my comprehension that sometimes I doubted it. . . How could I have lived all that time without realizing that everything in the world has a voice and speaks?  Not just things that are supposed to speak, but the others, like the gate, the walls of the house, the shade of the trees, the sand and the silence.” 10

THE MAGNITIC PULL OF THE BOOK OF MORMON

 All of the above are different manifestations of the power of the Light of Christ which surrounds us.  This power is stronger than sight or any of the five senses.  The Light is Christ is like a magnet which draws us to everything good.  In like manner there is actual power in the Book of Mormon.  Though inanimate, it radiates light and energy.  It contains the words of Christ which have a drawing power that will bring us to Christ if we will allow it to.  Perhaps this pull is not unlike the power of a magnetic field.

The vibrational energy of the words, thoughts, faith and prayers of the writers of the Book of Mormon were directed towards its future readers.  Their prayers transcended time and space. Enos, another writer in the Book of Mormon, prayed with great faith that the record which he was writing would be preserved for future generations, that it might bring them to Christ.

Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it. . . And I had faith, and I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records; and he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth . . . in his own due time.” (Enos 1:16)

Enos’ fervent prayer was for future generations.  The Lord answered his prayer with a promise that he would do as Enos desired.  Nephi also wrote with great love for his future readers.  He said, “But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people.  For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cryAnd I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people.  And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it apersuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life beternal. (2 Nephi 33:3-4)

I have felt the power of Nephi’s prayer in my life.  His prayer has been answered in my life because the Book of Mormon has “persuaded me to do good and to believe in Jesus.”

 In Isaiah 29 there is a rather obscure prophesy about a voice speaking from the dust. “And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.” (Isaiah 29:2) He then speaks of a sealed book that is delivered to a man who is “not learned”, and that the Lord will do proceed to do a “marvelous work and a wonder.”

Is not the Book of Mormon as a “voice which whispers out of the dust?”  It has a familiar spirit to those who have ears to hear.  Speaking of our day Nephi makes a similar prophecy as Isaiah, “yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten. . . . For those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit; for the Lord God will give unto him power, that he may whisper concerning them, even as it were out of the ground; and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.” (2 Nephi 26:15-16)  Could it be that we are actually feeling the vibrational energy of the power of their testimony?  The scripture says that God will give their words power that those words will touch our hearts.   Could this be the actual power that President Benson is talking about?   I believe it could be so.  Why would the words of the Book of Mormon seem familiar to us when we hear them for the very first time?  Perhaps the power of the words of the Book of Mormon even extend from the spiritual realm of our pre-existence.  The truths taught in the Book of Mormon were taught to us before we were even born.  When we hear them again it is as if we are remembering something we were taught long ago.  The Doctrine and Covenants teaches us that “we received our first lessons in the world of spirits.” (D&C 138:56)  Our first tutorial of the Book of Mormon was before we were even born.

When President Benson says that there is a power which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the Book of Mormon, he is speaking a REAL POWER.  He goes on the say, “You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.”

President Benson then quotes from Elder Marion G. Romney.  “Our beloved brother, President Marion G. Romney, who celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday last month and who knows of himself of the power that resides in this book, testified of the blessings that can come into the lives of those who will read and study the Book of Mormon. He said:  “I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

These promises—increased love and harmony in the home, greater respect between parent and child, increased spirituality and righteousness—are not idle promises, but exactly what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said the Book of Mormon will help us draw nearer to God.”10

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Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?

mormonpngMany writers contributed to the Book of Mormon 

       As I’ve stated earlier the purpose of my blog is to bear my witness that the Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ.  This blog post is the first of several about the writers and the construction of the Book of Mormon.     To understand the Book of Mormon it is important to understand its organization, and the times and the context in which it was written.  Into this context we can fit the major writers of the Book of Mormon.  We can come to know each writer and hear their specific testimony.  They all testified of Christ, but each writer has their individual style and their particular emphasis. 

       Joseph Smith was not the author of the Book of Mormon.  He was simply the translator.  Multiple writers contributed to the Book of Mormon.  Joseph Smith’s own writings have a very different style than the wording of the Book of Mormon.   The title page of the Book of Mormon states the following:  “An account written by the hand of Mormon upon the plates taken from the plates of Nephi.”  Mormon lived around 315 to 385 AD.  He had access to the many records written by various other prophets from the time that Lehi and his family left Jerusalem around 600 BC.  The records had been engraved on metal plates.   He had the onerous task of abridging these records into a manageable size.  During this abridgment process he quoted verbatim several other writers. 

       There is a science of measuring literary style called “wordprinting” or stylometry.”  According to an article on FairMormon.org, a website dedicated to answering questions about the Mormon Church, the “main assumption underlying stylometry is that an author has aspects of literary style that may be unconsciously used, and be used to identify their work.  Stylometrists analyze literature using statistics, math formulas and artificial intelligence to determine the “style” of an author’s writing.   If wordprinting is a valid technique, then this analysis suggests that it is “statistically indefensible” to claim that Joseph Smith wrote the 30,000 words in the Book of Mormon attributed to Nephi and Alma. The Book of Mormon also contains work written by more than one author.  Critics who wish to reject Joseph’s account of the Book of Mormon’s production must therefore identify multiple authors for the text, and then explain how Joseph acquired it and managed to pass it off as his own.”    Though not scientific, it has been my personal experience in reading the Book of Mormon to recognize these different styles.  I have felt the spirit and testimony of each one.  It is as if they had become real.  I have felt the “power” of their words.  They have been to me as a “voice speaking from the dust.”

        Before we discuss the construction of the Book of Mormon, it is important to understand what the Book of Mormon is not.  President James E. Faust said the following, “It is important to know what the Book of Mormon is not. It is not primarily a history, although much of what it contains is historical. The title page states that it is an account taken from the records of people living in the Americas before and after Christ; it was “written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. … And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”  

 President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), First Counselor in the First Presidency, stated: “The Book of Mormon is not a geographical primer. It was not written to teach geographical truths. What is told us of the situation of the various lands or cities … is usually simply an incidental remark connected with the doctrinal or historical portions of the work.”6

What, then, is the Book of Mormon? It is confirming evidence of the birth, life, and Crucifixion of Jesus and of His work as the Messiah and the Redeemer. “(Ensign, Jan. 2004)

        My focus is to be true the purpose of the Book of Mormon to bear witness that the Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ.   The history and geography help put the Book of Mormon in the time and context of the Bible, both the Old and New Testament. 

The Construction of the Book of Mormon

             The Book of Mormon is comprised of four major records:

  • The small plates of Nephi are an unabridged record of the writings of Nephi, his brother, Jacob and a few other writers, covering the time period from around 600 BC to 130 BC.  Even though this is a large time period, the bulk of it only covers 181 years.  288 years are quickly summarized in only five pages.
  • The second record  is an abridgement of the large plates of Nephi by Mormon, covering the time period from 130 BC to 386 AD.  The bulk of this record is the 130 years before the coming of Christ, giving us a pattern to prepare for the second coming of Christ.
  • The book of Ether is a record of the Jaredites, another group who migrated from the Old World at the time of the Tower of Babel.  It is taken from some plates which Nephites found. 
  • The personal writings of Mormon and his son, Moroni make up the last section of the Book of Mormon. 

        Extensive records were kept throughout the 1000 years of the Book of Mormon time period.  Mormon, who lived around 315 AD to 385 AD speaks of these records when he says, And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them.  But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people cannot be contained in this work.” (Helaman 3:13-14)

        In the next few posts I’ll go into more detail about the different sections of the Book of Mormon.  Each is unique.  Skillfully interwoven throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon is a witness of Jesus Christ.  We are taught by the pure testimony of prophets.  Principles are illustrated through the stories.  Examples are given of righteous living and wickedness.  We are taught the consequences of sin and are asked to “consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.  O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.” (Mosiah 2:41)  To me it is record of heaven itself.

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