Right-use-ness

Our bodies work best when we use them how God intended them to be used. This applies to diet, sleep, exercise, even work and play. God has laws which govern everything and when we break those laws we suffer the consequences, but if we obey them we enjoy the peace and happiness that comes when things work as they should.

We don’t know the laws of God as well as he does, so we often break them unwittingly. And even the ones we do know often take time to implement, since we are so habituated to our old ways. However, if we are to live the good life, we must learn God’s laws and strive to follow them. A close study of the scriptures gives us guidance on his laws. Here are a few of them:

PRIDE, LAUGHTER, LIGHT-MINDEDNESS, AND LUSTFULNESS

“…cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter far from you.”
(D&C 88:69)

“Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings.”
(D&C 88:121)

PRAYER AND FASTING

“Also, I give unto you a commandment that ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth.”
(D&C 88:76)

“Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come. …”
(D&C 88:126)

TEACHING ONE ANOTHER

“And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.”
(D&C 88:77)

COVETOUSNESS AND GIVING

“See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.”
(D&C 88:123)

WORK, CLEANLINESS, FORGIVENESS, AND SLEEP

Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.”
(D&C 88:124)

DIET

“That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father…”
(D&C 89:5)

“And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.”
(D&C 89:9)

“And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.”
(D&C 89:8)

Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.”
(D&C 89:12-13)

“… all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.”
(D&C 89:10-11)

All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.”
(D&C 89:16-17)

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Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done

“…[He] kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
(Luke 22:41-42)

Christ in Gethsemane

These were the immortal words which our Savior spoke in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to partaking the “bitter cup”.

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
(Matthew 26:26-28)

What was Christ talking about when he said, “new testament”? It’s interesting to note what Merriam Webster’s first definition of testament is. It reads, “archaic: a covenant between God and the human race.” When we read the Old Testament and New Testament as Old Covenant and New Covenant, we see things in an entirely new light. It also causes us to realize that the phrase “New and Everlasting Covenant” isn’t so new, it’s just disguised in older jargon. So what is this New Covenant that Christ made with us that we renew every time we partake of the Sacrament each Sunday? The terms of the covenant can be found in the prayer itself:

“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.”
(Moroni 4:3)

We covenant to always remember Christ and if we do that then he will grant us his Spirit. So remembering Christ isn’t just supposed to happen twice a year, at Easter and Christmas, but we should be remembering him always. But what are we to remember about him? It states that we are to remember his blood, but why? What does the blood represent? Mortality. It represents him sacrificing his mortal life, as an example of what we must do if we are to obtain eternal life (this same symbolism can also be found in the baptismal covenant). For most of us this sacrifice seems overwhelmingly difficult. As with any difficult task, having an example of someone who has achieved that task, gives us faith that that it can actually be done. So it is that our elder brother made the sacrifice necessary for eternal life and showed us it can be done. He made this sacrifice before he hung on the cross, he made it in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said:

not my will, but thine, be done

So it is that if we will take this humble attitude into our daily lives then God will impart his Will to us through his Holy Spirit. It is obedience to this Will which will lead us to eternal life. What God asks us to do is rarely easy, we will often be tempted to disobey his Will and take an easier path. However, when we don’t follow his Will, he withdraws his Spirit and we loose access to all the blessings he has to offer through obedience…at least until we repent. Those who persist in repenting and endure to the end will be exalted. That’s a guarantee given by God!


The Origins of Matchmaking

Orthodox Jews have a very fascinating belief. The Wikipedia page on Shidduch describes it like so:

“Bashert, (Yiddish: באַשערט), is a Yiddish word that means “destiny”. It is often used in the context of one’s divinely foreordained spouse or soulmate, who is called “basherte” (female) or “basherter” (male).”

We can see from this that the original purpose of the matchmaker was to pair up couples who were “foreordained” to be together. Foreordination isn’t a foreign idea to Mormons seeing it is one of the primary teachings taught in the Book of Abraham:

“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
(Abraham 3:22-23)

In a canonized vision Joseph F. Smith received we also find this:

The Prophet Joseph Smith, and my father, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work, Including the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead, were also in the spirit world. I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.”
(D&C 138:53-55)

From these two passages we can see that God already decided who was going to lead his Church through every age, even before the earth was created. If this is the case, wouldn’t it also seem probable that God foreordained every marriage and that the Jewish matchmaking system came into being to facilitate the need to determine God’s will in these unions? God’s revelation on eternal marriages heavily implies that this is the case:

“Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed? And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was?”
(D&C 132:10-11)

Isn’t God saying here that he can’t accept a marriage unless he ordained it “before the world was”? If this is the case and he allowed you to eternally marry someone who he did not foreordain, wouldn’t he be a covenant breaker and cease to be God? So how do you know you’re following his will in your choice of a spouse? It seems to me that you’d want to ask a man who speaks with God: a prophet. Do you know where to find such a man or how to seek him out?


A Question of Succession

“Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time.”
(D&C 90:2)

“Unto whom [my servant Joseph Smith, Jun.] I have given the keys of the kingdom, which belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood:”
(D&C 81:2)

“Before I went East on the 4th of April last [1843] we were in council with Brother Joseph almost every day for weeks, says Brother Joseph in one of these councils there is something going to happen; I don’t know what it is, but the Lord bids me to hasten and give you your endowment before the temple is finished. He conducted us through every ordinance of the holy priesthood, and when he had gone through with all the ordinances he rejoiced very much, and says, now if they kill me you have got all the keys, and all the ordinances and you can confer them upon others, and the hosts of Satan will not be able to tear down the kingdom, as fast as you will be able to build it up; and now says he on your shoulders will the responsibility of leading this people right, for the Lord is going to let me rest a while.”
(Orson Hyde’s Testimony, Times and Seasons 5:651, Sept.15, 1844)

“The Presidency of the High Priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, have a right to officiate in all the offices in the church.”
(D&C 107:9)

“Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers growing out of, or appointed of or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods. Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.

The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.

The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named.”
(D&C 107:21-26)

There were three primary contenders for the leadership of the Church on Joseph’s death:

  • Sidney Rigdon, 1st Counselor of the First Presidency
  • Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of Twelve
  • James Strang, an Elder.

Only the Quorum of Seventy doesn’t seem to be represented here. The only two remaining presidents (Levi Hancock and Joseph Young) sided with Brigham Young.

Since James Strang was only an Elder, it is unlikely that every other apostle was less qualified than him, so he doesn’t fit in with pattern God revealed. To his credit, he was able to gather quite a following and his church is still alive today.

Being the highest ranking member of the First Presidency, it seems Rigdon had a valid claim to leadership of the Church. However, Sidney Rigdon wasn’t Joseph’s choice for 1st Counselor of the First Presidency. Rigdon only maintained this position because in a meeting to discuss Sidney’s worthiness, many apostles (including Hyrum) begged Joseph to leave him there. Joseph relented, but concluded the meeting by saying:

“I have thrown him off my shoulders, and you have again put him on me. You may carry him, but I will not.”
(Documentary History of the Church, Vol 6, pg. 49)

Sidney Rigdon went on to found his own church which ultimately fell apart. The only other member of the First Presidency was Amasa Lyman, who went on to follow Brigham Young.

Here is a list of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve (with their ordination/reordination dates) at the time Joseph died:

1 Brigham Young (Feb 1835)
2 Heber C. Kimball (Feb 1835)
3 Parley P. Pratt (Feb 1835)
4 *William Smith (Feb 1835, May 1839)
5 Orson Hyde (Feb 1835, June 1839)
6 Orson Pratt (Apr 1835, Jan 1843)
7 John Taylor (Dec 1838)
8 *John E. Page (Dec 1838)
9 Wilford Woodruff (April 1839)
10 George A. Smith (April 1839)
11 Willard Richards (April 1840)
12 *Lyman Wight (April 1841)

Only those with asterisks beside their names did not follow Brigham Young. Both John E. Page and William Smith (Joseph’s younger brother) followed James Strang. William Smith later went on to start his own church in Texas. During this time Lyman Wight followed him, but this church eventually dissolved and William joined the RLDS church some time later.

The RLDS church claims authority by lineage, Joseph Smith III being Joseph’s first son. It wasn’t reorganized until 1860. Although they have two temples, they don’t seem to perform any of the ordinances the Prophet Joseph worked so hard to establish.

If all of the above is true and God has established his kingdom “for the last time”, it would seem that kingdom must have been lead by Brigham Young.


The School of the Prophets

“And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”
(Numbers 11:27-29)

Doctrine and Covenants Section 88, which included instructions for creating “the school of the prophets”, was received on December 27, 1832 by the Prophet Joseph.

“And again, the order of the house prepared for the presidency of the school of the prophets, established for their instruction in all things that are expedient for them, even for all the officers of the church, or in other words, those who are called to the ministry in the church, beginning at the high priests, even down to the deacons—”
(D&C 88:127)

It states the following in the Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants:

“Beginning with the 1835 edition, a series of seven theological lessons was also included; these were titled the Lectures on FaithThese had been prepared for use in the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio, from 1834 to 1835. Although profitable for doctrine and instruction, these lectures have been omitted from the Doctrine and Covenants since the 1921 edition because they were not given or presented as revelations to the whole Church.”

The last known school of the prophets to be organized was in 1883 when John Taylor was president of the church (“School of the Prophets” Wikipedia article). If the Lord desired to train his prophets via this school, why was the school abandoned and its teaching removed from Church canon? Does the Lord no longer need prophets? or is the Lord using some other way to teach his prophets now?


Knowing the Will of God

Would you like to know God’s will for your life?

Is this the right job for me?
Where should I live?
Who should I marry?
Should we have a child now?
Should we buy this house? This car?

You’ve probably asked yourself questions like these and felt a great deal of uncertainty in your decisions. If only you could know the will of God. That knowledge would help when you encountered difficulties in your career or marriage. Knowing your spouse was God’s choice for you would certainly help navigate through the difficult times. Should you stay with your job when tensions rise between your boss or coworkers? (If I stick it out, will I be blessed?) Only God knows, but how can you be certain that the answers to your prayers are from God and not from some other source?

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
(John 14:27)

What greater peace could someone have than knowing God’s will for their life, knowing that he is watching over them and guiding them on the path which will be most beneficial to them?

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
(Matthew 7:24-25)

What is this rock that Jesus speaks of?

“[Jesus] saith unto [his disciples], But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto 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.”
(Matthew 16:15-18)

Jesus mentions a rock only a few times in scripture, so it would seem safe to link these two scriptures and discover a deeper meaning. The rock he likely speaks of is the rock of revelation. It is this rock that we need to build our houses on if we are to have the peace God wants us to have in our lives.

So how do we know when it is God who is speaking?

“Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to bring forth the words of the book; and in the mouth of as many witnesses as seemeth him good will he establish his word; and wo be unto him that rejecteth the word of God!”
(2 Nephi 27:14)

“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
(Amos 3:7)

From these verses we can see that God reveals his mind and will through his prophets. We can also see that God oftentimes provides multiple witnesses to give us more certainly about his will. What better witness could one ask for than the revelation of God through one of his prophets? So how do you find one of these prophets?

“And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”
(Numbers 11:27-29)

This is the key! Find a man with the Holy Spirit and you have found a prophet. Ask him to pray to God concerning your situation and you will receive another witness of the direction you should go in life. For your own personal witnesses, you also need to make sure you have the Holy Spirit when you receive answers to your prayers. If the witnesses agree then follow the guidance you’ve received from God. In this way you can know with certainly that you are pleasing God and you will be blessed with the peace that comes with this knowledge.

Related article: “Do You Have the Holy Spirit?


The Fading Zeal for Zion

Being the curious sort that I am, I gathered the number of full-time missionaries per year back to 1977 from the Statistical Reports in the Ensign magazine and made up a simple chart to more easily digest the data.

Full Time LDS Missionaries 1977-2010

Full Time LDS Missionaries 1977-2010

The first thing that really jumped out at me was the sudden drop off between 2002 to 2004. Equally alarming is the basic flat-line that has continued up until today. Now certainly there were dips in the chart before this (one from 1981 to 1982 and another from 1993 to 1994), but none of them was as dramatic and they both rebounded back to the general upwards trend the very next year.

This next chart is even more depressing than the last one. It tracks the number of converts each year. The high point was in 1990 and then it pretty much flat-lined (although some might argue that it’s on a slight downward trend). This is understandable given the growing disinterest in religion in our secular age.

LDS Converts 1977-2010

LDS Converts 1977-2010

And now the good news. Yes, the Church is still growing!

LDS Child Baptisms 1977-2010

LDS Child Baptisms 1977-2010

No this chart isn’t a membership chart. It records the number of children baptized per year. There have been two major jumps in this number. One starting in 2001 and the other in 2007. However, you’ll notice that while the number of converts is hovering around 275,000/year, the number of children baptized is only around 120,000/year. The question is, “Will the number of children baptized per year continue to increase to offset the losses in the mission field?” Only time will tell.