Friday, June 02, 2006

Mormons and Priesthood Authority

There are a lot of misconceptions about Mormons. Even the name Mormon seems mysterious and contributes to many misunderstandings. Considered a cult by many, Mormons on one hand have been criticized for being too tight knit and keeping to themselves. Yet on the other hand, Mormons have been recognized for their strong family values and community service. Usually people who get to know a Mormon for the first time find that they are nothing like what they had been told or believed Mormons to be like. This article will explore some of the many facets of Mormonism from its origins, to its beliefs, and doctrines.

What is a Mormon? Actually, the official name of the Mormon Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon is a nickname derived from our belief in the Book of Mormon. Mormons usually refer to each other as Latter-day Saints or LDS. As the official church name implies, Mormons are Christian. Mormons believe the only way to eternal salvation is through the merits, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ. Mormons believe there is “none other way nor means whereby salvation cometh (Book of Mormon).” Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strive to be pure disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ by following Christ’s perfect example.

What is the Book of Mormon? The Book of Mormon is the record of sacred writings like the Holy Bible by prophets who lived in the American continent from 600 BC to 400 AD. The Book of Mormon begins in Jerusalem at the time of the Bible prophet Jeremiah and records the account of another prophet named Lehi who is led out of Jerusalem before its destruction by Babylon and led across the ocean to settle in the Americas 2000 years before Columbus. Lehi and his family were Jews and practiced the Law of Moses. However, Lehi and his family understood that the Law of Moses foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah to Jerusalem and they faithfully observed the Law of Moses until the time spoken of when it would be fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah.

During that time, God continued to call prophets among this scattered branch of the house of Israel in America and revealed to these prophets more concerning the coming of Jesus Christ. These believers in America were given astronomical and terrestrial signs, which would mark Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. The crowning event of the Book of Mormon records Jesus Christ’s personal visitation sometime after His resurrection to a group of faithful believers in America. During Christ’s visitation, Christ established his Church in America and believers abandoned the Mosaic Law and practiced the same Christianity as described in the New Testament.

Some mistakenly refer to the Book of Mormon as the “Mormon Bible.” The Book of Mormon is not a Mormon translation of the Hebrew Bible. In fact, Latter-day Saints accept the King James Version of the Hebrew Bible as Holy Scripture and the word of God. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is more of God’s word written by prophets who lived in the America’s. Instead of containing the writings of prophets like Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and Daniel and Ezekiel; the Book of Mormon contains the writings of ancient American prophets such as Lehi, Nephi, Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, Mormon, and Moroni. These prophets taught of Christ, preached of Christ, prophesied of Christ and wrote according to their prophesies in the Book of Mormon. Therefore, Latter-day Saints believe the Book of Mormon to be Another Testament that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Messiah of the World. The Book of Mormon could be considered a collection of lost books of the Hebrew Bible and is tangible evidence that the Bible is true.

Who was Mormon? Mormon was the next-to-last prophet to write in the Book of Mormon. Moroni, the last prophet to write in the Book of Mormon, and son of Mormon, named the book in honor of his Father who was responsible for abridging and compiling the words of the many ancient American prophets found the Book of Mormon.

Does the Bible say about the Book of Mormon? In Ezekiel Chapter 37, the Lord gives a revelation concerning the restoration of the house of Israel. During the time of Isaiah, Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and caused the scattering of the 10 tribes. Later, during the ministry of Jeremiah, Babylon “overflowed” her boarders and conquered the Southern Kingdom of Judah and carried the “Jews” captive into Babylon. In Chapter 37, the Lord likened the restoration and gathering of Israel in the last days to bones and dust lying in a field coming together to form a resurrected person. The Lord then explains that the restoration of Israel would be accompanied by the coming together of two “sticks”, or records, which would serve to unify all believers of the one and true God.

15 The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
20 And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

This prophecy is not simply talking about the eventual return of the Jews to Jerusalem. This prophecy speaks about the restoration of all the House of Israel in the last days, and not just Judah and the Jews. When this final restoration occurs, God says he will build his sanctuary or temple among them, which would stand forever. Also, it says there will be two records or “sticks” written; one from Judah and the other from Joseph in the hand of Ephraim. The stick of Judah is the Bible. The stick of Joseph is the Book of Mormon.

Who were Joseph and Ephraim? Abraham left Ur with his wife Sarah to start a righteous family that would serve the true and living God. Abraham was led to settle in Canaan where he paid tithes to Melchizedek, the High Priest of Salem. There, Melchizedek blessed Abraham, and anointed him a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Abraham’s first wife Sarah could not bare children. Consequently, Abraham married Sarah’s servant Hagar who begat Ishmael. Later in her old age, Sarah was blessed and bore Isaac. Abraham blessed Isaac, the eldest son of his first wife, with the birthright. Isaac married Rebekah who begat Esau and Jacob. Esau, the elder brother, sold his birthright to Jacob for a “mess of pottage.” Jacob was sent to his uncle’s house to seek a wife. There he served Laban and married Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah. Leah bore Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. Bilhah bore Dan and Naphtali. Zilpah bore Gad and Asher. And Rachel bore Joseph and Benjamin. These are the 12 sons of Israel.

Ruben, the eldest son lost the birthright because of his sin with Bilhah. Simeon and Levi were chastised for their sin against Shechem. The birthright was then divided between Judah, the 4th oldest of Jacob’s first wife Leah, and Joseph, the firstborn of Rachel. Judah is given authority over secular governance: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah . . . until Shiloh come.” Joseph is given spiritual and ecclesiastical authority represented by the coat of many colors. The other 11 sons of Jacob were jealous of Jacob’s favor towards Joseph and sold him into Egypt. This action brought about the fulfillment of prophecy as Joseph was able to provide food for his family during the famine in Canaan and Egypt. Jacob confirmed the spiritual priesthood authority, which Abraham received by God under the hands of Melchizedek to Joseph’s son Ephraim. Jacob adopted his grandson Ephraim as his son and blessed him saying: “[Thy] seed shall become a multitude of nations . . . In thee shall Israel bless.”

The leadership of Judah and Ephraim are apparent when Moses sent spies into Canaan. Joshua, from Ephraim, and Caleb, from Judah, were the only ones to give a favorable report of the land. Consequently, God caused the Israelites to wonder in the wilderness for 40 years until all the adults had died before inheriting the Promised Land. Or the adult Israelites, only Joshua and Caleb were left alive to inherit Israel. The land was accordingly divided up among the tribes. The tribes of Judah and Ephraim received the best inheritances. The Tabernacle was placed in Shiloh, the capital city of Ephraim and the Melchizedek priesthood authority continued in a limited way through Ephraim and great prophets like Joshua, Samuel, and Nathan.

Ephraim fell from favor because of its jealousy towards Judah. Ephraim was jealous of the Judaic Dynasty of King Saul, David, and Solomon and the building of the temple in Jerusalem. Consequently, Rehoboam went to Shechem to be crowned king and divided Israel into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Despite Isaiah’s warnings to repent, Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom and scattered Ephraim and the other 10 tribes of Israel.

After the captivity and return of Judah from Babylon, a remnant body of mixed blooded Israelites returned to Israel from Assyria claiming they were of the tribe of Ephraim and claimed they were entitled to the birthright. Consequently, they built their own unsanctioned temple near the city of Shiloh on Mount Gerizim and practiced their own form of apostate worship. The Samaritans, as they are referred to in the New Testament, were despised by the Jews. However, in the last days Ephraim is prophesied to play an important roll in the gathering and restoration of all the tribes of Israel, and Isaiah prophesies in that day, “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.”

What was the birthright? The patriarchal birthright involved more than receiving a larger portion of inheritance as specified in the Law of Moses. The patriarchal birthright also involved temporal and spiritual rights to govern over the family and administer God’s everlasting covenant. This birthright is associated with the Patriarchal priesthood and the passing of Melchizedek priesthood authority from father to eldest worthy son. This passage of birthright is seen going from Abraham to Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and then Ephraim. Extreme jealousy surrounds these rights as Jacob left home to live with his uncle Laban for fear of Esau’s wrath, and Joseph was sold into Egypt. Jealousy over priesthood rights also resulted in the division of the State of Israel into Northern and Southern Kingdoms and the hatred of the Jews toward the Samaritans. An extension of this jealously is apparent in modern times as thousands of Christian sects compete against another.

What is Priesthood? Priesthood is the power and authority to act in the name of God. There are several distinct orders of the Priesthood spoken of in the Bible and Book of Mormon: Levitical, Aaronic, and Melchizedek. The children of the tribe of Levi were given a special priesthood authority, which was for the work of ministering in the sanctuary and to assist the priests. Accordingly, the Bible routinely makes a distinction between the priests and the Levites. Levites were responsible for setting up, taking down, and carrying around the tabernacle. They slaughtered the sacrifices, which would then be offered by the priests at the altars of the temple and collected alms and offerings. Levites also served as musicians. The Levites were not given a typical inheritance in Canaan like the other tribes, but rather received tithe cities throughout Israel.

Aaron, a Levite, and his descendents were made high priests. But this Aaronic priesthood was of lesser power and authority than the priesthood of Melchizedek, and was used to administer the outward ordinances, particularly as characterized by the ceremonies of the law of Moses. The Aaronic priesthood is a lesser portion of the priesthood, dealing with the introductory ordinances and the preparatory commandments.

The Melchizedek or Patriarchal Priesthood holds the rights, keys, gifts and authority over all aspects associated with the Kingdom of God on Earth. Levitical and Aaronic priesthoods are not different priesthoods. Rather, they are lesser portions of the Melchizedek priesthood. All the patriarchs from Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as the prophets such as Moses, Elijah. Elias, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Samuel, Ezekiel, to Jesus Christ and the Apostles held and hold this order of priesthood. The Melchizedek Priesthood is also known as the High Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. But to avoid using the name of deity too often it was named after Melchizedek who was such a great High Priest.

What does the New Testament say about Priesthood? The New Testament begins describing the workings of the priesthood. Luke tells of the High Priest, Zacharias, receiving the revelation in the Temple that Elizabeth, his wife, would bare a son who would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah and that his name would be called John. John being the eldest son of Zacharias had the rights to the Aaronic priesthood to minister in the Temple. What was different about John the Baptist is that he operated outside the complex organization set up by the Sanhedrin, Pharisees, and Sadducees. He didn’t work in the Temple, but preached and baptized in the countryside and taught people to look forward to the coming of the Messiah. John himself recognized that although he held the authority of a priest, he did not hold the Melchizedek priesthood. He taught that his authority held the power to baptize with water and the gospel of repentance, but the power of Jesus Christ and the Melchizedek Priesthood held the power to baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

The keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood were given to Peter when Jesus said, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Later on the Mount of Transfiguration when Peter, James, and John beheld the glory of Jesus Christ, they were visited by Moses and Elijah who restored priesthood keys from their dispensations onto Peter, James, and John.

Paul tells Timothy to “neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” The gift Paul is referring to is the Melchizedek Priesthood. No man takes this honor unto himself and it is not purchased with money. It is given by revelation and by blessing through the laying on of hands by someone who holds that authority whether it be father-to-son or prophet-to-prophet. In Acts we clearly see the operation of the Priesthood as the Apostles traveled throughout the Middle East and Europe establishing the church, calling and ordaining local leadership among the fledgling branches of the early church. When Judas left a vacancy in the 12 Apostles, that vacancy was filled by the remaining 11 Apostles who prayed, received revelation, and unanimously voted for Matthias. No politicking, dice rolling, or drawing of straws was involved when the “lot fell” upon Matthias. Later as others of the Apostles were martyred, other Apostles such as Paul, James (the brother of Jesus), and Barnabas were called to fill the vacancies in the quorum of the 12 Apostles, which would serve to lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Meridian-day Saints.

The New Testament also teaches that not anyone can baptize another person. Acts 19 illustrates the importance of being baptized by the correct authority.

1 AND it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them.

Paul found Christians in Ephesus who claimed to have been baptized after the manner of John the Baptist. However, when Paul asked if they had received the Gift of the Holy Ghost or baptism by fire. The Ephesian disciples didn’t know what Paul was talking about. So, Paul re-baptized them by water and then conferred on them the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. There was nothing wrong with John’s authority. John baptized Jesus. However, Paul knew John had not baptized these disciples. Had John actually baptized them, they would have known about the Holy Ghost. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ held the authority of Melchizedek priesthood to both baptize with water and then confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.

What happened to the New Testament Priesthood authority? The Catholic Church believes in an unbroken line of authority from Peter down through the line of Popes to the present day. Catholics correctly recognize the importance of priesthood authority. Next to tradition, I have found that this one point to be the most important doctrines to practicing Catholics. However, Mormons believe that with the martyrdom of the Apostles the keys and authority of priesthood were lost. After the death of Apostles, Christian branches scattered throughout the Mediterranean were left without central direction and revelation and soon developed divergent beliefs and practices. Acts 20 warns of wolves entering into the Christian flock.

29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

After Catholicism became the state religion of the Roman Empire, councils were convened to unify Christian doctrine. Early ecumenical councils such as Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Lateran, Lyons, and Trent focused on doctrinal issues ranging from the nature of the Trinity, duel wills of Jesus Christ, the divine status of Mary, transubstantiation, veneration of icons, support for the crusades, policy on heresy, and the standardization of the Catholic Canon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejects the ecumenical councils as human attempts without divine assistance to decide matters of doctrine. Mormons believe that doctrine should be decided by direct revelation rather than democratic debate or politics. That convening such councils was even considered is evidence enough that the original Christian church had fallen into apostasy and was no longer directly led by divine authority.

What is the Great Apostasy? Both the Old and New Testaments foretell of the apostasy or great falling away. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2 tells them that the second coming of Christ would happen after a “falling away.” The original Greek, Latin, and Spanish bibles use the word “apostasia” instead of “falling away” to describe the period that would precede the second coming of the Lord.

1 NOW we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first,

Amos 8 gives the clearest prophesy with regard to the future apostasy. Throughout the centuries, man has continually rejected the truth and fallen into apostasy. However, at no other time in history was the authority of God completely taken from the Earth. Amos says a person would travel north to east and not find the words of the Lord. The people at the time of Abraham were in a state of apostasy. However, the Bible says Abraham was inspired to leave Ur and was led to Melchizedek in Canaan. The people of Israel were in a state of apostasy during the time of Moses, however Moses left Egypt and was led to the tent of Jethro, the High Priest of Midian. The Israelites were again in a state of apostasy before the coming of Jesus Christ, but believers could find the truth preached by John the Baptist. However, during the Great Apostasy, the words and authority of the Lord could not be found anywhere on earth; not in Jerusalem, not in Constantinople, not in Europe, and not in America. During the Great Apostasy, the Earth plunged into the dark ages, the darkest period with respect to spiritual and secular enlightenment in human history.

11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

Now the story of Joseph in Egypt and Ephraim comes full circle. Joseph saving his family during years of the famine is a type of what is happening in the last days. The story in the Old Testament is a prophecy being fulfilled before our eyes. Just as there was a period of famine in Egypt, there was a spiritual famine during the great Apostasy. That famine still continues for those who the fullness of the gospel has not reached. But the truth has been restored through the gentiles who have been adopted into the house of Israel just as Ephraim was adopted into the house of Israel. And the truth is going forth from Ephraim to the rest of the House of Israel and the rest of the world.

Are Mormon’s Protestant? Mormonism is the original gospel of Jesus Christ restored by Jesus Christ to the Earth in the Latter-days after a period of apostasy rather than being an offshoot of the Catholic Church like other Protestant faiths. Mormon’s believe the great Protestant Reformers such as Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, Tyndale, and Wesley were inspired and paved the way for the eventual Restoration of the priesthood and Church of Jesus Christ. Protestants reformers were generally Catholic clergy who noticed discrepancies between the doctrines and actions of the Catholic Church and the teachings of the Bible. John Wycliffe and William Tyndale were inspired to translate the scriptures into English, which allowed the common man access to the scriptures for the first time. Tyndale to another clergyman who opposed his work said, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost.”

Some of these great men felt to form their own churches where principles could be taught according to their best understanding of the scriptures. It is this reliance on man’s understanding of the scriptures that has led to the thousands of Christian denominations and non-denominations. However, without the work of the Reformer and the founding fathers of the United States of America, the restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ would have not been possible. That said, Mormon’s believe that neither the Catholic Church nor any other Protestant church has the proper priesthood authority to administer the everlasting convents of God requisite for exaltation and eternal life. If the Catholic Church lacks the authority of the priesthood than all the Protestant Churches lack it as well. Charles Wesley the brother of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, disapproved of John’s ordaining of clergy without authority. Charles wrote, “How easily are bishops made, By man or woman’s whim: Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid, But who laid hands on him?

How did the Mormonism start? Joseph Smith was a 14 year-old boy who lived in upstate New York in 1820. He was born into a poor Christian home. Joseph had very little schooling and was employed in farming, manual labor, and odd jobs to help earn money for his family. New England was in the mist of a religious revival known by historians as the Second Great Awakening. Joseph and his family were immediately caught up in all the religious excitement and regularly attended evening tent revivals. Religion was a common topic of conversation at the dinner table. Joseph’s mother preferred the Presbyterian faith while Joseph confessed he desired to join the Methodists. However, not knowing which of all the churches to be true, Joseph was one evening reading from the New Testament, James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” Joseph wrote later that no other scripture up until that time had made a bigger impact on his heart that that one at that time. He said, “the words seemed to enter into every feeling of his heart.” So, Joseph Smith was resolved to do as James suggested and ask God which of all the churches was true and which he should join.

One spring morning Joseph arose early and entered grove of trees adjacent to his home. There he knelt down and began to “offer up the desired of his heart.” At that precise moment he was seized upon by some dark power that prevented him from speaking. Exerting all his efforts to call upon God for deliverance, and at the moment when Joseph felt as though he was “ready to sink into despair and abandon [himself] to destruction.” Joseph recounts, “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy, which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” The Personages were God the Father and on his right hand The Son Jesus Christ.
As soon as Joseph could gain his composure, he inquired of the Personages which of all the sects were right, and which to join. Joseph confessed that at this time it had never entered into his heart that all were wrong. Joseph was answered that he was to join none of them, for they were all wrong; and 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.” Joseph was not instructed to start a church at this time but only that he was not to join any of the other churches. In another account of this “First Vision” Joseph Smith says this experience made such an impact on his soul such that his “heart was filled with love for days afterward.”

Joseph immediately began sharing the experience of his vision with others, but was surprised at the immediate negative response the sharing of his vision elicited. Joseph wrote, “ It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.”

“However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.”

“So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it.”

When did Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon? It was over 3 years after Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” when Joseph received a second visitation. Joseph wrote that he had retired to his room to pray to ask forgiveness for his many sins when, “I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people. He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it. After this communication, I saw the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so until the room was again left dark, except just around him; when, instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended till he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance.

It was 4 more years until Joseph was allowed to remove the Gold Plates and the other artifacts from the place where they were. After removal, Joseph used the “Seer Stones“ to translate the Gold Plates from their unfamiliar language into English. The translation occurred with the assistance of several scribes in about 68 days after which the plates were returned to the Angel Moroni and have never been seen since. However, before their return to Moroni, Joseph was allowed to show the Gold Plates to a group of 3 and 8 others. The 3 witnesses beheld the plates, beheld the angel Moroni, and heard the voice of God declare that the Plates were authentic. The 8 witnesses saw the gold plates, hefted them, and leafed through the pages. Their names and testimonies can be found in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon.

How was the Priesthood Restored? Joseph wrote that while he was employed in the work of translating the Book of Mormon he came upon a section discussing baptism for the remission of sins. "We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month, we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying: Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.

The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second.

Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things, which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.

When was the Mormon Church Organized? 10 years after Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” on April 6, 1930 the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. and five other men formally organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in a small log home belonging to Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York.

What does all this have to do with Christianity? The doctrine of Jesus Christ is that He lived a perfect life, atoned for our sins, died on the cross, and rose the third day from the grave to overcome death and sin. The “good news” of the gospel of Christ is the conditions of repentance so we can take advantage of Christ’s grace and accept His atoning sacrifice. The conditions of salvation are faith in Jesus Christ, acknowledgement of our sinful nature, repentance, baptism by water, and baptism by fire, receiving the Holy Ghost, becoming spiritually born again, and then enduring to the end. But baptism is only the door to salvation and the straight and narrow path. The Melchizedek Priesthood is the narrow path, which leads on to exaltation and eternal life.

When you join a typical Christian Church there usually is a pastor or priest who teaches the parishioners or congregants. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is structured very differently. All service in the LDS Church is voluntary. Members do not receive wages or other compensation for their time. Worthy members are selected for Leadership positions. Presidency Leaders have the authority to "call" members to serve in positions under their direction, and do so after prayerful study of those being considered. In the LDS Church a "calling" is a position or assignment in which members have been asked to serve or perform. This could range from teaching Sunday School to being the organist. Generally members serve in their callings for a few years. Once their time of service is complete they are released from their calling (by the responsible authority) and new members are called in their place. The organization of the LDS Church is not a corporate ladder to be climbed, but guided and directed by Jesus Christ through his prophet, apostles and other leaders. One calling is not considered more important than another. Each has its duties and responsibilities that are vital to the progress and advancement of the Lord's work. The end result is that every member, men and women, knows the scriptures, has their own conviction, could serve as a bishop, or as a prophet and is becoming sanctified and prepared to enter into the presence of God and receive Eternal Life (Rachel Woods,

No comments: