Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Strengthing the Stakes of Zion

Isa. 54: 2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;

LDS congregations are referred to as wards and are organized into groups called stakes. While individual wards are presided over by bishops, the stake is presided over by a stake president and council of High Priests. Where does the word stake come from? The term stake comes from Isa. 54:2 where Isaiah likens the Daughter of Zion, Israel, or the Kingdom of God to a tent. Encouraging the people of God to "lengthen their stride," Isaiah tells the people of Israel to expand the borders of the tent, lengthen the tent cords, and strengthen the stakes. This instruction may not mean much to the modern camper, but before the age of spring bar tents, this was how tents were set up. Today's spring bar tents are set up by first unrolling the tent, or enlarging the place of they tent as Isaiah says; but the poles are placed first and then the cords and stakes are set in place. Conversely, earlier tents going back to the time of Isaiah, after unrolling the tent on the ground, the stakes were pounded in first, and then the center poll was placed last. And this is exactly how Zion is being built today.

When the LDS Church first began, the center place or New Jerusalem was revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith as being in Independence, MO. The church began buying land there and planning to establish a perfect city after the manner God would reveal to His Prophet and Apostles. However, because the Saints in Missouri weren't quick to build a temple, the people were run out of the state by lawless mobs and the infamous extermination order signed by Gov. Boggs. The New Jerusalem would have to wait for future generations. But according to Isaiah, this initial failure seemed to be according to the grand and eternal design of God. Before placing the center pole in the center place, which would be represented by Christ appearing to His people in the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God would need to first enlarge the place of the tent through missionary work, lengthen the cords via family history work and redeeming the dead, and strengthening the stakes by perfecting the saints through temple service. Only then could the great tent of God's kingdom be pitched and stand triumphantly throughout the Millennium.

D&C 57: 3 And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sanctification of Christ's Church

It seems to me that a vocal few love to criticize the LDS church for the very few changes in policy, ritual or organization over its long history. They seem to enjoy pointing to the issues of polygamy which hasn't been practiced in the church for over 100 years, and the church policy allowing blacks to hold the priesthood as examples that the church cannot possibly be Christ's true church. They also point to grammatical edits to the Book of Mormon, and minor modifications in ritual ordinances as similar evidence that the church caves to social pressure instead of being inspired by God.

First off, let me say that in many cases small modifications to church organization or this or that are not due to any mistake but due to changing needs and circumstances. With regard to the symbolism of ordinances, if the symbol changes meaning and usage in society, then ritual may be modified to preserve the original intent and meaning of the ordinance. Remember that it is the meaning of the ordinance that holds priority over the outward ritual. This would not apply to changing baptism from immersion to sprinkling because the symbol of being submerged in water and with Christ in His death and coming forth in a newness of life as Christ was resurrected has not changed meaning in our culture.

That said, while the LDS Church claims to be the only true church of Christ on the Earth with the fullness of Christ's doctrine instead of only parts of the truth, the church has never claimed that its leaders or the church itself is infallible. Remember that the Church is a living church. But, some want to make the LDS church into an institution that flip-flops at every gust of social pressure. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a few isolated instances, the church may have been given a preparatory, temporary but necessary law until God saw fit to inspire the Apostles and prophets of the Church to progress and perfect and sanctify the church when the church and the world was ready. But just because social challenges and criticisms may be part of the motivation for progress doesn't prove the church is not inspired. Instead this proves that the LDS church is a living church and it is undergoing its own process of sanctification.

Yes, I admit that many revelations are partly inspired by the social context of the time. The value of having a living prophet is that he can pray and ask God for instruction to meet the challenges of the day. The Bible says ask and ye shall receive. Well, without the challenges and tribulation, there wouldn't be a need to ask the question, and therefore no revelation. Some assume the LDS church claims its organization as it existed in the days of Joseph Smith or today is perfect and infallible. The LDS Church is not perfect even in its current form. The Doctrine and Covenants says that in some instances the church is under condemnation or not enjoying all the fullness of blessings that it could be. But as the church meets each challenge and looks to Christ for guidance, the church becomes more sanctified, perfected, and blessed. And this will be a continuing process within the Church of Christ into the Millennium as the process of sanctification will continue in the church its membership and its leadership.

D&C 84: 57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—

So, what some call flip-flopping on a few issues, is really the church progressing and becoming more sanctified. Remember that Christs church is a living church and that Christ is a God of the living. Also, remember that John in revelations is shown the the saints saved in in the Millennium dressed in white robes and serving in the temple. When John asks who where all these people dressed in white robes, the angel tells John that they are the Saints of God who have come out of the tribulation and washed their robes white in the blood of Christ.

Rev. 7: 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

So, we see that the tribulation is necessary. The Saints of Christ are not completely perfect, the Church of Christ is not completely sanctified in its current state, and the tribulation that is promised as well as the power and grace of Christ's atonement serves to sanctify and perfect the Church like the purifying of silver in preparation for the Millennium. Also, I would also add that this is how any attempts by Satan to fight against the true church only end up serving to strengthen and further perfect it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Temple of the New Testament and Everlasting Covenant

When most Christians or Jews think of the temple, they think of Solomon's temple in Jerusalem; destroyed by Babylon, rebuilt by Zerrubabel and expanded by Herod, then destroyed again by Titus and the Roman Empire. Also, most Christians think of the temple and temple ritual as part of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses involved many outward ordinances and ritual which foreshadowed details of the life of Jesus Christ but which was made obsolete after Christ's atonement, death and resurrection. While the Law of Moses and ritual animal sacrifice was done aways with, the idea and utility of the temple and temple ritual actually are not limited to the time between Moses and Jesus Christ. In fact, a few scripture passages speak of temples in existence in the days of Enoch as well as being rebuilt in the Last Days. So, while the death of Jesus Christ made animal sacrifice obsolete, His death did not make the purpose of the temple obsolete. That purpose being to point our souls to Christ, which is just as important now as it was then.

Many Christians have adopted a radical “all I need is Christ” doctrine to the exclusion of temples, priesthood, church organization, apostles, prophets, helps, governments, ordinances, water baptism, communion of the Lords Supper, and the laying on of hands. These say; “what does God need with a temple?” Doesn't the Bible say that God does not dwell in any temples built with mens hands? But we know that God's presence dwelt in Solomon's temple. We also know that when a person,who processes the power and authority of Gods holy priesthood, does something when commanded and empowered by God, it is as if God had done it Himself. That person is merely acting as an instrument in the hands of God. Therefore, a temple built by the command of God, by those duly authorized with the Holy Priesthood of God, is built by God and not man. Nevertheless, God though his grace and mercy has given man the temple not because He needs it but because we need it.

Some Christians do believe that the Jews will rebuild their temple before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. However, their view of this rebuilt temple in Jerusalem is a negative one. Many associate this future temple with prophecies about an Antichrist who they believe will sit on a throne within this temple and rule the world, perform counterfeit miracles, blaspheme the name of God, and lead many believers astray. While I cannot rule this scenario out completely if the Jews were to build an obsolete OT-style temple, the prophecies of the future temple God promises to build, on the other hand, are wonderful and positive. Could there be a case of mistaken identity at work here? Could Christians be looking for the wrong kind of temple, like the Jews in the meridian of time were looking for the wrong kind of Savior?

Ezek 43:10-12 Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them. This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.

Here Ezekiel is shown and told to measure the size of a great temple. But, if you do the calculations, this temple is much, much bigger than any of the temples at Jerusalem. This temple is so big it actually measures the size of a large city or small country. Could this be Enoch's temple, or could Ezekiel have been shown a temple that would be built in the future? Some are of the opinion that Ezekiel was shown a temple in heaven. But we know from John in Revelations that there are no temples in heaven (Rev 21:22). There are no place set aside in heaven as Holy. All of heaven is holy. If there is a place set aside, then it be a small place set aside for the wicked in hell. Regardless of where and when Ezekiel's temple existed, the spiritual significance being taught here is that the details of the temple are symbolic. The pattern of the temple, its form, fashion, and ordinances point to Christ in some way. And by meditating on these truths the temple serves as a powerful gift and instrument to teach us about God, and His great plan of happiness. And as we learn these important truths, we are changed, sanctified, perfected and made holy.

Isa. 2: 2-3 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain )of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Dan 2:34-35, 44 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. . . . and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain (a temple), and filled the whole earth. . . . And in the days of these kings (iron and clay = Last Days) shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

God reveals to Daniel and Isaiah more about the temple that will be built in the Last Days. In the days of those kings represented by the iron mixed with clay, a stone is cut out of the mountain without hands that will grow until it becomes a great mountain (temple) and fill the whole Earth. We know that the temple is referred to as a mountain, or the mountain of the Lords house. The idea here is that the idea of the temple is scalable. It begins with ourselves. We are temples for the Holy Ghost. And then it grows to a sacred and holy building, then a temple city, a holy nation, until the whole Earth becomes purified and sanctified. This will be the great work during the Millennium. The temple will serve to sanctify the whole Earth and all souls upon it so that by the time of the end of the Millennium, Christ will deliver His work to the Father and there will be a new Earth and a new heaven, when the Earth is fully transformed from its Paradisaical and Millennial state to a Celestial state which John describes the new Earth as a “sea of glass mingled with fire”

Ezek 37:26 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. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

Here, God reveals to Ezekiel details about a the future temple that will precede the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. We know God is not referring to an OT temple, because God tells Ezekiel that this future edifice which God refers to as His sanctuary and tabernacle would be everlasting, and also that it would administer the everlasting covenant. Well we know that this could not be referring to any OT temple because these temples only administered the preparatory Levitical covenant and the Law of Moses. This future temple would not be an OT temple, but designed after a more excellent pattern, form, and covenant. While the OT Temple served to make Israel ashamed of her sinfulness and need for a Savior it did not sanctify. The NT Temple, on the other hand, promised to both justify, sanctify and perfect Israel through the blood of Christ.

Heb. 7: 11, 19 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? . . . For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

What is the everlasting covenant of the restored Christian temple and how does this covenant sanctify and change us? Christ clearly tells us what the higher covenant is in the New Testament.

Matt 19: 16-21 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

This invitation of Jesus Christ to the rich young man is the everlasting covenant. After restating the commandments of the Law of Moses, the young man asked “what lack I yet.” Christ responded that if he would be perfect, that the man must consecrate his life to God. This dedication to God is the everlasting covenant of the restored temple that promises to sanctify and perfect God's people. And we see the Early Saints enter into this covenant as they instituted a type of communalism with all things in common setting all their Earthly wealth at the feet of the Bishop and withholding nothing.

When John in Revelations talks about Gods people in the Last Days before the tribulation, he says that right before God is about to unleash the tribulation on the Earth, an angel arises to stop the 4 angels and says " hut not the earth until we have sealed the servants of God in their forehead." Later John says that the 4 angels are not given power to hurt those who are "sealed in their forehead". So we see that while Satan is marking his people with the "mark of the beast" God is "sealing" his servant in the forehead. This angel mentioned in Revelations is the angel depicted on top of LDS temples.

Rev. 7: 2-3 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
Rev. 9: 4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
Isa. 11: 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Rev. 14: 6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

The NT Temple differs from the OT Temple in many ways. One such difference is the nature of temple sacrifice. Some Christians mistakenly think that Christ's atonement did away with the law of sacrifice. In reality, Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses and did away with ritual animal sacrifice, but not the law of sacrifice itself. Instead of your best lamb or goat, what God expects is the complete sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit or in other words, a willing heart and mind (Ps. 34: 18). This goes along with the covenant of consecration spoken of above.

You should also remember that in the OT temple only Levities and sons of Aaron were priests. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, all the Elders of Israel were invited up into the mountain. God originally desired to establish the everlasting covenant with Israel and make all the people a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19: 6). However, the Elders feared to go into the mountain and told Moses “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Ex. 20: 19). So, only Levities and Sons of Aaron were washed, anointed and clothed as priests unto God. But in the NT Temple, all who are worthy to enter are made priests and kings after the manner of Aaron.

Ex. 40: 12-13 And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water. And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.
Heb. 5: 4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

LDS have been commanded by God to build NT temples across the face of the Earth. There are currently 129 operating temples with 8 under construction and 9 announced to be build. Many Christians misunderstand the Bible to teach that there is to only ever be one temple in Jerusalem. One temple, given to one nation, kindred, tongue and people. However, they forget the prophecy of John in Revelations that in the Last Days when the everlasting covenant is given to the Gentiles, that it would be made available to all nations, kindreds, tongues and people and not just one nation and the priesthood to one tribe. And this is why the LDS church is building Christian NT temples which dot the globe. Already we see the prophecy of Daniel being fulfilled as small rock cut out of the mountain without hands is getting ready to fill the Earth.

Those who enter into the temple do not wear the same color clothing as they did the OT Temple. Many don't realize that OT temple priests didn't dress in white. Their robes were multicolored like Joseph's coat of many colors. Aaronic priest robes were red, purple, blue and yellow. This was to remind the Jews of their uncleanness before God, and their need for a Savior. This is how the Law was their schoolmaster. But in Revelations the angel asks "who are all these dressed in white robes?" And the answer is that they have been washed or sanctified in the blood of Jesus Christ and serve Christ in his temple. So, in the NT Temple, everyone is to wear white. John tells us in Revelations that the white is to remind us that we have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus Christ, and to inspire us to good works and purity of thought and deed.

Ex. 28: 2-6 And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. . . And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work.
Rev. 7: 9-15 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; . . . And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
Rev. 3: 5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (who are these angels that require Christ's confession?)
Rev. 19: 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

The veil of the OT temple and the NT temple is also different. You will remember that at the death of Jesus Christ, the Bible says that the temple veil was torn down the middle. This was no small feat. The OT temple veil was 60 feet high and 4 inches thick beautifully embroidered with blue, scarlet and purple thread. It was also designed with cherubim who represented angelic guardians shielding access to God. (Exodus 26:31). Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. In contrast, the NT veil is to be white, and made of sheer material so that you can almost see through it. Also, the NT temple veil is to have partitions in it allowing those who have been washed, and anointed and clothed as was Aaron the ability to pass through the veil, and by the angels into the presence of God. While some incorrectly infer that the God tearing the veil of the temple means the end of the temple, the Bible teaches the significance of the torn veil is that the blood of Christ has finally bridged the eternal chasm between man and God.

And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. (Mark. 15:37-38)

The purpose of the everlasting covenant and Christ's atonement is not to simply sweep our sins under the rug. Christ's atonement is not only grace but also transformative power to change us, purify us like silver, turn us away from sin and change our heart such that we have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually. You and I rightly admit that we are not completely sanctified yet. However, the Melchizedek priesthood temple has been given to help us complete the process of sanctification "in this world" and in the Millennium. The temple helps us overcome the flesh, change and sanctify us in 3 ways.

#1. The restored temple covenant reveals to man who God is, who we are, and our relationship to God. When a person has a spiritual realization of the true nature of God, and that we are all spiritual children of God with infinite potential; the light of this knowledge and eternal possibility makes the enticings of sin pale in comparison.

#2. The temple provides an eternal prospective as it reveals to us the stages of the plan of salvation including the pre-existence, creation, the fall, the millennium, judgment and hope of eternal life. By going through the progression of the plan of salvation and understanding where our lives fit into eternity, we realize our true purpose to accept Christ and His word. Again when we see how short life is in perspective of the whole of eternity, sin loses any attractiveness.

#3. The Christian temple is a space set aside as holy and pure from the world. As a quiet and reverent place set aside, a person is enabled to enjoy and experience the light and power of the Holy Ghost and the infinite love of Jesus Christ. As we feel the pure love of Christ for us, we are strengthened against sin. And as a result, the allure of any brief pleasure that comes from sin pales in comparison to a taste of eternal glory and happiness.

The eternal perspective of the temple is why the scriptures refer to the temple as the "Mountain of the Lords House." The restored temple or "Mountain of the Lord's House" gives us an eternal perspective of who God is, who we are in God's eyes, our relationship to God, our eternal and infinite potential, the majesty of God's power and creation, God's mercy in sacrificing His Son Jesus Christ, and our important and individual role and calling in God's plan. And it is this eternal perspective, the love of God that we feel, and the atoning blood of Jesus Christ that has the power to transform us, give us new hearts, make us new creatures, purify our hearts like silver, turn us away from sin, overcome the flesh, and destroy any disposition to do evil but empower us with an unquenchable desire to do good continually. This is the true power, grace, and promise of the infinite and eternal atonement of Jesus Christ. This is the new model and pattern of the NT temple.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Creation: Bring Into Being

One major theological difference between Evangelicals and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is on the meaning of creation. Evangelicals interpret the Bible to say that God is eternal and self-existent and that everything in the universe came into existence out of nothing "ex nihlo." LDS on the other hand understand the Bible to teach that God brought everything in the universe into being. Or that in other words, God formed, organized, put together, and arranged everything both visible and invisible for operation in the Universe. But which is called spirit or intelligence is, according to universal law, self-existent and eternal and therefore does not need to be brought into existence because intelligence and spirit has always existed. If the LDS view is correct, then what is the Biblical and logical support for the LDS view?

John 1: 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Not anything was made that was made, suggests not everything that exists needed making. Spirit or what is called intelligence is self-existent. The verb for make here, which is used 3 times in this verse, is ginomai" or "gegonen." This word means "to make" which means "bring into being" and not "bring into existence." The root is used in the phrase "and it came to pass" or "it happened that." Some Bible version render this "without him nothing exists which exists" but this interpretion ignores the meaning of the Greek verb and the proper Greek tense.

Col. 1: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Here the Greek verb for create is "ektisthe" or root "ktizo" means to fabricate, form, or make. Again this is the same as the Hebrew word "bara." And yes, God did arrange all things visible and invisible (like physical laws and forces) for operation in this universe. But this does not exclude that other things are eternal and self-existent as God is.

Col. 1: 17 . . . all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (were put together).
The verb for "consist" is "sunesteken" or root "sunistao" again in the Perfect tense which means "are set together" or "were put together."

Zech 12:1 The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
God formed man within him like a potter forms a pot or a builder builds a house.

Rev 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Some versions say "they are and do exist" but to say that would ignore the proper Greek tense.

Rom 4:17 As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Some version again try to use the word exist by saying "and calls into existence things that don't yet exist." However, to do that requires them to ignore the Greek tense.

Heb. 3: 4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
The author of Hebrews says God is the Great Builder of all things. No blasphemy there.

Rom. 9: 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
Isa. 64: 8 But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
Paul and Isaiah say God is the Great Potter. No blasphemy here either.

D&C 93: 29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
John 6: 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
Remember, the story of creation does not discuss the creation of angels. If you believe that there are no other self-existent things in the universe, then you have to explain how it is that God brought Satan into existence out of nothing. Did God mess up? Did God give a mass murderer a gun knowing full well what Satan would do with his free will? Rabbi Kushner in his book "Why bad things happen to good people" that you either have to accept that God doesn't care, or that the universe is like a clock and God can't stop it. But the intelligence and will of Satan had no beginning as do all self-existent souls. God did not give satan Satan will. Instead, God gave Satan agency or every chance to choose good, but Satan proved to himself and all of us just what he is made of.

Exodus 3:14 (KJV) And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Just as God says He is a God of gods, a Lord of lords, and King of kings; is Christ saying that He is the Great Self-Existent One of all self-existent beings?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Covenants and Contracts

D&C 84:21-22And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.

Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision. Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration. I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life." (Ensign Mag., Nov. 1998, pp. 70-71)

Some critics of the LDS Church claim Joseph Smith teachings about the Priesthood and the First Vision are contradictory. They point to D&C 84:21-22 which says that without the priesthood authority, God cannot manifest Himself to man. Yet, Joseph Smith didn't claim to have received the priesthood from the hands of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John until long after the First Vision. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding is rooted in their misunderstanding between the difference between covenants and contracts.

A contract is only in force a the moment it is entered into and not before. In contrast, a covenant like the oath and covenant of the priesthood is in effect even before the actual covenant is made. This is how the Melchizedek priesthood is from eternity to eternity. Remember that God is not confined by time and that He dwells in the Eternal Now where all things are present before Him.

The Atonement of Christ is also an eternal covenant. This is why Christ is called the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And those prophets and saints living before Christ came in the flesh could have faith in Christ and enjoy the blessings of the Atonement as if Christ had already come. This is how Enoch and other prophets walked with God and Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire even before the Atonement was done despite the Fall of Adam.

And there is a personal application to this. Because covenants are eternal and apply before you make them. Sometimes LDS are guilty of having to change their wardrobe after they go the temple and choose to wear the modest temple garment. If we understood the principle of covenants, we would be modest in dress even before we went to the temple. Although we all require repentance, ideally there should be no major changes in our behavior leading up to vs. following the making of covenants with God.

This applies to marriage which is another covenant and not just a contract. Many people today consider pre-marital sex okay as long as they are faithful once they are married. But if you know that you will be covenant married to your wife in the future, why not be faithful to her now.

So, this is how Joseph Smith was able to See God the Father and Jesus Christ before actually entering into the oath and covenant of the priesthood. Because God knew that Joseph was going to enter into the covenant in the future, in God's eyes where time doesn't exist, the covenant was already made.

Mosiah 3: 13 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Helps and Governments

There are some Christians out there that have developed a kind of "Jesus is the answer" and "Jesus is all I need" doctrine to the extreme to exclude the need for any religious authority other then themselves and their personal interpretation of scripture. Yes, Jesus Christ promised that the Comforter or Holy Ghost could and would dwell in us and guide us into all truth. But Jesus Christ also said the Bible was not meant to be privately interpreted. These say, "There is no church organization, only Jesus, there is no priesthood, no more revelation or scriputure, no more prophets or Apostles, no baptism or communion, just Jesus."

2 Pet. 1: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
And while many deny the need for ordinances like water baptism, and the laying on of hands, or communion of the Lord's Supper, or the need to pay tithing, or an authorized religious governing authority to interpret the Bible and regulate doctrine, the Bible clearly relates that Christ established these institutions before His ascension into heaven.

1 Cor 12: 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Jesus has given us gifts such as helps and governments to help draw us to Him. I will receive all that Christ has given us. Jesus has given and continues to give the Body of Christ; apostles, prophets, teachers, ordinances, priesthood, additional scripture, helps and governments.

Matt 21: 33-41 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

This parable is directed at the leadership of the ancient Jews who sought to kill Jesus. Jesus Christ foretold that the honor of governing the Kingdom of God on the Earth would be given to other husbandmen. Who are these other husbandmen who would render Christ fruits in their season? It seems clear that Christ's appearance and fillfillment of the Law of Moses didn't do away with religious authority and priesthood. According to the parable, there would be other husbandmen, prophets and Apostles. And as Isaiah said, speaking of the Last Days, there would be watchmen called upon Mount Zion who Christ would see eye to eye with at His second coming.

Isa. 52: 8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.