Authority in the Church – How is it Obtained?

Brigham Young said: “Whoever is ordained to the office of an elder in the Holy Priesthood possesses the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood to a certain degree and, if only one elder should be somehow left on the earth, he could go and set in order the Kingdom of God through revelation.”

Elder John A. Widstoe in his book A Rational Theology on page 103 wrote of this proposition: “As an illustration of the great power, authority, and duty carried by the Priesthood, it may be recalled that, if by any chance every man holding the Priesthood in the Church should be destroyed, save one elder, it would be the duty and right of that one elder, UNDER DIVINE REVELATION, to reorganize the whole church with all the grades of the Priesthood and its offices.”

Mixing Church and State

I fail to see how a church has any right to enforce its religious beliefs on the general populace, either directly or hiding and working in the shadows behind a government, particularly when it comes to abridging the rights of others. A church has a right to discipline its own members as it sees fit, but what the Mormon Church tried to do with Proposition 8 in California was evil in my view, and I see nothing in D&C 134 to justify it.

We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship. D&C 134:10.

But if the Church is more interested in regulating public morality according to their doctrines, why not fight with equal fervor against divorce, child abuse, and abortion? These are clearly labeled as sins, so why not lobby to deprive all who commit these offenses of their civil liberties? The reason why is because these things are now politically acceptable to the religious right.

And the idea that the leaders of the LDS church “hold” certain keys and pretend to certain eternal privileges is not provable. Read the D&C carefully and see exactly which keys were actually COMMITTED (not given) to him and which are still committed to Elijah and to Peter, James, and John. (See my post about “Eternal Lives” for exact references.) Also, keep in mind that the gold plates were also COMMITTED to Joseph Smith, and he was required to render an accounting for his use of them; he lost them on one occasion, and eventually had to return them. Then there are many questions concerning succession of authority.

A better way would be to foster and uphold the good rather than fighting against evil. Satan really doesn’t care what side you are on an issue. His plan is to entice you into hatred and contention. This is the clearest sign to me that the leadership of the LDS Church has lost its vision: that it is spending more time and effort fighting the petty political values of the day and ignoring what Joseph Smith called “its greatest object”: building up ZION, which by the way, will be made up of ALL nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples.

Thoughts About the Endowment

Thoughts about the Endowment – by John R. Crane

“This is why you are required to be sober, to be honest, that you could ask and receive, knock and it should be opened, and that when you sought for things you would find them. It [the endowment] is putting you in possession of those keys by which you can ask for things you need and obtain them. This is the Key by which to obtain all the glory and felicity of eternal life. It is the key by which you approach God. No impression which you receive here should be lost. It was to rivet the recollection of the tokens and covenants in your memory like a nail in a sure place, never to be forgotten…You have, by being faithful been brought to this point, by maintaining the things which have been entrusted to you…You have now learned how to pray. You have been taught how to approach God and be recognized…Those who have learned to approach God and receive these blessings, are they better than you? The difference is, they have been permitted to have these things revealed unto them. The principles which have been opened to you are the things which ought to occupy your attention all your lives. They are not second to any thing. You have the key by which if you are faithful, you will claim on you and on your posterity, all the blessings of the Priesthood.” (Amasa Lyman, 21 December 1845, JD, 225-26).

Six Principles – Two Interlocking Triangles

I would like to explain the Endowment in terms of six principles. These principles work together in two groups of three, so we could think of them as two interlocking triangles. Each principle exists in a gradient scale or various levels. The reason they form triangles is because each of the principles enlarge and enhance the other, and when we raise the level in one principle, we raise in the other principles as well. Similarly, when we lower the level in one principle, we lower the level in the other principles as well. The overall effect is an upward or downward spiral. The first three principles which underlie all material existence are Affinity, Reality, and Communication (ARC).

  • A = Affinity is the desire of two beings or objects to be near one another. It is love, charity, emotions, mercy, desire, appetites, and passions, the mark of the compass.
  • R = Reality is agreement, faith, uprightness, loyalty, justice, unity, honor, exactness, the mark of the square.
  • C = Communication speaking and listening, duplication, viewpoint, cause, distance, effect, constant nourishment of both body and spirit navel mark. While not specifically used in the temple service we take the cross or letter X as a symbol here – cross communication horizontally and vertically – symbol of victory of spirit over flesh

A + R + C = Understanding.

We can explain all human behavior through these principles. We can explain all of physical creation through these principles. We can explain how to come to God through these principles.

There is another triad of principles: Knowledge, Responsibility, and Control. The KRC triangle is like the ARC triangle in that as we increase in one attribute, we increase in the other attributes as well, and conversely. So we have an increasing spiral and a decreasing spiral. These three principles work together in the temple endowment. We are given knowledge, then we are put under covenant (responsibility) to obey the knowledge we received. Then, we are given additional power (control) in the Priesthood. Then we receive additional knowledge, etc.

  • R = Responsibility – Lehi spoke of things which act (cause) and things which are acted upon (effect). Responsibility is ability and willingness to be at cause. Full responsibility is not fault; it is recognition of being cause. One is as much like God as one can take responsibility. Volumes could be written on this concept alone.
  • C = Control – Willingness to start, change, stop or in other words, create, uphold, and destroy.

We could look at these two triangles as two equilateral triangles: one pointed up and one pointed down. The triangle pointed upward could symbolize manifestation on the material plane or mankind focusing their thoughts on God. It could also symbolize the pyramid or temple, or the earthly Zion looking up toward heaven. The triangle, which is pointed down could be seen to represent manifestation of the spiritual, God’s focused attention upon mankind, the heavenly Zion looking earthward.

Actually, the idea of the earthly temple being a pyramid is not too far-fetched. Joseph Smith taught that the mission of Elijah was to build to temple of God up to the capstone, which is the Messiah. Also in Eph. 2:19-22 we read the following:

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

When we combine the upper triangle and the lower triangle, we have the six-pointed Star of David: symbol of the union of the physical and the spiritual, of the joining of God and man, of the merging of the heavenly Zion and the earthly Zion. This calls to mind the following scripture, which outlines the first covenant God made with Enoch. The Restoration will not be fully complete until this covenant is fulfilled. To me, this is one of the most beautiful and meaningful scripture in all our body of literature.

“And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself.

“And this is mine everlasting covenant, then when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy;

“And the general assembly of the church of the first-born shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come. And this is mine everlasting covenant which I made unto thy father Enoch.” (JS Inspired Version Gen. 9:21-23).

This is further echoed by Paul in the same letter to the Ephesians: (1:10).

“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”

Initiatory Ordinances

Just as the KRC theme is woven throughout the Endowment, so is the theme of ARC.

Affinity – What we popularly think of being functions of the heart, the Lord ascribes to the bowels. In the D&C are multiple references to the bowels being the seat or source of charity and compassion (love, Affinity). In the initiatory ordinances, the bowels are washed and anointed that they might perform their “proper function”. Perhaps this proper function has to do with love.

Reality – What we popularly think of as being functions of the mind, the Lord ascribes to the heart. In the D&C, the Lord often speaks of the heart in these terms: “heart is sincere”, “harden hearts”, “thoughts and intents of the heart”, “the honest of heart”, “singleness of heart”, “treasure these words up in your hearts”, “united in their hearts”. In the initiatory ordinances, the breast (not the mind) is washed and anointed that it might “be the receptacle of pure and virtuous principles”.

Communication – In the initiatory ordinances, the various sense organs and mouth are washed and anointed that they might perform their functions of seeing and hearing, and the lips “that they may never speak guile”. The ears are anointed that we may “hear the word of the Lord”. In this mortal sphere listening is the primary means of contact with God, through the Holy Ghost. We are to listen to the promptings which we receive and to “live by every word which proceedeth forth from the mouth of God”. We should also listen to and be attuned to the word of God as He speaks to us through our fellow man. We should learn to recognize God in everything. Speaking “guile” is to communicate with deceit and subtlety. The original Greek word used meant a bait or a snare. To “speak guile” is to speak with a double meaning with the intent of ensnaring or avoiding being taken in a snare, or being “caught with guile”. To “speak guile” is to lie. The opposite of guile is to say what you mean and mean what you say. Romans 10:9 states that if we believe in our heart (the heart again) and confess with our mouth that Jesus is the Christ we will be saved. However, the word “confess” in the original Greek means to speak openly based on deep conviction based on knowledge. If we are speaking of things which we know not, of pretended knowledge, we are speaking with guile. But if we are speaking from a deep conviction based on personal knowledge and experience, we are bearing a true testimony or witness.

Signs and Tokens, Marks in the Garment

When we are given the signs and tokens of the Priesthood throughout the course of the Endowment we are instructed never to reveal them except at a certain place which will be shown. What I am talking about here is that “certain place”: in the prayer circle and at the veil.

Joseph Smith taught that these signs and tokens are means by which we can detect impostors. Brigham Young taught that these signs and tokens are a series of challenges and responses, which we must use to pass by the sentinels who guard the way back to the Presence of God. I view them in a more positive sense: as signs of greeting and recognition among equals, and as living symbols which we perform with our bodies on the physical level which should reflect (if our heart is pure) corresponding changes or attitudes on the mental and spiritual levels.

When we make the signs, there is an unseen person on the other sign making a mirror image of the same sign. Try this: have another person stand opposite you across a holy altar and make the signs of the Priesthood together. This is easier to demonstrate than describe, but your hands should interlock. When you have made the sign, just stand there and hold it for awhile. Notice how you feel. Notice the energy flowing between the two bodies. This is particularly noticeable in the First Sign of the Melchizedek Priesthood. You hold out your right hand, palm upward, hand in cupping shape as if you were about to receive something. Your partner’s left hand, palm downward, above your right hand, as if he were giving you something, and vice versa for the other hands.

The marks in the garment and the signs and tokens also correspond to ARC. The mark of the square and raising the arm to the square signify Reality; the shape corresponds to the letter “L”.

The mark of the compass and raising the hands high above the head corresponds to Affinity; the shape corresponds to the letter “V”.

The mark over the navel is a reminder of the need for constant nourishment of body and spirit. Spiritually, this nourishment is accomplished through Communication. The mark is shaped like a straight line, but if we were to draw lines connecting all the sacred marks, this mark would be at the center of a large “X”. This letter is one form of the ancient symbol of the cross. This symbol was known and revered long before the time of Christ. The vertical bar superimposed over the horizontal bar symbolizes the victory of spirit over the flesh. It also symbolizes communication between us and our fellow man (horizontal), and between us and God (vertical).

Together these letters L-V-X spell LVX, which is Latin for light.

Where do we see the symbol “X” or the imagery of the cross represented in the Endowment? In the names of the two tokens: “The Sign of the Nail”, and “The Sure Sign of the Nail”. Also the interlocking of the little fingers suggests to the mind the letter “X”.

The Sure Sign of the Nail

In the Tarot deck is a card called The Hierophant. This card represents communication or revelation from God, primarily through the medium of sound. The Hebrew letter corresponding to this card is “vav”, the Hebrew word for “and” – a conjunction which joins other words and sentences together. “Vav” also means “the nail”. Here is a meditation on vav written by Paul Foster Case, an expert on the Tarot and the ancient Jewish teachings called the Kaballah:

As that which uniteth all things
In the world of the manifest
I am rightly known by VAV, the nail.
Because I am all, and in all,
Therefore am I the link or bond
Which joineth together
The parts of the fabric of existence.
In all the universe there is no break.
By bonds indissoluble
Each point is fastened to every other.

This has interesting implications for the Sealing Power of Elijah, doesn’t it? Think about when a couple is sealed for time and eternity and they take one another hand in hand over the alter in the grip which is also known as The Sure Sign of the Nail. This interlocking of the little fingers has a very beautiful symbolism representing the intertwining of two bodies. When bodies interlock, it always implies a degree of control or ownership. But when only the little fingers interlock, it symbolizes only the slightest possible degree of mutual control or compulsion, and only the slightest possible degree of submission. This symbol represents the couple intertwined in affectionate embrace, yet granting to each their individuality and the realization that in a true eternal union, couples are together only “because of their desire”.

The Second Sign of the Melchizedek Priesthood

“He [Joseph] also spoke concerning key words. The g[reat] key word was the first word Adam spoke and is a word of supplication. He [Joseph] found the word by the Urim and Thummim. It is that key word to which the heavens [are] opened.” (Joseph Smith, 15 June 1843, J of WC, 133-34).

The first word Adam uttered is “Pey” or “Pay”. This is a word and also a Hebrew letter which means “the mouth as the organ of speech” In the Kaballah, the mode of intelligence assigned to this path is called the “activating intelligence”. It stirs up activity, sets things going, produces changes, effects transformations. It implies drawing power down from above, it is a flash of lightning, a sudden momentary glimpse of the truth, a flash of inspiration which breaks down the structures of ignorance and false reasoning.

The words “Pay Lay Ale” are actually “O God, Hear the words of my mouth.” Spoken backwards. I’m not sure of the significance of this. This could be the proper use of the Hebrew language, or perhaps it signifies that this world is a mirror image (hence backwards) from the other side. The words are repeated three times while the hands are positioned at three levels, perhaps signifying a supplication to the God of the Celestial Kingdom (the Father), the God of the Terrestrial Kingdom (the Son), and the true God of the Telestial Kingdom (the Holy Ghost).

The Prayer Circle

The ARC theme is repeated again in the prayer circle. First in the instructions, then in the actual function of the circle. The instructions are that there only the best of feelings (Affinity or Love) should exist in the circle, and the participants are requested to join together in exercising their faith on behalf of the persons whose names lie upon the alter (Reality or agreement). Finally the participants are asked to listen to the words of the prayer and repeat them in unison (Communication).

Following the instructions, the participants reenact all the signs of the Priesthood. We are told never to divulge these signs “except at a place which will be shown [us] hereafter”. This is the place. The ARC theme is repeated in these signs. Then the participants pair off into couples. Normally, in the LDS Endowment service, each couple consists of a man and a woman. However, the Twelve meet regularly in the Salt Lake Temple and conduct prayer circles. Here are twelve men pairing off into couples consisting of two men, so a couple does not necessarily need to be a male and a female.

Each couple is joined by the Patriarchal Grip (Affinity or Love). All around the circle each person raises his or her left arm to the square and rests it on the shoulder of the person to their left. Each member of the circle bears an active and a passive role in executing this sign, which signifies unity (Reality or agreement), upholding one each other’s faith. Note that previously in the endowment, the shoulders are washed and anointed that they may bear the burdens that will be placed thereon. This sign symbolizes “bearing one another’s burdens”. Note also that within each couple, the signs of love and unity are made, and all around the circle the sign of unity is made.

On the night of the Last Supper, it is believed that Christ also taught His Apostles the True Order of Prayer and further stated that “wherever two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in your midst”. Everything in the Prayer Circle suggests to the mind a gathering in the Name of Jesus Christ, from the manner of gathering, to the signs made, right down to the very marks worn in the clothing of all participants. Therefore, if the members of the circle have “the best of feelings” and are united in their faith, and have the pure desire to communicate with God, there is no reason why the Lord should not be pleased to appear in their midst. (I can testify from personal experience that this is indeed the case). At the center of the circle, John acting as voice and making the Second Sign of the Aaronic Priesthood stands at the edge between this world and the next, and he might well be reaching for something on the other side of the veil.

The prayer, while not following a prepared text, does follow a general formula. John first acknowledges the occasion and setting for the prayer, mentioning the temple, the robes, and the order of prayer. He then proceeds to thank the Lord for the blessings received, always going from the general to the specific: i.e. from the Gospel, to the Restoration, to this particular occasion. He then proceeds to ask the Lord for specific blessings, again ranging from the general to the specific. He usually invokes blessings upon the leadership of the Church and the presidency and workers of the temple. He especially asks for a blessing for the persons whose names lie upon the altar. To properly conduct a prayer circle, John must possess the Sealing Power, and when he invokes that power in the course of the prayer, rather then invoke it directly by name, he uses the phrase “we ask thee in a special way.”

Joseph Smith told the people that they do not know how to pray and get their prayers answered. However, he taught these keys to many individuals including Hyrum Smith and William Law.

“Let my servant William Law also receive the keys by which he may ask and receive blessings; let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say”. (D&C 124:97).

I want to bring up one point, which is often neglected in this discussion. We do not bring our agenda to the altar and tick off a list of requests to the Lord. We are to follow the Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall give us what we shall ask for. We have to be careful what we ask for, and we should always make sure that what we ask for is in accordance to the Will of God.

Other Interesting Notes about the Prayer Circle

When I conducted prayer circles, I was especially impressed to have six couples present in the circle if possible. This would make a total of 13, including the person acting as voice. Many people have been conditioned to believe the number 13 to be unlucky, but this is simply superstition. In the Hebrew language; each letter of the alphabet is also a number, and each word has a number assigned to it; and different words which map to the same number are often related to one another is surprising ways. In this particular case, the number for the Hebrew word for “unity” is 13, and the number for the Hebrew word for “love” is 13. I don’t know if there is a Hebrew word for communication or communion, and I don’t know if the word (if it exists) maps to 13, but I would like to believe that such is the case.

The number 13 was sacred to the Mayans. I also understand that the Zodiac really consists of 13 constellations instead of the usual 12, but one constellation is omitted to fit some preconceived notion about the number 12 and trying to make everything “fit”.

One of the New Testament Apocrypha books contains an account of Jesus teaching His Apostles at the Last Supper how to perform a “dance”. During the course of this “dance”, he was to offer a prayer and the Apostles were to repeat back the words of the prayer. This symbolism is repeated in art above my fireplace I have a Picasso print showing 13 persons dancing around in a circle with a dove flying through their midst having an olive branch in its mouth.

Few of us have been to England to see Stonehenge. Those to do will find a partially ruined pile of stones which is now off-limits to visitors. However, in Washington State, on the Columbia River, in Maryhill, not far from my birthplace is a fully-reconstructed replica of Stonehenge. Nobody knows why the original monument was constructed, but railroad magnate Sam Hill built his replica as a memorial to the soldiers who were sacrificed on the altar of World War I. I once toured the site and indeed found a large stone alter in the center of a circle of twelve stones. These twelve stones were arranged in groups of two with each pair of stones joined at the top by a lintel. This immediately suggested to my mind a prayer circle. There seems to be something powerful in just these lifeless stones arrayed in this order. I sensed that there is something greater behind this ancient pattern, but what that is remains unknown for now.

The Five Points of Fellowship

In the New Testament the Greek word “koinonia” is translated as “fellowship”. It means communion, sharing, partnership, to partake of. In the ARC formula, it represents Communication on the deepest possible level. The five points are physical points of bodily contact, but as is so often the case, there is a deeper spiritual meaning. They are called “The Five Points of Fellowship”, but if you also consider the points of contact in the Patriarchal Grip, there are really seven points of physical contact.

Here is another way to look at the Five Points of Fellowship. This calls for a practical demonstration. Pretend that there is a world called flatland where everything is two-dimensional. The whole world exists on the surface on your desk, or on the floor. Then let’s say you are a three-dimensional being trying to explain yourself and your existence to the inhabitants of flatland. Wouldn’t you be as a god to them? They would find you incomprehensible and your claims unbelievable. But supposing you found a way to introduce them into your world of three dimensions. Here, we need two volunteers from the audience. One person needs to lie flat on the floor as if he were a flatlander. The other volunteer needs to stand up above him in three-dimensional space. Now, let’s have the person standing up reach down and grab the person lying down and try to pull him up. Hint: try using the Five Points of Fellowship. Brace your foot against his so he doesn’t slip. Place your knee against his for further stability. Etc. Your feet and knees will help steady you while you support each other and with pull with your arms.

You could liken this to God at the veil pulling us up from the limited world of three dimensions into His world of 4 dimensions (or more).

You could also view this in light of one person helping resurrect another from a grave.

You could also view this at an intimate embrace between two brethren, signifying greeting, welcome, or mutual recognition.

I think many of these points are illustrated in this beautiful poem written by a Mason, on order which also practices this particular ordinance of fellowship. To me, the sentiments expressed in this poem are very beautiful and could well extend to the sisters as well as to the brethren.

The Five Points of Fellowship

Foot to Foot, that we should go
When sickness brings a brother woe,
To cheer him on his bed of pain,
And nurse him back to health again.

Knee to Knee, whene’er we pray,
At early morn, or close of day,
A brother’s name should claim a share
In every thought and every prayer.

Breast to Breast, thee still to keep
A brother’s secrets hidden deep,
To all the world but us unknown,
And to hold them sacred as our own.

Hand to Back, with firmest grasp,
Encircling arms and friendly clasp,
We should be found at duty’s call,
To stay a brother’s tottering fall.

Mouth to Ear, whene’er we find
To err a brother is inclined,
We’ll counsel give in gentlest tone
And breathe it to his ear alone.

Then Foot to Foot and Knee to Knee,
True brothers we should ever be;
With Hand to Back and Breast to Breast,
Each striving still to do his best,
We’ll whisper words of hope and cheer,
With Clasp to Clasp and Mouth to Ear.

Robert Turney

This is the type of fellowship or communion (ARC) we enter into when we are introduced into the Presence of God and into the Holy Order of God. This is the same type of fellowship that was to prevail in the School of the Prophets as evidenced by this greeting which was to be given:

“And this shall be the order of the house of the presidency of the school: He that is appointed to be president, or teacher, shall be found standing in his place, in the house which shall be prepared for him.

“Therefore, he shall be first in the house of God, in a place that the congregation in the house may hear his words carefully and distinctly, not with loud speech.

“And when any shall come in after him, let the teacher arise, and, with uplifted hands to heaven, yea, even directly, salute his brother or brethren with these words:

“Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.

“And he that is found unworthy of this salutation shall not have place among you; for ye shall not suffer that mine house shall be polluted by him.

“And he that cometh in and is faithful before me, and is a brother, or if they be brethren, they shall salute the president or teacher with uplifted hands to heaven, with this same prayer and covenant, or by saying Amen, in token of the same.

“Behold, verily, I say unto you, this is an ensample unto you for a salutation to one another in the house of God, in the school of the prophets.” (D&C 88:127-130).

Peter, James, and John and The Holy Order of God

The Holy Order of God is the heavenly component of the earthly School of the Prophets.

Following is both sides of a discussion I had over the Internet with a man named Allyn Rigby a couple of years ago. He lives in Utah and I live in Washington, so I have not met him personally, but we used to correspond by Email for a number of months. My impression of him is that he is a very humble spiritual man. His faith is simple, but very strong. One night we started discussing this concept and I was amazed that two people who came from such different backgrounds could have almost the same beliefs, differing only in terminology. This is further testimony to me that the Spirit of the Lord will teach us all the mysteries of the Kingdom, if we have ears to listen.

The Holy Order of God is also called “The Fathers” or Elohim. From among the Elohim, there are individuals who serve various offices necessary for the administration of the plan of salvation: Adam, Eve, Redeemer, Holy Spirit, Elias, Elijah, Messiah, etc. You can look at this two ways: It is God’s Holy Order, or the Holy Order of Gods, but since God is one (and if the members of the order are like God: are one) it is the Holy Order of God.

“There are 144,000 Fathers, and Jesus’s Father is the spokesperson for the quorum. All have the same power and authority. Yes some have office of Elohim, others Joseph etc. There are many offices, and they go by the office in which they work in. Just like you would call Bishop, Bishop or President, President. But the Father and Mother are different and Mother is Mother. As far as the Holy Ghost it to is an office, and many usually family members that have died get to fill this office. It is the only way they can grow on the other side. But there is one who is head of this office. The Holy Ghost is the mind and will of God. (See Lectures on Faith).” (Allyn Rigby).

I think we are talking about the same thing. Let me share a few insights I have received on this subject. First I agree with everything you have said.

In addition, when we receive “the more sure word of prophecy” or in other words “when our calling and election is made sure,” we are introduced into this Order or quorum, or perhaps we might say, reassured or reminded of the place we have held in this quorum. (I say this because this quorum has existed as long as God has existed. Does not the word “redeemed” mean to bring a person or thing back to the point at which they were originally?) At that point we become members of this quorum in equal standing, and the Father can truly say to us “all that I have is yours.” This not only applies to the riches of eternity (not necessarily material wealth, but much more), not just the power of God, but the fellowship and support of this quorum, and also the knowledge, concerns, thoughts, insights, and responsibilities which this quorum shares. At this point we are granted eternal life.

Joseph Smith spoke truly when he said we had to consecrate our all and be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Kingdom of God. But, remember all the other members of this quorum have done the same and are willing to give their all for you and to love you with all their heart, might, mind, and strength, just at they ask that you give your all to them and love God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.

This induction into the quorum takes two forms: public and private. The private part which may come before or after the public part is when the Father comes to us individually and says, as Joseph Smith taught, “son, thou shalt be exalted.” We receive something called the Voice of Jehovah. Which means we can speak in the Name of Jesus Christ (not the name “Jesus Christ,” but the unutterable name which is revealed to us individually), and to all creation it is the same as if Jesus Christ Himself spoke. Now, this doesn’t happen all at once. It probably occurs in stages, like the writings of David A. Whitmer describe, although, I don’t believe all the steps and identical for every person. The “public” or outward part of this induction is the Second Anointing ordinance. However, this part is secondary to the first part, and if the Church is not in a position to bestow this ordinance for whatever reason, the Lord will make His own provisions.

At this point the learning really begins. We have to grow in our priesthood and learn our powers and duties, just like in any other priesthood calling. Of course this is to be expected since we have only come this far by listening to every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, through the medium of the Holy Ghost, then through the ministration of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does this quorum do? One major function is to extend itself out to its full compliment of membership. Another function is to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth so that the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As you can see, this quorum functions on both sides of the veil, and in all three degrees of glory. While all members of the quorum are worthy of exceeding great glory, many elect to sojourn in lesser kingdoms where they may seek out other souls and bring them to Christ, and seek out members of the quorum who have become separated, and bring them back into the main body.

As a member of this quorum, we are entitled to all the benefits of membership in the quorum including participation in the councils of the quorum and the privilege of having regular visitations from members of this quorum.

How does this quorum work? It works the way God works. This world is the Telestial World, and this quorum is doing the work of the Holy Ghost on this level. God is working with all peoples on all levels in this world, according to their level of understanding. Because we are not all at the same place in life, there is no “one size fits all” church. This doctrine was taught by Brigham Young and by Alma in the Book of Mormon (Alma 29:8) However, we must keep in mind that all truth comes from the same Source and leads to the same goal.

This is not a power or ego trip, and people seeking status or station do not generally reach this point. In addition, God has proven them in all things. Truly, everything the fathers do, they do in love. They exercise their priesthood in accordance with Section 121, “without control or compulsion,” and as a result their “dominions flow unto them forever and ever.”

This quorum may be called “the Fathers,” or “the Elohim.” I believe the group contains women as well. The word “elohim” is always translated “god” in the Old Testament, but it is actually a plural word. So it actually means “gods.” Somebody once asked a Rabbi why the first words of the Bible “In the beginning, God …” was not more correctly translated “In the beginning, the Gods, …” The rabbi said, “Because if we did that, the rest of the Bible wouldn’t make any sense.” Note also that the word “eloh” is a feminine word and the suffix “-im” is a macsuline plural ending. So the word is not only plural, but also refers to both the masculine and feminine at the same time. Of course in the King Follett Address Joseph Smith rendered the translation “In the beginning, the head god of all the other gods, ….” I have seen this same rendering in some Jewish interpretations of the Bible, so he is not alone in this view.

“The power to seal is the mind and will of God. But love is the only thing that will hold this seal together. Yet there is the Holy Spirit of Promise and that is Joseph Smith Jr. He is the only one on this earth that holds this power and office. Everything else is to become such, but he seals Husbands and Wives and families. There may be more to this, but this is what I know at this time. I learn so much that it changes fast. The more light and knowledge that I receive, the faster things change. I move into a greater area. If this makes sense.” (Allyn Rigby).

I agree with most of this. One of the members of our group had a revelation from Father and Mother in which they said: “We are together because of our desire.” That says a lot to me. They have a love which is eternal and which goes beyond all bounds of time and space. This is the love which makes a sealing eternal. This is the love which all the Fathers have for one another.

The Holy Spirit of Promise

Personally, I don’t know about Joseph Smith being the Holy Spirit of Promise. I won’t say he is, and I won’t say he isn’t. I just don’t know. I agree that we have to be open and keep learning. Let me explain my hesitance: I think Peter, James, and John and Moses, Elias, and Elijah are not totally out of the picture. Neither are Adam and Noah. I have read some writing which say they out and out gave their keys to Joseph Smith, and other writers say they simply committed their keys to Joseph Smith, but hold him and the church accountable for their use, and they could come and take them back and give them to others. We know these keys will never again be taken from the earth, but we don’t necessarily know (at least I don’t) that they couldn’t be taken away from Joseph Smith and given to another or others, or exercised personally by these specific individuals should they choose to return to the earth.

In the following, I am not trying to detract from the mission or ministry of Joseph Smith, Jr. I am just trying to point out and elucidate the mission and roles of Peter, James, and John.

In D&C 7:1-8 the Savior told Peter that John had a greater work to perform among men than the work he has done before: namely to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation. And unto Peter, James, and John the Lord gave this power and the keys of this ministry until the Second Coming. In D&C 27:12-13, the Lord talks about Peter, James, and John ordaining Joseph Smith to the apostleship and also mentions that He has committed to them (these three) “the key of my kingdom and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times, and for the fullness of times.” See also D&C 128:20-21.

In D&C 77:8-15 we read an explanation of portions of the book of Revelations. We read about the four angels who have the “everlasting gospel” to commit to the nations. They have the power to seal unto life, etc. The “everlasting gospel” is not the Telestial gospel; it is the Celestial gospel. The angel ascending from the East (ascending not descending, because he is already on the earth) possesses the seal of the living God and instructs the angels not to destroy the earth until “we have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads.” We are told in verse 9 that this is Elias who was to gather together the tribes of Israel and restore all things. Those thusly sealed are the 144,000. They are to administer the everlasting gospel. They are to be ordained by the angels. (Not by the officials of some church). Those saved will not be limited to these 144,000, but the book of Revelations teaches that these will be the first fruits of God unto Salvation. Verse 14 discusses the future mission which John received. He was the Elias who was to come and restore all things. D&C 133:36-38 talks about the angel flying through heaven having the everlasting gospel and “who shall appear unto MANY that dwell on the earth.”

From Section 77, verses 9 and 14 we see that none other than John the Beloved was to be that Elias, the angel flying through the heavens, to whom was given the Seal of the living God over the twelve tribes of Israel. This was his future mission: to lead this company of angels as they go about ministering to those who shall be heirs of salvation, sparing the earth of certain destruction, until they are able to seal the servants of God in their foreheads. Behold, is not this the Holy Spirit of Promise?

Elias and Elijah

One of the biggest sources of confusion in Restoration doctrine is the distinction between Elias and Elijah. An “Elias” is an office (a forerunner) and is also the Greek name for Elijah. “Elijah” was the name of an Old Testament prophet, mighty in faith and power who was taken up to heaven without tasting death. And we also refer to “the spirit and power of Elijah”.

Before Messiah comes, God promised the return of the prophet Elijah. In this preparatory role, Elijah was to perform the role of an “Elias”. The source of much of this confusion is Joseph Smith, himself. Section 77, revealed in 1832 reveals the future mission of the coming Elias (John the Beloved). However, in later writings and revelations, Joseph Smith ascribes all the functions of the mission of the above-mentioned Elias to Elijah. Perhaps in Section 77, he was using the Greek version of the name of Elijah, or perhaps he was referring to the office on an “Elias”, or perhaps Joseph Smith’s knowledge of this subject was incomplete in 1832, and he later grew to a greater understanding as witnessed by the following 1844 quotations, which seem to suggest that John the Beloved is to perform his mission in the latter days as the long-awaited prophet Elijah, and that they are in fact, one in the same person.

Joseph Smith explains the differences between the two offices as follows:

“This power of Elijah is to that of Elias what in the architecture of the temple of God those who seal or cement the stones to their places are to those who cut or hew the stones preparing the way for the other to accomplish the work. By this we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise, i.e. Elijah. To obtain this sealing is to make our calling and election sure which we ought to give all diligence to accomplish.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, 10 March 1844, p. 335).

Another illustration of the differences of these two offices and further evidence that the latter-day missions of John the Beloved and the Prophet Elijah are one in the same is that the book eaten by John in the 10th chapter of Revelation “was a mission, and an ordinance, for him to gather the tribes of Israel; behold, this is Elias, who, as it is written, must come and restore all things.” (D&C 77:14).

“And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” (Rev. 10:10-11).

This indicates he had a future work to perform, a work greater than the work he had previously done. (D&C 7) At the time Christ gave him this promise what work had he previously done, or any of the Apostles for that matter. They had not yet been fully converted. The Savior on this same occasion asked Peter if he loved Him and told him to feed his sheep. If John had previously lived and served as the prophet Elijah, he would indeed have done a previous work, but up to this point, in his current lifetime as the Beloved Disciple, he had done little except learn at the feet of the Master and carefully observe the life and ministry of Christ so he could later record it in his Gospel.

Continuing in the Book of Revelation:

From this we understand that to John was given a rod with the instruction to measure the temple, the altar, and those who worshipped in the temple. To measure is to hold up to a standard, to judge, and if all it not in order, to adjust, or to purify. Would not this be suggestive of the work of the spirit and power of Elijah? To another it was given to the outer court of the temple, known as the court of the Gentiles, and to measure the city. Would this not be more suggestive of the more temporal aspects of the Priesthood and be suggestive of the work of the spirit and power of Elias? Or Moses?

“He shall send Elijah the prophet and he shall reveal the covenants of the fathers in relation to the children, and the covenants of the children in relation to the fathers that they may have the privilege of entering into the same in order to effect their mutual salvation. And I saw another angel ascending from the east having the Seal of the living God and he cried etc. Hurt not the earth nor sea nor trees till we have sealed the servants of our God in our foreheads. Now I would ask who knows what is the Seal of the living God, Behold the ignorance of the world. A measure of this sealing is to confirm upon their head in common with Elijah the doctrine of election or the covenant with Abraham. “ (Words of JS p. 239-42).

D&C 77 refers explicitly to John and Elias as being one and the same. However, in the above quotation, Joseph Smith seems to tie John and Elijah together.

And another quotation from Joseph Smith,

“It means to seal the blessing on their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant thereby making their calling and election sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father.” (page 242) This speech by Joseph Smith was recorded by three separate eyewitnesses.

In Malachi we read:

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: (and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple), even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his (the messenger’s) coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. (Mal. 3:1-3). (Parenthesis and comments mine).

Who is the Lord’s messenger who shall prepare the way before Him? Who is the messenger of the covenant whom the Jews delighted in? Who shall be like a refiner’s fire and fullers’ soap? Who shall sit as a refiner and a purifer of silver to prepare the sons of Levi that they may offer a righteous offering unto the LORD? Could this be the messenger who comes in the spirit and power of Moses (or Elias?

In chapter 4, Malachi then refers to another messenger with a different mission: Elijah. The messenger of the covenant, not the LORD, is going to be like a refiner’s fire, preparing the sons of Levi, (or in other words, those who have been prepared by the spirit and power of Elias), building the Temple up to the capstone (Elijah), for the greater revelation of the Messiah, who will suddenly come to his Temple.

Among the sons of Levi, there is to be a refining and a sifting or a sorting process. Under the spirit and power of Elias there has been a calling, but under the spirit and power of Elijah, there will be a choosing. Hence the scriptural adage: “Many are called but few are chosen.” Another word for “choosing” is “election”. Those thus called through the spirit and power of Elias and chosen through the spirit and power of Elijah are in effect “the Church and Kingdom and the Elect of God”.

Making Your Calling and Election Sure

The early-day brethren taught and understood this principle. I will now quote their words without comment.

“Make your calling and election sure. Go on from grace to grace until you obtain a promise from God for yourselves that you shall have eternal life. This is eternal life, to know God and his son, Jesus Christ; it is to be sealed up unto eternal life and obtain a promise for our posterity. Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. This is the power of Elijah, to seal or bind or turn the hearts of the fathers to their children sealed against all sin but the sin of shedding innocent blood, and the sin against the Holy Ghost.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, 10 March 1844, p. 334).

“‘You have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.’ And for what were they brought thus far? I answer that they came to these person ages to learn of the things of God and to hear revealed through them the order and glory of the kingdoms of God. I would ask again, Is there a word on record that was revealed by those angels and spirits? If there is, where is it to be found? Again I inquire, what is the order and organization of the spirits of the just made perfect? Let me tell you, brethren. That which is to be revealed which was kept his from the foundation of the world will be revealed to sucklings and babes.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, 13 August 1843, p. 240). (This will occur one person at a time).

“Reading the experience of others, or the revelations given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience in these things, through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Truth in reference to these matters can, and may be known, through the revelations of God in the way of his ordinances, and in answer to prayer. The Hebrew church ‘came unto the spirits of just men made perfect, and unto an innumerable company of angels, unto God the Father of all, and to Jesus Christ the Mediator of the new covenant;’ but what they learned has not been, and could not have been written. What object was gained by this communication with the spirits of the just, etc.? It was the established order of the kingdom of God, the keys of power and knowledge were with them to communicate to the saints, hence the importance of understanding the distinction between the spirits of the just, and angels. Spirits can only be revealed in flaming fire, or glory. Angels have advanced farther, their light and glory being tabernacled, and hence appear in bodily shape…The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work, hence they are blessed in departing hence. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings and emotions, and are often pained therewith.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, 9 October 1843, p. 253-54).

“What did they learn by coming to the spirits of just men made perfect? Is it written? No! The spirits of just men are made ministering servants to those who are sealed unto life eternal, and it is through them that the sealing power comes down. “ (The Words of Joseph Smith, 9 October 1843, p. 254).

“Now, if there be any heirs of salvation in the 19th century, why not those ministering spirits be sent forth to minister for them? And if sent forth, why should they withhold their glory and their personal presence from those to whom they administer? Why not reveal themselves as they did in ancient times, personally and bodily, so that the eye of the individual to whom they administer may behold them? We can see nothing whatsoever that indicates, to the least degree, that these privileges are to be withheld from the children of men.” (Orson Pratt, 28 September 1873, J.D. 16:212-13).

“It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation…The Father could not be glorified in the Son on any other principle than we coming to God, asking, receiving, heavens open, visions, etc. They are done away because of unbelief. ‘I will pray the Father and he shall send you another comforter.’ There is one comforter, and another comforter to abide with you forever, reach to things within the veil, know that you are sealed. If you get it, it will stand by you forever… We may come to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn, spirits of just men made perfect, unto Christ. The innumerable company of angels are those that have been resurrected from the dead. The spirits of just men made perfect are those without bodies. It is our privilege to pray for and obtain these things…God is not a respecter of persons; we all have the same privilege. Come to God; weary him until he blesses you, etc. We are entitled to the same blessings: Jesus, revelations, just men and angels, etc., etc. Not laying again the doctrine of Christ go on unto perfection. Obtain that holy spirit of promise. Then you can be sealed to eternal life.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, Before 8 August 1839, pp. 13-14).

“I know that everyone who, following the whisperings of the Spirit, develops faith, is baptized, and receives the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands by those having authority, may, by compliance with the teachings of the gospel, receive the gifts and power of the Holy Ghost. And I bear further witness that every such person who, having come this far, will follow the Prophet’s admonition to ‘continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God,’ may obtain the more sure word of prophecy.” (Marion G. Romney, April 1977 General Conference, in Ensign, May 1977, p. 45).

The Work of Restoration to Continue: The Coming of Future Messengers

The work of John the Beloved (the Elias or Elijah who was to come and restore all things) and his fellow angels is just as necessary in the Restoration as was the work of Joseph Smith. In an address to the Quorum of the Twelve, Joseph Smith taught the following concerning the return of these angels to assist in this great latter-day work.

“Let us seek the glory of Abraham, Noah, Adam, the Apostles, who have communion with these things, and then we shall be among that number when Christ comes.” (July 2, 1839). DHC 3:383-392. (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 159, 162). (Words of Joseph Smith, pp. 10, 12).

Brigham Young once stated that “strangers” from both sides of the veil would appear among men to aid and direct this work, and that their appearance would be no different from that of ordinary men. Annalee Skarin saw all of this in a vision which she had in the 1950’s:

The Mission of Peter, James, and John

To sum it all up we have the team of Peter and James working on the other side, and John working on this side in connection with the 4 other angels mentioned ministering the everlasting Gospel to those who shall be heirs of salvation. These angels are ordaining these heirs into the Holy Order of God. Think about the temple ceremony. Peter, James, and John work among the children of men first without revealing who they are, then in their true character. They work with those who would be heirs of salvation, preparing and teaching them in all things, even up to the point where they approach the veil and converse with the Lord, Himself.

As I have shown, all this is clearly taught in the D&C and by the prophet Joseph Smith. It is no secret doctrine, but it is certainly not taught by the LDS church. I first reviewed these scriptures years ago, and I just reviewed them the last couple of days in preparing this writing. What I have read rings just as true for me today as it did then.

However, there are some passages which, on the surface, seem to contradict what I have just stated. The first passage is D&C 110:11-16 where Moses, Elias, and Elijah appear to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple and commit to them the keys of various dispensations. Reading further in Section 112 seems to clear up the confusion. D&C 112:15-17 states that the keys given to Joseph Smith and Thomas B. Marsh shall not be taken from Joseph Smith until the Lord comes, but these keys are the apostolic keys.

D&C 112:30-33 clarifies this whole issue so well, I am quoting from it in full:

“For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fullness of times. Which power you hold, IN CONNECTION WITH ALL THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED A DISPENSATION AT ANY TIME FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE CREATION; [emphasis mine]; For verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you. Verily I say unto you, behold how great is your calling. Cleanse your hearts and your garments, lest the blood of this generation be required at your hands.”

D&C 132:7 and 132:45 mention specific priesthood powers and keys which were given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. However, nowhere can I find that the keys which Peter, James, and John possess were ever handed off to Joseph Smith.

In addition, in D&C 63:21 the Lord explains that he showed Peter, James, and John the pattern by which the earth would be transfigured, and that Joseph had not yet received the fullness of this account. To my knowledge, neither he nor any of his successors in the presidency have yet received this fullness, nor have they received the fullness of the record of John as promised in D&C 93:6.

The Redemption of Zion

Would you like to know how this all knowledge and understanding started for me? I had a bishop in a ward at BYU that taught some very important things to me. He also said that you don’t have to wait for Zion to start consecrating your all to the Lord. You can basically sit down right now and dedicate your life, your time, your talents, and everything you have been blessed with or will be blessed with for the building up of Zion and for the establishment of the Kingdom of God here upon the earth. I did just that, and the most wonderful things started happening in my life. That’s when the heavens started opening up for me. I have developed a real passion for establishing Zion. It’s like patriotism, only it goes a lot further. I continually pray that the will of the Lord will be done on earth as it is in heaven, so that someday the heavenly Zion will be pleased to join Zion on earth.

“He is right, but Zion is in your heart. That is the Holy of Holies, this is where you will learn to vibrate and move like the wind. This is how you will see the city of Enoch, and become a member of the Church of the First Born. This is how you translate and resurrect your self. The I AM of you will do all of this, all we need to do is listen to the spirit and obey.” (Allyn Rigby).

Going along with what Brother Rigby says above, I once was praying about Zion and I asked the Lord: “Where is Zion”? His reply was: “Wherever you are.”

“Now I believe that before the redemption of Zion, there will be a voluntary feeling to carry out the celestial law. I found my belief on the prophecies that are given in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants”. (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16:158).

Observations about the Three Degrees of Glory:

Celestial: Those who are valiant. To be valiant means to be faithful and true despite all temptations and indications to do otherwise. This sometimes may mean defying constituted human authority such as churches. Peter said: “We ought to obey God rather than obey man.” Celestial individuals radiate the light of God in their beings. They receive the light of God and it passes through them like light passing through a pure crystal and the light shines on and on. This is what is meant by glorifying God.

Terrestrial: These are honorable men and women who were not valiant. They fell into the trap and allowed themselves to be blinded by the craftiness of men. These possess no light of their own, neither to they allow the light of God to pass through them, but they are happy to live on borrowed light, and reflect the light they have received.

Telestial: These are the crafty men who lie in wait to deceive honorable men and women. They set themselves up as their own light and thus do not glorify God in any way. Because of this, their light is darkness.

Our present world is of the Telestial order. In it are individuals of potentially all three degrees of glory. Individuals of this degree of glory radiate or reflect light to a much lesser degree. They are like crystals of varying degrees of purity. Some on this level are so impure that they neither radiate nor reflect light.

Holiness to the Lord

This document has barely scratched the surface as to what could be learned from the Temple Endowment. As human beings we learn best when we can be taught on multiple levels simultaneously. The temple Endowment combines learning of the spiritual, mental, emotional, symbolic, and physical levels. It is truly “the Lord’s university”. Over the east entrance to every temple reads the words “Holiness to the Lord”. This should be our attitude as we partake of the Endowment. Every level of our being (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) should be in tune and focused on a single goal: that of loving and worshipping God and seeking to be one with Him. This is what is meant by holiness. Ask yourself: if Jesus were to suddenly come to what we call “The House of the Lord”, would He find holiness there? If Jesus were to suddenly come to you, would He find holiness there?

This discussion has focused on the meaning of the symbols presented in the temple Endowment. Indeed, we have introduced additional symbols as an aid to further understanding. Please understand that these symbols are only aids in understanding. We do not worship the temple, we do not worship the ordinances presented there, neither do we worship the workers performing the ordinances, nor the priesthood with which they perform the ordinances. We worship God. We acknowledge His authority and we seek to further add to His glory by obeying the Everlasting Gospel, so that we may develop our own, innate, god-like attributes, so that we may become even as He is.

© 2010 John R. Crane

The True Meaning of Holiness

The scriptures always tell us that we must be holy. (Lev. 20:7, Matt, 5:48, D&C 20:69) We speak of the Holy Priesthood, holy temples, holiness to the Lord. In another article I am going to introduce a concept which I borrowed from A Course in Miracles known as the “Holy Relationship.” But what does it really mean to be holy?

Since these are biblical words, I first turned to the Bible for a definition. I have an expository dictionary of all the words in the New Testament traced back to the original Greek. The word “holiness” was translated from the original Greek word “hagiasmos.” The word is sometimes translated in the New Testament as “sanctified.” The basic meaning of the word signifies a separation from the world and a dedication to God, so much so that the word implies, in fact, even God-like. The Anglo-Saxon word from which the word “holy” is derived means “sound,” “whole,” or “happy.” This definition is in line with the Course in Miracles teaching that anything which is whole has the characteristic of holiness.

If we are to be like God, we too must be holy. We must be dedicated to the Will of God and we must be sound and whole. However, we are composite beings. There is our real self which is complete and whole and at one with God. Then there is the body, which serves as our manifestation in the material world. Then there is the mind which believes that the body is our real self and knows nothing of our spiritual or Godlike nature.

In this state we are not holy. True, part of us is holy because it has always been with God and never left. But the rest of our being is not in communication with this part and is not necessarily serving the Will of God, and hence is not holy. However, we can apply the principles of the Gospel by drawing nearer to God with our minds and giving our bodies over to the purposes of the Holy Spirit, and thus we can achieve true one-ness or holiness.

In our natural state we do not know our true nature, and we will be unable to know it until it is revealed to us by the Holy Ghost. The mission of the Holy Ghost is to partake of the nature of God and by so doing activate that same nature within us, that we, too, might become holy.

Natural men and women are in a fallen state and as such we are at war with ourselves. It seems to me that when Paul wasn’t boasting he was whining. However, in the following passage he does give us some valuable insights into our nature and a situation what we have all run into:

“…but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. …Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. … For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. … But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7: 14-24).

In other words Paul was saying he was “double-minded” (as James puts it). He knew what he was supposed to do, but couldn’t make himself do it. He knew what he wasn’t supposed to do, but he couldn’t stop himself from doing it. This is a state of unholiness. Holiness is to know what is right and do it, and to know what is wrong and not do it. But it is more than this. Holiness is doing the right thing for the right reason. If we do a kindness for someone it is because we love them and not because we expect some favor or reward in return. If we say we have a testimony of the Gospel, then our actions, thoughts, words, emotions, and our spiritual life should all reflect the same testimony and work together in harmony.

With this understanding of the doctrine of holiness being the unity or alignment of purpose of body, mind, and spirit, and that unified purpose being total dedication to the work and will of God, we can then go back and take a look at traditional Christianity and see it in a totally different light.

The one sin which Jesus totally condemned was the sin of hypocrisy. The literal meaning of a hypocrite in the Greek was “play actor.” You know—the man who sits on the front row in Church and prays and acts really pious, then goes home and beats up his wife and cheats on his taxes. Interestingly enough, hypocrisy is the one thing about traditional Christianity today that turns the general public off and which causes many people to forsake the religion of their youth.

So why is hypocrisy so bad? It is just holiness turned inside out. A person’s speech, and beliefs and actions are all working at cross purposes. In other words, they are not whole.

Another word I would like to introduce at this point is “integrity.” This is just Sunday “holiness” dressed up in his Monday workaday clothes. Integrity is applied holiness.

In the Old Testament, Moses tells the people to “be holy, for the Lord our God is holy.” Christ says the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect [whole, complete] even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” The word “perfect” comes from the Greek word “telios” meaning “having reached its end” or “complete.” The Restored Gospel teaches us that God’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. What is eternal life? It is living the kind of life that God leads. Then, if God is holy and we are to become like God, then God’s work and glory is to make us holy like Himself.

It is interesting to note that the Course in Miracles teaches that the only purpose of God is to have us complete. We see God is not working at cross purposes with Himself. He has one goal and all His energy is dedicated to fulfilling it.

If we are to be holy as God is holy, we should share this goal and share His dedication. Actually, God does not expect us to share an equal portion of His dedication. All He asks is a “little willingness” and He will take the final step Himself.

We are also told in the New Testament that the highest commandment is to love God with “all our heart, might, mind, and strength.” Here is another reference to holiness and integrity. All our faculties are aligned and dedicated to one goal. We must have an “eye single” to the glory of God. And God is glorified as we bring ourselves to Him and enable others to do likewise.

This whole idea also has to do with purity. When we speak of “pure gold” or “pure drinking water,” we mean a substance is composed of one ingredient. We call anything else an “impurity.” “Purity” as applied to humans has the same meaning. We speak of “pure motives,” and being “pure in heart.” Purity does not mean strict and total abstinence from a list of prohibitions in some contrived moral code. “Purity” means unity of purpose. It means total dedication to one’s goal. Purity is doing whatever you are doing with full purpose of heart. No inward struggles, no moral dilemmas, no temptations, no strivings —every faculty is working together and as one with a single goal in mind: returning to God. This is holiness.

For centuries, it was a crime for the average person to even possess a Bible, let alone read it. Religion replaced spirituality as the theological “spin doctors” not only told people what the Bible said, but what to think about it. The Bible talks a lot about holiness and purity as the way to God, but if we have incorrect ideas about what these words mean, then the Bible is useless as a tool to find God. Christ had to deal with the scribes and doctors of religion in His day. He called them “hypocrites.” He accused them of blocking the entrance to the Kingdom for others while refusing to enter the Kingdom themselves.

Many adherents claim that A Course in Miracles corrects the Bible. Latter-day Saints believe in scriptures which supplement the Bible, but in the light of the previous discussion, we don’t have to rewrite the Bible, just reread it.

We apply holiness or integrity in our personal lives when we are true to ourselves, to our beliefs, and experiences. The Course asks us to lay aside our old experiences that we might have new experiences, to choose again and see the world and our brother in a different light.

If we are true to ourselves, we will recognize that familiar Voice inside. If we are true to ourselves, we will hasten to recognize that Voice in our brother. If we are true to ourselves, we will listen to the admonition to “choose again,” and won’t be threatened by trying something new.

Then, if we are true to ourselves we will recognize that the new experiences are better than the old ones. We will acknowledge that we have grown and overcome problems and come closer to God as a result.

We have learned truth through trial and observation. What is true for us is what we have observed ourselves, and when we lose that we have lost everything. What we know is what we know.

What is personal integrity? Personal integrity is knowing what we know – and having the courage to know and say what we have observed. And that is integrity. And there is no other integrity. Nothing is true for us unless we have observed it, and it is true according to our observation. That is all.

However, if one is pure, one cannot be double-minded. James says that “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Do you know people who can’t seem to settle down: they keep moving, they keep changing jobs, they can’t find a stable relationship, and they carry on a love-hate relationship with their families and with the Church? Perhaps it is because in some areas of their life they are double-minded, or they have divided loyalties. They want to “have their cake and eat it too.” Perhaps they are trying to “serve God and mammon.” Perhaps they are “living a lie.” I give up. I’ve run out of cliches. I think everybody gets the point by now. Or do we?

The point is this: God doesn’t demand perfect performance out of us. All He is asking for is purity of heart and single-mindedness. And He doesn’t expect perfection even there. He has provided all kinds of help for us. To see what He really asks of us, let’s take the famous promise in Moroni 10:4-5:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

This is the formula. The key to the knowledge of the truth of all things. What does God ask of us: “a pure heart and real intent.” He is not asking for perfect attendance at Sacrament Meeting. He is not requiring that we belong to any church. He is not even asking for “moral purity.” He is asking for something much more difficult: all of our heart and all of our intent. Moral purity is easy by comparison. We can fake that. All we have to do is get a guilty conscience for last Saturday night, feel sorry, exercise enough will power to quit doing whatever if was we did last Saturday night for a couple of weeks, go to the Lord in prayer, ask Him to change us, and wonder why nothing happens.

To see how He is going to help us, let’s read further in Moroni 10:32-33:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.”

That’s what the atonement was for! So God could indeed reach down to us, take us where we are, and bring us up to a state of holiness. Will this change us? Yes, we will become “holy without spot.” We will be changed in our natures and like King Benjamin’s people have no more “disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” Do you know people who pay extra tithing and take on extra duties in the Church thinking this will prove their righteousness or give them a testimony of the Church? My bishop at BYU once wisely said that once people really know who the Lord is, there is nothing they wouldn’t do to serve Him, and all the good works of service will follow. To live any other way is simply putting the cart before the horse.

The Holy Relationship

Back in the fall of 1985 I cofounded a group of like-minded individuals who gathered for the purpose of studying religion and worshipping God. We brought our questions to God and fully believed and expected we would receive answers. We did. We were directed to organize our­selves after a certain manner and were given specific duties. One of my duties was to continue to receive revelation from God for the spiritual direction of the organization, to receive specific instructions for individuals who requested it, and to teach others in the group to receive this direction for themselves.

A common recurring question was how the Lord felt about sexual relationships, so I put out this question and waited for an answer. Several weeks later while eating dinner the Voice started speaking to me, and I rushed to find a typewriter and some blank paper. I received a vision, a revelation, and a calling.

The vision showed me the world as a maze with each of us trying to find the way out. The maze was laden with traps, pitfalls, false turns, and false answers. However, the Holy Spirit was there to guide us through. Sometimes we listened and sometimes we did not listen. However, I was impressed with the fact that the only sure way out was to constantly follow the Holy Spirit.

The revelation went far beyond a discussion of sexual relationships. It taught me about human relationships in general. It said that our physical relationships were a mere shadow of the spiritual relationships which we could enjoy now and in the world to come. It taught me that every human relationship ought to take in the Holy Spirit as a third partner. It also taught me about the importance of all relationships – not just sexual relationships. Subsequent revelations taught me more about how holy relationships could change the world, the role of the Holy Spirit in transforming these relationships, and more about the nature of the Holy Spirit itself.

The calling was a charge to teach the others in the group what I had learned about relationships.

At this time, I never heard of A Course in Miracles. I was living in Los Angeles and about a week after the above events, I went up to Salt Lake City for a visit. While there I went to a business establishment I had never been before, met somebody I had not known before, was invited to his home, and there on the coffee table a found a copy of A Course in Miracles. Curious, I picked up the book and began to thumb through it. It claimed to be a book of sacred writing, dictated by the voice of Jesus, Himself. I didn’t have any problem with that, since I was also receiving direction and writing it down.

For those not familiar with the book called A Course in Miracles, it is a book that was dictated (“revealed” in Mormonspeak, “channeled” in New Age-speak) in the 70’s to a Jewish woman in New York City, who was a clinical psychologist with a PhD., and an avowed atheist. Nevertheless, the speaker in the book claims to be Jesus, and he describes the way to return to God and how to forgive our brothers and sisters. I find the language of this book to be most beautiful. This article shows how the some messages in this book confirmed revelations about human relationships, then I had previously received.

As I read in the introduction “only minds can join”, and “whom God has joined no man can put asunder”, and “it is only on the level of the Christ mind that true union is possible”, I was thrilled. This was essentially the same information I was receiving. I immediately recognized it as the truth. I realized that truth is truth and though it flows through different channels, it always comes from the same source. I read more of the book and found that I couldn’t put it down. Back in California, I bought my own copy and spent the next several years studying it.

All these experiences changed my life. I had been running around living quite the wild life, but the knowledge I received convinced me to stop doing this and to settle down. I postulated the goal of having a holy relationship. I can’t say I searched for it, because it found me. A year later I found someone whom I have been with in such a relationship for 10 years.

As I continued with our group for several more years, we began to discover that we had different goals and purposes, and so decided to part company. However, I have never lost the feeling that I had a spiritual calling from God. I have been searching for direction on how to fulfill it. So in the following essay, I would like to teach what God has shown me about relationships, and what I have learned from my own experiences, using the words and conceptual framework of ACIM.

First off, I learned from the Course that what happened to me is in no way special. This knowledge is available to all, and we all have a calling to improve our lives and the world around us. In fact, we are told in the Course to bring our relationships to the Holy Spirit, who will transform them into holy relationships.

The most fundamental thing the Course teaches is that we have to set aside our old experiences, prejudices and consider ourselves fools before God. The goal of the Course is to lead us to new experiences. Sometimes we have to be brought to a crisis in our lives which actually forces us to search for a better way. Wouldn’t it be much better if we just decided that we were going to be teachable? “Those who remember always that they know nothing, and who have become willing to learn everything, will learn it”.

Once we are humbled enough to learn, we learn that there are two types of relationships: special relationships and holy relationships. Special relationships are based on separation, loneliness, mutual weakness, and scarcity. They want to keep the relationship to themselves and shut the world out. They say is effect “I am half a person and I won’t be whole until I find that special person who will make me whole.” This whining sounds like the lyrics to a popular song. Special relationships take place only on the physical level. They are concerned with bodies, with all the attendant issues of sex, gender, and sexuality. The course teaches that a special relationship is not a relationship at all, nor is there any need for such a relationship.

A holy relationship is based on love, mutual strength, mutual wholeness, and abundance. Each partner has looked within and realized that they are whole and complete, and thus enabled they are in a position to grant beingness to their brother on the same basis. Those who share in a holy relationship see no differences and no separation. This relationship takes place on the spiritual level, for only minds, not bodies, can join. This relationship would extend itself to all the world.

In a holy relationship there is total love, total agreement, and total communication. Salvation is communication. The willingness to communicate encourages more communication which encourages greater agreement, greater love, and greater inclusion, and greater completion. God’s only need is to have us be complete. And it is within the holy relationship that we experience this completion.

A relationship is like a miracle. A holy relationship IS a miracle, and like miracles, there is no order in relationships. They either are or they are not. Women like to tell Dr. Laura on the radio that a bad relationship is better than no relationship at all. Dr. Laura and the Author of the Course would be ask “What relationship?” The course says “An unholy relationship is no relationship”.

The greatest thing that can be taught about holy relationships is that you take your special relationship and give it over to God and listen to the Holy Spirit who will “teach you the only meaning of relationships. For God created the only relationship that has meaning, and that is His relationship with you.”

The holy relationship is the host holy function we can enter into in this world. The Sonship must be reunited, and this happens two people at a time. “The holy relationship is the expression of the holy instant in living in this world.” The course calls the Holy Spirit “the Redeemer of relationships.” The holy relationship is the key to peace. If we really want peace, we must join with other minds, for that is how peace is obtained. Your holy brother is holding out a gift to you, and you to him. The gift he offers is himself, unconditionally. The gift you offer is yourself, unconditionally. This is the purpose of holy relationships.

Unlike a special relationship which is exclusive, a holy relationship is inclusive.  Does this mean that we can have more than one holy relationship? I believe the Course teaches that the answer is “yes”.  Every form of human relationship could and should be holy.

How to we create a holy relationship? The answer is so simple most people will scoff and not even try it. The answer is to give the relationship over to the Holy Spirit who will transform the relationship and teach you what to do. So all it takes is a willingness to try a different way. To choose again. Beyond that, you need do nothing.

A holy relationship is a foretaste of the relationship we should have with god.

“Two minds with one intent become so strong that what they will becomes the Will of God. For minds can only join in truth.”

“The light that joins you and your brother shines throughout the universe, and because it joins you and him, so it makes you and him one with your Creator. And in Him is all creation joined.”

A holy relationship will make you holy, or to put it another way, you will not remain unholy. It will change you. How can joining with the mind of another not change you? How can being constantly taught by the Holy Spirit not change you? How can entering into the kind of relationship enjoyed by God not change you?

In all this discussion we have only paid attention to the mind. Only minds can really join, and so the body is irrelevant. Minds don’t need bodies to communicate with other minds. To be clear, communication takes place on many levels: bodies communicating with other bodies in the physical realm; hearts communicating with other hearts in the emotional realm; and spirit-to-spirit communication. But, here we are talking about minds joining minds in the mental realm.

In Sunday School I learned that my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit. The Course teaches that the temple of the Holy Spirit is not a body, but a relationship. Ancient Judaism taught that the Holy Spirit was a female figure and that it was her duty and particular delight to hover near and bless those who had invited Her presence into their marriage. It is said that over the Ark of the Covenant are two golden cherubim, locked in erotic embrace and between them dwells the Holy Spirit.

The holy relationship reaches beyond this world and into eternity because it has a timeless quality about it. Herein lies no separate will, nor the desire that anything be separate. They are one, even as Christ and the Father are one. Christ comes to what is like Himself, and what is more like Christ than a holy relationship? This is the closest we can come to heaven here on earth.

Can you imagine two hearts beating as one, two minds working in unison, communicating without the need for bodies, standing in the holy place, together lifting the veil that hides the face of Christ from them? Then will you not share the vision of Christ, the mind of Christ, and the love of Christ, and will you not share His desire that this relation extend out to all?

Is this pie in the sky? Why wait when the Course says we can have this now. “Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. The light is in them now. Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all.” Earnest Holmes stated that the light your are searching for is the light you are searching with.

What do we have to do to achieve heaven on earth? Well, first you have to sacrifice all your earthly possessions and go live on a mountaintop. You have to crawl around on your hands and knees for 7 years observing a strict vow of silence save it be the ceaseless repetition of the 9 billion names of God. Then if you are lucky you might make it. NOT!! Well, actually, some have claimed to have done it that way, and who are we to judge? But the Course says its purpose is to save us time, so lets save some time, get off that mountain, and come down to reality.

First it has to start with us as individuals. We need to become complete, whole, and holy and know that we have no lack. This is more of a realization than a task. But we have to become whole with the Christ in us, or we are not truly whole. The Course says all we need is that “little willingness”.

Then we need to transform our relationships with the help of the Holy Spirit. We both need to be whole, complete people, who have invited the Holy Spirit into the relationship as a third partner, helping one another along road to holiness.

Articles of Faith Countdown

Articles of Faith Countdown

The Articles of Faith is a generally accepted statement of belief among all the Restoration churches. Joseph Smith originally wrote 14 articles, but I’m sticking with 13 in this article as they are the most familiar to most people.

Let me take a slight tangent here. I like the number thirteen. It has always been lucky for me. In Hebrew, the letters are also numbers, and each word is a number obtained by adding up its letters. If two words have the same number, then the words are related. This has been shown time and time again to be true. Take for instance the number thirteen: the Hebrew word AChD unity (1+8+4) = 13 and the word AHBH love (1+5+2+5) = 13. Christ and His 12 apostles make 13. This number is also sacred to the Mayas.

Whether or not you believe in numerology, you have to admit that that when we look at old things in a new way, we can sometimes discover new concepts and new relationships between ideas. I tried this once by reciting the Articles of Faith backwards and discovered a logical progression from one to the other. They progress from the most basic and mundane to the most spiritual.

Here is a quick summary of the Gospel and the plan of salvation as understood by many LDS people. They usually think more in terms of compartments or different worlds (pre-existence, earth, spirit world, spirit prison, outer darkness, three degrees of glory, divisions within the Celestial Kingdom, etc). We seem to be more concerned with where we are going than with what we should know and do in the here and now. In short: don’t confuse the PLANET of salvation with the PLAN of salvation.

13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul–We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Honesty is the beginning of all things. God can’t work with us unless we are honest with ourselves, with our spouses, and our fellow men and women.

We need a sense of humility and an honest evaluation of who we are and where we stand. Earth’s creation took six days. Our own personal development could be termed our six days of spiritual creation. What day are you on? There is no shame is being a day 1 person. However, if you think you are on day 6 when you are really on day one you are deceiving yourself. Jacob, the brother of Nephi in the Book of Mormon taught that in order to come to God, we must cast away all our pretentions of knowledge and our reliance on knowledge of the flesh. We must cast these things aside and consider ourselves fools before God. This is the starting point for gaining true knowledge — of our nature and of the nature of God.

Christ condemned the sin of hypocrisy more than any other. What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is not judgment. The word hypocrisy means “playacting”. Hypocrisy is pretending to be one thing and actually being something else. Jesus could work with all other sinners. He could accept them for who and what they were. And, more important, the people could accept themselves for who and what they were, and let Jesus raise them to a higher level of knowledge and righteousness. The hypocrites had so much ego and energy invested in a certain identity that they couldn’t change or grow.

When Christ called Nathaniel to his side as a disciple, He stated: “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” The original Greek word here means “deceit”. Apparently for Jesus to find an honest man who was not deceitful was so rare that He had to cry out in exclamation.

12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

The scriptures teach us to keep the laws of the land, for he that keeps the laws of God has no need to break the laws of the land. And also to be subject to the powers that be until He reigns whose right it is to reign.

What are laws other than the covenants (or agreements) that society had agreed to obey? If we are going to be a member of this society, and if we are going to be honest, then we must obey the laws of society even while we seek to change the existing laws.

11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege. Let them worship how, where, or what they may.

I find it surprising that one’s conscience would dictate to a person that they must return to the same place with the same people week after week. Follow the same program week after week. Speak the same words week after week. Think the same thoughts week after week. Jesus said we must worship God in “spirit and truth”. Rather than a fixed ceremony, worship should be a spontaneous outburst of gratitude, praise, and acknowledgement. It should come from within the individual or a group, not a ritualistic order of performances imposed by an outside institution. True worship should also involve communication. One-way communication is not communication at all. Communication should be two-way. We should pray and listen to the answer.

The book of Moroni describes the worship practices in the ancient Christian church in the Americas. The people would gather once a week to sing, to speak, to pray, to speak with one another concerning the welfare of their souls, or to do whatever the Spirit directed. There was no fixed ceremony. This form of worship puts a lot of responsibility on individual members. When people came to church in those days, they had the responsibility to prepare and to contribute, not just sit and hibernate in a pew for a couple of hours, then go home.

We say we allow all men the same privilege of worshipping God according to the dictates of their own conscience. We need to realize that ultimately, when you take away the names and labels and get rid of all the pomp and circumstance, the outward trappings, we as individual people, all worship more or less the same God. The principles of salvation are the same even though the practices may be differently suited to different times and cultures.

While we are on the subject of law and freedom of religion, we need to discuss the whole issue of freedom. Many people are happy to claim freedom of speech or religion, or freedom to exercise other rights for themselves, while denying them to others. A true test of our understanding of the principle of freedom is that we wish to ensure the freedom of all, not just ourselves. To do this requires great strength of character and spiritual insight in order to maintain and defend our freedoms, and yet restrain ourselves from imposing our favorite beliefs upon others.

10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

Joseph Smith, in an address to the Twelve, said that we ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object. We need to realize that the Church is a temporary institution – a schoolmaster to teach us how to be a Zion people. A church is only as effective as it is able to accomplish this. A church is never supposed to be an end in itself.

If our greatest object is to build Zion, we need to start working toward this goal. We need to start preparing ourselves as individuals and as families to become a Zion people.

People often refer to Utah as Zion, or to the Mormon Church as Zion. This is pure chauvinism. At best, this is empty boasting. At worst, this is a placebo designed to convince people that they already have Zion, when in actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some personal observations and some scriptural quotes, which describe what Zion really is.

“And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest.” (Moses 7:64)

Zion will be made of up all creations under heaven (all peoples). The motto on the US currency is “E PLURUBUS UNUM” – “from many, one” or “unity out of diversity”.

“And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18)

“And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even ZION.” (Moses 7:19)

Zion will be both a PEOPLE and a CITY. Today we can create Zion as an ATTITUDE. We can form Zion in our hearts. We need to develop the attitude of one heart (love) and one mind (unity) while at the same time retaining our individual identity and power of choice.

I know of a lady who had a revelation that said that in the City of Enoch – the Zion of that day — everyone was sealed together as one big family. If this was the case, I am sure that this feeling of unity and togetherness and the desire to join together actually originated in the hearts and minds of the people, and the outward sealing was simply an acknowledgement of this.

One of the biggest challenges we face is the question of unity vs. individuality. How can we be of one heart and one mind, yet retain our individual personalities, freedoms, and preferences? This is an issue, which has split up many a family and many an organization. The closest thing we now have to Zion right now is our families: our spouses and children, and this is a good laboratory to learn how to reconcile these seemingly conflicting goals. Just how we can accomplish this is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that societies such as this have existed in the past. The Book of Mormon teaches how our natures can be changed, and how we can develop unity and love by yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.

We often overlook the phrase in this article of faith, which states that “the earth shall be renewed”. D&C 63 tells us that Peter, James, and John were shown the pattern by which the earth would be transfigured. Nephi teaches us that Satan will be bound because of the righteousness of the people. Since God has given the knowledge of transforming the earth to His servants, we can assume that the earth will also be transformed because of the righteousness of the people, when they are prepared, and when the proper Priesthood authority is exercised.

9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

To prepare for the establishment of Zion, we need continual, ongoing revelation from God. Contrary to popular opinion the restoration did not begin and end with Joseph Smith. God has yet to reveal many great and important things pertaining to what? The church? No, the Kingdom of God. Early day leaders of the Church understood that the Church and the Kingdom were not synonymous. It is easy to show this from numerous passages in the Doctrine and Covenants. It is also easier to prove from the scriptures that Jesus Christ, in the Meridian of Time, established a Kingdom, than it is to prove He established a church.

So, the important thing to keep in mind is that we don’t know it all and there is much to be revealed in the future. Even the revelations given to Joseph Smith state that the restoration is not complete, and they place limits on the Priesthood keys and authority given to him and to the Church. See my article “The Redemption of Zion” for more details.

This article of faith was written in the 1840’s, long after the priesthood had been “restored”, according to popular accounts. John the Baptist came in 1819; Peter, James, and John came in 1829-1830 (Isn’t it strange that we don’t have better documentation to support the re-establishment of the Holy Priesthood of God?). Moses, Elias, and Elijah came in 1836, yet Joseph Smith states that God will yet reveal many great and important things. Note also that the things to be revealed pertain to the Kingdom, not to the Church. This raises many questions: Why not the Church? Will the Church cease to be an important factor? Would the Church even listen if God tried to reveal something? Has God stopped revealing things to the Church? If so, when did this occur? Who or what is the Kingdom, if the Church and Kingdom are separate?

The restoration won’t be complete until Zion is once again established on the earth when the Lord brings up Zion from below and brings down Zion from above. “The Lord hath redeemed his people; And Satan is bound and time is no longer. The Lord hath gathered all things in one. The Lord hath brought down Zion from above. The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath.”(D & C 84:100.)

8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

These books are treasure troves. We ought to read all good books, but we need to especially go back to these books time and again. The Lord states that these books contain the “fullness of the everlasting Gospel” (D&C 27:5). He also tells us that He won’t reveal the fullness of certain other records (9th Article of Faith) until we believe and understand these works (see Ether). When you study these books, ignore what you’ve been taught before. Don’t read the marginal notes; they only tell you what to think. Get rid of your preconceived ideas and read these books as if you were reading them for the first time. Ask God to reveal the truth of these writings to you.

You may want to consider reading other translations of the Bible, such as The Concordant Version of the New Testament. My website contains modern translations of several New Testament books. You might also want to consider looking up Biblical words on an online Strong’s concordance. There are many key words in the King James Bible which are grossly mistranslated. A correct understanding of these words and the principles behind them is vital to our personal salvation and obtaining a knowledge of and a personal relationship with Christ. Isaiah, in Chapter 29, compares true vision to trying to read a sealed book. Never mind waiting for a sealed portion of the Book of Mormon to come forth, or for other writings to be discovered. If the words in our common, everyday Bible are mistranslated, then we don’t have a correct understanding of the teachings of Christ, and we might as well be trying to read a sealed book.

Here are some examples of key words in the New Testament that have been mistranslated: faith, belief, sin, perfection, knowledge, and love. In my translation, I have attempted to incorporate the correct translation of these words.

7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

The priesthood as it works in the body of believers or within the Church is a practical channel for the gifts of the Spirit to flow. The Spirit does not flow from us, nor does it flow to us. We can only effectively use the Gifts of the Spirit when they flow through us. We are a channel for the blessings and power of God to flow from God, through us to others. This is what is meant to “glorify God”, or to worship God. This is all Christ did. He came in the Father’s Name, teaching what the Father taught him, doing the works the Father did before Him, and thus glorifying His Father in Heaven. The Holy Ghost works by the same principle. The Holy Ghost partakes of the nature and knowledge of God and is available to channel this through us, if we are in tune and allow ourselves to be used in this manner.

When we grieve the Spirit by denying these gifts (Moroni), or by boasting of them, or by using them to get gain, or by wielding them to obtain unrighteous dominion (D & C 121), or neglect to use them in our teaching (D&C 50), the heavens grieve with us, and the Holy Ghost quietly withdraws her gifts.

Yes, I said HER. The Hebrews believed that the Spirit or the Presence of the Lord was a female, mothering, or nurturing entity. Traditionally, the woman of the Jewish house is the one to offer the prayer, which invites the Presence of the Lord into the home at the beginning of the Sabbath celebration. Sbekhinah, as she is called is also believed to hover over the marriage bed and blesses the union. Personally, I believe that the Holy Ghost is our Heavenly Mother, or stated another way, performs the function or office of a heavenly mother. The reason why I do not pray to a Mother in Heaven (although She is heavenly) is because I do not believe that She is in heaven. She is where every good mother should be – with her children, here on the earth.

The psalms in the Bible speak of Wisdom and personify her as an individual who was the first creation of God in the heavens. The Gnostic Christians called her Sophia — wisdom. The Holy Ghost is the comforter that Jesus left us, and promised would abide with us and teach us all things. Instead of praying to Her, I honor Her by listening to Her still small voice as She teaches me how to pray (Romans 8) – how to importune our Father, and how to receive answers.

Consider these quotations from a book called Zohar, a medieval Kabalistic writing.

“We possess part of God’s own being: His feminine half; this is the ultimate guarantee. Cf. Zobar Hadash, Shir ba-Shirim 65b: ‘Come and see: The Blessed Holy One placed His Sbekhinah among Israel to sit over them like a mother over her children and to protect them on every side. As long as the Holy Mother sits over them, the Blessed Holy One comes to dwell with them because He never leaves Her. All supreme love is directed toward Her. Therefore He gave Her as a pledge in the midst of Israel, to make it known that He will never forget them or leave them. Why? Because that pledge is in their midst.'”

“A parable:

One person loved another, and said

‘My love for you is so high I want to live with you!’

The other said, ‘How can I be sure that you will stay with me?’

So he took all his most precious belongings

and brought them to the other, saying

‘Here is a pledge to you that I will never part from you.'”

6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

Again this is the organization for administering the gifts of the Spirit and for channeling them out in an organized effort. The various functions of offices within the Priesthood (presiding, blessing, teaching, testifying, administering ordinances, administering to material needs) all show forth the differences in administration of the Spirit.

When speaking of the “primitive church”, again we need to go back to the correct Greek word, which was ecclesia. This word denotes a group of people who were “called out” or gathered for a specific purpose. In the Greek city-states, an ecclesia was like a town hall meeting. Our English word church has its roots, not in a gathering of people, but refers to a building from which religious authorities issued orders and pronouncements, and came to refer to a legal institution. We need to return to the original meaning of this word. When Christ referred to building his “church” upon the rock of the testimony of the Apostles, he was not referring to a legal institution, but to a gathering of disciples. And these disciples were to be known, not for having a correct organization, but because of their love one toward another (John 13:35). Also, referring back to article 7, in the early days, the true church of Christ was recognized by the presence of the gifts of the Spirit.

The Bible (2 Tim. 3:5) speaks about having “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” It is not enough just to have the correct form. A dead body looks like a human and has the form of a human, but there is no life or power in it. The life and power of a true church of Christ, or in other words, a group of disciples gathered in the name of Christ is the power that flows through them in the form of love and through the other gifts of the Spirit.

The organization administers (or delivers) the gospel, but the organization is not the gospel. I don’t believe in “salvation by organization”. I could set up a hospital and call some doctors, some nurses, some specialists, and some lab technicians. I could visit all the hospitals and watch all the reruns of St. Elsewhere and copy everything I saw. However, nobody in his right mind would come to this hospital expecting to get better unless all my people were trained, licensed, and experienced professionals. Claiming to be a doctor doesn’t make you a doctor, any more than calling yourself an apostle makes you an apostle. A doctor administers medicine to the end that the patient gets better. An apostle administers salvation acting for and in behalf of Jesus Christ to the end that people receive salvation. “The Apostleship, whenever it is upon the earth, possesses the right and privilege of constant communion with the Savior of the world and thereby knows how to mete out salvation to all men; and there is no other office, independent of this, that holds this right, or can exercise this power.” (Millennial Star 14:690). Salvation isn’t just an abstract concept of something that happens in the sweet bye and bye. It is real it is something that happens now. It is something that changes peoples’ lives.

In the medical world, the government imposes all kind of standards to protect the public from quacks and diploma mills. In the world of religion, how can we tell if somebody is a true messenger of God? The endowment ceremony proposes two sets of tests. Satan wanted to test the apostles by having them perform a great miracle in the sight of all the people. When Adam and Eve questioned the authenticity of the apostles, Peter, James, and John invited Adam and Eve to use the test, which God showed them. The Apostles then showed them the outward signs by which they could recognize true servants sent from Father.

An outward sign or token is not enough to ensure proper recognition and could be easily faked by an impostor. Taking the endowment as a symbolic message we must learn to look beyond the symbols and see the real message behind the symbols. In D&C 18, the Lord commissions the Three Witnesses to search out and find the Twelve Apostles. The Lord tells us, in this passage, how to recognize true Apostles: “And by their desires and their works you shall know them.”

Further in 18:27:

“Yea, even twelve; and the Twelve shall be my disciples, and they shall take upon them my name; and the Twelve are they who shall desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart.”

How can we know someone’s “desires and works”? The same way the Lord expected Oliver Cowdery and the other two witnesses to know it, by the whisperings of the Spirit. (See D&C 18:18.)

“Ask the Father in my name, in faith believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men.”

5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Those who truly have Priesthood keys can not only legally administer them, but they can teach about keys and covenants. Elijah was promised to come and reveal the priesthood and teach the ancient covenants. Because Christ held certain keys of knowledge, He was able to teach the two disciples journeying together to Emaus. He opened the scriptures and taught the disciples things they had never heard or considered before yet they were right under their noses in their own scriptures. He was able to do this because he held those keys.

The efficacy of ordinances performed in our behalf depends on our faith in the one performing the ordinance. We need assurance that the person is called of God and has the necessary authority.

If a person comes to you claiming to possess certain keys, but cannot even clearly explain what these keys are or teach you how to use them or explain how they relate to the rest of the Restoration, much less to the total world around us, what kind of keys do they really have? How much authority can they legally lay claim do? And how much faith should we lay upon them to lead us along the road to salvation?

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

These are not only FIRST principles and ordinances, they are principles we should practice continually. They are very simple yet very advanced principles, and are the essence of every phase of the Gospel.

A wise man builds his house on ROCK not on SAND. These principles and ordinances are the four foundation stones of the Gospel, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

The first principle is not just faith. It is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament uses faith in two ways. Paul used it as a noun. John used it as a verb. But since English has no direct verb form of this word, it is rendered “to believe”, a much weaker form of the action word which the Greek uses. To John, “faithing” was a positive action. James makes the distinction clear: “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith BY my works.” Salvation comes by faith, not dead works. Showing forth works does not prove faith, but is evidence that faith may be present. Somebody can have works without faith, but if somebody claims to have faith, then the works must be present because they are the fruit of faith. If a man say he loves God (has faith) and does not keep His commandments, then he is a liar and the truth is not in him. (1 John.)

Repentance means to choose again or to turn again. We need to repent and improve every day of our lives. The atonement makes this ongoing experience possible.

Baptism is an outward sign of inward faith and repentance. (D&C 20). We need to continually renew our individual covenants with the Lord. We promise to take His Name upon us and keep His commandments, and He promises eternal life and that His Spirit will always be with us. (See the baptismal covenant in Mosiah 18 in the Book of Mormon.)

In the LDS Church, the ordinance of laying on of hands following baptism performs two functions: (1) We are confirmed a member of the Church, and (2) We are commanded by Priesthood authority to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The second function is described in this article of faith. The first function is not.

To truly receive the Gift of Holy Ghost, we need to listen to it, and live by every word from the mouth of God. Nephi (in 2 Nephi 31, 32) teaches that after we have received the Holy Ghost, that this is not the end-all be-all. We must continue to feast on the words of Christ as we receive them from the scriptures, from the teachings of others, and most importantly, for the specific instructions and commandments delivered to us through the Spirit. We often neglect this exercise as the peril of our salvation and eternal progression, even though Nephi laments the fact that he had made his point as plain as words can be.

3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

The atonement is two-way covenant between an individual and the Lord. Think about it! We can deal with God on a one-to-one equal basis. There is no gatekeeper; there is no middleman. We are equal partners in working out our own salvation. Christ has provided the atonement. Our part is to accept it, and actively exercise faith in it. (This is not mere belief. See definition of faith in Article 4, above.)

Joseph Smith taught that salvation is for a man to triumph over all his enemies. Salvation consists in following Christ’s example. We are saved no faster than we gain knowledge. We need faith in order to obtain power and knowledge. We also need charity because without charity we are nothing. When we unite with a body of saints where all possess the same knowledge and possess charity, we develop a society with “one heart” (charity), and “one mind” (unity). This brings us back to the opening of this article and how the number 13 relates to these to two words, and to the description of a Zion society in Article 10.

Joseph Smith said that being born again comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances. The laws and ordinances are only MEANS to another MEANS. They lead us to increased faith and charity. Faith in turn leads to increased knowledge and power, which in turn lead to salvation. An ordinance is only as useful as does these things. Whether an ordinance actually does this depends on several things:

  • The nature of the ordinance
  • Our attitude while receiving it
  • Our faith in the sincerity of the person performing it
  • Our faith in the authority of the person performing it

If any of the above are lacking, then the ordinance will not have the desired effect, no matter how “holy” it is. An ordinance is just an arbitrary practice instituted to teach something, to help us learn by DOING. What we should be learning is love and faith. If we do not learn these things, then we should go back to Article 13 and check our honesty, check Articles 5 and 6 for authority, Article 7 for the presence of the Holy Ghost, Article 4 for faith and repentance. This article depends on all previous articles, as taken in this reverse order.

2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

Every Mormon Primary child can recite this Article of Faith. Unfortunately, we are so unknowingly steeped in the Catholic tradition of original sin that we really don’t understand what this article and latter-day scriptures are really saying. To understand this article, we need to take a clear look at what Adam’s transgression was, what his punishment was, what our own sins are, and what the punishment is for our sins.

Adam’s transgression was to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam’s punishment was to be shut out of the presence of God. Prior to this incident, Adam and Eve literally walked and talked with God. After this event they were cast out of the garden. They had no contact with God or even angels until “after many days”, as the temple endowment ceremony informs us. We have no idea how long this was, but we can guess that Adam and Eve were given plenty of time to consider what they had done and to repent. During the intervening time, the couple learned to deal with life in the “lone and dreary world”. And they offered sacrifices which, as was explained to them, were in similitude of the Great Sacrifice of the Savior who was to die for their sins and redeem Adam and Eve and all mankind from the effects of the fall.

In time, Adam was redeemed from the fall and men became innocent before God again:

“Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. (D&C 93:38.)

The consequence of the fall is to be shut out from the presence of God. It follows then that because of the redemption from the fall, a free gift to all mankind, we should all have a right to enjoy the presence of God, here on the earth; here in the flesh.

We know this is possible because there were ancient peoples in Adam’s day who walked and talked with God. Entire cities as well as individuals were caught up:

“And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, ZION IS FLED.” (Moses 7:69.)

“And Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion.” (Moses 7:27.)

“Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also.” (Moses 6:7.)

If we are not today in the presence of God, walking and talking with the Savior, and communing with the General Assembly of the Church of the Firstborn, it is because of our OWN sins, not those of Adam.

This is an important fact, which has been lost somewhere down through the ages, and is one of those blockbuster ideas which has been restored again: The only things separating of from the presence of God right here and right now are our own personal sins and shortcomings.

In a revelation to the prophet of the RLDS church, the Lord stated that: “[Zion] is no nearer or farther than the spiritual condition of my saints justifies.”

1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

This article or faith does not attempt to define God; it simply asserts a belief in the three Beings who comprise the godhead. This leaves plenty of room for diversity of opinion and views. Almost all religions believe in some kind of god or cosmic force and try to explain god in terms of their own culture and experience. Even atheists who accept the theory of evolution have to admit that the forces driving evolution upward to more complexity and diversity, tend to work in the opposite direction of the physical universe which tends to wind downward to a state of equilibrium.

Mere belief in God is a starting point. True faith exercised toward a worthy end should eventually result in knowledge. Article 2 states that a direct knowledge of God is possible here in mortality. Jesus taught that it was eternal life to know God.

Taking the concepts taught in D&C 19 and tweaking them a little: if “eternal punishment is God’s punishment”, then eternal life if God’s life, or the kind or quality of life that God is living now.

God is not an object to be worshipped. God is an experience to be received. To know God, you have to be God. When we purify ourselves, even as He is pure, we shall see him as he is. This is eternal life.

Here is the Article of Faith that Joseph Smith forgot to write. Without this article, all the rest are meaningless.

0. We believe in ourselves.

The biggest lies ever taught by Satan are (1) man is a created being with no individual agency and (2) man is basically evil. Satan and his followers declared war on God in the pre-existence. Nobody ever said that this war was over. The book of Revelation states that Satan (meaning: “the accuser”) and his followers were cast down to earth, and the battle continues even to this day. Even today we find churches and political philosophies which want to force us to do “good”, while at the same time absolving us from all individual responsibility and protecting us from all the risks of life. The price of this devil’s bargain: surrender your freedom to the government and leave your brain on the doorstep of the church.

The truth of the matter is clearly taught in the Gospel of John and in D&C 93, an extract from the sealed writings of John.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3.)

This scripture tells me that not everything was created, that some things cannot be created, but whatever was created was created by the power of the Word of God. What could not be created? Read the following:

“And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn. Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth; And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning. … Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.” (D&C 93:21-32)

Summary

The Articles of Faith are statements of belief. The correct way to teach the Gospel is not to persuade or convince a person to believe, but to invite a person to try it. I hope this essay will persuade you to try living the Gospel more fully.

Try the Spirits



Testing Those Who Claim to be Special Teachers or Messengers Sent from God

 

In the Revelation of St. John, in the Bible, John wrote to the church at Ephesus, commending them that they had tested and detected the false teachers that came among them. Most of the following comes from a commentary about the Revelation of St. John, written by JJ Dewey with some of my own comments and observations.

“Thou canst not bear them which are evil.”

This is awkward to interpret in isolation. Many people have different definitions of what is “evil.”  We are clearly told though that the aspiring disciple does not embrace that which he sees as evil or destructive, but is repulsed by it. Apparently he sees true evil for the inner voice acknowledges his intolerance as a good thing.

The next part of the verse identifies a particular evil that must be confronted:

“And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:”

A particular evil faced by the aspiring disciple are those who say they are apostles and are not. Who are such people? The word “apostle” is generally linked with the twelve disciples of Jesus, but at the time of this writing all of them were dead except for John. Obviously many people surfaced with the claim of being the true successors of the original twelve.

Another possibility, and I emphasize possibility, is Paul or one of his associates could have been the “false apostles”. Paul said that he was an apostle, but was not recognized as such by the Twelve Apostles at Jerusalem. He was never numbered with the Twelve, never sat in council with them, and only met with them briefly. Paul didn’t meet Peter until 3 years after his “conversion” (Gal. 1:18), and he never met with any of the other apostles, except “James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19). He never returned the Jerusalem again for another fourteen years (Gal. 2:1). Paul visited Ephesus, taught there, and wrote a letter to the Ephesians. He was in the city for over 2 years — from the autumn is AD 52 to spring of AD 55. (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/ephesus-paul.htm.) Paul claims to have been called as an apostle, not “of man”, but “of God”.

When the position of the fallen disciple Judas Iscariot was filled, the other eleven met in council and sought the guidance of God so that through their act of casting lots, God might act through them, to fill the vacancy with the man whom God had called. (Acts 1:20-26). Thus, Matthias was chosen by God, acting through the other Apostles. Paul makes no such claim, other than that he was called of God, and not of men. Paul also has a number of associates whom he terms “apostles”. Paul warns his readers about believing any other gospel other than that which he has taught, yet Paul teaches many unique precepts, which are not anywhere else in the New Testament. There have been volumes written by Biblical scholars, detailing the differences between the teachings of Paul and the teachings of John. And, churches have wrangled for years over the question of “faith and works”, pitting Paul and James against each other. Perhaps, there were deep splits in Christianity even back then, and Paul was seen by the main body of saints as a lone, self-styled renegade, going off on his own and teaching his own brand of gospel. And, perhaps, for this reason, John and the citizens of Ephesus considered him to be one who claimed to be an apostle, but turned out to be a liar.

Regardless of who those who claimed to be apostles were, let’s continue with the commentary.

The problem goes beyond this, however.  “Apostle” comes from the Greek APOSTOLOS and means “one sent forth with orders.”  This implies that such a person has strong authority.

Now let us look again at who the aspirant is dealing with. It is those “which say they are apostles.”  In other words, as the seeker begins the path of liberation one of the first great evils he must confront and overcome are those who seek authority over him to give him marching orders. Where do they get their authority? They only seem to have it because they (or their followers) “say” so.

In order to make his first step of granting himself “permission” [The name Ephesus in Greek means “permission”.] to listen to the inner voice he must free himself from false unearned outer authorities. But note that he does not mindlessly reject an outer authority just because it is there and attempting to instruct or order him about. What does he do?

The Master gives him praise for testing such people and John himself in another scripture talks about the importance of such tests:

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

Speaking personally of myself, I am interesting in finding true messengers from God, especially one who is a true apostle, sent from Christ. Brigham Young, who was one of the first apostles of the LDS church, once said something to the effect that he would walk anywhere, anytime to hear an Apostle of Christ speak on any subject. I agree. But, how do you find such a person, and how do you verify that such a person is who and what they claim to be? The answer is simple: test them.

However, it is difficult to find a person these days who teaches and bears the kind of apostolic witness that one would expect to hear from a modern-day Peter or John, let alone Paul. There are those who claim the title “apostles”, but rather than bear personal eye-witness to the resurrection of Christ, they speak about the evils of the lottery and the importance of active church membership. There are others who appear to speak or write with the power of an “apostle”, but they, too, fail to stand up under the kind of testing that John proposes.

Now the question arises as to how the seeker is to test such people. The next verse seems to give a simplistic answer:

2 “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

3 “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

(1 John 4:2-3)

Here is another translation of this passage, given in modern English:

1 Beloved, there are many false prophets going out in the world, and there are many false spirits guiding them and would gladly guide you if they could. Do not believe every spirit or every teacher who comes to you, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God.

2 Here’s the test to determine the true Spirit of God: Every spirit that teaches the words of Christ which you have already received and who testifies that Jesus Christ, (who came and who will come in the flesh), is of God, is a true Spirit sent from God.

3 But, any spirit which does not bring you these same words and does not bear this same testimony is the spirit of antichrist, a substitute for Christ, which you have heard should come; and even now already is in the world.

4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome these evil spirits and false teachers: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

5 They who are of the world have been overcome of the world: therefore they speak about the world and the things in the world, and the world gladly listens to them.

6 We are of God. He who knows God listens to our message, but he who is not of God will not listen to us. And this is the way to tell the difference between the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

(1 John 4:1-6)

We return to the commentary.

So is that all there is to the test? If they confess that Jesus came in the flesh then we know they are of God, right?

I need to interject that “confession” is more than mere profession of belief, but to confess is speak from a deep personal knowledge and conviction. The word “confess” comes from the Greek homologeō. This is a legal term, used to describe testimony or witness in court. To testify falsely, which is to testify of the truth of a thing without actual knowledge of a thing, is subject to the crime of perjury. There are many who profess “belief” in Christ, but do not exercise faith (belief in action) in the works or words of Christ. Still, others commit an even greater error when they profess to having received knowledge through the Spirit, when they have received no such knowledge, and are merely parroting a popular mantra in order to gain social acceptance in some religious circle.

Not quite. First we know this is not correct based on observation alone. Many tyrants and people of great evil have confessed such things. Cortez and other Conquistadors confessed the coming of Jesus in the flesh and forced thousands of Native Americans to also make such a confession or die.

If this common interpretation is not correct then what is? To understand let us examine the verse more carefully. The key to the meaning is found in the phrase:  “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.”  We have previously covered that the name Jesus Christ means “anointed to deliver” and applies not only to the Master in Galilee, but to all who successfully follow in his footsteps and seek to assist those who tread the path of deliverance.

“Is come” is from the Greek ERCHOMAI and is the middle voice of a primary verb used only in the present and imperfect tenses. Here it is used in the imperfect tense which implies a thing that is in the state of progress or happening in the now, whenever that now is occurring. If we take this into consideration then what is the verse really telling us? Who are those that pass the test?

The orthodox version reads:  “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:”

A more accurate rendering as far as the meaning is concerned would be:

“Everyone who confesses in spirit that the name of Jesus Christ is manifesting in the flesh of all who will receive is of God.”

This agrees with another scripture written by John:

“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1)

The name given of the Father is Jesus Christ and is written in the minds and hearts of all true followers.

What then is the test of the true apostle? The seeker must search him out and discover this one thing. Does he see himself as a representative of Jesus Christ in a way that you are not or could not be if you so chose? Or does he see you and himself as equals in the opportunity of manifesting the Christ within our fleshly tabernacles? Does he allow you to speak the words of your innermost soul and allow you to follow them without trying to place his outer authority over you, above your own inner authority?

If he respects your inner voice as he does his own and if he allows you to manifest Christ with the same authority that he does for himself then he is of God. But if he seeks authority over you for the sake of glorifying his ego then he is not of God — no matter what words of support he gives to Jesus.

The seeker at this stage is thus praised by the Master’s voice. He has seen the deceit behind those who sought to control him and direct him toward their own ideal rather than that of the inner Christ.

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