Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood April 2014 Priesthood Session of Conference

I really wanted to post the video of this, but couldn't find a good one online yet.  But this is a great talk, not only to answer the question about whether or not women should be ordained to the Priesthood, but to explain just what the Priesthood is.

The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood

By Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men.
I.

At this conference we have seen the release of some faithful brothers, and we have sustained the callings of others. In this rotation—so familiar in the Church—we do not “step down” when we are released, and we do not “step up” when we are called. There is no “up or down” in the service of the Lord. There is only “forward or backward,” and that difference depends on how we accept and act upon our releases and our callings. I once presided at the release of a young stake president who had given fine service for nine years and was now rejoicing in his release and in the new calling he and his wife had just received. They were called to be the nursery leaders in their ward. Only in this Church would that be seen as equally honorable!
II.

While addressing a women’s conference, Relief Society general president Linda K. Burton said, “We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood.”1 That need applies to all of us, and I will pursue it by speaking of the keys and authority of the priesthood. Since these subjects are of equal concern to men and to women, I am pleased that these proceedings are broadcast and published for all members of the Church. Priesthood power blesses all of us. Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men.
III.

President Joseph F. Smith described the priesthood as “the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family.”2 Other leaders have taught us that the priesthood “is the consummate power on this earth. It is the power by which the earth was created.”3 The scriptures teach that “this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also” (Moses 6:7). Thus, the priesthood is the power by which we will be resurrected and proceed to eternal life.

The understanding we seek begins with an understanding of the keys of the priesthood. “Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth.”4 Every act or ordinance performed in the Church is done under the direct or indirect authorization of one holding the keys for that function. As Elder M. Russell Ballard has explained, “Those who have priesthood keys … literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power.”5

In the controlling of the exercise of priesthood authority, the function of priesthood keys both enlarges and limits. It enlarges by making it possible for priesthood authority and blessings to be available for all of God’s children. It limits by directing who will be given the authority of the priesthood, who will hold its offices, and how its rights and powers will be conferred. For example, a person who holds the priesthood is not able to confer his office or authority on another unless authorized by one who holds the keys. Without that authorization, the ordination would be invalid. This explains why a priesthood holder—regardless of office—cannot ordain a member of his family or administer the sacrament in his own home without authorization from the one who holds the appropriate keys.

With the exception of the sacred work that sisters do in the temple under the keys held by the temple president, which I will describe hereafter, only one who holds a priesthood office can officiate in a priesthood ordinance. And all authorized priesthood ordinances are recorded on the records of the Church.

Ultimately, all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. He is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used. We are accustomed to thinking that all keys of the priesthood were conferred on Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple, but the scripture states that all that was conferred there were “the keys of this dispensation” (D&C 110:16). At general conference many years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that there are other priesthood keys that have not been given to man on the earth, including the keys of creation and resurrection.6

The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of Church administration and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures—matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service. But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.
IV.

I come now to the subject of priesthood authority. I begin with the three principles just discussed: (1) priesthood is the power of God delegated to man to act for the salvation of the human family, (2) priesthood authority is governed by priesthood holders who hold priesthood keys, and (3) since the scriptures state that “all other authorities [and] offices in the church are appendages to this [Melchizedek] priesthood” (D&C 107:5), all that is done under the direction of those priesthood keys is done with priesthood authority.

How does this apply to women? In an address to the Relief Society, President Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said this: “While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, it has not been conferred upon them, that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. … A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord. They have authority given unto them to do some great and wonderful things, sacred unto the Lord, and binding just as thoroughly as are the blessings that are given by the men who hold the Priesthood.”7

In that notable address, President Smith said again and again that women have been given authority. To the women he said, “You can speak with authority, because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” He also said that the Relief Society “[has] been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority.” And, of course, the Church work done by women or men, whether in the temple or in the wards or branches, is done under the direction of those who hold priesthood keys. Thus, speaking of the Relief Society, President Smith explained, “[The Lord] has given to them this great organization where they have authority to serve under the directions of the bishops of the wards … , looking after the interest of our people both spiritually and temporally.”8

Thus, it is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for women but something they belong to—a divinely established appendage to the priesthood.9

We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.

Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities. That is a principle needed in society at large. The famous Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is quoted as saying, “It is time … to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.”10 Latter-day Saints surely recognize that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities.
V.

The Lord has directed that only men will be ordained to offices in the priesthood. But, as various Church leaders have emphasized, men are not “the priesthood.”11 Men hold the priesthood, with a sacred duty to use it for the blessing of all of the children of God.

The greatest power God has given to His sons cannot be exercised without the companionship of one of His daughters, because only to His daughters has God given the power “to be a creator of bodies … so that God’s design and the Great Plan might meet fruition.”12 Those are the words of President J. Reuben Clark.

He continued: “This is the place of our wives and of our mothers in the Eternal Plan. They are not bearers of the Priesthood; they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the Priesthood; nor are they laden with its responsibilities; they are builders and organizers under its power, and partakers of its blessings, possessing the complement of the Priesthood powers and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.”13

In those inspired words, President Clark was speaking of the family. As stated in the family proclamation, the father presides in the family and he and the mother have separate responsibilities, but they are “obligated to help one another as equal partners.”14 Some years before the family proclamation, President Spencer W. Kimball gave this inspired explanation: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner.”15

In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, women and men are equal, with different responsibilities.

I close with some truths about the blessings of the priesthood. Unlike priesthood keys and priesthood ordinations, the blessings of the priesthood are available to women and to men on the same terms. The gift of the Holy Ghost and the blessings of the temple are familiar illustrations of this truth.

In his insightful talk at BYU Education Week last summer, Elder M. Russell Ballard gave these teachings:

“Our Church doctrine places women equal to and yet different from men. God does not regard either gender as better or more important than the other. …

“When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is priesthood power. … Access to the power and the blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children.”16

I testify of the power and blessings of the priesthood of God, available for His sons and daughters alike. I testify of the authority of the priesthood, which functions throughout all of the offices and activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify of the divinely directed function of the keys of the priesthood, held and exercised in their fulness by our prophet/president, Thomas S. Monson. Finally and most important, I testify of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose priesthood this is and whose servants we are, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


1. Linda K. Burton, “Priesthood: ‘A Sacred Trust to Be Used for the Benefit of Men, Women, and Children’” (Brigham Young University Women’s Conference address, May 3, 2013), 1; ce.byu.edu/cw/womensconference/transcripts.php.


2. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 139.


3. Boyd K. Packer, “Priesthood Power in the Home” (worldwide leadership training meeting, Feb. 2012); lds.org/broadcasts; see also James E. Faust, “Power of the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 1997, 41–43.


4. Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 2.1.1.


5. M. Russell Ballard, “Men and Women in the Work of the Lord,” New Era, Apr. 2014, 4; Liahona, Apr. 2014, 48; see also Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society (2011), 138.


6. See Spencer W. Kimball, “Our Great Potential,” Ensign, May 1977, 49.


7. Joseph Fielding Smith, “Relief Society—an Aid to the Priesthood,” Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1959, 4.


8. Joseph Fielding Smith, “Relief Society—an Aid to the Priesthood,” 4, 5; see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (2013), 302.


9. See Boyd K. Packer, “The Relief Society,” Ensign, May 1998, 72; see also Daughters in My Kingdom, 138.


10. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “A World Split Apart” (commencement address delivered at Harvard University, June 8, 1978); see also Patricia T. Holland, “A Woman’s Perspective on the Priesthood,” Ensign, July 1980, 25; Tambuli, June 1982, 23; Dallin H. Oaks, “Rights and Responsibilities,” Mercer Law Review, vol. 36, no. 2 (winter 1985), 427–42.


11. See James E. Faust, “You Are All Heaven Sent,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 113; M. Russell Ballard, “This Is My Work and Glory,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 19; Dallin H. Oaks, “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 26. We sometimes say that the Relief Society is a “partner with the priesthood.” It would be more accurate to say that in the work of the Lord the Relief Society and the women of the Church are “partners with the holders of the priesthood.”


12. J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Our Wives and Our Mothers in the Eternal Plan,” Relief Society Magazine, Dec. 1946, 800.


13. J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Our Wives and Our Mothers,” 801.


14. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129.


15. Spencer W. Kimball, “Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 106.


16. M. Russell Ballard, New Era, Apr. 2014, 4; Liahona, Apr. 2014, 48; see also Sheri L. Dew, Women and the Priesthood (2013), especially chapter 6, for a valuable elaboration of the doctrines stated here.

Official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
© 2014 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 6, 2014

General Conference

This weekend is general conference weekend for members of our church. I'm a little slow in posting this, so the Saturday sessions have already occurred.  But Sunday sessions will be live at 9:00 a.m. MST, and 1:00 p.m.  You can watch it on KSL, or BYU television, or you can stream it live from lds.org  I read a blog post by someone who likened it to the TED talks.  If you enjoy TED talks, and you are religious, then you will love general conference!  It's a great opportunity to recharge your spiritual battery.  I love to hear the apostles bear testimony of Jesus Christ, and I love getting current guidance to suit the climate in which we live today.  Do you have a question about religion?  Listen to conference and odds are that your question will be answered!

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Bit of Ranting

I have joined a facebook group about Christianity.  It has been difficult at times to listen to their criticisms and to be the brunt of anti-mormon attacks at times.  A few missionaries from our church have also joined the group, and they have done a much better job of answering these types of attacks than I have.  I think that perhaps more members of our church have not joined this page simply because of the lack of respect shown LDS members, and the amount of anti-mormon propaganda that floods the page.

My most recent conversation was in response to a person who in reply to a comment of mine, posted a link to an anti-mormon website.  I responded that I don't click on any links, even those about other religions.  I told them that I believe that if you want to learn about a religion, you need to go to the source.  Anti-Mormon websites (as well as anti-other religions sites as well) are made by those who are either sadly mis-informed about our beliefs, or are disgruntled members who have an axe to grind, and twist the truth to misrepresent our religion.  I believe the same can be said for anti-Catholic sites, as well as anti-Christianity sites.  The response I got from the administrator of the page was that he felt I was probably not well educated in my religion, and that he was disappointed that our church sites did not discuss the REAL truth behind our religion.  I told him that I am extremely well educated about my religion, and that in fact it is probably him that has been misinformed about our beliefs.  I further said that if he could not find the information on our church website, it is probably because ultimately it isn't part of our beliefs.

The next comment really caught me by surprise.  He said, "In any case, we allow Mormons in the group as long as they don't undermine orthodox Christianity. As long as anything you post conforms to the Nicene Creed, you are welcome."  I replied that I was glad that he allowed us, but that we don't believe the "post-early church" nicene creed.  

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but it really hit me that so much of Christianity bases their set of beliefs upon opinions of a conference of people who met to formalize and discuss the core beliefs of Christianity.  In our religion, we believe this came at a time when a great apostasy had already occurred.  Many core Christian beliefs that were common in the early church were discarded at the creation of the nicene creed.  And it's also interesting that many who believe the Nicene creed do not believe in modern revelation, so how can they trust that these people were inspired in writing it?  

It's also very interesting to me that although most Christian churches believe the Nicene creed, they think the Catholic church is of the devil.  The Catholic church was the first church to be organized after the death of the apostles, and the decline of the early church.  From my understanding, most Christian churches today are break-offs of that original Catholic church.  Our church is an exception, in that we believe ours is the original church restored to the earth after a long period of apostasy.  

So it appears that Christianity today will not accept me as Christian unless I accept the Nicene creed.  It doesn't matter that we believe the Bible to be the word of God.  It doesn't matter that we believe Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world.  It doesn't matter that our church bears His name.  What matters to them most is that we don't agree with the opinion of a group of people who formulated the Nicene creed years after the death of the Savior and the apostles.  

I, on the other hand, can accept anyone as Christian that accepts the Savior Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.  I may disagree with their beliefs, but I don't deny them the right to be called Christian.  In these perilous times, with attacks on religion in general, it's too bad that we don't have more unity among Christians.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My Religious Testimony

This will be a double post, and is scheduled to be published tomorrow on my regular blog. 
I recently read a post written by a fellow "Mormon", and it inspired me to follow her challenge to share my beliefs online. I actually do this quite often, and have a separate blog for religious posts. I also have created a facebook page to celebrate my religion. But I decided that as part of this challenge, I would like to share my beliefs here, with my friends who read this blog.

I believe in God, the eternal father. But for me, He isn't some disembodied aura without "body, parts, or passions". He has a perfect, immortal body, and it is His image from which we were created. I also believe that He is the father of our spirits. This makes each one of us on this planet spirit brothers and sisters. We are all children of God. He loves each one of us, and wants us to be happy.

I also believe that He sent His only begotten son, Jesus Christ to redeem us. Jesus Christ suffered and paid the price for our sins so that we can repent. He was crucified on the cross, but being the son of God, He was able to resurrect His body, and bring to pass the resurrection of all mankind. Because of Him, we all will be resurrected some day. His sacrifice overcame the two greatest obstacles between us and God; namely sin, and death.

I believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, just like the prophets in the Bible. Through him, the original church of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth. Today, that organization remains with twelve apostles, and a prophet leading and guiding the church. Having a living prophet means that we continue to receive revelation from God, and current guidance for the church.

I believe the Bible to be the word of God. I believe the Book of Mormon is also the word of God. I believe that God continues to give His word today, and that there is no end to His word. We could, in the future, obtain even more scripture. The Bible is the record of God's dealings with the people of the Holy land. It contains a testimony of the life of Christ, His birth, crucifixion, and resurrection. Likewise, the Book of Mormon is a record of God's dealings with the people of the ancient Americas. It also contains a testimony of Jesus Christ, and includes the record of His visit to the people of ancient America shortly after his resurrection. The Book of Mormon stands as a second witness that Jesus is the Christ, and that He did, in fact, resurrect from death. Together, with the Bible, it testifies of the divinity of the Savior, and establishes His doctrine.

I have a testimony in the ability of the Holy Ghost; the third member of the Godhead, to testify of truth. Through the power and influence of the Holy Ghost, we can know the truth of all things. As taught in the Bible, we can receive a witness that will be felt in our heart, as well as come as an assurety to our minds. It is through this power that I have gained my testimony. I'm so thankful for this blessing, and the opportunity I have to pray to God individually to know whether something is true or not, and whether or not it comes from Him. This has been a guiding force in my life.

I hope that if you have questions you will feel free to ask me. I am not a perfect scriptorian, but I have the scriptures available to study, and I hope that I can use them well to explain our beliefs. Thank you for allowing me to share this testimony with you.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Church of Jesus Christ in Former Times

I taught this lesson in a Sunday school class today and I thought it was such a great lesson that I wanted to share it here.  This is chapter 16 of our church's manual "Gospel Principles".  I think that these scripture links work if you want to read the scriptures that go along with the lesson.  Basically, this lesson identifies 6 characteristics of the church that Jesus Christ established during His life here on Earth.  It mentions:  revelation, authority from God, the church organization,  the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, ordinances performed for the dead, and spiritual gifts.  I have removed notes that were designed for teachers use.  I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did.

Chapter 16: The Church of Jesus Christ in Former Times

Gospel Principles, (2011), 87–93

Some Features That Identify the Church of Jesus Christ

“We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth” (Articles of Faith 1:6).
Jesus established His Church when He was on the earth. It was called the Church of Jesus Christ (see 3 Nephi 27:8), and the members were called Saints (see Ephesians 2:19–20).
 

Revelation

When Jesus established His Church, He personally instructed and directed its leaders. He, in turn, received His instructions from His Father in Heaven. (See Hebrews 1:1–2.) Thus the Church of Jesus Christ was directed by God and not by men. Jesus taught His followers that revelation was the “rock” upon which He would build His Church (see Matthew 16:16–18).
Before Jesus ascended into heaven after His Resurrection, He told His Apostles, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). True to His word, He continued to guide them from heaven. He sent the Holy Ghost to be a comforter and a revelator to them (see Luke 12:12; John 14:26). He spoke to Saul in a vision (see Acts 9:3–6). He revealed to Peter that the gospel should be taught not only to the Jews but to the whole world (see Acts 10). He revealed many glorious truths to John, which are written in the book of Revelation. The New Testament records many other ways in which Jesus revealed His will to guide His Church and enlighten His disciples.

Authority from God

The ordinances and principles of the gospel cannot be administered and taught without the priesthood. The Father gave this authority to Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 5:4–6), who in turn ordained His Apostles and gave them the power and authority of the priesthood (see Luke 9:1–2; Mark 3:14). He reminded them, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:16).
That there might be order in His Church, Jesus gave the greatest responsibility and authority to the Twelve Apostles. He appointed Peter chief Apostle and gave him the keys to seal blessings both on earth and in heaven (see Matthew 16:19). Jesus also ordained other officers with specific duties to perform. After He ascended into heaven, the pattern of appointment and ordination was continued. Others were ordained to the priesthood by those who had already received that authority. Jesus made it known through the Holy Ghost that He approved of those ordinations (see Acts 1:24).

The Church Organization

The Church of Jesus Christ was a carefully organized unit. It was compared to a building that was “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).
Jesus appointed other priesthood leaders to assist the Apostles in the work of the ministry. He sent officers called Seventies in pairs to preach the gospel (see Luke 10:1). Other officers in the Church were evangelists (patriarchs), pastors (presiding leaders), high priests, elders, bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons (see chapter 14 in this book). These officers were all necessary to do missionary work, perform ordinances, and instruct and inspire Church members. These officers helped the members come to a “unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13).
The Bible does not tell us everything about the priesthood or the organization and government of the Church. However, enough of the Bible has been preserved to show the beauty and perfection of the Church organization. The Apostles were commanded to go into all the world and preach (see Matthew 28:19–20). They could not stay in any one city to supervise new converts. Therefore, local priesthood leaders were called and ordained, and the Apostles presided over them. The Apostles and other Church leaders visited and wrote letters to the various branches. Thus, our New Testament contains letters written by Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude, giving counsel and instruction to the local priesthood leaders.
The New Testament shows that this Church organization was intended to continue. For example, the death of Judas left only eleven Apostles. Soon after Jesus had ascended into heaven, the eleven Apostles met together to choose someone to take the place of Judas. Through revelation from the Holy Ghost, they chose Matthias. (See Acts 1:23–26.) Jesus had set a pattern for twelve Apostles to govern the Church. It seemed clear that the organization was to continue as He had established it.

First Principles and Ordinances

The Apostles taught two basic principles: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance. After new converts had faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their Redeemer and had repented of their sins, they received two ordinances: baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Acts 19:1–6). These were the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Jesus had taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Ordinances Performed for the Dead

Jesus has provided for everyone to hear the gospel, whether on earth or after death. Between His death and Resurrection, Jesus went among the spirits of those who had died. He organized missionary work among those who were dead. He appointed righteous messengers and gave them power to teach the gospel to all the spirits of people who had died. This gave them an opportunity to accept the gospel. (See 1 Peter 3:18–20; 4:6; D&C 138.) Living members of His Church then performed ordinances in behalf of the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:29). Ordinances such as baptism and confirmation must be done on earth.

Spiritual Gifts

All faithful members of the Church were entitled to receive gifts of the Spirit. These were given to them according to their individual needs, capacities, and assignments. Some of these gifts were faith, including the power to heal and to be healed; prophecy; and visions. (The gifts of the Spirit are discussed in more detail in chapter 22.) Spiritual gifts always exist in the true Church of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; Moroni 10:8–18; D&C 46:8–29). Jesus told His disciples that these signs or spiritual gifts always follow them that believe (see Mark 16:17–18). Many of His disciples performed miracles, prophesied, or beheld visions through the power of the Holy Ghost.
  • Why does the Church of Jesus Christ need these six features?

The Church of Jesus Christ in the Americas

After Jesus was resurrected, He visited the people in the Americas and organized His Church among them, teaching the people for three days and then returning often for some time thereafter (see 3 Nephi 11–28). Then He left them and ascended into heaven. For over 200 years they lived righteously and were among the happiest people whom God had created (see 4 Nephi 1:16).

Apostasy from the True Church

  • What does the term apostasy mean?
Throughout history, evil people have tried to destroy the work of God. This happened while the Apostles were still alive and supervising the young, growing Church. Some members taught ideas from their old pagan or Jewish beliefs instead of the simple truths taught by Jesus. Some rebelled openly. In addition, there was persecution from outside the Church. Church members were tortured and killed for their beliefs. One by one, the Apostles were killed or otherwise taken from the earth. Because of wickedness and apostasy, the apostolic authority and priesthood keys were also taken from the earth. The organization that Jesus Christ had established no longer existed, and confusion resulted. More and more error crept into Church doctrine, and soon the dissolution of the Church was complete. The period of time when the true Church no longer existed on earth is called the Great Apostasy.
Soon pagan beliefs dominated the thinking of those called Christians. The Roman emperor adopted this false Christianity as the state religion. This church was very different from the church Jesus organized. It taught that God was a being without form or substance.
These people lost the understanding of God’s love for us. They did not know that we are His children. They did not understand the purpose of life. Many of the ordinances were changed because the priesthood and revelation were no longer on the earth.
The emperor chose his own leaders and sometimes called them by the same titles used by priesthood leaders in the true Church of Christ. There were no Apostles or other priesthood leaders with power from God, and there were no spiritual gifts. The prophet Isaiah had foreseen this condition, prophesying, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5). It was the Church of Jesus Christ no longer; it was a church of men. Even the name had been changed. In the Americas, apostasy also occurred (see 4 Nephi).

A Restoration Foretold

  • What prophecies in the Old and New Testaments foretold the Restoration?
God had foreseen the Apostasy and prepared for the gospel to be restored. The Apostle Peter spoke of this to the Jews: “He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:20–21).
John the Revelator had also foreseen the time when the gospel would be restored. He said, “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6).
  • Why was the Restoration necessary?
  • Consider the blessings that have come to you because the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth.

Additional Scriptures

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Combatting Worldly Philosophies

A friend shared this link with me the other day, and I found this talk by Gerald N. Lund to be fantastic! The basis for this article comes from an account in the Book of Mormon of an anti-Christ that came among the people, preaching against the church.  His name was Korihor, and the account can be found in Alma chapter 30: 6-60.  If you are unfamiliar with the account, you may want to click on the link and read it before reading this talk.  But I highly recommend this talk because it is applicable to our world today, and the trend toward athiesm which is taught by many educators.

Countering Korihor’s Philosophy

by Gerald N. Lund July 1992 Ensign

President Ezra Taft Benson has often reminded us that all of the major Book of Mormon writers said they were writing for our day. Consequently, “we should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?’” (Ensign, Jan. 1992, p. 5.)
In Alma 30, Mormon gives a lengthy account of a man he calls “Anti-Christ” (Alma 30:6), including a detailed summary of his false teachings. Using President Benson’s guideline, let us examine the story of Korihor to see why Mormon felt it important to tell us his story.
First, though, it will help to look at some philosophical terms used by contemporary philosophers. Doing so will help us see the deviousness—and the attractiveness to the carnal mind—of Korihor’s teachings (which were Satan’s teachings).
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of reality. It tries to answer the question “What is real?” The question of whether there is a God and a spiritual world beyond the natural world we know is a metaphysical question. Though today we often use the word supernatural in a more limited sense, originally it referred to a world higher, or above, the one we see and experience with our physical senses.
The second area of philosophy we will consider is axiology. Axiology is the study of ethics and values. It wrestles with such questions as “What is good?” “What is ethical?” “What are right and wrong?”
A third branch of philosophy is epistemology. Epistemology is the study of how we know what is real or true. There are numerous epistemological systems. Some apply directly to what Korihor was teaching the Nephites:
Authoritarianism is the system by which truth is learned from those who are authorities or experts. We trust learned men or women, such as parents, teachers, religious leaders, and consultants, to give us truth in their areas of expertise.
Rationalism refers to gaining truth through logic. In rationalism we ask, “Does it make sense? Is it logical?”
Pragmatism determines whether something works. The business world is often pragmatically oriented, focusing on whether a new product or marketing strategy actually produces the desired results. If it works, it is valid; if it doesn’t, it is rejected.
Empiricism uses observation or personal experience to arrive at truth. This knowledge is gathered primarily through the senses—through what one sees, touches, hears, smells, and tastes.
Which of these systems do Latter-day Saints subscribe to? The answer, of course, is all of them. But we also rely on another way of knowing truth: divine revelation. In this method, truth comes either directly from God or indirectly through his prophets.
Whether he recognizes it or not, every person holds to a metaphysical position, trusts in at least one system of epistemology, and holds a personal axiology or set of values and ethics. Furthermore, these three areas of our own philosophy are interrelated. Our metaphysics (our view of reality) influences our epistemology (the way we gain knowledge), and together the two determine our axiology (our values).
Let’s suppose, for example, that a person like Korihor rejects the idea that there is a spiritual dimension to life. That metaphysical position automatically determines what that person will accept as truth. Revelation is rejected because the reality of God is rejected. Deciding what is good and bad, therefore, will not be dependent on any set of God-given laws or fear of eternal consequences.
This was Korihor’s fundamental lie.

Korihor’s Corollaries

Like any philosophical system, Korihor’s doctrine had metaphysical, epistemological, and axiological aspects. Together, they enabled him to convince many to reject the traditional values taught by the Church.
For example, Korihor’s argument that “ye cannot know of things which ye do not see” (Alma 30:15) reveals his epistemology—his system of determining truth—to be primarily empirical, or based on observation and use of the senses. (See chart 1.) However, the Apostle Paul says, “Faith is … the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1; italics added.) Korihor’s stance, however, is, “If you can’t see it, you can’t know it.” He therefore rejects prophecy because prophecy deals with the future, and you cannot “see,” or experience, the future with the physical senses. Consequently, all talk of a future Savior and redemption is to be rejected on principle.
There are a number of corollaries, or inferences, that flow out of Korihor’s fundamental philosophy. The first of these is revealed when Korihor is arrested and taken before Giddonah, the high priest. Giddonah demands to know why, if Korihor is correct in what he said, the people find so much joy in their religious experience. (See Alma 30:22.)
Korihor’s answer goes something like this (see Alma 30:23–28): There are two explanations for why people believe in religion. First, they have been indoctrinated by their parents (the “foolish traditions” of the fathers), and second, they have been deceived by religious leaders whose motives are personal gain—money and/or power. Further, Korihor’s philosophy—expressed in his teaching to the people—is that this indoctrination of the people brings psychological abnormalities—“derangement” or a “frenzied mind.” (Alma 30:16.) Since there is no God and since religion is a farce, Korihor concludes, we can live as we please without fear of eternal consequences.
Giddonah decides that Korihor’s case warrants the full attention of Alma, so Korihor is taken to Alma in Zarahemla. It doesn’t take Alma long to determine the ultimate source of Korihor’s teachings. “The devil has power over you,” he says to Korihor, “and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God.” (Alma 30:42.) Later, after Korihor is struck dumb, he confirms Alma’s words. “The devil hath deceived me,” he admits, “for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, … and he taught me that which I should say.” (Alma 30:53.)
Why would Satan care about such things as our view of metaphysics and epistemology? Because if he can shape our views on those issues, then those views provide a basis, as Alma declares, to “destroy the children of God.” (Alma 30:42.) The philosophy Satan taught Korihor is a rational system. It is not true, but it is rational! If we accept the assumption that there is no super-natural reality, then it logically follows that there is no God. If that is the case, then man is the supreme being. It also follows that if there are no eternal realities, then there are no eternal consequences for man’s actions. Korihor’s reasoning is that man himself determines what is right and wrong, not some set of rules laid down by a group of phony religious leaders claiming to speak for a God who doesn’t exist.
This is the heart of Korihor’s doctrine. By preaching his false philosophies, Korihor accomplishes Satan’s designs in grand fashion. Note Mormon’s description of the end result of his teachings: “And thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness, yea, leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms.” (Alma 30:18.)
What a victory for Satan! This is not just wickedness. The people are proud in their wickedness! And why shouldn’t they be? Korihor has convinced them that there is no God and no ultimate right and wrong. All the “psychological hangups” they feel—guilt, shame—are simply the result of the foolish teachings of ignorant parents or self-serving religious leaders.

Korihor Today

President Ezra Taft Benson has taught that “the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.” (Ensign, Jan. 1988, p. 3.)
Today, the world is permeated with philosophies similar to those taught by Korihor. We read them in books, see them championed in the movies and on television, and hear them taught in classrooms and sometimes in the churches of our time. Note just a few examples drawn from modern writings:
“We believe that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species. … Traditional religions often offer solace to humans, but, as often, they inhibit humans from helping themselves or experiencing their full potentialities. … Too often traditional faiths encourage dependence rather than independence.” (“Humanist Manifesto II,” The Humanist, Sept./Oct. 1973, pp. 5–6; compare Alma 30:14, 16, 27–28.)
“We can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. … No deity will save us; we must save ourselves. Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices.” (Ibid; compare Alma 30:18, 23–24, 27–28.)
“Science affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces. As far as we know, the total personality is a function of the biological organism transacting in a social and cultural context.” (Ibid; compare Alma 30:17.)
“Whether we ought to follow a moral principle or not would always depend upon the situation. … In some situations unmarried love could be infinitely more moral than married unlove. Lying could be more Christian than telling the truth. … Stealing could be better than respecting private property. … No action is good or right of itself. It depends on whether it hurts or helps. … There are no normative moral principles whatsoever which are intrinsically valid or universally obliging. We may not absolutize the norms of human conduct.” (Situation Ethics: True or False? A Dialogue between Joseph Fletcher and John Warwick Montgomery, Minneapolis, Minn.: Dimension Books, 1972, back cover. Compare Alma 30:17.)
Here we see clear evidence of Mormon’s inspiration to give us a full account of Korihor and his teachings. Korihor’s teachings are old doctrine, and yet they are ideas as modern as today’s high-speed printing presses and satellite dishes.

A Prophet’s Answer

So how do we deal with these false philosophies? Fortunately, Mormon not only gave us Korihor’s doctrines, he also gave us an inspired answer to them. This is the real value of the Korihor account.
The first thing to note is that Alma does not get into philosophical debate with Korihor. He doesn’t allow himself to be pulled onto the ground that Korihor tries to define as the area of debate. There is a great lesson in that. We combat false philosophies with revelation and true doctrine, not academic debate.
Second, Alma exposes Korihor for what he is. (See chart 2 for a summary of how Alma dealt with Korihor.) In effect, Alma says to Korihor: “You know that we don’t profit from our service in the Church, but you say we glut ourselves on the labor of the people. Therefore I say you deliberately twist the truth.” It all comes down to one irrefutable conclusion: Korihor is a liar.
But there is more to Alma’s answer than that. Alma takes Korihor’s own philosophy and catches him in a trap of his own making. Korihor teaches that we can know only what we can see. (See Alma 30:15.) But when questioned, Korihor categorically denies that he believes there is a God. Alma then asks, “What evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.” (Alma 30:40.)
It is an inspired insight on Alma’s part. Korihor is not consistent in his own thinking. If we truly can know only those things for which we have empirical evidence, then we cannot teach there is no God unless we have evidence for that belief. And Korihor has no evidence.
Korihor will consider only evidence that can be gathered through the senses. In such a system, it is much easier to prove there is a God than to prove there is not a God. To prove there is a God, all it takes is for one person to see, hear, or otherwise have an experience with God, and thereafter the existence of God cannot be disproved. But here is what it would take to prove there is no God: Since God is not confined to this earth, we would have to search throughout the universe for him. We assume God is able to move about, so it would not be enough to start at point A in the universe and search through to point Z. What if after we leave point A, God moves there and stays there for the rest of the search?
In other words, for Korihor to say that there is no God, based on the very criteria he himself has established, he would have to perceive every cubic meter of the universe simultaneously. This creates a paradox: In order for Korihor to prove there is no God, he would have to be a god himself! Therefore, in declaring there is no God, he is acting on “faith,” the very thing for which he so sharply derides the religious leaders!
No wonder Mormon chose to detail the story of Korihor. It teaches a great lesson for our day. No matter how clever, how sophisticated the philosophies of an anti-Christ may seem, they are not true. They are riddled with contradictions, errors, and false assumptions. The gospel, on the other hand, is truth—truth that has stood the test of centuries, truth that can withstand rational examination, truth that is pragmatic and practical, truth that can be confirmed through personal experience. A believer need not apologize for his or her beliefs, for these beliefs withstand every scrutiny much more efficiently than do the doctrines of Satan.

A Final, Tragic Lesson

There is another lesson that Mormon draws from the story of Korihor. After Korihor is confounded by Alma, he demands a sign before he will believe. Korihor receives his sign—he is struck dumb, and evidently deaf as well. (See Alma 30:51.) In that pitiable state, Korihor resorts to begging for his livelihood. He finally goes among a people called the Zoramites, and there he is “run upon and trodden down” until he dies. (Alma 30:59.)
Mormon summarizes the lesson he wants us to learn: “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.” (Alma 30:60.) How unlike God and his dealings with his children!
Another lesson to be learned from Korihor is found in the following chapter, after Mormon finishes telling the story of Korihor. In Alma 31, Mormon begins the account of a missionary effort among the Zoramites. Alma, two of his sons, and the sons of Mosiah go to the land of Antionum to try to reclaim the apostate Zoramites.
Remembering that it was the Zoramites who killed Korihor, note the following phrases from Alma 31 that describe their beliefs:
  • They “had fallen into great errors.” (Alma 31:9.)
  • They had rejected traditions that they felt were “handed down … by the childishness of their fathers.” (Alma 31:16.)
  • They did not want to be “led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren,” which they believed did “bind them down to a belief in Christ.” (Alma 31:17.)
  • They refused “to believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about.” (Alma 31:22.)
Familiar echoes? Indeed. The Zoramites represent the end product of Korihor’s own philosophy. How ironic that Korihor should meet his death at the hands of a people who practiced what he preached!
Korihor’s teachings were based on lies. Indeed, Korihor himself confessed this when he wrote, after he had been stricken dumb, that he “always knew there was a God.” (Alma 30:52.) Yet Korihor had tried to teach people that happiness is to be found independent of God and the gospel. The Book of Mormon shows that this is not possible. The philosophy Korihor taught, so pervasive among us today, leads to a dead end. This is undoubtedly why, under the power of inspiration, Mormon gave his detailed account of Korihor and his false teachings—so that we today may more easily distinguish between Christ and anti-Christ, between eternal life and spiritual death.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What of Prayer?

I remember hearing a story about someone who was listening to a church leader pray, and felt so strongly that he was really speaking to God that he had to open his eyes to see if God was there.  Isn't that how we all should pray; as though we are really talking to our Heavenly Father, and as if He were standing in front of us?  That kind of prayer takes faith.  We must believe that God is, and that He cares for us, and listens to our prayers.  That is when our prayers really become efficacious.

Often when I pray, I imagine what it would be like if God really did appear during my prayer.  How would my prayer change?  I think my praying would be much more humble, and be filled with much more gratitude.  I think my prayers would take on an even more respectful tone.  I was taught from an early age to use words such as "Thee", "Thine", and "Thou" instead of "You", "Your", and "Your's".  I often hear people who use "you" in praying, and many say that doing so helps them feel more like God is a friend they can talk to.  While that may be the case, I think there is something to be said for imagining how our language might change if God were truly standing in front of us.  In his January 2006 talk "The Special Language of  Prayer", Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) said, “In all our prayers, it is well to use the pronouns thee, thou, thy, and thine instead of you, your, and yours inasmuch as they have come to indicate respect..... In our day the words thee, thou, thy, and thine are suitable for the language of prayer, not because of how they were used anciently, but because they are currently obsolete in common English discourse. Being unused in everyday communications, they are now available as a distinctive form of address in English, appropriate to symbolize respect, closeness, and reverence for the one being addressed." 

I mentioned that if God were before us, we would feel more humble, and more grateful, but one emotion I didn't mention is repentant.  I think of the Prophet Isaiah who, when he saw God in a vision exclaimed, "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."  Isaiah 5:6.  I have always felt that just being in the presence of God made him see his own weaknesses magnified.  Surely we all would shrink before the presence of our maker because of the weaknesses and sins that we harbor. 
("Lady Hamilton praying by George Romney)


As I thought about the purpose of prayer, I thought about how much it should be an opportunity to not simply pray for what we need, or give thanks for what we have, but to spend our time repenting before God!  If He were standing before us while we prayed, I'm sure this would be foremost on our mind.  Ought we not to keep this in mind when we offer our daily prayers?

The Book of Mormon gives us an excellent example of how to pray.  Enos had been raised "in the church", but had gone astray.  But the things his parents had taught him sunk deep in to his soul and he craved a testimony of his own.  He went out to the woods to pray alone.  Here is his account:

"3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.

5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.

6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.

7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?

8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole."
 
After Enos repented of his sins, he began to pray for those who did not have the knowledge of the Savior.  I think this is a good example for us all.  I think we should spend much more of our prayer time repenting, and then pray for those around us. 
 
I hope this won't sound too "flippant", but there was a time in my life when I was under great stress, and wasn't sleeping well, so would spend my "tossing and turning" time praying for everyone I could think of.  To be plainly honest I must admit that most of the time I fell asleep before I said Amen.  But as time wore on, I began to see those prayers answered!  I really felt a connection between the prayers I said, and the blessings that came.  I really do believe that our prayers on the behalf of others work much good.  God does hear our prayers, and He does answer them upon the heads of those for whom we pray.
 
I hope that I can increase the quality of my prayers.  I want to spend more of my prayer time repenting.  I want to spend more time in gratitude.  And I want to think more about the needs of others when making requests.  I think that if we increase the quality of our prayers, we too can develop that kind of close relationship with God that makes the hearers believe He is really there.