Thursday, November 20, 2014

They Who Tarry

In the Bible we learn that the Lord gave John the Beloved a special blessing:

"Peter seeing him [John] saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true." (John 21:21-24)

In April of 1829 the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery inquired of the Lord to understand the meaning of John's blessing, and they received further revelation:

"And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you.

And I said unto him: Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee.

And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.

And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter: If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? For he desired of me that he might bring souls unto me, but thou desiredst that thou mightest speedily come unto me in my kingdom.

I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire; but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done.

Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth." (D&C 7:1-6)
Peter, James and John Appear to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery

In other words, John the Beloved is still alive and ministering upon the earth.

But John is not alone in receiving such a peculiar blessing.  In the Book of Mormon we learn that there are at least three others who were permitted to tarry on the earth in order to bring souls unto Christ:

"And when he had spoken unto them, he turned himself unto the three, and said unto them: What will ye that I should do unto you, when I am gone unto the Father?

And they sorrowed in their hearts, for they durst not speak unto him the thing which they desired.

And he said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me.

Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.

And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.

And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand.

And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one;

And the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and the Father giveth the Holy Ghost unto the children of men, because of me.

And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he touched every one of them with his finger save it were the three who were to tarry, and then he departed." (3 Ne. 28:4-12)

These same three Nephites later ministered to Mormon (3 Ne. 28:26) and his son Moroni (Mormon 8:11), and like John the Beloved, they continue their anonymous ministry (3 Ne. 28:25) on the earth today. 

Three Nephites Desire to Tarry

The question might reasonably be asked: "Have there been any sightings of the three Nephites or of John the Beloved?"  While at least these four disciples of Christ continue their ministry on the earth, they seem to be doing so, as the Lord's best ministers always have, very quietly.  

Nevertheless, in the April 1954 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Legrand Richards recounted the following miraculous event:

"A short time ago, when a committee was sent there by President Truman, they were told by Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, that it was their belief in a 'mystical force that would return the Jews to the land of Israel, that had kept them alive.

In the Jewish Hope, of September 1950, was an article by Arthur U. Michelson. I will not take time to read it, but he tells of a visit he made to Jerusalem, when he heard the experience of the Jewish army. They had only-one cannon, and were facing the Arabs with their well-trained and equipped army, and so when they used this cannon, they moved it from place to place so the enemy would think they had many, and every time the cannon was fired, they would beat tin cans in order to make a lot of noise so that the enemy would think they had many cannons.

I want to read what he said about what happened when the armies of Israel were about to give up:

'One of the officials has told me how much the Jews had to suffer. They had hardly anything with which to resist the heavy attacks of the Arabs who were well organized and equipped with the latest weapons. Besides, they had neither food nor water, because all their supplies were cut off . . .

'At this critical moment, God showed them that he was on their side, for he performed one of the greatest miracles that ever happened. The Arabs suddenly threw down their arms and surrendered. When their delegation appeared with the white flag, they asked, 'Where are the three men and where are all the troops we saw?' The Jews told them that they did not know anything of the three men, for this group was their entire force. The Arabs said that they saw three persons, with long beards and flowing white robes who warned them not to fight any longer, otherwise they would all be killed. They became so frightened that they decided to give up. What an encouragement this was for the Jews to realize that God was fighting for them.'

And then he told about another case when one man with a white robe and a long beard appeared, and they all saw him, and they gave up their arms. Now I do not know, but the Lord said that he would do something for the Jews in the latter days, and when he permitted the Three Nephites to tarry upon this land, he said:

And behold they will be among the Gentiles, and the Gentiles shall know them not.

They will also be among the Jews, and the Jews shall know them not.

And it shall come to pass, when the lord seeth fit in his wisdom that they shall minister unto all the scattered tribes of Israel, and unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, and shall bring out of them unto Jesus many souls, that their desire may be fulfilled, and also because of the convincing power of God which is in them (3 Ne. 28:27-29).

Whoever these persons were, they seemed to have 'convincing power' sufficient to cause a whole army to surrender.

In permitting these Three Nephites to tarry upon the earth until he, Jesus, should come in his glory, he must have had in mind some great things for them to accomplish in bringing about a fulfillment of his promises. Whether it was convincing the army of the Arabs to surrender, I do not know, but this I do know: That what is going on in the Holy Land should convince one that the Lord is moving rapidly toward restoring the Jews to the land of their fathers and is giving them that land and redeeming it from its waste condition, as the prophets have foretold." (Legrand Richards, The Word of God Will Stand)

Whether or not the three Nephites and John the Beloved were the beings who preserved the Jews in these particular battles is within the realm of speculation, and others have written at greater length on such topics.  

The lesson?  If translated beings with long beards and flowing white robes appear to you and warn you not to fight against Jews any longer, it would probably be wise to obey them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Like a Lamb to the Slaughter

The Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith

"I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood." - The Prophet Joseph Smith, D&C 135:5

Don't be deceived. Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Rare a Possession

How Rare a Possession: The Book of Mormon
Have you ever seen the LDS film How Rare a Possession?  It is a classic.  Watch how the Book of Mormon has transformed lives over the centuries, from the prophet Moroni, to the apostle Parley P. Pratt, to the Italian pastor Vincenzo di Francesca, and beyond. 

Parley P. Pratt
Vincenzo di Francesca

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Greatest Modern Miracle

One of the Best Books for Understanding the Virtuous Character of the Prophet Joseph Smith

Now this will be a fireside worth attending!  This Sunday at 7:00 pm in the Sunset Heights Stake Center in Orem, Utah, Andrew Ehat (author of The Words of Joseph Smith) will be speaking on The Greatest Modern Miracle: Joseph Smith and The Book of MormonBe there, or be... a little less educated about the greatest modern miracle.

The Greatest Modern Miracle: Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon
Brother Andrew Ehat
November 17th at 7:00 PM
Sunset Height Stake Center, 1200 S 400 W, Orem, UT

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sacrifice of All Things

"Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life." - The Prophet Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, 6:7

It is Christianity to Do Good Always

Charles Dickens
"Remember! – It is christianity TO DO GOOD always – even to those who do evil to us. It is christianity to love our neighbour as ourself, and to do to all men as we would have them Do to us. It is christianity to be gentle, merciful, and forgiving, and to keep those qualities quiet in our own hearts, and never make a boast of them, or of our prayers or of our love of God, but always to shew that we love Him by humbly trying to do right in everything. If we do this, and remember the life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them, we may confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to live and die in Peace."--

- Charles Dickens, The Life of Our Lord, written especially for his children

Friday, November 7, 2014

Allow All Men the Same Privilege

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"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."

- The Prophet Joseph Smith, Articles of Faith 1:11

If you are looking for an explanation of how this article of faith ought to play out in real life, you could definitely do worse than Professor Daniel Peterson's Mormonism, Islam, and the Question of Other Religions.  In fact, as far as statements on religious tolerance go, there are probably not many better.

Meddle Not With Any Man for His Religion

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"But meddle not with any man for his religion: all governments ought to permit every man to enjoy his religion unmolested. No man is authorized to take away life in consequence of difference of religion, which all laws and governments ought to tolerate and protect, right or wrong. Every man has a natural, and, in our country, a constitutional right to be a false prophet, as well as a true prophet. If I show, verily, that I have the truth of God, and show that ninety-nine out of every hundred professing religious ministers are false teachers, having no authority, while they pretend to hold the keys of God's kingdom on earth, and was to kill them because they are false teachers, it would deluge the whole world with blood." - Joseph Smith

"It is good economy to entertain strangers—to entertain sectarians. Come up to Nauvoo, ye sectarian priests of the everlasting Gospel, as they call it, and you shall have my pulpit all day." - Joseph Smith

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Athens, Jerusalem, and Wherever You Are

Learning in the Light of Faith

What is the role of education in God's eternal plan? Are scholarship and discipleship compatible?  What is the relationship between reason and revelation?  What should we study and learn?  Why?

These are just a few questions that disciple-scholars of the past have frequently posed.  Here follows a brief selection of quotations, speeches, and articles that may be helpful in exploring the answers to such questions:  

  • "To be ignorant and simple now–not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground — would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered." - C.S. Lewis, "Learning in War-Time," in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses
  • "Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish." - Austen Farrer
  • "The LDS scholar has his citizenship in the Kingdom, but carries his passport into the professional world—not the other way around." - Elder Neal A. Maxwell


The Disciple-Scholar, Neal A. Maxwell


On Becoming a Disciple-Scholar, Elder Cecil O. Samuelson

Articles and Publications:

Revelation, Reason and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, Edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and Stephen D. Ricks

Reason and Revelation, Ralph C. Hancock 

Concluding Thought:

Finally, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell repeatedly emphasized, "Though I have spoken of the disciple-scholar, in the end all the hyphenated words come off. We are finally disciples-men and women of Christ (see  3 Ne. 27:27)." 

On Asking Questions

"Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask - half our great theological and metaphysical problems - are like that."

"Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again . . . You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth."

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Envy and Wrath of Man

"And as for the perils which I am called to pass through, they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end, or bad, as you may choose to call it. Judge ye for yourselves. God knoweth all these things, whether it be good or bad. But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it." 

- epistle from the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Latter-day Saints at Nauvoo, Illinois (D&C 127:2)


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Wrestling with Wrestling the Angel

"And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins." (Enos 1:2)
Recently I've been reading Terryl Givens' first volume in his two part series on the foundations of Mormon theology and practice, and I've almost reached Theosis (the last chapter in Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity).  In the unlikely event that while reading the last chapter I will be wrapped in the power and glory of my Maker, and caught up to dwell with Him, I have decided to begin writing a review immediately.

Various scholars have already summarized and analyzed Wrestling the Angel (see here, here, here, here, and here) with great precision and detail, and Givens' ambitious work certainly merits more careful scrutiny than I can possibly provide in one blog post.  Nevertheless, since my own apotheosis still appears to be at least as remote as the next time I open his book, perhaps I can contribute a brief exegesis of Givens' exegesis.

What stood out most to me, besides the most excellent chapter on our Mother God, was the value that a perspective informed by intellectual formation in the fields of comparative literature and religious studies adds to the world's collective understanding of intellectual history in general, and of the history of Mormon thought in particular.  Rumor has it that Givens' second volume will focus more specifically on Mormon praxis.  If that is the case, the trajectory of Givens' latest works seems to follow his earlier descriptions of the paradoxical nature of the Articles of Faith contained in Joseph Smith's Wentworth Letter:

"I want to add a fifth paradox to those I have surveyed. I would refer to it as a hallmark of the modus operandi of Joseph Smith—the twin imperatives of originality and assimilation, or revelation of what is new and syncretism based on what is already present. I see this duality beautifully enacted in the way Joseph Smith commences his exposition of doctrinal belief, the Articles of Faith." (Paradox and Discipleship)

This is not to say that Wrestling the Angel and its sequel are merely more elaborate re-articulations of Joseph Smith's original Articles of Faith, but that Givens' understanding of that which he calls Joseph Smith's "modus operandi" ("Joseph the syncretist; Joseph the Prophet.") plays a major role in his reading of the history of Mormon thought, especially as it pertains to the positioning of Mormon thought in the larger context of the Western intellectual and religious tradition.

Givens' Wrestling the Angel might not be a book that you would want to quote from during your next Primary class (if you are a Primary teacher), nor do I suspect that many missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will choose to distribute copies of Givens' book instead of pamphlets containing the original Articles of Faith, but it is definitely a book that should be read by anyone who has not yet reached apotheosis.  If there is still time, it would not hurt to read Givens' other books as well: