Mar 11

My Response to “Letter to a CES Director”

For a long time, the “Letter to a CES Director” bothered me for two reasons. The first reason was that it felt like an attempt to destroy folks’ testimonies more than to honestly present true questions out of curiousity and to explore the truth. The second reason was that its approach was fundamentally flawed. This is my humble response to the “Letter to a CES Director,” presented in a much different format than other responses. The concept that I present in this ebook is that once you follow the Lord’s method of gaining a true testimony of the primary, basic, core truths, secondary ones, such as those in the “Letter to a CES Director” won’t bother you in the least. I fully believe that if you internalize every concept covered in the ebook, that you will be founded on a solid testimony, and will be able to dismiss the “Letter to a CES Director” and any other such work as the thinly-veiled attempt that they are to destroy your testimony.

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Dec 15

Imperfections Exist – What Does This Mean?

In the last few blog posts, I’ve hopefully made sure that everyone is aware that the Church is not perfect, its leaders are not perfect, and our standard works are not perfect. So, what do we do with all of this imperfection? How do we reconcile the changes made throughout the Church’s history? When a Church leader makes a mistake, does that mean the Church is not true? Those are actually the wrong questions.

What we should really be asking is, “Am I able to trust the Giver of the Law, the One who guides the Church?” Do we give Christ room to instruct the prophet to make these changes? Do we allow the Giver of the Law to be greater than the law? Do we gain a personal testimony that Jesus Christ leads His Church by revelation here on the Earth?

Joseph Smith taught, “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill;’ at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.” (History of the Church, Joseph Smith, 5:134-135)

Perhaps this is one reason that absolute truth is not necessarily attainable. It may change dependent upon our circumstances.

Sometimes, we get in this habit of trying to ascertain what absolute truth is. Believe it or not, this type of thinking comes from the Greek influence during the time of Christ. This is often referred to as the Hellenistic period. The Greeks thought in terms of absolute truth as an abstract idea. Imagine a perfect square. Or take the concept of 2+2. It will always be 4. They thought in terms of truth as immutable ideas such as these. This type of thought, inherited from the Greeks, drives our need to have truth as an absolute, unchangeable thing.

Dr. Jeffery L. Thayne and Dr. Edwin E. Gantt give some good insight:
“Not only do our beliefs hinge on different premises, but the premises of our questions matter as well. Many of the questions above are rooted in a single premise: They assume that truth is a set of abstract ideas or doctrines that never change.

“This may seem like common sense, and if so, that is because most of us accept this view unquestioningly. But this may be one of the ‘philosophies of men’ that can subtly change the way we think about the gospel, and ultimately ensnare us in doubt. This view has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy. The Greeks saw things that do not change as more fundamental than those that do, and this led them to focus on abstract ideas as ‘truth.’

“In the view we articulate in this book, truth is not a set of abstract ideas, but a living, breathing Person who loves us as His children. This view is inspired by Hebrew thought, which did not separate the search for truth from our journey to God. And once we adopt this view—even provisionally—all of our questions change. Not all of our questions will be answered, to be sure. But the way we frame the questions will change so that they no longer tilt us towards doubt. We explain how this is so throughout the rest of this book.

“But perhaps more important, this book may help you to reframe the way you think about your relationship with God. Our hope is that all of our readers will center their faith more on the Savior Jesus Christ and the covenants they have made with God, and less on abstract lists of doctrine or beliefs. We echo the words of Nephi, who write, ‘For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved’ (1 Nephi 6:4)”

Who Is Truth?, Thayne & Gantt, 15-16

We should be evaluating our relationship with the great Giver of the Law rather than focusing on whether a given point of doctrine is dead-on correct, or whether this or that new policy is the right thing to do. We can receive our own testimonies of these changes. The first part of this book goes over that entire process. It talks about how to gain a testimony of a thing about which we have a question, or something that is weighing on our minds.

And why would we even be bothered by changes that occur? We explicitly state in the Ninth Article of Faith that “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.” Such revelations, in this context mean that things will change! We believe in revelations that correct the Bible, as did Joseph Smith’s Translation. We believe in all the revelations that will yet come. They might be to make changes in existing canon, programs, or policies. The Ninth Article of Faith allows for all of this.

Let’s turn now to 2 Nephi 29:7, which says, “Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?”

The Lord has given a portion of his word “unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth.” So far, the scriptures mentioned in this verse have not been brought forth. Also, we have the sealed part of the plates that Joseph Smith did not translate. There appears to be much that has yet to come forth.

The Lord never gives us more than we can handle. There have been times when He has changed His law as given to the people. Sometimes, these changes come so as to give us something that we can understand and live as a Church.

The Lord will give us milk before meat. Let’s take a look at some scriptures that illustrate this principle:

D&C 19:22 – “For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish.”

1 Corinthians 3:2 – “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.”

Hebrews 5:12–14:
“12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

1 Peter 2:2 – “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:”

The Lord gives us just the right amount of His law and commandments for us to live at that moment. We could not handle the full and perfect truth all at once even if we wanted to. We learn “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” (2 Nephi 28:30)

We grow and progress in the principles of truth. We do our best with the little that we get at a time. Gradually, we get more and more. Over time, we are able to handle the “meat.”
What if God did give us the full law all at once? We would be responsible to live it. Not being able to, we would stand completely condemned. The Lord gives us laws that we can live, laws that we can aspire to live, rather than the law in its full perfection. This would be utterly impossible. We would end up in a very hopeless state. Perhaps the scriptures can clarify:

“3 For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.
4 Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you; and inasmuch as ye keep not my sayings, which I give unto you, ye become transgressors; and justice and judgment are the penalty which is affixed unto my law.” (D&C 82:3–4)

We have to live whatever law we have been given. If we do, we will get marvelous blessings. If not, we are in danger of missing out on blessings we otherwise might have had.

Even though our priesthood leaders are not infallible, they are the men that the Lord has chosen. They are doing their best to do the will of the Lord. If we take the law as given to us by priesthood leaders as God’s will, we will be blessed:

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10)

If we live the law that has been given to us through his servants, we will be blessed. If not, we may find ourselves in an undesirable condition.

We should remember that even though our leaders are not perfect, we have sustained them. This means that we uphold and support them. We do whatever we can to help them be successful in their calling.

We should do our very best to live by every word that comes out of the mouths of both our local leaders and the leaders of the Church.

Marion G. Romney said, “I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President Heber J. Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home… Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.’ Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, ‘But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.'” (Marion G. Romney (quoting Heber J. Grant), Conference Report, October 1960, 78)

Commit yourself to obey what the prophet says. If we so live, we will always be safe.

Speaking of the Apostles in the same manner, Elder James E. Faust said, “The keys I speak of never rust. These are the keys of life and salvation in the kingdom of God. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I will give you a key that will never rust, if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.'” (Sunday Afternoon Session, 2 October 1994, The Keys That Never Rust, Elder James E. Faust Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles)

Even though our leaders are not perfect, we still sustain and support them. We are blessed for following their counsel. We should do as they direct, because their word is as though it came from the Lord himself.

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Dec 13

Why So Many Changes In the Church?

My last two posts have attempted to explain a couple of concepts: don’t expect the leaders of the Church to be infallible, and the scriptures themselves are not even perfect. We should not hold either to an exacting standard of perfection. There are imperfect people involved with both of them.

The Church is often held to a standard of perfection, as well. Some might say, “Why would God allow imperfections in His Church? Surely, if the Church were true, there would be no imperfections in it or any need to make changes to its practices, policies, or structure.”

Here, we must go back to the nature of humankind. We all have weaknesses and challenges. The leaders of the church are no exception. As the Church is led by imperfect men, there are going to be things in it that need to be changed from time to time. That’s not the only reason, either. The Church is led by Christ through revelation. It’s something that changes and grows as the Lord deems necessary. Now, core doctrines do not change, but sometimes policies change.

As a matter of fact, let’s take a look at some of the things that have changed in the Church since it was restored:

  • Beginning in the 1840s, the Church began practicing polygamy, but in 1890, the practice was discontinued when the Manifesto was issued.
  • After the Church was first organized the Prophet Joseph Smith was called to be an Apostle and the First Elder of the Church. Oliver Cowdery was called to be an Apostle and the Second Elder of the Church. This was constituted as the leadership of the Church at that time. This was later changed such that there is now a Prophet and his two Counselors that make up the First Presidency which lead the Church. Accompanying them is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
  • Primary, Priesthood, and Sunday School used to be on different days of the week. It was then changed such that they all met on Sunday for what was then known as the 3-hour block.
  • There have been numerous changes to the temple ceremony throughout the Church’s history.
  • There have been many changes to the Church’s General Handbook of Instructions over the decades.

Most recently, we have had extensive changes:

  • Meetings used to take up 3 hours on Sunday. Now, Sunday meetings consist of two hours.
  • Home Teaching was dissolved and Ministering instituted.
  • At the ward level, the High Priests now meet with the Elders’ Quorum.
  • Young men used to be ordained to the Priesthood when they turned 12 years old. Now, they are ordained to the Priesthood in January of the year they turn 12. In nearly all cases, this means that they are 11 years old at the time of their ordination.
  • Any member holding a current temple recommend, including a limited-use recommend, may serve as a witness to a proxy baptism.
  • Any endowed member with a current temple recommend may serve as a witness to a living or proxy sealing.
  • Any baptized member of the Church, including children and youth, may serve as a witness to the baptism of a living person.

Additionally, organizational changes have been made in the office of the Seventy, Area Authority, and Area Authority Seventy. In October 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson made the following announcement:

“In harmony with the needs of the growth of the Church across the world, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles have given prayerful consideration to the role of the stake seventies quorums in the Church and have determined to take the following action relative thereto:

“… The seventies quorums in the stakes of the Church are to be discontinued, and the brethren now serving as seventies in these quorums will be asked to return to membership in the elders quorums of their wards. Stake presidents, in an orderly fashion, may then determine who among such brethren should be ordained to the office of high priest.

“The work continued to expand, and six years later, in preparation for further fulfillment of the role of the Seventies, President Gordon B. Hinckley said in the April 1995 general conference:

“Now in the ongoing of this work, administrative changes sometimes occur. The doctrine remains constant. But from time to time there are organizational and administrative changes made under provisions set forth in the revelations.

“For instance, twenty-eight years ago the First Presidency was inspired to call men to serve as regional representatives of the Twelve … to train our stake and ward leaders in the programs of the Church that they in turn might train the membership in their responsibilities before the Lord.

“More recently the Presidency were inspired to call men from the Seventy to serve in Area Presidencies. As the work grows across the world, it has become necessary to decentralize administrative authority to keep General Authorities closer to the people. We now have such Area Presidencies well established and effectively functioning.

“It is now felt desirable to tighten up the organization administered by the Area Presidencies. Accordingly, we announce the release—the honorable release—of all regional representatives effective August 15 of this year.

“Now we announce the call of a new local officer to be known as an area authority. These will be high priests chosen from among past and present experienced Church leaders. They will continue with their current employment, reside in their own homes, and serve on a Church-service basis. The term of their call will be flexible, generally for a period of approximately six years. They will be closely tied to the Area Presidencies. They will be fewer in number than have been the regional representatives. We are guided in setting up this new corps of area officers, as were our Brethren before us in the calling of regional representatives, by the provision contained in the revelation on priesthood, section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants.”

A History of the Latter-day Seventy, Elder L. Aldin Porter

There have been many more changes above and beyond this list. This is just to give the reader an idea of the types of changes that have occurred within the Church during its history.

Now again, the idea here is not to find fault. It’s ok that some things change in the Church. That evidence that the Church is led by revelation. Though fundamental, core doctrines of exaltation do not change, some Church policies or organizational structure may change. This is totally as it should be. We are led by revelation.

See also: Doctrine: Models to Evaluate Types and Sources of Latter-day Saint Teachings

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Dec 11

On the Fallibility of Church Leaders

Our LeadersIt seems that there are some members in the Church who want to believe that its leaders do not or should not make any mistakes. People want to view these leaders as being infallible. After all, if God speaks with them, can He not just tell them the right thing to do the first time?

Or does He allow them to make mistakes in their leadership callings? Do they not grow and progress as any other person does? Mankind consists of imperfect human beings. Our Church leaders do the very best that they know how and the Lord consecrates their efforts. They certainly are not infallible.

Joseph Smith taught, “I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, 268)

The leaders of the Church do the absolute best that they can. They are some of the best people on the earth today. But they are in no way infallible. They make mistakes, just like the rest of us do.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf tells us:

“Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.

“And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.

“It is unfortunate that some have stumbled because of mistakes made by men. But in spite of this, the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Come, Join with Us,” Ensign, November 2013, 22–23.

Leaders of the Church are human beings, just like the rest of us. We all make mistakes. So do they. However, that does not mean that the Gospel as taught by the Church is any less than perfectly true.

President Brigham Young also had some thoughts on the matter. He said:

“Can a Prophet or an Apostle be mistaken? Do not ask me any such question, for I will acknowledge that all the time, but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray one hair’s breadth from the truth, and I do not knowingly do a wrong, though I may commit many wrongs, and so may you. But I overlook your weaknesses, and I know by experience that the Saints lift their hearts to God that I may be led right.”

The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009), 3:1418

Again, there may be leaders of the Church who, no matter their best efforts, they are not perfect in every way. But President Young knew that the members of the Church were praying for him, as we should be doing for our current Prophet. We should be doing everything we can to sustain, uphold, and uplift him.

Let us discuss two examples of some mistakes that have been made. One by a Prophet, and one by a General Authority who later became an Apostle. When Joseph Smith had translated 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, he lent them to Martin Harris. This resulted in the loss of these pages. From Joseph Fielding McConkie, we read, “It will be recalled that Joseph Smith was severely disciplined by the Lord for the loss of the 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon. Because of the Prophet’s disobedience, the Lord withdrew his Spirit from Joseph Smith and allowed him to walk in darkness (see D & C 10:2; 19:20). Speaking of those events the Lord said, ‘How oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men…. You should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary, and he would have been with you in every time of trouble’ (D & C 3:6–8).” (Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, Joseph Fielding McConkie)

So even Joseph Smith made some mistakes. How could we hold anyone else to a higher bar? They are growing and learning and progressing just like everyone else is.

Let us consider a case involving Bruce R. McConkie. He had written and published a book called “Mormon Doctrine” during the presidency of David O. McKay. The story continues:

“McKay’s first step was to obtain a copy of the book and study it. One of his secretaries noted, ‘He went through the whole thing. He had paper clips [on the pages where he had a question], and there were hundreds of them there’ Then he summoned two senior apostles, Mark E. Petersen and Marion G Romney. ‘I asked them if they would together go over Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s book, Mormon Doctrine and make a list of the corrections that should be made preparatory to his sending out an addendum to all members of the Church who have purchased his book.’ Having a General Authority send such an addendum would have been unprecedented, an indication of the seriousness with which McKay took McConkie’s breach of propriety.

“Peterson and Romney took ten months to critique the book and make their report to the First Presidency. Romney submitted a lengthy letter on January 7, 1960, detailing what he felt were the most egregious errors in the book and noting: ‘Its nature and scope and the authoritative tone of the style in which it is written pose the question as to the propriety of the author’s attempting such a project without assignment and supervision from him whose right and responsibility it is to speak for the Church on ‘Mormon Doctrine.” On the same day, Peterson gave McKay an oral report in which he recommended 1,067 corrections that ‘affected most of the 776 pages of the book.'”

David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, Prince & Wright, 50

Eventually it was all sorted out, but President McKay certainly felt that it was an appreciably large mistake.

Though there are more examples, it would be error to dwell further upon our wonderful leaders’ mistakes. It is a very valuable thing to keep in mind that our leaders, though they do the best they can, are not perfect, neither do they claim to be. We absolutely do our best to sustain and uphold them, especially in their weaknesses. The point, though, is that we cannot expect them to be perfect in everything they do, all the time. They do their best just like we do. It is quite important that we remember this.

For further thoughts on this concept, see “Sustaining Our Leaders.”

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Dec 10

Are the Standard Works Perfect?

Our eighth Article of Faith states: “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.” But are the Bible and the Book of Mormon perfect?

No. Even the Scriptures are not free from error. Regarding the Book of Mormon, Joseph Fielding McConkie explains, “Moroni said, ‘Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been’ (Morm. 9:31). Of the restored gospel the Lord said, ‘These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known; and inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; and inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent; and inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time’ (D & C 1:24–28). (Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, Joseph Fielding McConkie)

It’s not a perfect book, nor does it make the claim to be. As a matter of fact, it explicitly says that it is not perfect. It was prepared through the Lord’s prophets, who were human beings, just as fallible as you or I. This may be the reason that there have been literally thousands of corrections made in the text of the Book of Mormon since the first edition was printed.

Neither is the Bible perfect. However, unlike the Book of Mormon, it does not expressly state its fallibility. Nonetheless, we can consider some of the ways that we know that the Bible has some imperfections in it. First let’s take a look at some verses that contradict each other.

Acts 9:7 – “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.”

Compare to:

Acts 22:9 – “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

Then, we have the following:

Job 7:9–10:

“9 As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.

10 He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.”

Compare to:

Matthew 27: 52–53:

“52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

And finally:

Acts 1:16–18:

“16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”

Compare to:

Matthew 27:3–5:

“3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

There are more, but this should suffice for our purposes here. Another way we know that the bible is imperfect is by all of the scriptures it mentions that are not contained therein. Let’s consider a list of them:

That is a lot of missing scripture. The Bible is not complete as we have it. The Book of Mormon even tells us that things have been taken out. Nephi tells us this in 1 Nephi 13:26,28–29:

“26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.”

As we have seen, many plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible. We can see evidence of this in analysis of the Bible itself. The Book of Mormon also clarifies this for us.

The Book of Mormon also tells us that there is scripture that we haven’t even received, yet. 2 Nephi 29:12–13 says:

“12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.”

We have scriptures from the lost tribes of Israel that we have yet to receive.

Numerous things have been changed in the Bible, as well. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, 327).

He also said, “From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, 9-10)

For a quick example, let’s take a look at Matthew 5:22 in the King James Version, which says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Note the phrase “without a cause.” This phrase does not appear in some of the other translations of the Bible, such as the Revised Standard Version, the American Standard Version, and the New International Version. So is it supposed to be there or not?

Fortunately, we can turn to revelation as we have discussed in the first part of this book. This is exactly what Joseph Smith did as he corrected the Bible. If we look at footnote ‘b’ for verse 22, it says, “JST Matt. 5:22 and 3 Ne. 12:22 omit the words ‘without a cause.'” Because of revelation, we know that this phrase does not belong.

The point here is not to detract from how essential the scriptures are to us. They are of utmost worth. We believe in them. We honor them as being true. It’s just important to remember that, as their stewards have been imperfect men, they cannot be perfect.

Brother Robert L. Millet stated:

“We do not believe the Bible must be transmitted perfectly to be spiritually normative and eternally valuable. Errors in the Bible should not tarnish its image for Latter-day Saints. For that matter, while we accept the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as holy scripture, we would not rush to proclaim their inerrancy. The greater marvel is that an infinite and perfect God can work through finite and imperfect humans to deliver his word to his children.”

Robert L. Millet, “What the Bible Means to Latter-day Saints,” in The King James Bible and the Restoration, ed. Kent P. Jackson Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2011), 1–10.

Brother Millet summarizes the thought eloquently. Even though there is ample evidence that the scriptures have been altered, or have errors in them, we still know that they are true. We hold them in the highest regard.

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Dec 08

Commend Yourself Unto the Lord

If you are like me, you’ll try to control a situation so that it turns out the way you want it to.  I believe we do this all the time, not always inappropriately.  However, how much of this should we let go of?  How much should we entrust to the Lord?

Certainly, we should do everything in our power to produce a good outcome.  But after that, we reach a certain point where we should let the Lord take care of it.

This happened with the Jaredites when they were coming across the ocean.  They did what they could.  They built the barges. But then, they had to leave much of the rest of the trip up to the Lord.  Let’s see what L. Todd Budge has to say about this:

“After the Lord worked with the brother of Jared to resolve each of his concerns, He then explained, ‘Ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare [a way for] you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come.’ Ether 2:25 emphasis added.

The Lord made it clear that ultimately the Jaredites could not make it to the promised land without Him. They were not in control, and the only way they could make it across the great deep was to put their trust in Him. These experiences and tutoring from the Lord seemed to deepen the brother of Jared’s faith and strengthen his trust in the Lord.

Notice how his prayers changed from questions and concerns to expressions of faith and trust:

‘I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man;

‘Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.’  Ether 3:4–5

It is recorded that the Jaredites then ‘got aboard of their … barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.’  Ether 6:4 emphasis added. To commend means to entrust or to surrender. The Jaredites did not get into the barges because they knew exactly how things would work on their journey. They got aboard because they had learned to trust in the Lord’s power, goodness, and mercy, and they were therefore willing to surrender themselves and any doubts or fears they may have had to the Lord.”

Conference Report, October 2019, L. Todd Budge, “Consistent and Resilient Trust”

Another famous example of this is in 1 Nephi 3:7, which reads:

“7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

Nephi, too, knew that once he had prepared himself as much as possible, he would be led by the Spirit.  How did he prepare himself?  Certainly one of the ways was to be sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit that was to guide him.  He had hearkened to the commandments and counsel of the Lord up until that time.  But after these preparations, he went, relying upon the hand of the Lord to guide him.

How can we, as Latter-day Saints, do our part and then rely upon the hand of the Lord?  Part of it has to do with faith that the Lord will guide us.  We can certainly pray for that.  But what can you do to prepare for it, and then let the Lord take over?  I feel like in our lives, there is a lot more room for this to happen, and that the Lord will bless us when we decide to do it.  He will honor our faith in him.

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Dec 07

Upon This Rock

The Rock of RevelationIn the scriptures, there are a handful of passages that people of different faiths interpret in a wide variety of ways. One of those seems to be Matthew 16:15–18. Let’s see what we can learn from it. The text is thus:

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

In verse 15, Christ is asking Peter who the Apostles say that Christ is. Verse 16 states that Peter said that he was Christ, the Son of the living God.

Verse 17 says that Peter’s testimony did not come from any earthly source. It came from God himself. This is, of course, through the witness of the Holy Ghost. In other words, it was a revelation. In verse 18, Christ continues talking about revelation. He says “upon this rock I will build my church.”

Let’s see what Howard W. Hunter says about this passage. He declares:

“This is a very significant statement. The Lord in effect said to Peter that this knowledge that Jesus was the Christ did not come to him from mortal men or from the reasoning or learning of men, but by revelation from on high, that is, direct, divine revelation of the divinity of the Master. In answer to the statement ‘Thou art the Christ’ Matt. 16:16 Jesus replied, ‘. . . thou art Peter’ Matt. 16:18 in friendly acknowledgment of his disciple. The Lord then added, ‘. . . and upon this rock I will build my church’ Matt. 16:18 Upon what rock? Peter? Upon a man? No, not upon a man, upon the rock of revelation, the thing which they were talking about. He had just said, ‘. . . flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven’ Matt. 16:17 This revelation that Jesus is the Christ is the foundation upon which he would build his Church.”

Conference Report, October 1965, Howard W. Hunter, Organization of the Church of Christ

Let’s take a look at some scripture passages:

Proverbs 29:18 says:

18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Where there is no vision, or revelation, the people perish. Things don’t go so well for them.

Also, Amos 3:7 tells us:

7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

I’m not sure what your definition of “nothing” is, but to me, this scripture says that the Lord doesn’t do a single thing without first revealing it to his servants, specifically the prophets.

Taken together, these two scriptures plus the opening passage from Matthew seem to indicate that revelation is part of how the Church must work. If a church exists, but is not run by revelation, it cannot be Christ’s church.

What does this imply?

For one thing, if we have continued revelation, that must mean that the canon is open. The Prophet continues to receive revelation for us in our day. We know this, because we hear his counsel at least twice a year at General Conference. We would do well to heed and follow what he says.

Also, it means that the prophet is more important to us than the scriptures. For a full article on this, take a look at “Do We Need Scriptures?” A living prophet should be much more valuable to us than a dead one.

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Dec 06

Why We Have Adversity

Why do we have afflictions, trials, and difficulties? Couldn’t the Lord stop them if He wanted to? These and many other similar questions can sometimes go through our minds when we’re going through something difficult or painful.

Let’s turn to the scriptures to see what they say about this.

Mosiah 23:21–22 says:

21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.

22 Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.

The Lord will chasten his people, but whoever will trust Him will be lifted up at the last day. That’s a comforting thought. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to go through our difficulties and still trust in the Lord. However, that is what we must do. We must trust in the Lord. Try and look at it from the perspective of “What do I need to learn from this?” or “How can I grow because of this?”

One reason we have trials is because they refine us and make us into better people. Let’s read in Malachi 3:3, which says:

3 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.

The Lord wants us to be the best that we can be. Trials and afflictions are some of the ways that he purifies us. Our trials can make us into better people if we will let them.

Some trials happen just because of the nature of the world that we are in. We get sick. Traffic accidents occur. These things are just part of our mortal experience.

Some afflictions happen because of bad decisions, either on our part or that of someone else. Peoples’ poor decisions or malicious actions can cause us harm or injury.

However, we must endure our afflictions in righteousness and in patience. We must get closer to the Lord when such things happen.

Let’s read in Helaman 5:12, which says:

12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

If we build on a solid foundation, we will not fall when the devil attacks us. That foundation is Christ, our Redeemer. Let us build upon that rock and not fall.

Alma 36:3 tells us:

3 And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.

If we do put our trust in God, he will support us in our trials. And we shall be lifted up at the last day.

Sometimes, it can be so very difficult to be patient and endure well our trials and afflictions. Nevertheless, if we endure it well, rely upon Christ, and remain faithful, the Lord will be with us and will lift us up at the last day.

See also:
D&C 101:4–5
D&C 136:31
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/adversity?lang=eng

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Enlightening Gospel Study System

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We’ve got a way to completely overhaul your scripture study. Take a look at what our study journal has to offer.

The Gospel study journal:

  • provides you with the full LDS scriptures online
  • allows you to quickly retrieve notes and thoughts that you have recorded.
  • you can print your journal notes out at any time.
  • makes it easy to share thoughts and ideas with others.
  • makes it easy to remember the entire thought you had when you made the note.
  • allows for new inspiration – not bind you to only what you’ve already learned.
  • helps keep your scriptures from wearing out because of over-marking them.
  • helps prevent losing all of your notes should your scriptures get lost.
  • provides some structure without being overly rigid.

The journal entries you create can be linked together. You can tag them with keywords. You can link scripture references to them. Entries may also contain citations from other books which you feel are relevant.

Take a look at the QuickStart Guide or watch this video to see how easy it is to use:

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Please leave thoughts, comments, and suggestions on our Contact Us page.

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Dec 04

LDS Study Tools – Encyclopedia of Mormonism

There are some wonderful gospel study tools provided by BYU. Today, we wanted to share one of the richest resources available for studying the Gospel. It’s called the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

This excellent tool is available online in its entirety. It contains doctrinal entries on just about any Gospel topic you can think of. Each entry has scripture references about the topic you’re researching. You can copy and paste portions of the article into your research or talk. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is an insightful and informative way to study the Gospel.

Take a look at a quick intro to the tool in the video below.

Here is the link to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Check out other tools outlined on our Study Tools page.

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