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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Nov 29

Blessings in Mortality

Premortal LifeRecently, I was asked how much of our circumstances in this life stem from our valiance in our pre-mortal life. Though I cannot answer that question with absolute precision, we can certainly take a look at what the scriptures state. It would also be of value to consider what has been said on the topic.

First, the scriptures. Let’s take a look at D&C 138:53–56, which says:

53 The Prophet Joseph Smith, and my father, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work,

54 Including the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead, were also in the spirit world.

55 I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.

56 Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.

Many of the noble and great ones were reserved. So there was clearly gradations in valiance among spirits. We also learn something about this in Abraham 3:22–23, which says:

22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

We learn that there were noble and great ones. It even says that some of the souls were good. It also talks about making rulers out of the noble and great ones. Another indication that there were gradations of valiance amongst spirits.

Now, let’s turn to Alma 13:3–4. It tells us:

3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.

4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.

They were prepared from the foundation of the world on account of their exceeding faith and good works, in the first place (or first estate) being left to choose good or evil. They chose good and exercised great faith. Because of that, they were called to “this holy calling.” So they received particular blessings because of their valiance in the pre-mortal life.

There are several quotes about this that I would like to share, as well. We have this from Joseph Fielding Smith:

“During the ages in which we dwelt in the pre-mortal state we not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability, or the lack of it, but we were also where such progress could be observed. It is reasonable to believe that there was a Church organization there. The heavenly beings were living in a perfectly arranged society. Every person knew his place. Priesthood, without any question, had been conferred and the leaders were chosen to officiate. Ordinances pertaining to that pre-existence were required and the love of God prevailed. Under such conditions it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual. He knew not only what each of us could do, but what each of us would do when put to the test and when responsibility was given us. Then, when the time came for our habitation on mortal earth, all things were prepared and the servants of the Lord chosen and ordained to their respective missions”

(Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 50–51).

This comes from Doctrines of Salvation:

“There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body”

(Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:65–66).

From Norman W. Gardner, we have this:

In our premortal life, we were taught lessons that prepared us to assist Heavenly Father in bringing about the salvation of His children (see D&C 138:56). We also had the agency to follow and obey God. Some of Father’s children distinguished themselves through their “exceeding faith and good works” and were foreordained, or given assignments, to serve in specific ways on earth (Alma 13:3). The greatest of those who followed Heavenly Father back then was His firstborn spirit son, Jesus Christ—or Jehovah, as He was known there.

What We Know about Premortal Life, By Norman W. Gardner, Seminaries and Institutes

From Bruce R. McConkie:

From these [John 10:14,27; Rom 8:17,29; 9:11; Eph 1:4] and a host of other passages, it is clear that people do not all have the same talent for recognizing truth and believing the doctrines of salvation. Some heed the warning voice and believe the gospel; others do not. (Page 34.) No two persons are born with the same talents and capacities; no two are rooted in the same soil of circumstances; each is unique. The cares of this world, gold and honor and power and renown, the lusts of the flesh, the chains of past sins, and a thousand other things — all exert their influence upon us. But in the final sense the answer stems back to premortality…. And the talent of greatest worth was that of spirituality, or it enables us to hearken to the Holy Spirit and accept that gospel which prepares us for eternal life. Men are not born equal. They enter this life with the talents and capacities developed in preexistence….

Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pg 33.

And from B. H. Roberts, we read:

I have called attention to these passages to prove that there were some spirits who dwelt with God, so wicked and rebellious that they had to be cast out of heaven, and became the devil and his angels; as well as some who had developed such nobility of character, that God had set them apart or ordained them to be his rulers. Between these two extremes of good and bad, obedient and rebellious were, I doubt not, all degrees of faithfulness and nobility of conduct; and I hazard the opinion that the amount and kind of development in that pre-existent state influences the character in this life, and brings within reach of men privileges and blessings commensurate with their faithfulness in the spirit world. Yet, I would not be understood as holding the opinion that those born to wealth and ease, whose lives appear to be an unbroken round of pleasure and happiness, must therefore have been spirits in their first estate that were very highly developed in refinement, and very valiant for God and his Christ.

B. H. Roberts, The Gospel and Man’s Relationship to Deity, pg. 279.

So it’s quite clear that we received some blessings here in this life based off how valiant we were in the pre-mortal life. What other quotes or scriptures do you know of regarding this topic?

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Nov 27

Gratitude – A Commandment

The Lord requires gratitude, and we are better by having it. We can never have too much, in fact. So, I wanted to chat a little about gratitude in my post today.

Let’s see what the scriptures have to say about gratitude. Let’s turn to D&C 59:21 which says:

21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

Pretty clear that we should be thankful for everything that the Lord has given us.

This is consistent with 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which tells us:

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

It is interesting to note that when Lehi’s sons returned with the plates, the very first thing they did was to thank the Lord. But they didn’t just say a quick prayer and thank Him, they offered a sacrifice and burnt offerings. They may have even built an altar for this purpose. Then, once they had done that, Lehi looked at the plates. But the very first thing they did was to offer thanks. We see this in 1 Nephi 5:9–10, which tell us:

9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.

10 And after they had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning.

In Alma 34:38, we are commanded to live in thanksgiving daily:

38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.

From the Gospel Topics section of the Church website, under Gratitude, we learn:

“The Lord has promised, ‘He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious’ (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19). Gratitude is an uplifting, exalting attitude. People are generally happier when they have gratitude in their hearts. We cannot be bitter, resentful, or mean-spirited when we are grateful.”

For a further understanding of gratitude, I would highly recommend studying in detail the Gratitude entry in the Gospel Topics section of the Church website. There are plenty of talks, chapters from books and manuals, videos, and a lot more on the topic of gratitude. Take a look:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/gratitude?lang=eng

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Nov 25

Faith and Works

Recently, there was a question that came up as to whether we need faith or works or both for exaltation. There has been a bunch of debate on this topic. I wanted to weigh in on how I understand it.

First off, let’s see what the scriptures have to say about faith and works. Let’s turn to James 2:14–22, which tells us:

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

For me, this is one of the clearest passages in the scriptures on this topic. “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” We need both faith and works, clearly. But why is that the case?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks informs us:

Many Bible and modern scriptures speak of a final judgment at which all persons will be rewarded according to their deeds or works or the desires of their hearts. But other scriptures enlarge upon this by referring to our being judged by the condition we have achieved.

It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.

Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” General Conference Report, 2000

I feel like Elder Oaks explains it rather well. Part of our judgment will be on what we have become. To become something, you have to practice being that thing. That means actions that are in harmony with that goal.

For example, if you want to become more like the Savior, one way you could do that is through charity. So, you do your best to practice having charity until it becomes part of you.

It feels to me personally like this is the main reason that works matter just as much as faith does.

See also: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2000/11/the-challenge-to-become?lang=eng

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Nov 22

Sustaining Our Leaders

Sometimes we may question whether direction that comes from our leaders is truly inspired. We wonder if we are the best person suited for the calling or whether it truly came from the Lord. Perhaps we take issue with correction that we have received from our bishop.

Let’s take a look at what the scriptures say about this. In Doctrine and Covenants 1:38, it says:

“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.”

We can see that if direction or correction comes to us from a leader, we are to consider it as having come from the Lord. As far as we are concerned, their direction should be considered as law for us. We should also remember that we have sustained them.

When we sustain someone, we let the Lord know that we will uphold them. We make a promise. Regarding this, President Henry B. Eyring has said:

“By raising your hand to sustain, you make a promise. You make a promise with God, whose servants these are, that you will sustain them.”

These humble servants of Heavenly Father have been called by inspiration to the positions which they hold. They carry the mantle of that calling. Part of that mantle is the ability to receive revelation regarding the fulfilling of that calling.

In the Institute manual for the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1, we are informed:

“No man, however strong he may be in the faith, however high in the Priesthood, can speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and find fault with God’s authority on the earth without incurring His displeasure.”

What can we do if we find ourselves at odds with one of our leaders? First off, we would do well to internalize D&C 1:38 that we reviewed above. Also, we could pray to have a testimony of their direction and for the desire to follow it. We could fast for them that they might be inspired to do and speak the will of the Lord.

If your bishop gives you council, the very best thing you can do in the Lord’s eyes is to follow it. Do as you are directed, and the Lord will bless you for it. I have seen this happen in my own life.

See also: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/04/34eyring?lang=eng

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