Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dartmouth and the University of Michigan-Reaping the Whirlwind

I have watched for five decades, since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the liberalization of college campuses.  Not only politically, but sexually, and permitting more and more extreme behavior such as excessive drinking, and as we saw at Penn State, even child molestation. The young, with little perspective, many without religious and/or moral moorings, have traditionally found the freedom of college heady; they cheer the liberty and see little reason to curb it.

But five decades into it, really many more than that if you read the history of higher education, we are seeing the unintended but warned of consequences surfacing. Within the past ten days the President of Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, Philip Hanlon, publicly acknowledged that this, one of the premiere undergraduate institutions in the land, faces serious problems that threaten to “hijack” “Dartmouth’s promise.” It really is a special place–with a 245 year legacy! As two examples, Hanlon pointed out that this year’s graduating class will produce the 74th and 75th Rhodes Scholars to come out of Dartmouth, and of 20 Thiel Fellows, three hail from the school. (Not to mention that in its earlier days its physicians probably saved the life, and certainly the leg of Joseph Smith when he was about 9-years-old–the only people in America that could have done it at the time.)  

Hanlon addressed the University on April 16.  Despite Dartmouth’s educational and intellectual legacy, he warned that three specific things were at issue, which he described as “extreme behavior.” Those included, sexual assault, excessive drinking, and exclusivity bordering on racism–all of which threatened the social fabric of the Dartmouth community–and all of which the perpetrators consider “acceptable fun.” The school’s reputation is suffering.  Consequently student applications were down 14% last year and a Title IX investigation is underway at the school. Hanlon has been at this problem since taking over the helm several years ago, and he reported that the school’s efforts were beginning to produce positive results, but he warned, the progress should not be confused with success. Therefore, he was stepping up measures to further meet the big three issues, including a zero tolerance “sexual assault disciplinary policy.” He did not elaborate further on this policy or any of the several other measures he mentioned. His purpose was to invite the entire university community to assist in redirecting the social environment of the school.  It was impressive to read that this man was directly confronting the issue.  “Dartmouth WILL take the lead in American education by bringing campus life to a safe, sustainable place.”  “We welcome the high expectations,” he said, “And we will deliver.”  Lets pray that he does.(1)

On 20 April, The Michigan Daily online, carried a column by Sam Gringlas.  Hanlon had been the University Provost at the University of Michigan before going to Dartmouth.  Gringlas noted Hanlon’s address to his school and reported that the University of Michigan was also undergoing a Title IX investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for alleged violations.  

And so the whirlwinds swirl in the North and Northeast.  These problems not only have their genesis in the liberalization of American culture, but they also grow out of many other societal problems that remain unresolved such as poverty and racial inequality.  But the one thing we rarely hear about publicly, though if you talked with the teachers in the classroom most would likely acknowledge it to be the case, is that many of these problems stem from the home environment out of which the youth come.  Fractured, poorly led or leaderless altogether, dysfunctional, irreligious, valueless families produce similar fruit.  For all of their good-faith efforts at Michigan and Dartmouth, committees,  school policies, and programs are really only a finger in the dike.  

President David O. McKay not only said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home,” but in 1968, he wrote in the introduction to that year’s Family Home Evening Manual in which he said:
Would you have a strong virile nation?--then keep your homes pure.  Would you reduce delinquency and crime?--then lessen the number of broken homes.  It is time that civilized peoples realized that the home largely determines whether children shall be of high or low character.  Homebuilding, therefore, should be the paramount purpose of parents and of the nation.(2)
I know the nation did not hear him and I wonder if many Latter-day Saints did.

Lets think together again, soon.

Notes: 

1.   Philip J. Hanlon, "It Is Time for Dartmouth to Change," address of 16  April 2014, Hanover, New Hampshire, at the Vital Speeches of the Day, website, available to subscribers.  However, you can also find it online here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/prepared-remarks-by-philip-j-hanlon-president-of-dartmouth-college/2014/04/16/149e56b2-c5ad-11e3-9f37-7ce307c56815_story.html

2.  David O. McKay, "To Parents in the Church," Family Home Evening Manual 1968, (Salt Lake City: Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1968), iii, emphasis added.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.: Our Wives and Our Mothers in the Eternal Plan, One of the Classic Talks In the History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

Introduction: 


I read this talk for the first time on 21 April 2014!  Since it is really one of the great and classic talks in the history of the Church, especially on the subject of the role of women as presented in Church doctrine, I cannot explain why it has taken all of my life to finally come across it!  And I, therefore, am ashamed.  I wish I could have read it when I came home from my mission at age 21 so it would have blessed my whole life.  Having failed to get it early enough to do my wife and family much good, I must now consider it God’s gift of reward for my diligent efforts the past half dozen years.  A reward?  Yes, reward of opportunity–opportunity to repent!  In that spirit I am reproducing it here whole, inasmuch as I have not been able to find an electronic copy on the Internet.  I found it in an archive of The Relief Society Magazine which is online, but I was unable to copy the talk and turn it into electronic format.  I have typed the entire thing for myself and for you.

Why am I so high on this particular talk?  It is difficult to capture my feelings about it in ordinary words and it requires extraordinary words.  Following the introductory background which occupies about 1/3 of the talk, President Clark teaches about women and their role in the Plan of Salvation, particularly their role as mothers.  Do not get discouraged in this first third of the talk–it really is necessary doctrinal foundation upon which to build a correct understanding of woman’s role.  He begins with the point that one of the primary purpose of mortality is to create a family, to reproduce and provide bodies for the myriads of spirits in the premortal life, because the plan was that they should all come to earth to receive a body and have mortal experience.  If this did not happen the creation of the world and all that was in it would have be in vain and the purposes of God would come to naught. Adam, however, was powerless to do this himself; he needed a helpmeet.  President Clark emphasizes this repeatedly. Eve’s role and the role of women in the plan was to provide the bodies for God’s spirit children and he describes at length how the body forms inside the woman and follows the eternal pattern so that, except in rare instances, the body is in perfect order down to the last jot and tittle.  Only woman can do this, and President Clark calls it an act of “service the Priesthood could not do” for God’s plan and to humankind.  Eve’s daughters must build a body for every spirit that is to come into mortality, “a body that the spirit can call its own for the span of time not only, but for the expanse of eternity....”  This is a necessary prerequisite for the perfection of God’s children. One blessed woman had the privilege of “building” the physical tabernacle of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Jehovah of the Old Testament and she was called blessed among women.  President Clark notes that since all men and women possess the potential to become gods and godesses, that every mother potentially has the same opportunity as Mary had! What a vision; what a perspective!  When understood in this light, the bearing of children, though fraught with pain and danger for the woman, becomes the greatest privilege and power God grants to his daughters, and one for which they will earn the unending gratitude and praise of their husbands and children when they arrive with her in the Celestial Kingdom.

President Clark then describes in almost scriptural language the woman’s continuing role of raising, nurturing, teaching, and bringing to maturity her children and he imagines in the most inspired language what the mother might say to her Heavenly Father when she arrives safely in the Kingdom with her children.  These brief expressions capture the true essence and meaning and purpose of woman’s work in mortality and should be posted on every refrigerator in every household in the Church.  He continues on to imagine what the Father will say to these mothers, and that the “Priesthood will wish to proclaim their debt to these helpmeets without whom the Priesthood could not have worked out their destiny.”

This is one of the most breathtaking talks I have read.  It is breathtaking in its vision (my wife even said she thought it sounded like he had seen some of these things in vision), in the scope, depth, breadth and height as well as the grandeur of this noble gospel perspective of motherhood and family. I have not read a more exalted, noble, inspiring view of women and particularly their blessing to create another human body. When we are young we do not, and perhaps for most cannot understand this view.  This perspective seems to be won only by deep study, deep pondering, much time and experience, effort, fasting and prayer, and the blessing of the Spirit. I have been studying the temple and because I am a sealer, temple marriage and family, for over six years and I freely admit that this address not only encapsulated most of what I have learned about the sacredness and eternal nature of marriage and family in that study, but it also has in many ways sent my spirit soaring around in celestial realms and crystalized my understanding of motherhood far beyond my understanding despite the intense effort I have invested prior to today. 

I encourage you to copy this entire address and print it out for your files.  I encourage spouses to discuss it together.  I encourage parents to discuss it with children in Family Home Evening or other appropriate times.  I encourage parents of older children, about to be or already married to share it with them as soon as possible to give them as much time as possible to take advantage of its vision, perspective, and doctrine.  Most of all I encourage all readers of this talk to seek through prayer a testimony of the truthfulness of the doctrines taught in it.  If a man and a woman were to receive a deep, abiding testimony of the truth of President Clark’s teachings and follow them it will change their lives and change the world.  It is calculated to divorce us from the many, many lesser attachments of this world and motivate us to concentrate on that which is really important–an eternal, exalted family.  It will lead to a greater number of God’s children being saved and exalted.  It is truly one of the great addresses in The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints.

Danel W. Bachman


Our Wives and Our Mothers in the Eternal Plan


President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

[Delivered at the general session of the general Relief Society conference held in the Tabernacle, Thursday afternoon, October 3, 1946.]

As I look out over this great audience, Sister Spafford, I wonder where you are going to put the Priesthood tomorrow.
I am greatly honored in being asked to address you again.  It seems to me only last conference that this honor was accorded me before.

I would like to endorse all that our good sisters have said here today, and to congratulate Sister Spafford on the far vision which she has of the work of your great organization, the greatest organization of its kind in the world. I pray that the blessings of the Lord may be with the Relief Society, for you do a service which no other organization in the Church can do.

My subject today is a request subject.  Some months ago, before a stake conference, I gave a little  talk which some of your officers heard, and thought that you might be interested if I repeated it, elaborating it somewhat. I apologize for reading it but I had so much to say that I wanted to say reasonably carefully, that I thought my only safety would be in writing it out, and therefore, I shall read it to you.

To find the place of our wives and mothers in the eternal plan, we must trace out the creation and peopling of this earth from “the beginning,” yet remembering the Lord has said that “unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning” (Doc. and Cov. 29:33; and see Doc. and Cov. 39:1; 20:26; 61:1; 76:4; 88; 6:13; 93:8-10; Moses 1:3; Ps. 90:2; 102:27) and remembering also that as to this earth John declared: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God,” (John 1:1-2) and remembering further that, in our day, the Lord has made clear that for this earth “Man was also in the beginning with God” (Doc. and Cov. 93:29).

I shall trace out the account of the creation according to my understanding of the sequence of the scriptures.

The Lord has declared to us in our day that he “looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made” (Doc. and Cov. 38:1).

He told Abraham, having first shown him “the intelligences that were organized before the world was”: “I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen” and “organized” them (Abraham 3:21-22). Thereafter, God held, in the due course of our mundane creation as recorded in scriptural sequence, a Great Council in Heaven, in which it seems all of us may have participated, and he told Abraham that he, God, then stood in the midst of these intelligences, and “among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good ... and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits ... and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born” (Abraham 3:22-23).

In the Great Council, so convened, two plans were presented for creating and peopling an earth. The one by Satan proposed to destroy the agency of man and to redeem all mankind that not one soul be lost. Men were to be mere automatons (Moses 4:1-4). This plan was rejected because all growth and progress come by work and overcoming obstacles.

The other plan, proposed by the Only Begotten, left man his free agency, that he might become strong and advance in learning, knowledge, wisdom, and righteousness by conquering error. As part of his plan the Only Begotten proposed:
We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (Abraham 3:24).
This plan was accepted.

“And then,” says the record, “the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth” (Abraham 4:1).

The scriptures hold one language, that the Only Begotten Son was the actual workman who built the world, as well as all that exists upon it, plant, animal, and man. John, in his great hymn opening his Gospel, from which I have already quoted sang:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men ... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:1-14).
Moreover, in a mighty vision, Moses, by the Spirit of God:

Beheld the earth, yea even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, ... And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore .... And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me. And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth (Moses 1:27-28, 31-32).

We might observe, furthermore, that God has other worlds in the universe.  He declared to Moses;
And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten .... For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them (Moses 1:33, 35; 7:30, 36).
After the Lord described the creations of the earth in the six “days” mentioned in Genesis and in the Book of Moses, or in the six “times” mentioned in the Book of Abraham, he made to Moses the following declaration, paralleled in his words to Abraham:
For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air; But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.  And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word (Moses 3:5-7).
Abraham records the creation of man in these words:
And the Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit (that is, the man’s spirit), and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul (Abraham 5:7).
Thus, as to this earth, there were two creations, first the spiritual (Gen. 1; 2:5; Moses 3; 3:5; 6:51; Abraham 4; 5:5), and then the temporal (Gen. 2:1-25; Moses 3:6-24; Abraham 5:6-18; Doc. and Cov. 29:31), as we name them, though we should remember that, in our day, the Lord has told us, speaking of things “temporal” and things “spiritual,” and contrasting them, “all things unto me are spiritual.”  (Doc. and Cov. 29:34.)

According to the sequence of the scriptural record, the Lord, after making man “from the dust of the ground,” planted a Garden, “eastward in Eden”; then made plant life to grow “out of the ground,” with “living souls.” In Eden, God planted also the two fateful trees-the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, concerning which God gave specific commandments to Adam. He caused a river to flow “out of Eden to water the garden.”  (Moses 3:8-14; Abraham 5:7 ff.; Gen. 2:8 ff.)

The Lord then recorded:
And I, the Lord God, took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it (Moses 3:15; and see Abraham 5:11; Gen. 2:15).
Following this in the scriptural sequence, the record reads:
And out of the ground I, the Lord God, formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and commanded that they should come unto Adam, to see what he would call them; and they were also living souls; for I, God, breathed into them the breath of life, and commanded that whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the name thereof ... but as for Adam, there was not found an help meet for him (Moses 3:19-20; and see Abraham 5:20; Gen. 2:19).
Thus Adam had some part in this temporal creation, just what part is not definitely set out in the scriptural record, except that he did give the animals their names. By this we might possibly understand that at least he took a sort of census, checked over the creations, perhaps making sure that each of the great animal families was represented by types that were capable of being the progenitors from which might spring and develop the various types and sub-types and species now extant, in the same way and by the same natural processes that the different races and peoples of today’s earth stem back to a common progenitor pair–Adam and Eve. Thus, on the scriptural record, Adam’s service may have determined when the creation was complete. But that point is not important in our discussion today.

What were the processes of creation?  How was it done?

Paul declared to the Hebrews that “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3)–faith which is declared to be the gift of God (Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 12:9). Now Paul defined faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

Orson Pratt said:
And as faith is the moving cause of all action in temporal concerns, so it is in spiritual ....  By this we understand that the principle of power which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed, was faith .... Had it not been for the principle of faith the worlds would never have been framed, neither would man have been formed of the dust (Lectures on Faith, Sec. 1:12, 15-16).
Through what instrumentality was his faith employed?  We have already given the scriptures declaring that the Only Begotten did the work, with help from others acting under the authority and command of the Father (Abraham 4). What was this authority? Brigham Young said;
If anybody wants to know what the Priesthood of the Son of God is, it is the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue for ever and ever. It is that system which brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their revolutions–their days, weeks, months, years, their seasons and times and by which they are rolled up as a scroll, as it were, and go into a higher state of existence (Discourses, page 201; 1941 edition, page 130).
The Prophet Joseph has told us:
The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years; that Christ is the Great High Priest; Adam next and that Adam obtained his priesthood in the Creation, before the world was formed (Smith’s Teachings, pp. 157-158).
Up to this point in the eternal course of world progression, as recorded in the scriptures, the Priesthood had performed the full service rendered, all had been done in the spiritual and temporal creations by the Great High Priest, with Adam, who stands “next,” and others assisting (See Abraham 4). Plant life had been so created that by the laws of reproduction set up to govern that life, plants might propagate their own kinds; animal life had been created, male and female, that they might reproduce each its own kind.  

Now, again following the scriptural order of events, it is recorded before the record is made that Adam was given a body ‘from the dust of the earth,’ that God said to him (and it maybe to all the hosts assembled): “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Moses 2:28; Abraham 4:28). Upon the fulfillment of this command, so given, depended the whole Plan of the Great Council in Heaven, because those who kept their “first estate,” must have opportunity to come to earth, to obtain mortal bodies, that they might then be proved in this “second estate,” “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them ... and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:25-26).

To provide mortal bodies and a mortal life and experience for the waiting spirits, was the very purpose of the creation.

Adam, still in intimate association with the Lord, must have remembered at least a part of what he knew before he was made “from the dust of the ground,” and, if so, he must have recalled the eternal truth of motherhood, so beautifully voiced by Eliza R. Snow in her great poem:
In the heavens are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason, truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.
Yet, notwithstanding the great powers of the Priesthood which he held, Adam was powerless to go forward by himself, to the providing of earthly tabernacles for the spirits eager to enter into their “second estate,” so that, as the Lord’s plan provided, they might have opportunity to “prove” themselves, and, so doing, “have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” Under the eternal law, there must be a father not only, but a mother as well.  “And I, God,” declared the Father, “created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them” (Moses 2:27; Gen. 1:27).

To work all this out, it was indispensable that the Priesthood, powerful as it was, must have help.  Adam must have an helpmeet.

We will recall that, according to the sequence of the record, the Lord, after he laid out the Garden of Eden and watered it, said:
And I, the Lord God, took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it (Moses 3:15; Abraham 5:11; Gen. 2:15).
Thereafter, the Lord explained to Adam and gave to him the commandments regarding the tree of life and the tree o the knowledge of good and evil.

After the Lord God placed Adam in the Garden, he spoke thus:
And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him (Moses 3:18; Abraham 5:14; Gen. 2:18).
One may easily believe that some longing or unexpressed desire of Adam, alone in the magnificence and glory of Eden, drew this expression of purpose from the loving Father. For Adam, still in communion with the Father, not yet forgetting that in Heaven parents are not single and that he had a mother there, and still recalling (as we have just pointed out) the Great Plan presented to the Council of Heaven which provided that all the intelligences there assembled were to have the chance to come to earth, receive bodies, and, desiring it, “keep their second estate,” (Abraham 3:25 ff) Adam, with all this in mind, must have realized the great responsibility which rested upon him; he must have known the part he was to play (for, we must remember, not yet was he shut out from the Father), and he knew, what later, after the Fall, Eve was to sing, (Moses 5:11) that ‘he must have seed, that he must know good from evil, that he might have the joy of redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.’ Adam alone, no matter what his Priesthood, could not bring this about.  He must have a helper.

But, Adam wandered alone in the glorious Garden in Eden, which he had dressed and adorned–the Garden of Eden with its stately trees, its lovely flowers heavy with sweet odors, its grassy swards,  its magnificent vistas with the far reaches of its placid rivers, with its gaily plumed birds, its lordly and graceful beasts, all at peace, for sin was not yet in the world. Through all this magnificence Adam wandered, lonely, unsolaced, uncompanioned, the only being of his kind in the whole world, his life unshared in a solitude of exquisite elegance, and, what was of far greater moment, his mission, as he knew it to be, impossible of fulfillment, except the Father gave him an helpmeet.
So, obedient to the necessities of the commandment given that man should multiply and replenish the earth; pursuant to his promise, after he had placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, that since it was not good that man should be alone, God would make an helpmeet for him; and resultant from his observation, following the record of the creation of the animal kingdom “out of the ground” (Moses 3:19-20), that ‘there was not found an helpmeet for Adam,’ the Father created and brought to Adam, his wife, Eve.  Then Adam cried aloud:
This I know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man (Moses 3:23).
Glorified by the joy of this great blessing that had come to him, Adam announced the great law of marriage, the union of man and wife, joined together by the power of the Priesthood for time and for all eternity:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh (Moses 3:24; Abraham 5:18; Genesis 2:24).
So came Eve, an helpmeet to the Priesthood mission of Adam–Eve the last created being in the creation of the world, without whom the whole creation of the world would have been in vain and the purposes of God have come to naught. Receiving her, Adam took her in her purity, took her, radiant and divinely fair, into the Garden he had dressed and kept for her, into the bridal home he had built, into the Garden that from then till now has been the symbol of heaven on earth, there to begin together their earthly life, that was finally to bring opportunity for salvation and exaltation to the untold myriads of spirits then waiting for the mortal tabernacles these two were to make it possible for them to possess.

The Only Begotten had fashioned the world, had filled it with beautiful flowers and lofty forests, with grasses and grains, and multitudes of living creatures; Adam had had some part in this. But the key to the glorious arch of temporal, earthly creation for man was still missing.  So Eve came to build, to organize, through the power of the Father, the bodies of mortal men, to be a creator of bodies under the faculties given her by the Priesthood of God, so that God’s design and the Great Plan might meet fruition.

This was her calling; this was her blessing, bestowed by the Priesthood. This is the place of our wives and of our mothers in the Eternal Plan. They are not bearers of the Priesthood; they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the Priesthood; nor are they laden with its responsibilities; they are builders and organizers under its power, and partakers of its blessings, possessing the complement of the Priesthood powers and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.

Millenniums later, Paul, under the inspiration of God, was to declare:
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God (1 Cor. 11:11-12).
When, after the Fall, both Adam and Eve knowing good from evil, the Lord promised them redemption and Adam prophesied concerning their posterity. Eve, hearing the glorious Plan and the destiny of herself and Adam, was gladdened, and broke into a great song of praise:
Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient (Moses 5:11).
From that day, when Eve thus placed first among her blessings the power to bear children, the greatest glory of true womanhood has been motherhood.

What a miracle is motherhood; how nearly infinite is mother. She fashions in her womb the most complex structure known to man, the whole visible universe being, in contrast, the simplest of creations. From the cell she herself has built from the dust of the earth, fructified by the father cell formed also of dust of the earth by the father, she mounts cell on cell, each born of clay, till the normal man is brought into the world–built of head and trunk and limbs, of bone and flesh and blood, of brain, eyes, ears, and mouth, of muscles and sinews and nerves, of heart and lungs and stomach and intestines, of liver and spleen and kidneys, of glands and lymphs, of arms, hands and fingers, of legs, feet and toes, all of these and every vein and artery and nerve, every nail upon the fingers, every joint and muscle, each and every one in its never-varying place (save some prank of malformation), never the feet where the head should be, never the heart and lungs blow and the liver and spleen and kidneys above, but all in perfect order, every man brought forth organized as were those who went before, as they will be who come after, the pattern in all its infinite detail faithfully followed down to the last jot and tittle of the human frame–a body fashioned in the very image of the Son who was in the image of the Father. What an infinitely glorious concept, what a supreme destiny, and what a divine-like achievement.

This is wife’s and mother’s task and opportunity and did she fail so that new body-forms came or that none came, then the Great Plan would fail and God’s purpose would come to naught. They must build in the likeness of the Father and the Son. This must never change.

Thus she must go forward always, from now till time, being no more, merges into eternity, that all the spirits keeping their “first estate,” shall come into their “second estate” to prove whether they shall live that estate and be given life everlasting.  Thus Eve’s daughters, under the destiny God gave to them, must build for every spirit, a body that the spirit can call its own for the span of time not only, but for the expanse of eternity through the resurrection, so that every soul, willing to work and sacrifice for it, can ‘become perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect.’ Eve’s daughters only can do the service that thus makes possible this perfection.  The Priesthood cannot do this without the helpmeet.

Her spirit breathing to her mind this divine truth, the mother folds the newborn to her breast, and into her soul comes the mother love that lives thence forever, for this tiny being is ‘bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh.’

The crowning glory of motherhood came to the daughters of Eve, when, in Bethelehem, there was born to Mary of Nazareth, a mortal, the Christ child, begot of the Father. Gabriel “sent from God,” had foretold to Mary, “Hail ... highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed ... thou among women” (Luke 1:28).  And later Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, about to bear John, the Great Forerunner of whom  the Christ declared, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11; see Luke 7:28). Elizabeth “filled with the Holy Ghost, spake out with a loud voice” to Mary, who came to visit her, saying, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:41-42).  

Then Mary, likewise inspired, broke forth into her great song of joy and humble triumph: 
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden; for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever (Luke 1:46 ff.).
So spake this mortal mother soon to bear the mortal, yet deified Christ.  The spirit of prophecy entered her soul, and, recalling the past, and being enlightened as to the future, she forecast the work and service, the love and character of him whom she was to bring forth–the Christ, the Redeemer of the World.

So measurably may every mother who has lived and is living righteously, envision something of the destiny of her offspring, if it be God’s will.

But the full glory of motherhood is not yet reached when her child comes forth into this world of trial, nor is her opportunity for service passed when her creation breathes the breath of life. Still from the dust of the earth she must fabricate the food that keeps alive and nourishes the little one. She feeds not only, but clothes it. She cares for it by day and watches over it by night.  When illness comes, she nurses it with that near divine love that fills her heart. She gently leads its faltering steps, till it walks alone.  She helps to frame its first lisps and teaches it the full art of speech. As consciousness matures, she deftly sows into the plastic mind the love of God, of truth, and, as the years flow by and youth comes on, she adds the love of honor, of honesty, of sobriety, of industry, of chastity.  She teaches, bit by bit, loyalty and reverence and devotion.  She implants and makes part of the growing, virgin intellect an understanding of the restored gospel. She steadies the swaying will when temptation first comes.  She builds into the warp and woof of her creation, self-control, independence, righteousness, love of God, and a desire and will to serve him.

Thus to the full stature of manhood and womanhood, mother guides, incites, entreats, instructs, directs, on occasion commands, the soul for which she built the earthly home, in its march onward to exaltation. God gives the soul its destiny, but mother leads it along the way.

When the soul shall return to the presence of the Father of All, the worthy mothers will be there to welcome their worthy children, and with humble pride born of righteous achievement, they will reverently bow and humbly speak:

Father, we come back to thee with the righteous souls whose earthly bodies thou lettest us to build, ‘bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh,’ all to thine everlasting honor and glory and to our blessing and exaltation forever.

Blessed were our wombs, for they bore children, even as thou didst command, in the image of thine Only Begotten, who is in the image of thee.

Richly fruitful have been our blessings on earth, for we come back home to thee with these thy children.

Great is the joy of this the end of our labors, for these souls have been saved with eternal life.

Blessed were we in our example set, for thou gavest us the power to live worthily; in the teaching of thy children, thou didst give us a goodly measure of wisdom.

Blessed were we in our faith, for thou didst richly endow us with this thy gift.

Blessed were we in our understanding, for thou didst cause the Holy Ghost to enlighten our minds.

Blessed were we in our living, for thou didst give us patience and kindliness, and forgiving natures, with charity and unbounded love.

Blessed were we that thou didst send these spirits to the bodies which we by thy power fashioned, for they were choice spirits.

Blessed were we in their rearing, for they walked always in thy paths; and in their maturity they departed not from the ways of their youth.

Blessed were we in their companionship, for they were loving and kind, respectful and obedient to us.

Blessed were we in the mortal fathers of our children’s bodies, for they gave us comfort and help, and love and kindness unmeasured, and likewise walked worthily before thee.

Our souls cry out to thee, our Father, in worship of thee, for thou hast been with us from the beginning and hast covenanted to be with us during all eternity.  Honor and Glory and love to thee forever, and forever.

Then we shall believe the Father will say to the mothers:

Well done, thou good and faithful handmaids, enter thou into the rest I have prepared for those who builded the mortal temples in which dwelt the spirits I created, that they might keep their second estate, for without the keeping of their second estate they could not have “glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:26).

And then the Priesthood will wish to proclaim their debt to these their helpmeets without whom the Priesthood could not have worked out their destiny. And the Priesthood shall bow in reverence and in love unbounded before these mothers who did the service the Priesthood could not do, and thank and praise them for bearing their children, a service without which God’s purposes had failed and the intelligences which God called around him “in the beginning” had been deprived of the divine destiny God marked out for them in the Great Council held in Heaven before the earth was formed.

These, Wives and Mothers in Israel, are your rewards and your destinies. And your offspring, saved and exalted in the presence of God, will never forget you, will ever bless you, and will sing hymns of eternal gratitude for the bodies you gave them and taught them to make the Temples of the Spirit of God.

God be thanked for the knowledge he has given us of all this. Overflow our hearts with gratitude for this great destiny, I ask, in the name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., "Our Wives and Our Mothers in the Eternal Plan," The Relief Society Magazine, 33, no. 12 (December 1946): 795-804.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Fifteen: Joseph Smith And The Return Of Elijah

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet



Evidence Fifteen: 
Joseph Smith And The Return Of Elijah© 


On the 23 of September 1823 the ancient American prophet Moroni appeared to the seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith. This marvelous angel came three times that night and again the next morning–each time repeating the same instructions. Among those, the Prophet later recorded these words:
...he commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament.  He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as it reads in our books, he quoted it thus: For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. (1)
It has always impressed me that Joseph was so sharp that he knew that Moroni had changed these verses.  I am equally impressed with the significance of the changes. Is it possible that one of the reasons for Moroni appearing four times was to give the young lad time to mentally process what he was being told and to then answer questions which he may have, thus the repetitions were not just to ingrain the information deeply in his mind but to actually teach him what the instructions meant? Is it possible that Moroni actually pointed out to Joseph the differences between what was in the KJV and what he was reciting? To me the answer to these questions is a definite “yes”. I think that is a reasonable assumption and we have some evidence that this is the case which I will discuss in another blog. At any rate, Joseph Smith had a mind quick enough to pick up important details, a mind retentive enough to remember the exact wording of Moroni and to reproduce it in writing.  Both are impressive clues about the quality of the mind of Joseph Smith. But I have another purpose in bringing this passage before you.

Now that we have these prophecies, we are faced with only two choices. Either this event transpired as Joseph Smith said it did, or he made it up for some purpose. Under the latter option one must ask, What purpose?  If he made it up, the purpose could be sincere but misguided or more likely at least to our opponents it must be purposely fraudulent. One could argue that he was planning to do something with this passage to deceive the religious world. What would that plan be? Most importantly, what nefarious purpose could lay hidden in a prophecy about the coming of Elijah to reveal the priesthood and turn the hearts of the fathers and the children to each other? Why would he change the last verse quoted from saying the earth would be smitten with a curse to saying it would be “utterly wasted” at the coming of the Lord? What skulduggery lies inside such a change or in these doctrines? Those who believe Joseph Smith was a fraud must come up with reasonable answers to such questions. But they have other equally difficult matters to explain.

I suggest that the evidence points in the direction of the first option and this is another piece of evidence that adds to my conviction that he was a prophet of God. Most churches of his day and ours had no idea about what this closing prophecy of the Old Testament meant or how or when it would be fulfilled. The Jews believed it and a manifestation of this belief showed up in various ways such as leaving an empty chair at Passover for the coming of Elijah. (Incidentally, he did come on Passover in 1836, but not to the Jews! I wonder if Joseph Smith knew about the Jewish tradition or that that day was Passover in 1836?)  Most religions who accept the Old Testament have been content to passively wait for the Lord to send Elijah, “before the great and terrible day of the Lord.” There does not seem to be any great anticipation of this event because they are mutually confused as to why he would come. The passage as it stands in the Bible today is very obscure to most people. For Latter-day Saints the issue is much clearer due to the changes Moroni introduced and subsequent revelations given to Joseph Smith. Indeed, this prophecy was the foundation of the church’s doctrine of the salvation of the dead. These are topics for another time.

If Joseph Smith planned this, presumably he planned to include a fulfillment of this prophecy of the coming of Elijah, the restoration of the priesthood and the turning of the hearts. How could he bring about such a fulfillment by his own designs? Since he did not know how long he might live it seems that the temptation would be to get the fulfillment underway as quickly as possible. But no. The fulfillment did not come until thirteen years later on 3 April 1836.(2) It was apparently unanticipated by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and there is no evidence of which I am aware that either did anything between 1823 and 1836 in writing or action to further foreshadow this event. This revelation, though recorded, was not published nor included in the collection of his revelations known as the Doctrine and Covenants in his lifetime.(3) 

There is an even more difficult matter to explain in the alleged scheme. That is, how did Joseph Smith get Oliver Cowdery to see the same visions found in D&C 110, which records the fulfillment of the coming of Elijah, which he saw? In accordance with the ancient law of witnesses there were two witnesses to the appearance of Elijah. But how does one, who may be pretending or intentionally deceiving others, how does that one get someone else to go along with the plan? Assuming that it could be done, how does one then keep that co-conspirator in line the rest of his life? Especially if, as was the case with Oliver Cowdery, the two men had a serious falling out and Cowdery was excommunicated.  Wouldn’t that be the perfect reason and time for Cowdery to come forward and say, “Well, now, let me tell you how we went about making up a wonderful story about a series of visions of Jesus, Moses, Elias, and Elijah appearing in the Kirtland Temple in the Spring of 1836 following the dedication of the building.”  Where is such a statement? It does not exist. So far as I know Oliver Cowdery never retracted a single statement or disputed a single fact about any of his spiritual experiences with Joseph Smith. How could Joseph have pulled that off if he concocted this whole thing?

And that is not the end of it.  Joseph Fielding Smith, long involved in leadership in the family history (genealogical) efforts of the Church, has on several occasions pointed out that it was not until after 1836 that we see important movements in the creation of personal data records and compilations of family histories, which to him were evidence that the hearts of children and ancestors were turning toward each other. Here are two quotations from his April 1948 General Conference address as examples:
I have a little information here that I think is important, and this coming of Elijah is one of the vital things in the history of this world. It is vital to me and to you and to every other soul upon the face of the earth. Before the days of the coming of Elijah in 1836, there was no endeavor of any import to search the records of the dead. What was done, here and there, was usually where some estate was involved. The people were not turning their hearts to their dead fathers. They were not searching the records. They were not compiling them. There were no organizations or societies on the face of the earth, as far as I can learn, gathering records of the dead, before the year 1836. In 1837, however, one year later, Great Britain passed laws providing for and compelling the preservation of records of the dead. In the year 1844, the New England Historical and Genealogical Society was organized in Boston, and I think this was the first organization of the kind in the world. In 1869, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society in the city of New York was organized. Then followed rapidly other societies up and down the Atlantic coast of the United States, from Maine to Georgia. Then these organizations began to spread inland, and this spirit took hold of the people in other parts. I have visited some of these societies in various parts of the United States, and they have extended now from the east to the Pacific Ocean. In Great Britain, genealogical societies have been organized in practically every county in that land and in Scotland. These records have been kept and filed also in other countries in Europe, the countries from which the Latter-day Saints have come. The spirit has taken hold of the people, not only in the Church, but also of many who are not of the Church, and they, too, are searching the records, and compiling them, of the dead.(4)
The second:
Now here is something which I think is interesting. In 1935, Mr. T. B. Thompson published A Catalogue of British Family Histories. It included the titles and years of publication of some two thousand seventy-one families and was supposed to be a complete list of all such published records up to that date. Here are his figures from the date of the invention of printing:
From 1450 to 1600, were published 2 family histories.
From 1600 to 1700, were published 18 family histories.
From 1700 to 1800, were published 72 family histories. 
From 1800 to 1836, when Elijah came, were published 100 family histories. 
From 1837 to 1935, were published 1,879 family histories.(5)
To me this is compelling evidence that something remarkable began regarding family history in America and the UK after Elijah's return.  Here I am compelled to ask a question.   If Joseph Smith made up the story about Moroni stressing the Malachi prophecies about the return of Elijah, and if at age seventeen he somehow began constructing a complex theology of which these prophecies would become an integral part, and if he somehow persuaded Oliver Cowdery to join him in lying to the world about a vision of the appearance of Elijah in the Spring of 1836 and never deny it though he would later be excommunicated; how in the world was he able to so influence things such that today's family history movement makes genealogy one of the most prevalent hobbies in the world and genealogy sites among the most popular on the Internet?  How could he have insured that after his death and the destruction of the Nauvoo Temple and the expulsion of the Saints from Illinois that they would come to the Rocky Mountains and build four temples in Utah, to be followed up by nine more by the first half of the Twentieth Century, or that before the end of the first quarter of the Twenty-first Century there would be more than 140 operating temples--all devoted to giving some eternal substance to family relationships? As I say, all of this suggests that indeed many hearts of children and fathers are turning toward each other?  How did Joseph Smith do that?  He predicted it by bringing us Moroni's version of Malachi, but he didn't do it.  The "spirit of Elijah" did!  Joseph Smith has the most uncanny way of helping us recognize the fulfillment in our day of the most remarkable prophecies to come out of the ancient world and out of his own experiences with the Lord. He excels at answering religious questions such as, Why was Elijah to return before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?(6)

[Addendum 5 May 2014]
Last evening I read a talk by Elder David B. Haight given in General Conference in October 1990, in which he made some points similar to those above.  For the record, he said that several truths attested to the coming of Elijah.  They are:
First, no one else has claimed that the prophecy regarding Elijah’s coming in the last days has been fulfilled.
Second, the testimony of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery stands unassailable–they could not turn the hearts of the children to the fathers except by the power sent by God.
Third, neither did they have the power to persuade millions of people to turn their attention to their deceased fathers.  Remarkable indeed is the fact that organized efforts to gather genealogical information began after Elijah came in 1836.  In America, the New England Historical and Genealogical Society was organized in 1844, and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society in 1869, for the purpose of gathering genealogy.  What is known as the “Spirit of Elijah” has influenced nonmembers as well as members of the Church in this viatal activity.  The microfilming of thousands of records is continuing on a large scale throughout the world.(7)
Thank God for Joseph Smith.

Lets think together again, soon.

Notes:


1. JS-H 1:36-39, emphasis in the original.

2. See D&C 110, especially verses 13-16.

3. See Trever R. Anderson, “Doctrine and Covenants Section 110: From Vision to Canonization,” MRE thesis, Brigham Young University, 2010, for the fascinating history of the recording and publication of this revelation.

4. Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1948, p., 133.  An interesting expansion on this question, with somewhat of a corrective showing the creation of records among the Chinese and Korean clans from about A.D 1000; the 24th session of the Council of Trent, held in November 1563, which required that parish registers be kept of marriages and baptisms through the Catholic world along with confirmation of some of President Smith’s observations about genealogical societies etc., is in Jimmy B. Parker, “I Have A Question?” Ensign, (January 1977), pp. 72-73.  Others have made the same point as President Smith, for example: Matthias F. Cowley, Cowley's Talks on Doctrine, (Chicago: Northern States Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1905), pp. 131-135; George F. Richards, “Genealogy and Temple Work,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, 13 (July 1922), p. 102;  Mark E. Petersen, “Why Mormons Build Temples,” Ensign, 2 (January 1972), pp. 49, 52-53, 55.

5. Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1948, p., 135.  In Mormonism the agency accredited for this spiritual influence on people is designated “the spirit of Elijah,” which is another term for the Holy Ghost.  For just two examples among many statements about the “spirit of Elijah” as the moving force of genealogical research worldwide see, Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Century of Family History Service,” Ensign, (March 1995), p. 62; and Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1986), p. 210.  For the explanation that the spirit of Elijah is the Holy Ghost see, Russell M. Nelson, Conference Report, April 1998, p. 46, n. 9.

Many believe the ongoing development of computer and related technology is inspired by the Lord and is part of the fulfillment of this prophecy to facilitate the work of the redemption of the dead and the linking of families through the sealing powers.  See, Howard W. Hunter and Boyd K. Packer, That They May Be Redeemed, (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1977); David B. Haight, Conference Report, April 1993, p. 31;  D. Todd Christofferson, “Family History: A Conversation with Elder D. Todd Christofferson,” Religious Educator 6, no. 2 (2005): 1-2; and S. Michael Wilcox, House of Glory, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995), p. 117, for a family tradition that Brigham Young predicted such help.

6.  I will leave the many statements which Joseph Smith made about the purpose and importance of Elijah’s return and the doctrine they contain for another blog, but collectively they also add to the evidence presented here.

7. David B. Haight, “Temples and the Work Therein.” Ensign 20 (November 1990): 60. 





Friday, April 18, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Fourteen: Joseph Smith A Descendant Of Abraham And Its Significance

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet


Evidence Fourteen: 
Joseph Smith A Descendant Of Abraham And Its Significance© 


Nearly everyone, certainly nearly every Latter-day Saint, knows that God promised the ancient patriarch Abraham “in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”(1) Subsequently, many people understood this to be fulfilled through Christ who was the ultimate “seed” of Abraham. But the Book of Abraham contains a verse which expands our understanding of this promise.  It reads:
“... in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of eternal life.”(2)
Based on this understanding, John Taylor, Parley P. Pratt, and probably others taught that the leaders of God’s true Church have been descendants of Abraham. The patriarchs Isaac, Jacob, Joseph; the prophets, Moses and Aaron and on down through the Old Testament; especially Jesus the Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world, his Twelve; the Nephites and the Nephite Twelve, were all descendants of the great patriarch/prophet Abraham,(3) because it was his lineage which had the rights to the priesthood of God and thereby the right and obligation to preach the true Gospel which would bring the blessings of salvation and eternal life to the world.

Insofar as I know, no founder of a major Christian religion other than Joseph Smith claimed to be a descendant of Abraham, and thereby to have the rights to the priesthood as a fulfillment of the promises to Abraham that his “seed” would bless all the families of the earth. In fact as I said above, most Christian leaders have been content to see the complete fulfillment of these promises (as found in Genesis), in Jesus Christ. They had no reason to think otherwise, therefore, they have given no concern to their own ancient lineage.

I’m not sure how much Joseph Smith understood this principle at the outset of his ministry either,(4) but the Lord understood it and revealed line upon line the significance of the Abrahamic lineage as the Restoration progressed. True to form we discover that Joseph Smith, the great prophet of the Last Dispensation, was in the direct lineage of Abraham as he should have been in order to have the right to the priesthood which was his authority to preach the true gospel according to Abraham 2.

In 2 Nephi 3 we learn some interesting facts.  Lehi tells his son Joseph that they (Lehi and Joseph) were descendants of Joseph who was sold into Egypt and was the birthright son of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham (v. 3). Moreover, Joseph of Egypt obtained a special promise from God “that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel...a branch which was to be broken off; nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord (v. 5). He also saw that “A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins” (v. 6). He went on to give at least a dozen and a half prophecies about various aspects of the work this “choice seer” would perform for the Lord (See vss. 5-18). Of course that “choice seer” was the Prophet Joseph Smith, but so far as we know he himself never commented on these verses!

Joseph Smith’s Abrahamic lineage is confirmed in other revelations which he received throughout his life.  The most important is found in D&C 132:30-32 which reads:
30) Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins–from whose loins ye are, namely, my servant Joseph– which were to continue so long as they were in the world; and as touching Abraham and his seed, out of the world they should continue; both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them. 31) This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham....  32) Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham....
It does not seem insignificant or coincidental that as part of the Restoration of the fulness of the Gospel we should learn that the rights to the Melchizedek Priesthood belonged to the chosen and elect family of Abraham, particularly the birthright tribe of his great-grandson Joseph, this being new information added to the numerous iterations of God’s promises to Abraham in the book of Genesis. And further, that this priesthood was necessary to preach the gospel which would bring salvation and eternal life to God’s children. As with nearly everything else in the life and ministry of Joseph Smith, it is vastly important to learn that God had prepared him from the premortal life(5) to be born through this lineage (thus Joseph in Egypt could see him in vision), and that during Joseph Smith’s life the Lord would again and again emphasize his lineage as a significant factor of his divine calling, something no other founder of a major Christian church, intentional or otherwise, could or did claim.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!
Lets think together again, soon.

Notes:


1. Gen. 12:3 and 28:14 to Jacob.  See also Gen. 18:18 where Abraham is told that in his seed shall the nations of the earth be blessed.  Compare Gal. 3:8; Gen. 22:18; 26:4, Abr. 2:10 and D&C 110:12.

2. Abr. 2:11.

3. See John Taylor in JD 22:304-305, discourse of 28 August 1881, and Parley P. Pratt, “Heirship and Priesthood,” in JD 1:256-263, esp. 261, discourse of 10 April 1853.  Pratt notes that Melchizedek and others who preceded Abraham held the Melchizedek Priesthood.  His argument and mine pertain to “those who have lived since the older branches passed away, and since the transfer of the keys to Abraham and his seed.”

4. On the night of 23 September 1823 Moroni quoted Isaiah 11 to Joseph Smith which we know from subsequent revelation had a “hint” about Joseph’s genealogical origins.  If he engaged Moroni in a discussion about the meaning of this, which I believe there is evidence for, then he may well have understood very early the principles discussed in this essay.  We will consider these things in a future blog.

5.  Brigham Young said, "Joseph Smith, junior, was foreordained to come through the loins of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and so on down through the Prophets and Apostles; and thus he came forth in the last days to be a minister of salvation, and to hold the keys of the last dispensation of the fulness of times."  JD 7:290, discourse of 9 October 1859.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

President Hinckley On The Greatest Service That Any Woman Will Ever Perform

In my reading this morning I came across this remarkable statement by Gordon B. Hinckley, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, about the supreme importance of motherhood as the greatest service any woman will ever perform. It is not a message the world welcomes and unfortunately even some in the Church do not welcome it. I attribute that to not understanding correctly the plan of salvation and the doctrine of the gospel related to it. My witness is that he was a Prophet of God and his words should be given great consideration, thought, and prayer regardless of our personal preferences on the subject. The President gave these remarks to a regional conference in May 1995:
In this age when more and more women are turning to daily work, how tremendous it is, once in a while, to stop and recognize that the greatest service that any woman will ever perform will be in nurturing, teaching, lifting, encouraging, and rearing her children in righteousness and truth. There is no other thing that will compare with that regardless of what she does. 
I hope that the women of the Church will not slight their greatest responsibility in favor of a lesser responsibility. To the mothers of this church, every mother who is here this day, I want to say that, as the years pass, you will become increasingly grateful for that which you did in molding the lives of your children in the direction of righteousness and goodness and integrity and faith. 
I think I can share this with you. As I sat in the Tabernacle at the last conference and was sustained by the people of this church, there came before me in my mind’s eye, the picture of my mother when I was a little boy. And I’m sure she must have thought then that I wouldn’t amount to much because I was not an easy little boy to deal with. I am grateful that I have the opportunity in my old age to bring honor to her name.... 
It’s been the mothers who have been the great carriers and purveyors of faith through the history of this Church. I believe that with all my heart.*
Lets think together again, soon.

*Gordon B. Hinckley, address at the Heber City/Springville, Utah, regional conference, 14 May 1995, in “Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign (December 1995), p. 67.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Discovering A Great Mormon Author Of The Past, Part 1

One of the dangers of modern society is that we have been duped a bit by modern technology–that it will do the work for us. We don’t have to learn to read, concentrate, or study with all the grinding work because we can get what we want much quicker if we can watch it or hear somebody else tell us about it or read it to us. If we need information, the thinking goes, we can simply Google it. But that philosophy rests upon several erroneous assumptions. First, information may give us knowledge, but not necessarily understanding or wisdom–two forms of learning which are higher than knowing facts alone. It is much harder to Google for understanding and almost impossible to Google wisdom. Those things come at a greater price of time, desire, effort, dedication, and sweat.  It is a simple fact that not all the best things can be viewed on YouTube or be listened to from I-Tunes or in a TED talk or an audio book. Some of the best things richest in understanding and wisdom are the oldest, or at least older than this modern technology. They must be sought out and actually read, because they are not videotaped or recorded. Many may be found in the Internet Archive or the Gutenberg Project or Google Books and are floating around somewhere in the cloud. In this sense technology gives access to the understanding and wisdom of the ages, but one must still search them out and read and study them by one’s own effort.

The above tirade is a lead-in to something worth sharing. The older I grow the more I realize two things.  Because some of the greatest wisdom comes out of the past, I have to be more aggressive to identify authors and sources of such understanding and wisdom about things that are important to me, but also about things which I have never contemplated before. The second insight is that in our modern world which values the “sound bite” the slogan, and all things “new” there are few if any who are calling our attention to the wisdom of the past.  Sad to say that much of academia now not only ignore this accumulated knowledge and wisdom, but intentionally inveigh against it. Consequently, the thin gruel of modernism has replaced the deep richness given to us by thoughtful and inspired men and women in the past. The passing and forgetting of great minds and spirits of the ages comes at great loss to us individually and collectively. 

So, in one single Mormon example today (there may be more in the future), I am urging a reclamation and restoration of earlier thought. For some time I have developed a growing interest in one Latter-day Saint author who though dead less than 50 years seems all but forgotten. Yesterday while engaging in a favorite pastime of browsing in a used bookstore, I ran across several small volumes of his writings which I quickly snapped up to add to what I have already collected. His name is Richard L. Evans. He was a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was also the voice of the “Music and the Spoken Word” weekly broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Each week he gave a two-minute sermonette. These talks or parts of them were collected and published in small volumes.

As I have immersed myself in the writings of Elder Evans I have found him to be one of the great Mormon thinkers of the mid-Twentieth Century, and perhaps in the history of the Church all together. He was thoughtful, moderate, wise, and eloquent–a wonderful combination of skills to bring to this task of inspiring a radio audience weekly for decades.  He was a wordsmith par excellence.  So, I am making a plea, especially among young LDS readers to discover the writing of some of our great thinkers of the past, in this case of Richard L. Evans. He needs to be reclaimed and restored as one of Mormonism’s most thoughtful and eloquent spokesman. He will challenge, edify, and inspire you.  

Below I have reproduced several excerpts from his writings specifically about youth and aging that exemplify what I mean and which I hope you will be wise enough to ponder and implement you your life. (1)  I intend to.

Why The Wisdom Of Age May Rightfully Counsel The Ambition Of Youth

The equation of youth and age still plays its part, as it always has in the past.  To youth looking forward, life seems abundantly long for limitless achievement.  To age looking back, the life we know seems all too short for the realization of things hoped for, for the accomplishment of things desired.  And that is why the wisdom of age may rightfully counsel the ambition of youth. No one knows better than they who are nearing the end of the journey how precious are the moments that pass; how utterly lost are the wasted hours, how relentlessly beyond recall are those things which we sometimes do, which, being looked back upon, are a source of regret.  

Living Lives In And Out Of Season

The relentless passing of the seasons finds men quickly growing older. While age holds no remorse for those who have lived their lives in season, many of the disappointed men we see around us are they who have lived unseansoable lives. They have let spring pass by without using the season for its intended purpose, and then, realizing too late the error of neglect, they have tried to do spring’s work in summer, and summer’s work in autumn, and winter has found them with no harvest. By youth, may it be remembered that there are none so hopelessly handicapped as they who have let pass by the time of preparation, and who go forth to live their lives out of season.

The Realization That The World Is No Longer Waiting For You To Prepare

May we say a word to youth?  In every life there comes an awakening, and with it the fading of many dreams. There comes a day when we realize that the world is no longer waiting for us to prepare for life. It is waiting for us to live it–to face its realities, to solve its problems, to improve its conditions, and to do for the next generation what has been done for us.  So comes the awakening that forces us to face realities, and most happy is he who faces them with full purpose. The job is not easy! Who but a weakling would wish that it were? The problems have not all been solved! Who but a dullard would want them to be? The future is unpredictable!  Read your histories! When wasn’t it? The world is so greatly changing! Be thankful for that, so long as principles and ideals and ultimate destination do not change. And so we envy rather than pity youth, for theirs is the future and all that belongs thereto.

Nobody Has Ever Brought Forth A Substitute For A Good Home

But you moderns–with all your creative ingenuity–have never brought forth a substitute for a good home or a virtuous mother.  So long as children are taught truth and honor and reverence by the family fireside, this world we know and love, despite its weaknesses, is safe.  But take from us the integrity of home and none there is who would care to say toward what end our ways would lead. 
In the future I will provide more examples on other topics because this man is so important to me and I hope he will become important to you too.

Lets think together again, soon.

1. All of the quotations are from, Richard L. Evans, Unto The Hills, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940), pp. 105-108.



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Evils Of Ignorance, Part 3: Willful Ignorance Despite the Ever-present Sources of Wisdom that Lie Constantly Before Us

In two previous columns we have considered the “evils of ignorance.”  Today’s column is part three of that consideration. The title is take from some of the writings of Richard L. Evens, long-time spokesman for “The Spoken Word” weekly broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I came across these thought-provoking and yet sobering words in today’s early morning reading.  My first thought was that I should have included them in one of the earlier blogs, but upon reflection I concluded they are important enough to be included in their entirety in a separate column.  They are essentially an argument against ignorance, telling us there are abundant resources to gain knowledge and wisdom, including the free practice of prayer.  So if we are willfully ignorant in the face of so many opportunities, we shall one day be called upon to answer for that. I have highlighted several parts which were important to me, but I could have highlighted the entire passage it is so powerful!

There is a widely accepted legal maxim to the effect that ignorance of the law is no defense. And yet, as most of us go through life, we ask to be excused for many things by reason of our ignorance, and we are prone to say to ourselves: “We would do better if we knew better but how may we acquire wisdom and how may we surely know the right from the wrong.”  Let it be assumed that most of us have a sincere desire to do the right thing and that our tragedies and failures come not so much from lack of willingness as from lack of wisdom.  Even making allowance for this, the very fact of our permitting ourselves to remain in ignorance while we are within constant reach of the source of all wisdom, is something to be accounted for.  It was Robert Browning who said: “Ignorance is not innocence, but sin.”  And from another source: “Ignorance, when voluntary, is criminal, and a man may be properly charged with that evil which he neglected or refused to learn how to prevent.”  To state the proposition in another way, we have for our guidance the accumulated record of human experience: the spoken and written thoughts of the great and the wise; the sacred and inspired words of our various scriptures; an active voice of conscience, which is reliable if we have not tampered with it; and an approach through prayer to the God and Father of us all, in response to which we may receive the promptings of the “still, small voice.”  And by all of these, the fundamentals of life are indelibly and unmistakably defined.  They do not change from generation to generation even though our regard for them may change.  With all this before us, why should we ask or expect to be excused for our ignorance or our lack of wisdom.  And if we still insist that our ignorance should be allowed as an excuse for our misdeeds, we shall surely be called upon to answer for that greater guilt by which we permitted ourselves willfully to remain ignorant in spite of all the ever-present sources of wisdom that lie constantly before us.  The real answer lies not in a scarcity of wisdom, but in our own lack of will and determination to acquire and apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Lets think together again, soon.

Richard L. Evans, Unto the Hills, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940), pp. 67-68, emphasis added.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Seven Lessons On Leadership From Dallin H. Oaks


Following are seven important leadership principles I have learned from my life’s experiences:

  • Love is the first principle.  Its effect magnifies the effects of every other principle. Leaders who are loved and who love those they lead enhance the impact of their leadership and the duration of their influence.  
  • Good leaders are not overly concerned with popularity, knowing that popularity follows good leadership–it does not produce it. 
  • Good leaders make decisions that can be relied upon because they stick with them. 
  • Good leaders are positive.  Optimism is infectious. People have confidence in and work best for leaders who view adversity as a challenging opportunity and who are positively and thoughtfully confident in the assigned task and the desire outcome.  
  • Good leaders are clear in defining what is expected, able to express it in simple terms, and effective in communicating with those they lead. These three qualities are so interrelated that I cannot give examples that do not, in some measure, include all of them. 
  • Good leaders will be calm and unflappable under the pressure that leaders cannot escape. Such poise steadies followers, whereas a leader’s panic or anxiety scatters and disable s them.  Sports fans see this poise in the demeanor of most successful coaches of team sports.  
  • Finally, no single principle of leadership is more powerful in its effect on followers than a leader’s setting the right example.  It pervades all the foregoing principles.
Lets think together again, soon.

Dallin H. Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), pp. 86-88.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirteen: Joseph Smith And The Principle Of Empathy

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet



Evidence Thirteen: 
Joseph Smith And The Principle Of Empathy© 


I enjoyed a wonderful early morning today.  I awoke before 4:00 a.m. and began reading as I often do. Today I encountered a phrase in a passage from the Doctrine and Covenants I have never noticed before.(1) It set me on the task of writing this the thirteenth evidence of why I believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. Actually two related passages from scriptures produced by Joseph Smith came with considerable force into my mind as both intensely interesting and vitally important principles of human relationships.  

In September of 1830 Joseph Smith was approaching his twenty-fifth birthday. In Fayette, New York, following a three-day conference he received a revelation calling Peter Whitmer, Junior to accompany Oliver Cowdery as a missionary companion on a mission to the Lamanites. Among other things the Lord said to him, 
And be you afflicted in all his afflictions, ever lifting up your heart unto me in prayer and faith, for his and your deliverance; for I have given unto him power to build up my church among the Lamanites.(2)
I have highlighted the portion of this passage which was emphasized in my reading and which impressed itself upon me as profound–very profound for a twenty-four-year-old young man. Profound because it encourages a principle of human relationships–empathy-that is subtle, poorly understood and seldom discussed, yet is profoundly and vitally important. This is a scriptural injunction for missionary companions to practice empathy toward each other that I wish I had known and understood when I served as a mission president in northern California when I was between the ages of 59 and 62.  It would have been a great principle to teach those missionaries who so frequently encountered “companionship problems.” It could have moved them from being “me” centered to “others” centered, and that was often the problem–both companions concerned more about themselves than their companion. How did Joseph Smith know about this at his age, experience and educational level?  I should add that this principle also applies to our relationships in marriage and family, and indeed, as we shall see below to the covenant people of the Lord.(3)

What is empathy? Coincidentally, I recently read two definitions of empathy which explained the difference between it and sympathy which I liked enough to copy into my “Commonplace Book.” Sydney J. Harris, a thoughtful newspaper columnist said,
What is empathy? It is, basically, the ability to get inside another person and see the world through his eyes. Sympathy is feeling “for” someone else; empathy is feeling “with” him. (4)  
 H. A. Overstreet, wrote,
Psychologists are giving currency to a word that is useful in this connection: empathy, which signifies the imaginative projection of one’s own consciousness into an object or person outside oneself. We sympathize with another being when we suffer with him; when we feel with him. But an empathic relationship is closer: we then enter imaginatively into his life and feel it as if it were our own. Though our bodily separateness remains, we effect a psychic identification.  We stop being an outsider and become and insider.(5)
Getting “inside another person,” seeing “the world through his eyes,” and “feeling ‘with’ him” is the essence of empathy and I believe it is accurate to the intent of the Lord’s instructions to Peter Whitmer, Junior. Elder Bruce C. Hafen, commenting on this passage wrote:
In other words, let his afflictions be your own, no matter what they are or where they come from. Absorb them. Accept them. They are yours because they are his. Then your prayers will be not only for him but for “his and your” deliverance.”(6)
Elder Hafen also points out that there is a positive side to empathy which should not be ignored. That is the ability to divest ourselves of envy, competitiveness, and perhaps even personal insecurities and develop the capacity to be happy and rejoice in the happiness, joy, and success of others.

Why is empathy so important in human relations? Smarter and more analytical minds than mine can doubtless give lengthy philosophical explanations for the importance of empathy in society, but for me one important answer comes from the second passage which I mentioned above. It is from the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, and refers to the obligations one assumes at the time of baptism.  The passage reads:
...and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; 9) Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort....(7)
Those who come into the fold of God and are “his people,” should have deep empathy toward other covenant people of God. Perhaps this is a cloaked meaning of becoming “of one heart” which is the essence of being a Zion people. Empathy is “feeling” with the other person.  In the scriptures feelings are centered in the heart, so if we feel “with” the other person, we are of one heart with them. Empathy is critical to the oneness God desires between him and his people and which his people have with each other. It is the essence of emotional and spiritual unity which allows us to move the cause of Zion forward together without ego, envy, self-centeredness, selfishness, and contention. It both smooths the way between people and paves the way for positive action.

In addition and very importantly, empathy is an attribute of Christ. Isaiah said in language similar to D&C 30:6, 
8) For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.  9) In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.(8) 
And again, Alma reports:
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind... and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy ... that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.(9)
The Atonement was the greatest act of empathy in the universe. When we not only experience sympathy for someone but let it become empathy “with” him to the degree that we are afflicted in all his afflictions we are moving in the direction of becoming Christlike ourselves and that is not small or insignificant for either ourselves, our family, our community, or our society. Such empathy filled Christ with mercy and knowledge of how to succor his people. “Succor” is to render assistance and support in times of hardship and distress. If it was important for the Savior to learn how to do that and we aspire to become like him, it follows that we must learn how to succor people as well and the beginning of that process is to learn to empathize with people.

When it is boiled down, empathy is a profound element of or manifestation of Godlike love. It is Atoning love.  It is merciful love. It is heartfelt love. It is a love intended to transform individuals and societies. It is the love that prevails in the Celestial Kingdom.  

I love Joseph Smith for producing these scriptures that have caused me to engage in this kind of thinking and analysis, which have moved my soul and begun an important transition within.  

Thank God for Joseph Smith.

Lets think together again, soon.

Notes: 

1. I acknowledge my debt for the idea for this blog to Bruce C. Hafen's brief discussion of several of these passages in his, Covenant Hearts: Why Marriage Matters and How to Make It Last, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), pp. 96-98, and I heartily recommend this book on marriage.

2. D&C 30:6.

3. Elder Hafen does not dwell on the missionary companion relationship, but straightway applies this principle to marriage.  He does not mention the baptismal covenant in this portion of his treatment of the subject.

4. Sydney J. Harris, The Best of Sydney J. Harris, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976), p. 33.

5. H. A. Overstreet, The Mature Mind, (New York: W. W. Norton, 1949), pp. 64-65, emphasis in original.

6. Bruce C. Hafen, Covenant Hearts, p. 96.

7. Mosiah 18:8-9, emphasis added.

8.   Isaiah 63:8-9.

9. Alma 7:11-12.