Friday, May 30, 2014

Thanks Teddy For Saving My Patch Of River ©

May is the most beautiful month of the year!  Spring is in its glory, the days are almost perfect. The cool but warming temperature entices one into the sun hanging in the robin-egg blue heaven with puffs of clouds floating by.  It recalls memories of boyhood and the glory of 70 Springs. Spring is so glorious that in my dotage it seems like not only a sin, but a major waste not to use at least part of May to explore the wonders and beauties of the world. I am particularly blessed to live in the western United States where there is an abundance of natural beauty to visit.

We decided to use the last week of May to renew our spirits, one of the most appropriate of springtime rituals, but my wife found that there were no rooms available in the inns of several new places we wanted to visit. After days of searching, I suggested we go back to two old favorites–Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Uncharacteristically, we lucked out and found a timeshare available for two nights in West Yellowstone, Montana and two more in a facility owned by the same company in Jackson, Wyoming, so we were set.

Monday we ambled from Logan, Utah to West Yellowstone. Normally the trip takes the better part of four hours, but we were on vacation.  For me that means photography.  We stopped in two very small rural southeastern Idaho communities–Swan Lake and Downey. As is typical with so many American small towns, these places seemed to be about as lively and agile as the retired seventy-year-old writing this blog. Photographing pieces of vanishing Americana is a favorite with me.  Tall shining silver grain elevators look from a distance to be the center of agricultural communities such as these. On closer inspection broken windows, missing pieces of sheet metal, and absence of life told us these were hollow shells of a passed era.

Plate 1:  Grain elevator in Swan Lake, Idaho, May 2014.
Grain elevators, old barns and out buildings kept us preoccupied and we arrived at our destination about mid-afternoon.  A bit of lunch and an early check-in and we were on our way to “The Park” between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. The National Parks are some our favorite getaway destinations. A decade or more ago I was permitted to purchase for $10 a “Golden Age Pass which allows senior citizens to visit the National Parks free of charge. We absolutely love this tax-payer’s perk!  We have used it often.

This afternoon’s destination was a point of pilgrimage for me and has been in our last three or four visits to Yellowstone. For me, Yellowstone encompasses some of the most beautiful rivers in America, if not the world. The Yellowstone, Madison, Lamar, Gibbon and Firehole flow through what must have been God’s playground on Creation day. The Gibbon and Firehole converge in the Park to form the Madison. My favorites are the Madison and Firehole. 

One travels along the early stages of the Madison from West Yellowstone to Madison Junction. A good chunk near West Yellowstone passes through high mountain plains covered with sagebrush that has its own western flavor. It isn’t long however, before the sage gives way to pines and to a small and ever widening valley –well more like a meadow than a valley. The grass is green and no willows line the banks as with many other western waterways. Along here it isn’t uncommon in the mornings to see doe elk and their calves slowly working their way along the bolder studded banks on the far side nestled against the foot of the mountains.  Occasionally a moose or two stand in the river grazing on the grasses on the bottoms. These spectaculars of nature always create traffic jams. The likelihood of such encounters is less in the afternoon, so we drove on. One almost gets the sense of entering a paradise while paralleling the Madison toward the interior of the park.  

Plate 2:  Elk along the Madison River, Yellowstone National Park, 2012.
Yellowstone’s rivers this late in May are running high and murky if not muddy.  Where the valleys widen the low flatlands in many places are inundated. The late afternoon sun danced and shimmered from a thousand streamlets, pools and marshlands. 

Plate 3:  Madison River in Yellowstone National Park at flood stage, May 2014.
Where the ground is higher and accessible, small groups of bison lounge on the fresh green grass.  Many were laying down and we accounted it due to the lateness of the day. However, we  also observed there were no calves among them. In June, two years ago scores of calves attended larger herds. They romped and cavorted and played in the spring of their own lives.  Was this why many were laying around now? We thought their size and lethargy suggested calving season was close, but later learned from a Ranger the calving season is in early May. So much for our “rational” explanation.

At Madison Junction you turn right to go to Old Faithful. Along this route you can turn off the main road and travel a one-way-in-need-of-repair macadam road up the Firehole Canyon. Cascades, small falls and narrow passages are the hallmark of this short but hidden gem of Yellowstone. Once, later in the season, my oldest son and I encountered two doe elk and a fawn feasting on the lush grass of a small island along this route, unaware of the human observers high above them. 

Plate 4:  Mother and fawn on small island in the Firehole River Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, June 2012.
When you emerge from the canyon the Firehole river broadens out into large pools just before it plunges into the canyon.  Upstream from here it runs in a fairly straight stretch down a very small valley between some mountains. Here is my place of pilgrimage!  Not too far from the canyon as one travels upstream with the Firehole on your right there is a picnic turnout among the trees along the river which also gives easy access to its grassy banks.  Here is where I long to stop.  This afternoon we are in luck.  The first Monday after Memorial Day traffic in the park is moderately lite. We are alone.  At the far end, just before returning to the main road, awaits my temple.

As we climbed out of the car and walked the twenty-five feet to the bank, I immediately experienced a sense of uplift and renewal.  Reflecting back, that sense was building as we drove along the Madison and through the Canyon.  Now it came unabated.  This is to me, an amazing patch of river.  It is so simple, that when you see it you may wonder why it is so special to me.

I have had deeply moving spiritual and emotional experiences in nature on at least four very memorable occasions. One on a road at 10,000 feet among the “Thirteens and Fourteens” of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  We stood at a vista point, high mountain tundra and tundra vegetation surrounded us. Ubiquitous signs warned of the fragility of the tundra–the tree line was below us.  It seemed as if  we could see forever!   Another, during an early mourning drive past several box canyons while entering the southern part of Canyonlands National Park.  The sun’s rays streamed into these east-west oriented canyons and their tall black-faced walls seemed like the temple of the God’s. Breathless, the beauty so overwhelming, I could not go on without stopping, pondering, praying, worshiping, and weeping. 

Plate 5:  Box canyons at the entrance of the southern portion of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.  The experience described above happened much earlier in the morning than the time of this photo, but this is the place.
The third was an afternoon in June with one of my best friends as we walked into the Muir Woods National Monument north of San Francisco. The sun was dropping into the west; the shadows were long and dark. We came to a small, small meadow with a giant Redwood in the middle shooting skyward, the ground surrounding it covered with the most amazing chartreuse green clover called Redwood sorrel. Here and there the sunlight broke through the canopy. Into this scene wandered a small spotted fawn seemingly unaware of our presence.  Photography was impossible. But here I was with one of the premiere landscape impressionist artists of our day who has traveled many places in the world in search of subject matter for his paintings and he said to me in a hushed tone, “Dan, this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!” Through glistening eyes and an inhibiting lump in my throat I struggled to agree.

Why does this patch of river on the Firehole do the same thing to me? I don’t really know. For a half to three-quarters of a mile at this place the Firehole runs fairly straight. The evergreen covered mountains on the far side approach the river but here and there an open space lets grass grow to the edge of the bank. At the right time of the season the occasional wildflower blooms. The river is wide and shallow and calm here. Fishermen and women use the picnic ground as a place to park, picnic and fish.  At the high season one isn’t alone here. On this side of the river as you look upstream the tree line is back from the edge of the river twenty or thirty feet and grass lines the bank dotted by an occasional stump or fallen tree.

Plate 6:  Firehole River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.  This section of the river is above the Firehole River Canyon and is accessed via a picnic turnout. View is looking upstream.
Three or four trips ago, when we first visited here, we were nearly alone.  Upstream I could see a raptor of some sort cruising up and down the river looking for a meal. On the opposite bank a great heron surveyed the shallow water. Other birds called to each other, the sun reflected off the calm water. Serenity and beauty opened my heart instantly. Breathless once again in nature’s natural beauty. Such a pleasant and welcome surprise. As with the other occasions, a prayerful and worshipful spirit came along with a deep sense of reverence. These are the things that bring me back to this spot.

Today they were here again!  Thank God. As we sat on a log looking upstream on this gorgeous afternoon I once again felt thankful. I am seventy years old and do not know how many more times I may visit this sacred and hallowed spot. So I was thankful that I was permitted to come one more time to find peace to the soul, nourishment and renewal. It is difficult for Pat to walk on uneven ground so I walked alone 100 yards upstream in the newly reborn grass. As I turned around to return, the spirit of prayer stopped me. I paused for a couple of minutes and thanked the Lord for one more time here, for its beauty, and for how it feeds and renews me like few other places do.  On the way back I asked myself why this place seems so beautiful to me?  Words came to my mind–simplicity and peace. Ah yes, simplicity. To me the most beautiful photographs and paintings and much in life in general share this one beautifying quality.

We sat on the log for a few more minutes–mostly silent. My wife knew something was happening inside.  I reflected on my gratitude. It turned toward God, and then to Teddy Roosevelt. He was the one who had the “great American idea” and the foresight to turn Yellowstone into a National Park and preserve its wonders and beauty for Americans for all time.  I said to Pat “I would like someday to say to Teddy Roosevelt...” I could not speak for at least two minutes. She waited patiently. Finally I had enough control to finish, “...Thanks for saving my patch of river!”

Let’s think together again, soon.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Sixteen-2: Joseph Smith, Christ’s Baptism and the Fulness of the Holy Ghost

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was a Prophet

Evidence Sixteen-2: 
Joseph Smith, Christ’s Baptism and the Fulness of the Holy Ghost© 

Continued from Part 1 (23 May 2014)

Introduction:  This is the second of two parts of an essay exploring Joseph Smith’s contributions to our understanding of some details about the baptism of Jesus Christ found in the Gospel of John which ultimately lead us to profound teachings about our own destiny and the role of the Holy Ghost and the temple ordinances in achieving that destiny. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.


Part 2© 

Well, so what?  Why are these matters important? First and perhaps least, but not an insignificant fact, is that the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith at once recognize the implication of these details, whereas they are otherwise neglected in the Synoptics and the New Testament generally. Moreover, his revelations and teachings are also consistent with the teachings of Isaiah, John the Baptist, and John the apostle, but as is always the case, they take us a few steps deeper into their meaning and importance.  

Second, these historical facts in the story of the baptism of Jesus constitute important elements in the testimony of John the Baptist. They were  God’s sign to him that he had found “the Son of God” and could thereby fulfill the mission for which he was granted the gift of the Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (Lk. 1:15; D&C 84:27), that of testifying that Jesus is God’s Son, he is the Messiah, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. As such Jesus possessed the fullness of the Spirit and of the glory of the Father. He was God on earth possessing all power on earth and in heaven. The revelations to Joseph Smith enhance the testimony of John the Baptist and it becomes in many ways a greater, more powerful testimony of Jesus Christ than is generally found in the Gospels.  

On that note, the third and to me most important, “so what” concerns Section 93's answer to this question. The earlier part of D&C 93 records the Baptist’s testimony about how Christ did not receive the “fulness” at first, but grew from grace to grace and received grace for grace (vss.12-14) until at the baptism John saw he “received a fulness.”  The revelation continues:
19) I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and to know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness. 20) For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father....   (Emphasis added)
In other words, the explanation about Jesus receiving the fulness of the Spirit was not only a detail, the “seeing” of  which allowed John the Baptist to give a powerful testimony of the Savior. It also has vital relevance to the disciples of Jesus because it is possible for them through him to also receive a fulness of the Spirit and of the glory of the Father. This is achieved by “worshiping” him properly, and the clear inference here is, that involves emulating him–that is doing what he did–by growing from grace to grace and receiving grace for grace.

How then do we grow in grace and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost? Here is where Joseph Smith shines as always, in answering not only the “why” questions, but most importantly the “how” questions.  D&C 109:15 begins our exploration of his teachings on this subject. This is the revealed dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple offered on 17 March 1836. Verse 15 is especially important because it is the only known verse in the Standard Works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which says this. Joseph is praying for the influence of the temple to bless all those who “enter upon the threshold” of the Lord’s house, and he adds, “And that they may grow up in thee, and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost....”(6) Joseph Smith, Jerome, the author of The Gospel According to the Hebrews, and John,  are of one mind–that the recipients of the gift of the Holy Ghost do not receive it in fulness at the time of confirmation. That happens as the Saints mature spiritually–by “growing up” in the Lord. And because this statement is in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple it is not unreasonable to assume that temple worship has something to do with this growth and attaining the fulness of the Holy Ghost.

Another of Joseph’s related teachings is that “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances.”(7) Note that the word “ordinances” is plural, suggesting that the process of rebirth and spiritual growth, the subject of our present investigation, comes to fruition through more than the ordinances of baptism and confirmation. Full development of this theme must await another post, but let it suffice to suggest that the six required ordinances for men and five for women (baptism, confirmation, reception of the Melchizedek priesthood, endowment, sealing, and sacrament) are mechanisms which assist in bringing about a rebirth or total transformation of the “natural man” or woman to become Christlike and eventually to possess a fulness of the glory of the Father. In this process, each of the ordinances make possible a greater endowment of the Spirit.(8)   

Christ is our archetype. Isaiah 11:2-4 tells us that when the Spirit rested upon him he received seven gifts relating to the mind and intellect. They were: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear of the Lord, and righteous judgment. The number seven is significant because it suggests completeness, totality, or fulness.(9) This implies total illumination of the mind, complete knowledge, and in the following quotation Methodist scholar Margaret Barker made a remarkable statement about this passage, at the end of which she suggests that "wisdom" is a scriptural word that encompasses all seven:
Isaiah’s vision of the peaceful creation [Isa. 11:2-4], as we might now expect, began with a description of the transformation of the human mind.  Someone was anointed with the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord. These gifts of the Spirit transform the human mind–‘change the mind’ is the literal meaning of the Greek word for repentance, metanoia. We have heard a great deal in recent years about the gifts of the Spirit as Paul described them in Corinth–but very little about the effect of the Spirit in transforming the human mind. The Spirit-transformed mind sees with anointed eyes and hears with anointed ears, and so judges with righteousness and decides with equity for the meek of the earth. This is the gift of Wisdom which joins all things together.(10)
This concept is undoubtedly connected with the seven-branched candlestick which may have been in the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple and was in the holy place of Herod’s Temple and which many scholars equate with the Spirit. It is interesting that these intellectual gifts which Christ receives are not mentioned in the traditional scriptural lists of the gifts of the Spirit, (11) nor are they, save one, mentioned in any of the lists of the “fruit” of the Spirit.(12)  

How did Christ receive the Spirit?  Our assumption may be that he received it through an ordinance of confirmation, of which we have no record. With the loss of the Melchizedek Priesthood at the time of the “Provocation” when Israel provoked God by worshiping the Golden Calf in the Sinai Wilderness,(13) neither John the Baptist nor any other mortal person in Israel at that time so far as we know, held the Melchizedek Priesthood necessary to perform that ordinance. Therefore, it must have been bestowed by a divine source. The scriptures speak of another way he received it.  Isaiah 61:1 says:
1) The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord hath anointed me....
Luke 4 relates the story of Jesus visiting a synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day. As was the permissible custom, the Master stood to read the day’s lectionary, part of which was Isaiah 61:1. He quoted it somewhat differently than is found in our version of Isaiah, but the essential “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach...” is there. When he finished he sat down and said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”(14) He applied the passage to himself.  Peter did too. After the crucifixion, Acts 10 tells the story of the conversion of Cornelius, the Roman gentile, at Caesarea. As part of his testimony to Cornelius, Peter spoke of,
38) How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power....”
John, in his first epistle (1 Jn. 2), also relates the concept of anointing with knowing all things because the Spirit abides in us:
20) But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. ... 27) But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 
I am not saying that in the case of Christ anointing replaced confirmation. I do not know the answer to that question. My suspicion is that it does not–that Jesus needed to be confirmed as the rest of us do.(15) But these passages suggests that the anointing was necessary for him to secure a fulness of the Spirit, symbolized by the number seven, including gifts which Isaiah mentioned earlier in chapter 11 which involve the intellect and which do not appear in scriptural accounts of gifts and fruits of the Spirit. According to Peter he also received “power” through the anointing, and this is consistent with D&C 93:16-17 cited above.  This all implies that there is an additional endowment of the Spirit available which results from spiritual growth and maturity and which is directly connected with the ordinances of the Temple.(16) This is harmonious with both the view of Joseph Smith that other ordinances are involved in the process of being born again and with the blessings we receive at the time of our own anointing.

Thank God for Joseph Smith.

Lets think together again, soon.


6.  As noted in the text above, the JST version of Jn. 3:34 mentions the concept without using the exact phrase “fulness of the Holy Ghost.”  I have not taken the time to examine it, but it would be interesting to know if JST Jn 3 and D&C 93 were given to Joseph Smith near the same time, in the Spring of 1833.  If it came earlier, then the sequence would be something like this: JST Jn. 3:34, then D&C 93:19-20, and finally D&C 109:15.

7.  TPJS, p. 162.

8.  I am indebted to Truman Madsen for first exposing me to the temple-related implication of this statement by Joseph Smith.  Madsen said:
“The next letter is B, and I suggest the words born or born again.  Today the religious world often speak of the “twice-born person,” or of being a “born-again Christian,” not fully comprehending how complete is His promise to those who come to Him.  It is one thing to have faith and another to have repentance, but in the house of the Lord, His house, He requires of His children a covenant making from the heart. And then He makes promises even more inclusive than those that come with the first principles and ordinances. When the Prophet Joseph Smith sent the first Twelve abroad to Britain, one of the instructions he gave is summed up in one sentence.  He said, “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances.” And all ordinances, therefore, are channels of His Spirit. But the crowning ordinances are those of the holy temple.” Truman G. Madsen, The Temple Where Heaven Meets Earth, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2008), p. 16, see also p. 124.
9.  The writings of Margaret Barker have been particularly insightful regarding Isaiah 11:1-4 and 61:1. See: Margaret Barker, “Isaiah,” in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, edited by James D. G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2003), pp. 509, 538; Temple Theology, An Introduction, (London: SPCK, 2004), p. 49; The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God, (London: SPCK, 2007), p. 41, 48, 85, 89-90; The Mother of the Lord. Volume 1: The Lady in the Temple, (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2012), pp. 104-6, 317; and King of the Jews: Temple Theology in John’s Gospel, (London: SPCK, 2014), pp. 174-76, where she speaks of the “sevenfold Spirit” which brings “complete illumination” and which she equates with the idea of “fullness.”

10.  Margaret Barker, Temple Theology, An Introduction, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), p. 49. Combined with Truman Madsen’s observations as noted in footnote 8, this statement set me upon the quest to more completely understand the relationships of the saving and exalting ordinances of the Gospel and enjoying a fullness of the Holy Ghost--principles explicated in this essay.

In regard to the “transformed mind”, the following statement by Elder Sterling W. Sill also evoked considerable thought about the relationship of our temple ordinances and enjoying the fulness of the Holy Ghost:
“One of the most prominent of the teachings of Jesus had to do with the difficulty that most of us have in keeping the right kind of ideas operating in our lives. Jesus pointed out that there are some who have eyes but who cannot see and ears that cannot hear. The natural consequence of course is that our hearts do not understand. Our eyes and ears are two of the most important entrances by which understanding can get into our minds. When either of these fail in any degree, or when they function improperly, our welfare may be adversely affected.”  Sterling W. Sill, The Glory of the Sun, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1961), p. 200.
11.  See 1 Cor. 12, Moroni 10, D&C 46.

12.  See for example, Gal. 5:22-23; 2 Pet.1:6-7. There is a fundamental difference between those things designated as “gifts” and those referred to as “fruits” of the Spirit. The gifts are tools given to someone to bless the lives of others, whereas the “fruits” are character traits of the person themselves.  Knowledge is mentioned in 2 Peter 1:6. The “word” of wisdom and of knowledge are mentioned in D&C 46:17-18, but it seems evident from Moroni 10:9-10 that these are teaching gifts. I should, however, add a caveat to the observation in the text above that many of the things mentioned in Isaiah 11:2-4 are frequently mentioned in other contexts in the scriptures and I suspect one could find some places where it could be argued that the context is in reference to “gifts” or “fruit” of the Spirit. The point here is that Isaiah’s list seems to be unique and it is probably related to temple ordinances.

13.  See D&C 84:19-27; JST Ex. 34:1-2; Jac. 1:7; Ps. 95:8;  Heb. 3:8,15 and Al. 12:36.

14.  Luke 4:16-21.

15.  My supposition that Christ needed to be confirmed is based on the same logic as expressed by Joseph Smith in the following: “If a man gets a fulness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.” (TPJS, p. 308.) It is possible I suppose, that because of the absolute sinless nature of Christ–his perfect holiness–his spiritual maturity, and the capacity of his godly intellect, that confirmation and anointing may have taken place at the same time. We are simply told that God declared “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Ps. 2:7; see also Acts. 13:33; Heb. 1:5, 5:5.) Since this implies his rebirth, it seems not unreasonable to think this took place on the day of his baptism. It is not mentioned explicitly in the Gospel accounts; they simply report that the voice spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son.”  D&C 93:15-17, gives more detail  of what John experienced and lends weight to the analysis here.

16. The relationship of the temple to the Holy Ghost is also suggested by D&C 88:137 which says: “And ye are called to do this by prayer and thanksgiving, as the Spirit shall give utterance in all your doings in the house of the Lord, in the school of the prophets, that it may become a sanctuary, a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit to your edification.”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Sixteen-1: Joseph Smith, Christ’s Baptism and the Fulness of the Holy Ghost

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Sixteen-1: 
Joseph Smith, Christ’s Baptism and the Fulness of the Holy Ghost

Introduction:  This is the first of two parts of an essay exploring Joseph Smith's contributions to our understanding of some details about the baptism of Jesus Christ found in the Gospel of John which ultimately lead us to profound teachings about our own destiny and the role of the Holy Ghost and the temple ordinances in achieving that destiny. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.


Part 1© 

The Gospel of John contains several interesting details about the baptism of Jesus which are not found in the Synoptic Gospels,(1) but which receive some additional emphasis and elaboration in the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith.  When pursued they ultimately lead us to profound teachings about our own destiny and the role of the Holy Ghost and the temple ordinances in achieving that destiny.  John 1:33 reads:
33) And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
As I understand this passage, John, whose mission in part was to identify for Israel the Messiah, was told that he would know he had found his man when he saw the Spirit descend upon him and remain. This was commentary on the previous verse in which the Baptist testified that he “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.”  (Jn.1:32, emphasis added.)

Why this detail is not mentioned in the Synoptics is a puzzle.  It’s inclusion here suggests that perhaps John had access to some information not then available to the other Evangelists.  Whatever the case, some in the early Church knew of writings today called the Gospel According to the Hebrews, which has a passage that alludes to the same idea. Jerome in his commentaries on the scriptures quotes from this lost text. His commentary in this case is relative to a phrase in Isaiah 11:2 which he has placed in parentheses:
(The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him) not partially as in the case of other holy men: but, according to the Gospel written in the Hebrew speech, which the Nazarenes read, ‘There shall descend upon him the whole fount of the Holy Spirit’ ....  In the Gospel I mentioned above, I find this written: And it came to pass when the Lord was come up out of the water, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit descended and rested upon him, and said unto him....(2)
Obviously Jerome thought this was a significant point, because in commenting on Isaiah 11:2 which speaks of the Spirit of the Lord which shall “rest” upon Christ, he (Jerome) opines that this means that Jesus did not receive just a portion of the Spirit such as is the case with other men. Rather, he received the “whole fount” and this is indicated by the fact that the Spirit rested or remained with Christ. Jerome here links the “rest” in Isaiah 11:2 with the same concept in John 1:32-33 in the terms “abode” and “remaining”. John the Baptist testified that he saw the “Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.” (Jn. 1:32)  It took up its residence in Christ.

As mentioned above, the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith give additional emphasis to this part of the story of John.  To begin with, in the Book of Mormon, about 600 BC., Nephi records that he saw a vision of the Redeemer and “the prophet who should prepare the way before him”–John the Baptist. He saw John baptize the “Lamb of God” and “the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.” (1 Ne. 11:27, emphasis added.) Here John’s story is not only confirmed in both its critical aspects–the abiding and the dove–but the latter is more explicit, whereas John’s language leaves it somewhat open as to whether he saw an actual dove or just the Spirit descending like a dove. Nephi said the Spirit descended “in the form of a dove.”  Joseph Smith will have more to say about this below.

A second important revelation on this subject is in Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This revelation also reports the testimony of John the Baptist at the time of the baptism of Christ.  It reads:
15) And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.
This revelation also confirms the “remain” idea with the word “sat” and the presence of the dove, in the same language as Nephi.  

In a Sunday meeting on the floor of the unfinished Nauvoo Temple in January 1843 Joseph Smith clarified the meaning of the descent of the Spirit “in the form” of a dove.  Luke 7:28 records Jesus as saying, “Among those ... born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist...” Joseph Smith gives three reasons in answer to the question as to why John was the greatest of prophets.  The second was that John was the only one who had the privilege of baptizing the Son of God.  He said:
Whoever led the Son of God into the waters of baptism, and had the privilege of beholding the Holy Ghost descend in the form of a dove, or rather in the sign of the dove, in witness of that administration? The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of a dove, but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence.”(3)
Note that this clarification is only indirectly related to the language “like a dove” of John 1:32.  It actually clarifies the language “in the form of a dove” in Joseph Smith’s writings–1 Nephi 11:27 and D&C 93:15! Parenthetically I would add, if anyone was authorized to clarify the teachings of Joseph Smith it was the man himself.  His clarifying insight was that John the Baptist actually saw a dove descend and sit or abide upon Christ, but the dove was not the Holy Ghost. It was a sign not only that Jesus Christ was the Son of God; it was a token that the deed–the baptism–was correct or true and Jesus was innocent.

Another very interesting matter is Jerome’s comment that Christ received the Spirit, “not partially as in the case of other holy men....” Apparently Jerome thought that receiving the Holy Spirit through the laying of hands brought the recipient only a portion of the Spirit initially, but Christ received the “whole fount”. A passage in John 3:34-35 says as much:
34) For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. 35) The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 
The clear implication of this verse is that Jesus is different. Other men receive a measure of the Spirit, but he received it without measure. A revelation to Joseph Smith confirms that, unlike Christ, the Spirit may not always abide with a man.
22) ... the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit.  Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us. 23) A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him. (4)
Five years earlier Joseph taught:
The Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, cannot be received through the medium of any other principle than the principle of righteousness, for if the proposals are not complied with, it is of no use, but withdraws. (5)
Jerome’s idea has at least two additional parallels in the revelations of Joseph Smith.  The first is the JST version of John 3:34.  It reads:
34) ...  For God giveth him not the Spirit by measure, for he dwelleth in him, even the fulness. [Emphasis added.]
The antecedent of “he” in this verse is “the Spirit.” The fulness of the Spirit dwelt in, (like an abode), Christ. A similar passage is also found in D&C 93:16-17:
16) And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father; 17) And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.
So, here we have Isaiah, John the Bapitst, John the Apostle, Nephi, Joseph Smith, and (ahem) Jerome, whose teachings all lean in the same direction about the importance of the descent of the Spirit upon Christ at the time of his baptism, from which we extract three precepts:
  1. The Spirit descended upon Christ.  John saw it come like a dove. Nephi described it as in the form of a dove. Joseph explained there was a dove, but it was a sign or token.
  2. The Spirit rested or “sat” upon Christ, it abode upon (in?) him, it remained upon him.
  3. At this time Jesus received the “whole fount” of the Spirit; he received the Spirit “without measure.”  The fulness of the Spirit and the glory of the Father dwelt in him.

To be continued.


1.   Matthew comes the closest when he says the John the Baptist saw the Spirit descend like a dove and “lighting” upon him.  Mt. 3:16.

2.  Cited in M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975, p. 5, bold emphasis added.  I am indebted to Margaret Barker for this reference.

3.    Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967, pp. 275-276, emphasis in the original. A good friend reminded me that this discourse, as are all of Joseph’s discourses, is an amalgamation derived largely from the journals and memories of those who heard them.  See, Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1980), pp. 160-62, and notes on 264-65.   The amalgamation and enlargement can be seen by comparing the first published version of this statement in, “Mormonism,” Times and Seasons 4 (15 May 1843): 200, with this version.  I hasten to add that the amalgamation of the content of several journal accounts of these teachings does not appear to materially alter the ideas or meaning found in the individual journals and Times and Seasons.  The question naturally arises, under what circumstances did Joseph come by this knowledge. Two possibilities occur to me, though there may be others.  He may have learned something during his work on the JST when the Gospels were being studied and revised, or later during the translation of the Book of Abraham.  See Facsimile 2, Fig. 7, where he says this sign was given to Abraham.

4.  D&C 130:22-23, given 2 April 1843.

5.  TPJS, p. 148.  This statement comes from a record by Willard Richards and is unlikely a verbatim transcription of Joseph’s words.  This may be indicated by the unusual phrase “for if the proposals are not complied with...”  It seems to imply that something was said earlier in the sermon, of which this is a summary.  What proposals?  The commandments?  Or, those things which the Spirit proposes?  Should the phrase have read “for if its proposals are not complied with....”?  It is not clear and perhaps if we had the full sermon Joseph may have given some context or examples.  Nevertheless, the idea is clear that righteousness depends upon obedience to those “proposals” and in its absence the Spirit withdraws.  Jesus complied and did not experience such a withdrawal until perhaps when he was on the cross, but that is a separate, if related issue.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

First Presidncy And Apostles Encourage Youth To Become Involved In Family History


Recently, as can be seen from the documents below, the First Presidency and members of the Twelve have encouraged the youth to become more involved in Family History and Temple work.  If you continue to the bottom of this article you will discover that back in the 1970s and even in the 1940s this was being encouraged.   It is not a new idea, but it does appear to be a significant new emphasis.  I wholeheartedly encourage the youth and young adults to give this counsel serious and prayerful consideration, then get up and do something about it!

First Presidency (2012): [Note the second paragraph.]

Elder Bednar (2011):

An Invitation to the Rising Generation

I now invite the attention of the young women, young men, and children of the rising generation as I emphasize the importance of the Spirit of Elijah in your lives today. My message is intended for the entire Church in general—but for you in particular.

Many of you may think family history work is to be performed primarily by older people. But I know of no age limit described in the scriptures or guidelines announced by Church leaders restricting this important service to mature adults. You are sons and daughters of God, children of the covenant, and builders of the kingdom. You need not wait until you reach an arbitrary age to fulfill your responsibility to assist in the work of salvation for the human family.

The Lord has made available in our day remarkable resources that enable you to learn about and love this work that is sparked by the Spirit of Elijah. For example, FamilySearch is a collection of records, resources, and services easily accessible with personal computers and a variety of handheld devices, designed to help people discover and document their family history. These resources also are available in the family history centers located in many of our Church buildings throughout the world.

It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.

I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead (see D&C 124:28–36). And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories.

As you respond in faith to this invitation, your hearts shall turn to the fathers. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be implanted in your hearts. Your patriarchal blessing, with its declaration of lineage, will link you to these fathers and be more meaningful to you. Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.

Parents and leaders, please help your children and youth to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. But do not overly program this endeavor or provide too much detailed information or training. Invite young people to explore, to experiment, and to learn for themselves (see Joseph Smith—History 1:20). Any young person can do what I am suggesting, using the modules available at Aaronic Priesthood quorum and Young Women class presidencies can play an important role in helping all youth become acquainted with these basic resources. Young people increasingly need to be learners who act and thereby receive additional light and knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost—and not merely passive students who primarily are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26).

Parents and leaders, you will stand all amazed at how rapidly your children and the youth of the Church become highly skilled with these tools. In fact, you will learn valuable lessons from these young people about effectively using these resources. The youth can offer much to older individuals who are uncomfortable with or intimidated by technology or are unfamiliar with FamilySearch. You also will count your many blessings as young people devote more time to family history work and temple service and less time to video games, surfing the Internet, and Facebooking.


My beloved young brothers and sisters, family history is not simply an interesting program or activity sponsored by the Church; rather, it is a vital part of the work of salvation and exaltation. You have been prepared for this day and to build up the kingdom of God. You are here upon the earth now to assist in this glorious work.

I testify Elijah returned to the earth and restored the sacred sealing authority. I witness that what is bound on earth can be bound in heaven. And I know the youth of the rising generation have a key role to play in this great endeavor. I so testify in the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

David A. Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign (November 2011): 24-27.

Elder Andersen (2014):

A Challenge to Set a Personal Goal

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was the featured speaker at the youth devotional, telling attendees that while youths in the church today have become extremely devoted in performing proxy baptisms in LDS temples, “in the months and years ahead you will be just as outstanding in finding and bringing names to the temple with you.”

He asked those who had ever participated in a temple baptism to stand. Virtually everyone in the congregation did.

He then asked them to stay standing if they had participated in a temple baptism for an ancestor, and finally, to remain standing if they had submitted more names of ancestors for baptisms than they had personally performed in the temple. Only a smattering remained standing after the last question.

“I believe that in three years almost everyone will be standing,” Elder Andersen said. “I want to challenge each of you to set a personal goal to help prepare as many names for the temple as baptisms you perform in the temple.”

R. Scott Lloyd, “‘Find our cousins,’ Elder Neil L. Andersen urges youth at RootsTech conference,” Church News, 9 February 2014.

Elder Cook (2014):

Clarion Call to the Rising Generation

The leadership of the Church has issued a clarion call to the rising generation to lead the way in the use of technology to experience the spirit of Elijah, to search out their ancestors, and to perform temple ordinances for them.  Much of the heavy lifting in hastening the work of salvation for both the living and the dead will be done by you young people.
If the youth in each ward will not only go to the temple and do baptisms for their dead but also work with their families and other ward members to provide the family names for the ordinance work they perform, both they and the Church will be greatly blessed. Don’t underestimate the influence of the deceased in assisting your efforts and the joy of ultimately meeting those you serve. The eternally significant blessing of uniting our own families is almost beyond comprehension.

Quentin L. Cook, “Roots and Branches,” Ensign 44 (May 2014): 46-47.

Elder Stapley (1972):

Youth Encouraged in Family History in 1972 Deacon Manual

There is a ground swell of interest in family exaltation developing among our church youth today.  A program inaugurated about a year ago to introduce family exaltation to the members of the Aaronic Priesthood is meeting with success.  This all helps to strengthen the program.  Deacons have a special role in family exaltation.  Each bishop has been directed to read the deacons handbook regarding his role in the area of priesthood responsibility.  Here are some titles of the lessons given in the 1972 deacons class:
  1. My Priesthood Records Show My Place in God’s Kingdom
  2. My Personal Record Sheet Will Serve As a Foundation for My Book of Remembrance
  3. As a Priesthood Bearer, I Have an Obligation to Preserve My Heritage of Righteousness for My Children
  4. I Must Seek the Best in My Family to Give My Best to Others
  5. To become like God, I Must Be Sealed to An Eternal Family
  6. When I Do My Part in making Exaltation Possible for My Forbears, I May Receive the Help of the Lord
Think how much your own effectiveness would have been enhanced if you had received your interest and knowledge in this vital subject at the time you were of that age.
The deacon has a special opportunity to learn about the family exaltation mission of the Church and has a part in it.  He can fill assignments in the following ways:
By giving attention to the instruction so that he will learn about the relationship between family exaltation and the priesthood and how this affects him personally.  That is, he is a product of generations past, and generations to come will be blessed by his faithful service.
By preparing and maintaining his personal record book which should include his own genealogical records and vital information about his own life.
By receiving instructions on the importance of the principle of performing temple work, including baptism for the dead for those who never had an opportunity to hear the gospel while in mortality.  Family goals are set for him and he actually begins to build his own family group sheet and this becomes a part of his over-all achievement record.

Stapley, Delbert L.  “Family Exaltation.”  In Seventh Annual Priesthood Genealogical Research Seminar, unpaged.  Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1972(?). 

Elder Widtsoe (1921):

Need People of All Ages

We need more workers to accomplish the wonderful work that was outlined last night at the reception given by the First Presidency. Even three companies a day in each temple will not be enough; we shall have to organize four, or five, and for all I know, the day may come, unless we build more temples, when we shall keep the temples open twenty-four hours a day. We need more converts to temple work, drawn from all ages, from the young, from the middle-aged, and from the rich and poor, from among the busy and those of leisure. The time has come, I verily believe, in this new temple movement, to bring into active service all the people, of all ages. From the children doing baptisms, to the aged grandparents doing endowments for the dead, all the members of the family, if we do our duty well, must be brought into the work. Temple work is quite of as much benefit to the young and the active, as it is to the aged, who have laid behind them many of the burdens of life. The young man needs his place in the temple even more than his father and his grandfather, who are steadied by a life of experience; and the young girl just entering life needs the spirit, influence and direction that comes from participation in the temple ordinances. If I say nothing else tonight that will linger, I hope you will remember that temple work is for the young and for the middle aged and for the aged for all and not for one specialized, separated class within the Church organization.

John A. Widtsoe, “Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12 (April 1921): 51-52.

Elder Widtsoe (1943):

Perhaps They Need it the Most

It is sometimes thought that the work done in the temples is for the aged, and decrepit. Temple work is, primarily I was about to say, for those engaged in the active affairs of life, for those who are in the midst of life's battle, the young and the middle-aged. Perhaps they need it most. Certainly, it is quite as much for these as for those who seek refuge in their old age in the blessings of the temple. 

John A. Widtsoe, Conference Report, (April 1943), p. 37.

Lets think together again,  soon.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Prophet's View Of The "Greatest Challenge Facing" The United States

In April 2003, a few years after the Columbine High School shootings, Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, revered by the Saints as a Prophet of God, spoke at the nearby University of Denver. Among the things he said there is the following important statement about the "greatest challenge facing this nation."
There are ... millions of [young people] whose lives are like smoking candles from which the flame has been blown....  They are the bitter fruit of broken families and fractured homes.  Most of them have no fathers of whom they know.
In my judgment the greatest challenge facing this nation is the problem of the family, brought on by misguided parents and resulting in misguided children....  The family is the primary unit of society.  I believe it was designed by the Almighty.  A nation will rise no higher than the strength of its families.
Lets think together again, soon.

Source: Bruce C. Hafen, Covenant Hearts: Why Marriage Matters and How to Make It Last, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), p. 245.  Citing Gordon B. Hinckley, “Bridges to the Future,” Remarks at University of Denver, 22 April 2003.  For a similar statement by David O. McKay, see the bottom of the previous post.