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.”

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