Friday, February 27, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Twenty-six: Delbert L. Stapley, Nephi, and Joseph Smith: The Temple in the Sermon on the Mount

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet

Evidence Twenty-six: Delbert L. Stapley, Nephi, and Joseph Smith: 
The Temple in the Sermon on the Mount©

I want to acquaint you with a principle which I have not heard or read stated quite the way Elder Delbert L. Stapley did in a 1955 conference address. He followed it up in 1964 with a companion statement. The two together embody a principle fundamental to the Restoration. It speaks indirectly about the role of Joseph Smith, and with the examples which Elder Stapley provides, constitutes another reason why I believe Joseph was a prophet.

In 1955 Elder Stapley analyzed a portion of the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount wherein he taught his people to “Enter in at the strait gate.... Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mt. 7:13-14) Brother Stapley’s thoughtfulness is evident from the interesting inferences he draws from this passage as highlighted by my emphasis in his comment: “To enter the straight gate implies obedience to gospel requirements, and the narrow way that leads to life connotes additional requirements, rites, and ordinances for all who desire salvation and exaltation.”(1) It was his objective to explain the difference between the “gate” spoken of in this scripture and the “narrow way” once one passes through the gate. In order to do this he drew upon the teachings of Nephi, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. The explanation he gave for doing so brings forth the simple principle which caught my eye.
Like so many teachings of our Lord, the interpretation, explanation, and procedures were left for his chosen prophets by inspiration and revelation, when the time was ready, to unfold to man’s knowledge. It is true of this scripture.(2)
Because I have reproduced this entire address in an earlier post, I will only mention that from those three authors Elder Stapley taught that the “gate” represented baptism and the “narrow way” represented the higher ordinances of the gospel, particularly the temple ordinances. It is a masterful discourse.  If you have not read it, I recommend you do so.  

My point here is that which I have mentioned before, warning that I would mention it again. It is that Joseph Smith brought to this poor world answers to numerous religious and spiritual questions. Those answers may be found in the scriptures he translated, the revelations he received from God, and his personal teachings. He was the man with the answers–answers to hundreds of religious and doctrinal questions big and small that mankind have generated through time, especially about the meaning of things found in the Bible. This is particularly true where the teachings of Christ, which I assume all would agree did not deal with small things, were not fully explained by him, or by other authors of the Bible. In his conference address, Elder Stapley provides us with a wonderful and very important example.

In the October 1964 general conference Elder Stapley returned to the Sermon on the Mount for analysis of another statement. This time it was Mt.5:13 where Jesus said to his disciples, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Elder Stapley asks, “For what purpose does Christ refer to his disciples as the “salt of the earth”?  He continues with an observation about the importance of this teaching: “This scripture is not an idle nor insignificant statement, but to the contrary is profound and most meaningful.”(3) He could have deduced that from the fact that the passage comes from Jesus, but demonstrating its profundity and meaningfulness is another matter. He explained that he “searched the scriptures for a more complete understanding of Christ classifying his disciples as the “salt of the earth....”  
Guess where he found the answers? There were a few clues and helpful comments in Mark 9:50, Luke 14:35, Col. 4:6, and 3 Ne. 12:30, but those passages only “furnish but a glimpse of the meaning of this significant and profound statement of our Lord, but not a fulness of understanding.” He went on to give the attention-stopping restatement of the principle which I mentioned above.
The fulness of that knowledge was reserved for the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, or the era in which we live.(4)
He found significant help in D&C 101:39-40. In true Apostolic form he said, “Now let us carefully analyze the important elements of this revelation and briefly outline the course man must follow to achieve the spiritual strength and personal influence which prepare him to become “the savor of men.” (5) Verse 39 says:
When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men. (Emphasis added.)
Elder Stapley’s extended comments about the emphasized portion of this passage were very enlightening. He began, “As we gain knowledge of the revelations, we learn that the gospel contains many covenants vital to the eternal welfare of man. This statement, therefore, has a plural connotation which I will explain.” (6) After quoting 2 Ne. 31:18-22 he explained:
Therefore, my beloved brethren and sisters and friends, after baptism and confirmation into the kingdom of God, according to Nephi, we must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ and endure to the end to gain eternal life. For by these first steps of repentance, baptism, and the receiving of the Holy Ghost, all requirements are not completed to obtain a fulness of glory in the eternal mansions of our Heavenly Father. Baptism alone does not fully prepare a person for eternal glory as many people are wont to believe. 
There are other important covenants of an everlasting nature included in the fulness of the gospel of Christ which vitally concern man’s future well-being and happiness. These covenants are eternal in nature. However, they are to be received and accepted in mortal life by all mankind possessing such knowledge and desiring eternal glory. It is also necessary for them to meet all the conditions and requirements and to fulfil every obligation appertaining to each gospel covenant to find joy and happiness both here and hereafter.(7)
The additional covenants required for salvation and exaltation, he explained, included receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood by covenant for men and the temple endowment and sealing ordinances. Then he explained how these ordinances and covenants qualify one to be the salt of the earth and savor of men.
We must keep in mind, however, as I have mentioned before, that in connection with all covenants there are conditions, requirements, and obligations which bind us to a course of righteous living and doing.  It is in the meeting and fulfilling of these conditions, requirements, and obligations which build Christlike character in an individual and make possible a savoring effect for good and righteousness in the lives of people.  When this sanctified state and spiritual motivation are achieved, we are then accounted, as Jesus said, “...the salt of the earth and the savor of men”; (D&C 101:39.)(8)
Elder Stapley also found additional commentary on the “salt of the earth” metaphor in D&C 103:4-5, 7-10 which gives additional context for understanding the Savior’s meaning and intent, especially as it pertains to this Dispensation.

Here an Apostle of the Lord has exquisitely shown how subsequent revelations have illuminated the meaning of two important portions of the Sermon on the Mount. Joseph Smith and the scripture he produced are at the core of the explanations brother Stapley gives. These two examples strengthen my faith that Joseph was a prophet, a man with the answers. And I say....

Thank God for Joseph Smith.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1. Delbert L. Stapley, general conference address in, Conference Report (April 1955), p. 66, emphasis added.

2. Ibid, emphasis added.

3. Delbert L. Stapley, “Salt of the Earth,” Improvement Era (December 1964), p. 1069.

4. Ibid, emphasis added.

5. Ibid, p. 1070.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8.  Ibid, p. 1071

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