Monday, August 31, 2009

"A New Era in Church Leadership"

It is a wonderful blessing to live in close proximity to the headquarters of the Church. This weekend we were blessed to be part of a special unscheduled stake conference where the Presiding Bishop of the Church, H. David Burton, was assigned. At our regularly scheduled stake conference coming up on October 17-18, we will participate in a televised multi-stake conference originating from the Conference Center, as we have done before. We had about a week's notice in advance of this meeting, and the reasons for the unexpected meeting were given by Bishop Burton.

"Yesterday we had the pleasure, Elder Scott and I, along with Elder Foster and Brother Curtis, to meet with 15 stake presidents who comprise the region that the Kamas and Park City stakes are a part of. The remainder of those stakes are in the east side of the Salt Lake Valley.

"We met for four hours yesterday afternoon, and under Elder Scott's direction we had the glorious opportunity of visiting with those 15 stake presidents and about 120 bishops who represent the wards in this particular group of stakes. It was a singular pleasure to be with them.

"This meeting starts a new era in the Church of priesthood leadership. For many years we have changed from quarterly stake conferences to every six months. We have transitioned from having a General Authority in each of those conferences to a General Authority only once every several years.

"I can well remember that our stake in East Mill Creek, was the 150th stake organized in the Church. Sometime late this year or early the next, number 3,000 stake will be organized. With that growth it is no longer possible for a finite number of Apostles and prophets to have the unique ability and opportunity that they enjoyed in former years to visit every stake multiple times during the course of a single year.

"And so these priesthood leadership sessions are being held, and the first two in the United States were held this weekend, the one we referred to and one in the Northwest where we attempt for the Church to give the Apostles a chance to shake hands, and be a part of, and respond to the priesthood leaders.

"In connection with that, it was felt that we be in select stakes, gather the saints together on Sunday morning and enjoy the companionship that comes from gathering entire stakes together, and so that's why we're here today.

"Elder Scott suggested that I attend this conference and he's attending another of the stakes, and so four of the fifteen stakes are having a special stake conference today and we are grateful for the assignment to be here. . ."

Bishop Burton discussed the story in the 4th chapter of John, where the Savior encountered the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well in the heat of the day and asked her for a drink of water. In the encounter the Savior instructs the woman that there is "living water" of greater value than the water in the well, and that if she partakes of the living water she will never thirst again. That set the stage for his further remarks.

"Someone much wiser than I [Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities] who referred to his time, talked about 'the best of times and the worst of times.' My brothers and sisters, it is a glorious time to be alive. It's a glorious time to live in the tops of the mountains. It's a marvelous time to enjoy the benefits of technology. It's a marvelous time to be blessed with many of the comforts of life.

"It's also a challenging time. It's a challenging time that has become far more challenging than the recent past. It's a time of great dislocation. It's a time that many are suffering. It's a time when it's important for us to be cognizant of what's going on around about us; that we reach out in service; that we reach out with our means. It's a time to be proactive in looking after and caring about, and being a part of a greater community, and reaching out with love, reaching out and sharing our means. It's a time for us to physically and spiritually prepare our own lives and families. It's a time for us to prepare for the challenges that may lie ahead.

"How do we do that? What are some of the things we can do in that preparatory period? I'm sure the first thing that comes to mind is that we need to prepare for our temporal welfare. Yes, that certainly is important, but we need to prepare for our spirits, for the offerings of the adversary will become far stronger. The insidious nature of the temptations that emanate from the evil one will be the scourge of our communities and our families if we have not adequately prepared.

"As we prepare we need to continue even in times of struggle, in times of horrible hardship to remember to be faithful in the payment of our tithes and our offerings. We need to receive the blessings that come through being honorable and honest and forthright with our Father in Heaven. We need to be generous. As President Sorenson has admonished us so well, the reaching out with our means and with our help and our blessings, and whatever it takes and be certain that we share the pain that may come in temporal affairs.

"It's a season, brothers and sisters, that we become far more proactive in temple attendance and temple service. It's a time when we offer to do the work for those who have passed on. . ."

Bishop Burton then traced the early history of temple building, and told of his meeting with President Hinckley when the idea first came to him that the temples needed to be closer to the people, and he had the inspiration to begin building smaller temples. He reached his goal of dedicating the 100th temple before the end of the year 2000, much to the astonishment of even his Brethren among the General Authorities. He told Bishop Burton years before it happened that he would be alive to dedicate the 100th temple, and indeed he was! Bishop Burton continued:

"After the great sacrifice of those early saints in building temples, we are now nearing 140 operating temples around the world. Many in this room, I predict, will see 240, and perhaps 340 and 440 as temples become far more available to the Latter-day Saints. What is our sacrifice? It's not the muscle. It's been our faithfulness in paying our tithes, but then also our sacrifice will be to keep the lights of the temples burning. . .

"We need to gather our families around us. We need to be very proactive when receiving the promises the prophets have extended to us about doing what I call the small and simple things like family home evening, family gospel study, family prayer, and being very, very diligent in seeing that that kind of activity blesses the lives of our children and spouses.

"It's a time, my brothers and sisters, for us to renew our covenants with our spouses. It's a time to respond to the expectations that President Hunter -- the only General Conference I think that he presided over as President of the Church -- suggested to the priesthood brethren that they show perfect moral fidelity to their spouses. It works both directions. It's a time and a season, my brothers and sisters, that perfect moral fidelity is the hallmark of Latter-day Saints.

"May the Lord bless each one of you in the days ahead. May you be blessed with strength. May you be blessed with the means to provide for your families. May you rally around one another. May you be faithful in tapping in to the living water of Jesus Christ. May you be faithful in doing those things that will guarantee the blessings of heaven, the spiritual living water of Jesus Christ to nourish and bless your souls, your families and those who remain dear to you. These blessings I invoke upon you. . ."

As promised, the meeting lasted an hour and a half, and started and ended precisely on time. It began with an invocation, an opening hymn sung by a stake choir, followed by a talk by the stake president, then two youth speakers, a rest hymn, a testimony from Sister Burton, followed by Bishop Burton, a closing hymn by the choir and a benediction.

In the short one-week run up to the meeting there was apparently widespread speculation buzzing around about what this unscheduled stake conference would be all about. No doubt the "mystery" added to the interest level, even though I overheard some comments of disappointment when it was over that the meeting was just more of the "same ol' same ol'."

It was no surprise to me, however, that it proved to be a wonderful reaffirmation of the love of the General Authorities for the members of the Church through their priesthood leaders who can now be trained more "up close and personal" by the General Authorities than ever before. This "new era" is all about bringing the General Authorities, and specifically the Apostles, closer to the people through their leaders in these days of growth and perhaps greater spiritual needs than ever before. It was a feast for those with ears to hear and eyes to see. The rest of the Church will see this pattern rolled out across the globe, and it was a distinct honor and pleasure to be part of the first such weekend of these types of conferences.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Millennium

A few weeks back the Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society lessons were devoted to the Prophet Joseph's teachings about the Millennium.

Our son Steve, living in Chicago with his family, had some questions after his lesson:

Dad - A question came up on Sunday in regards to the children that are to be born during the millennium. The discussion ended with our ward expert, Pres Hansen (Mel's Mission Pres), stating that children born to resurrected beings during the millennium would be spirit children and would not possess a physical body. Everybody seemed to accept that as a suitable answer and considering the source, that ended the discussion. It hasn't quite settled with me however and I was hoping you could clarify...

I found McConkie's explanation in Mormon Doctrine enlightening and he references several scriptures addressing what life will be like in the millennium but there is only one passage about children - quoting from section 101 (I think, going from memory here) where it talks about that they will reach the age like the trees then be changed in the twinkling of an eye...

As I understand it, these children will not be mortal in the same way that we are - as they will not be subject to disease, sickness, pain etc. but they also will not be immortal in the same way a resurrected being is. There will be that "twinkling of an eye" change that will take place which means there would be a momentary separation of body and spirit (albeit a sliver of a moment or a micro-second) and that makes them unique to a resurrected immortal being. Right?

So, the questions: 1. What is the physical state of these beings? Mortal or spirit children? Something unique to either? 2. At what point will spirit children begin to be born to exalted couples? 3. What do we know about this group of spirits to be born in the millennium? How is it that they will have a 'mortal' experience (obtaining of a physical body) in a time like the millennium where Satan is bound and there is no sickness, pain, etc...

Any references you can give would be great or at least point me in the right direction. I also pulled out your Zion transcripts and was looking in there but got a bit distracted - there's so much to digest there... Forgot my other additional question: How will the raising of children who died prematurely in mortality - like Adrienne - work in the millennium? What will be the state of her body (resurrected or somehow mortal again)?

My answers follow:

June 10, 2009

Steve –

There is a ton of speculation about life in the Millennium. You will search a long, long time in the scriptures for validation of anything resembling the conclusion President Hansen (with all due respect) reached in your discussion on Sunday. I suspect he drew his conclusion from the written opinion (and that’s what it is, nothing more, nothing less) of Elder McConkie cited below. It would be helpful if, when expressing opinions, we would cite our sources if they are not in the scriptures, but I digress:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

During the Millennium there will, of course, be two kinds of people on earth. There will be those who are mortal, and those who are immortal. There will be those who have been changed or quickened or transfigured or translated (words fail us to describe their state), and those who have gone through a second change, in the twinkling of an eye, so as to become eternal in nature. There will be those who are on probation, for whom earth life is a probationary estate, and who are thus working out their own salvation, and those who have already overcome the world and have entered into a fulness of eternal joy. There will be those who will yet die in the sense of being changed from their quickened state to a state of immortality, and those who, having previously died, are then living in a resurrected state. There will be those who are subject to the kings and priests who rule forever in the house of Israel, and those who, as kings and priests, exercise power and dominion in the everlasting kingdom of Him whose we are. There will be those who, as mortals, provide bodies for the spirit children of the Father, for the spirits whose right it is to come to earth and gain houses for their eternal spirits, and those who, as immortals (Abraham is one), are already begetting spirit children of their own. There will be those for whom the fulness of eternal glory is ahead, and those who, again like Abraham, have already entered into their exaltation and sit upon their thrones and are not angels but are gods forever and ever. (The Millennial Messiah, pp. 644-45).

I will supply you with further citations about the Millennium from the scriptures, and some from General Authorities that are about as far as we can safely go in attempting to describe conditions generally in the Millennium. That said, with respect to your specific question about Adrienne, the answer is a big fat “it depends.” Here are all the “if” statements that must be in place to give a definitive answer:

If Mom and I die before the Millennium is ushered in;

If we have lived our lives in such a way as to merit the highest degree of Celestial glory;

If we come up out of the grave on the morning of the first resurrection at Christ’s coming;

If we receive the keys of the resurrection;

If our righteous progenitors in the patriarchal order above us delegate to me the privilege and blessing of resurrecting our posterity;

If the gospel is true and there is a literal resurrection of physical bodies that have died (and I hasten to add that I believe it is and there is);

Then (and only if all those conditions are met), Adrienne’s body will come forth from the grave as it went into the grave as an infant. Her resurrected body (spirit and body inseparably connected) will then grow and mature as it would have had she been permitted to tarry in mortality in a telestial state, but she will be in a glorious Celestial resurrected body during the Millennium that will continue to grow and mature until it reaches a state described as its “proper and perfect frame” (see Alma 40:23), whatever that means.

Now, extrapolating further, let’s suppose there will be those who will in due course inherit the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, and such a judgment may be rendered prior to the Millennium being ushered in (having had their “calling and election made sure”). At Christ’s coming, we are informed by revelation that there is a specific order to resurrection – it’s referred to most comprehensively in D&C 88 where all the sounding of the trumps are heard. It’s really pretty cool and pretty specific, beginning with verse 96.

· First, those who are alive on the earth at the time of His coming “shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him.”

· Then the “first fruits” – those who are asleep in the grave – come forth from the grave, the faithful saints since the time of Christ.

· The second trump sounds through the seventh, and there is order to how resurrection takes place. It would be a shame if the unrepentant were to be resurrected too soon, so many of them remain “unresurrected” throughout the Millennium until they have every chance possible to repent.

· Then beginning in verse 108 we get another series of trumps sounding, which is the final judgment.

There are many, many things going on during the Millennium on many, many levels of human development and progression, not unlike conditions within the Church and in the world at large right now. It’s impossible to make a blanket statement about life in the Millennium that generalizes everything for everyone. But know this – there is order in the Lord’s house, in the way things are done, how, to whom, and when. Always best to be in the front of the line when it comes to obedience. That’s the bottom line.

Now some additional citations, including conditions in the “run-up” to the Millennium:

The time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned. For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous. Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire. (1 Nephi 22:15-17); compare Malachi 4:1).

The time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble. (1 Nephi 22:23).

They that come [meaning the Lord and his destroying angels] shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. (JS-H 1:37).

Elder Orson Pratt:

All the inhabitants who are spared from this fire — those who are not proud, and who do not do wickedly, will be cleansed more fully and filled with the glory of God. A partial change will be wrought upon them [a type of translation] not a change to immortality, like that which all the Saints will undergo when they are changed in the twinkling of an eye, from mortality to immortality; but so great will be the change then wrought that the children who are born into the world will grow up without sin unto salvation [see D&C 45:58]. Why will this be so? Because that fallen nature, introduced by the fall, and transferred from parents to children, from generation to generation, will be, in a measure, eradicated by this change. (JD 16:319).

There’s a lot going on here, Steve, with few simple explanations. Don’t forget, the “first resurrection” began with the resurrection of Christ in the meridian of time. All of the prophets and those who gave heed to the words of the prophets, from the days of Adam to Christ — and, we can assume, all those who never had an opportunity to receive the gospel but would have received it if they had been given the privilege (D&C 137:7-9) — came forth from the grave some time after the rise of the Savior to immortal glory (see Mosiah 15:21-25; Alma 40:20).

We have no indication that there has been a “wholesale resurrection” of faithful saints since the resurrection of the Savior, but President Ezra Taft Benson at least held the door open for a few special exceptions. He said: "There are some who feel that the resurrection is going on continually and has been since that time. This is not scripturally true, but we do know that it is possible for our Father to call from the graves those whom He needs to perform special missions and special service. For example, we know of at least three [Peter, James, and Moroni] who have been called up since the resurrection of the Master and since that first mass resurrection when the graves were opened and many of the Saints arose." (TETB, 18).

Don’t forget that when the Master returns in glory to take charge of affairs on this earth, coming with Him will be “a host” of the righteous dead. The “first resurrection” will on that day generally be resumed, what we would call “the morning of the first resurrection,” even though technically it is merely a continuation of what started when Christ was resurrected. Those who have died true to the faith, those who were valiant in the testimony of Jesus, who have kept the celestial law, shall return to earth with resurrected, immortal bodies. (See D&C 88:97-98). Paul said "they who are alive" [when the Lord comes] "shall be caught up together into the clouds with them who remain, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we be ever with the Lord" (JST 1 Thessalonians 4:17). The Lord of the living and the dead "will come with ten thousands of his saints, all of them resurrected persons from ages past. He will call forth from their graves and from the watery deep ten thousands of his other saints, all of them righteous persons who have lived since his mortal ministry. Those among his saints on earth who are faithful will be caught up to meet him in the clouds of glory, and they will then return to earth with him to live out their appointed days on the new earth with its new heavens." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, 627).

In addition, with Christ will come the hosts of persons who were translated before the resurrection of Christ, those who were taken into terrestrial glory without tasting death. They would include Enoch and Melchizedek with their cities, Elijah and Moses and Alma and Nephi, and, surely, congregations and communities of the pure in heart of which we have no knowledge, shall return as resurrected personages. These were with Christ in His resurrection (see D&C 133:54-55). (See Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 807-8; The Millennial Messiah, 628, 636, 647; A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 588). Those who have been translated since the resurrection of Christ — John the Beloved, the three Nephites, and other holy men or women that we know not of (D&C 49:8) — shall undergo the change equivalent to death and be transformed instantaneously from their translated mortal state to resurrected immortality at the time of our Savior's return in glory (see 3 Nephi 28:8). (TPJS, 172-3).

Although men and women who are alive at the time of Christ's second coming will be changed and quickened, they will yet continue to live as mortals. That is, for them death and immortality lie ahead. The mortal Saints shall live to "the age of man" (D&C 63:50) during the Millennium, what Isaiah explained to be one hundred years (Isaiah 65:20). At that point they will pass from mortality through death into resurrected immortality instantly, "in the twinkling of an eye." For these there will be no time for the body in the grave, no sojourn in the postmortal world of spirits, for they will be received into glory immediately after their death: "Wherefore, children shall grow up until they become old; old men shall die; but they shall not sleep in the dust, but they shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye" (D&C 63:51).

For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof, and dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years, and the wicked shall not stand. (D&C 29:11).

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

Joseph Smith:

[C]hrist and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand years. They will not probably dwell upon the earth, but will visit it when they please or when it is necessary to govern it. There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who will not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth. (TPJS, 268-9).

For in mine own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment, and my people shall be redeemed and shall reign with me on earth. For the great Millennium, of which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come. For Satan shall be bound, and when he is loosed again he shall only reign for a little season, and then cometh the end of the earth. And he that liveth in righteousness shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and the earth shall pass away so as by fire. And the wicked shall go away into unquenchable fire, and their end no man knoweth on earth, nor ever shall know, until they come before me in judgment. (D&C 43:29-33).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

What does it mean to bind Satan? How is he bound? Our revelation says: "And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man." (D&C 101:28). Does this mean that power is withdrawn from Satan so that he can no longer entice men to do evil? Or does it mean that men no longer succumb to his enticements because their hearts are so set on righteousness that they refuse to forsake that which is good to follow him who is evil? Clearly it means the latter. Satan was not bound in heaven, in the very presence of God, in the sense that he was denied the right and power to preach false doctrine and to invite men to walk away from that God whose children they were: nay, in this sense, he could not have been bound in heaven, for even he must have his agency. How, then, will Satan be bound during the Millennium? It will be by the righteousness of the people. . . Thus Satan is bound because he "shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more, for a long time." (2 Nephi 30:18). Thus the probationary nature of man's second estate is preserved even during the Millennium. It is not that men cannot sin, for the power is in them to do so – they have their agency – but it is that they do not sin because Satan is subject to them, and they are not enticed by his evil whisperings. (The Millennial Messiah, pp. 668-69).

And Satan shall be bound, that he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men. (D&C 45:55).

For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned. . . And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth. (1 Nephi 22:15, 26).

Wherefore, all things which have been revealed unto the children of men shall at that day be revealed; and Satan shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more, for a long time. And now, my beloved brethren, I make an end of my sayings. (2 Nephi 30:18).

. . .Satan shall be bound, that old serpent, who is called the devil, and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years. And then he shall be loosed for a little season, that he may gather together his armies. And Michael, the seventh angel, even the archangel, shall gather together his armies, even the hosts of heaven. And the devil shall gather together his armies; even the hosts of hell, and shall come up to battle against Michael and his armies. And then cometh the battle of the great God; and the devil and his armies shall be cast away into their own place, that they shall not have power over the saints any more at all. (D&C 88:110-14).

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10).

Joseph Smith:

The battle of Gog and Magog will be after the millennium. The remnant of all the nations that fight against Jerusalem were commanded to go up to Jerusalem to worship in the millennium. (TPJS, 280).

And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me. And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face? . . . And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest. And it came to pass that Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, in the last days, to dwell on the earth in righteousness for the space of a thousand years; (Moses 7:47-48, 64-65).

The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. (Isaiah 14:7).

Here are three statements from President Brigham Young:

In the millennium men will have the privilege of being Presbyterians, Methodists or Infidels, but they will not have the privilege of treating the name and character of Deity as they have done heretofore. No, but every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father that Jesus is the Christ. (JD 12:274).

If the Latter-day Saints think, when the kingdom of God is established on the earth, that all the inhabitants of the earth will join the Church called Latter-day Saints, they are egregiously mistaken. I presume there will be as many sects and parties then as now. Still, when the kingdom of God triumphs, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ, to the glory of the Father. Even the Jews will do it then, but will the Jews and Gentiles be obliged to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? No; not by any means. . . They will cease their persecutions against the Church of Jesus Christ, and they will be willing to acknowledge that the Lord is God and that Jesus is the Savior of the world. (JD 11:275).

When all nations are so subdued to Jesus that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess, there will still be millions on the earth who will not believe in him; but they will be obliged to acknowledge his kingly government. (JD 7:142).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

The prophetic word that sets forth what is to be during the Millennium speaks of "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." (2 Peter 3:13). It says that every corruptible thing shall be consumed when the vineyard is burned. And yet the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who will not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth." (TPJS, 268-69). Taken together, these concepts mean that wickedness that is telestial in nature, wickedness that consists of living after the manner of the world, that wickedness which is carnal, sensual, and devilish by nature-all such shall cease. Those who so live will be destroyed. They are the tares of the earth.
But wickedness is a matter of degree, and even those who are upright and decent by worldly standards but who reject the gospel and do not worship the true God are considered to be wicked by gospel standards. They are "under the bondage of sin." They do not accept the message of the restoration and gain a remission of their sins in the waters of baptism. "And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now." (D&C 84:49-53). . . There will be many churches on earth when the Millennium begins. False worship will continue among those whose desires are good, "who are honorable men of the earth," but who have been "blinded by the rest upon them until they repent and believe the gospel or are destroyed," as the Prophet said. It follows that missionary work will continue into the Millennium until all who remain are converted. Then "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:9). Then every living soul on earth will belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (The Millennial Messiah, pp. 651-52).

And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face. (D&C 101:26).

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4).

And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:5-9; see also JS-H 1:40).

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 65:25).

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4).

And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. (Isaiah 65:19).

And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man. And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death. In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree; and when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious. (D&C 101:28-31).

President Joseph Fielding Smith:

[M]en shall live free from sin and free from the ravages of disease and death until they reach the age of 100 years. Infants shall not die, they shall live until they have filled the measure of their mortal creation. In fact, mortality shall be reduced to a minimum. (Doctrines of Salvation 3:58).

In the course of the thousand years all men will either come into the Church, or kingdom of God, or they will die and pass away. In that day there will be no death until men are old. Children will not die but will live to the age of a tree. Isaiah says this is 100 years. When the time comes for men to die, they will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and there will be no graves. (Doctrines of Salvation 1:86-87).

President Brigham Young:

Do you know what the Millennium is for, and what work will have to be done during that period? Suppose the Christian world were now one in heart, faith, sentiment and works, so that the Lord could commence the Millennium in power and glory, do you know what would be done? Would you sit and sing yourselves away to everlasting bliss? No, I reckon not. I think there is a work to be done then which the whole world seems determined we shall not do. What is it? To build temples. . . . What are we going to do in these temples? . . . In these temples we will officiate in the ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for our friends, for no man can enter the kingdom of God without being born of the water and of the Spirit. We will officiate for them who are in the spirit world, where Jesus went to preach to the spirits, as Peter has written in the third chapter, verses 18, 19, and 20, of his first epistle. . . We will also have hands laid on us for the reception of the Holy Ghost; and then we will receive the washing and anointings for and in their behalf, preparatory to their becoming heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. (JD 13:329-30).

To accomplish this work there will have to be not only one temple but thousands of them, and thousands and tens of thousands of men and women will go into those temples and officiate for people who have lived as far back as the Lord shall reveal. (JD 3:372).

Here’s the ponderous question (among many) that remain unanswered in the revelations we have thus far received: Why it is that certain persons, surely billions of our brothers and sisters, will be sent to earth to gain their mortal and then immortal bodies during this glorious Millennial era? It will be an era during which they will not be tested, at least in the same ways we are now. Is that fair? Why does Adrienne die in infancy, and we all live on in mortality? What makes her so special, and all of us such fallen mortals that we must continue on in this telestial and fallen existence?

This is all I know for sure – God is perfectly just. He is perfectly merciful. He is impartial. He is no respecter of persons and delights in the development and ultimate salvation of all His sons and daughters. He is all-wise and all-knowing, and thus we would assume that He would arrange and orchestrate the times and seasons and events of our lives in such a way as to maximize our growth and further our spirituality. The saints in our current situation in these last days of turmoil and trouble ought to glory in the knowledge that so many could come to the earth and be born, nurtured in an Edenic atmosphere, and grow up without sin unto salvation. That of course, assumes we are charitable and loving in our natures instead of fallen and natural. It’s what believing in God is all about.

I heard a character (a nun being treated in the hospital by the infamous TV Dr. House) make a pretty good argument for the existence of God. She asked, “By expressing your anger at God, who is permitting tragedy and evil to exist in the world, aren’t you really just acknowledging His very existence? If He doesn’t exist you can’t be angry with Him, can you? If He doesn’t exist it can’t be His fault.”

I remember another expression that has stuck with me through all the years: “To believe in God is to believe that He will be fair, and that there will be some wonderful surprises.”

I was thinking the other day about those who are destroyed at His coming. Even in their destruction there is infinite mercy extended. They are taken directly into the spirit world, where every sin except blasphemy against the Holy Ghost may be forgiven, and they are put in a situation where they can hear the gospel, embrace its teachings, repent of their sins, and heal all the wounds of mortality that attached to their telestial existence. It may take a thousand years for some of them to repent, but the vast majority will, and they will put themselves in line to receive the ultimate blessings afforded to all God's children. It’s such a marvelous and mercifully perfect plan! I don’t think I would have ever grasped this view of eternity without having experienced the trauma and the extremities through which my brother has passed. His situation in mortality has confirmed to me again and again that there will be ample opportunity given to him either in this life or the next to repent of his sins, and to be put in a situation where he can be exalted in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.

That’s why the atonement and the eternal plan of our Father in Heaven is so much more expansive and grand than anyone can comprehend!

Now I have done what we should all do in discussing or writing about any gospel subject. I have cited the scriptures and documented the statements of others in every particular. Rather than express vague generalities when we offer our opinions in classes we attend in the Church, we must discipline ourselves to cite authoritative sources to help strengthen one another and assist in bringing to pass the day when "every man shall speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; that faith also might increase in the earth; that mine everlasting covenant might be established; that mine everlasting gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world and before kings and rulers." (D&C 1:20-23).

Thanks, Steve, for giving me a chance to think about it in light of your questions.

I cited President Wilford Woodruff in yesterday's post, and it reminded me of another occasion when he gave a blessing to a missionary about to depart, and it was recorded. In due time President Woodruff saw to it that it was published because said he: "This blessing doesn't just apply to Elder [so and so] but generally to the youth of Zion." In their later years, filled with wisdom and experience, several of our presidents were so grateful, impressed with their blessings and their fulfillment, that they made them public knowledge.

I am paraphrasing slightly, but this is the paragraph from his blessing:

"The Lord has reserved a number of choice spirits out of all the creations of God [I remind you that the creations of God are extensive and even, by our reckoning, numberless] . . .Out of all those creations he has selected a group of choice spirits and has kept them in the Spirit World for 6000 years [which I take it means since the time of Adam or approximately] in order for them to come into the Church and the world in this last dispensation. [Now listen to his summary of why.] That they may receive the testimony of Jesus Christ; that they may receive the eternal and everlasting priesthood and its blessings; that they may build up the kingdom of God unto him and prepare themselves and the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ." (President Wilford W. Woodruff, "Our Lineage," Topical Outline to The Way to Perfection, (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1932), 4).

My testimony to you, Steve, and to all my growing posterity who are living on the earth today is this: You are among that group of "choice spirits." You are in the time when the very most valiant will be needed in the final struggle; and, not only that, you are marvelously equipped with light and knowledge in the midst of those who are untried and who are faltering and failing and who have not even comprehended the beginnings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Recognize the power with which you are all endowed.

I bear you my witness that the Lord Jesus Christ lives; that He loves you; and that your patriarchal blessings are His message to you in His time, even if those blessings seem "iffy" sometimes when you read them. The fulfillment of your blessings depends upon your faithfulness. He will fulfill them in every particular. He will never fail you in the covenants you make with Him. He wants you to serve Him and give your very best. He wants you to rise to the majesty of your privileges which always involve responsibilities.

But He will magnify even your most meager efforts. He wants you to avoid the pits of sin that are in the world today and to live close to Him and the spirit of the Holy Ghost. And He promises that He will always be with you and "I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up" in the unfolding of your life leading up to that glorious Millennial day that looms expectantly ahead. (See D&C 49:26-28; 84:88).

Since March 1831, we have been told repeatly, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, and I come quickly." That's what Mormon eschatology is all about.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kennedys and the Pope

It was reported this morning that the Kennedy family has a tortured relationship with the Catholic Church in general, and now with the current Pope in particular. It's an interesting tale that you can read about here.

As a commentator and casual observer, all I can do is attempt to frame it in a gospel context. While God may forgive Ted Kennedy, and Senator Orrin Hatch may forgive his lifelong political adversary, it is clear from this story the official position of the Catholic Church and the Pope is silence.

Apparently during his recent trip to Rome, President Obama carried a personal letter from Kennedy to the Pope (contents undisclosed). After a lifetime of advancing liberal political positions including "pro-choice" rights to abortion, his divorce from Joan, the Chappaquiddick incident, where there was little doubt of his responsibility in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, his legendary womanizing, the public humiliation he caused the Catholics in opposition to stated Church dogma, and his numerous public intoxication incidents, it seems apparent from this report that his fate and his doom are sealed. Apparently, that all adds up and compounds into a lack of forgiveness from the "Holy Father." The Pope seems to have nothing to say that would offer any semblence of exoneration for this last son of the Joseph and Rose Kennedy clan.

For me at least it brings into sharp focus the unquenchable and expanding hope the gospel offers. Orrin Hatch, perhaps more than anyone else in Ted Kennedy's life, saw in this fatally flawed human being something worth saving. In the Catholic Church context, it is clear the best that can be offered Ted Kennedy is a heaven or hell scenario and not much else. Remaining silent on the matter shouts the Pope's position about which it is louder than any missive in response to Kennedy's final appeal could.

In the context of what we know from the inexhaustible doctrines of the Restoration, hope abounds. I have often wondered when people not of our faith go through the veil how that all plays out. For instance, consider this:

O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.
And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.
And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. . .
O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (2 Nephi 9:19-23; 41).

When we die, we all go through that gate -- every man, woman or child -- and Christ greets every one according to Jacob in this passage.

There is one other assurance about judgment we must ever keep in mind:

For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. (D&C 137:9).

Here's the thought that intrigues me as the world bids farewell to Ted Kennedy and the news outlets dispense lavish praise on the man they all call "The Lion of the Senate:"

What if Ted Kennedy gets enrolled with his Kennedy clansmen on the other side of the veil and attends a Sunday School class in the spirit world that's taught by, well, George Washington, Ben Franklin, or Abraham Lincoln, for instance? Better yet, what if Joseph Kennedy has already been in those clases, and is prepared to teach his son, Ted? What if Ted is able to look up and find that Joseph Smith character Orrin Hatch told him about, or that angel Moroni fellow who stands astride the Boston Temple? Wow, I'd love to be a fly on the wall of that Sunday School class! Even better -- what about all the Popes who have preceded the current Pope, who have all likely had a chance to sit in on those classes! Boggles the mind, doesn't it?

Here's the story of why I believe the odds are pretty astounding that all those luminary people are now at least moving in the right direction of accepting membership in the true Church of Christ, and have been delivered from the church of the devil. By 1874, Elder Wilford W. Woodruff was involved in helping with the temple building in southern Utah, and in 1877 he became the president of the St. George Temple. Wilford Woodruff had an innate love of temples, temple worship, and the glorious doctrinal background that teaches us that our destiny is to have influence throughout the entire universe. He was a consummate diarist. Because of his pen and paper we know almost everything Joseph Smith taught during his lifetime. Every night after listening to Joseph, Wilford went home and wrote it all down. Amazing!

When Wilford Woodruff was president of the St. George Temple, he was visited one night by the spirits of those who had put their lives on the line to sign the Declaration of Independence. He said that they pled as a man pleading for his life, seeking the ordinances of the temple. Wilford wrote that they said, "We did not apostatize," an interesting choice of words, "from the form of government God gave us. But we have no earthly representative in the Church of Christ to bring us these ordinances. Please, you do them." (Journal of Discourses, 19:229; see also Dennis B. Horne, ed., An Apostle's Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon [Clearfield, Utah: Gnolaum Books, 2004], 69).

Not only did he proceed on behalf of all those men, but also for most of the presidents of the United States, the Wesleys and other prominent religious figures, and at least seventy prominent women. I like to think all the great reformers and all the Popes are in line for those ordinances too! A daughter of Brigham Young served as proxy for the baptism of the women.

How did he feel in the baptismal font in St. George? He said that it seemed to him that the room was filled as with flaming fire.

Among the number of prominent persons who were given the ordinances that day was one of the great writers in British history, Lord Byron. Wilford Woodruff was well read; he even did some work in Greek and Latin and Hebrew; and he was cultured, in part because of his missions, but also because he kept track of world events in the process of record-keeping. Lord Byron had a stormy life, and before his marriage to his wife (to whom Wilford Woodruff sealed him), he was hardly an example of a great and good man. Not only that, but once they were married, so far as the records tell us, they had a tempestuous relationship and eventually separated.

Conclusion: If we take seriously the possibility that Elder Woodruff acted under inspiration in performing those ordinances, not just as guesswork, hoping that they might receive the ordinances, then we can take hope for others, because to receive those blessings Byron and his wife would have had to grow and come to deep understanding and become worthy.

Elder Woodruff later had "interviews" with George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and saw to it that they received further blessings. He wrote, "They were choice spirits, not wicked men." (Conference Report, April 1898, 89).

I would never presume to judge Ted Kennedy's life, but I can tell you this much: I like his chances for exoneration much better in the hands of the authorized elders of Israel who hold the true priesthood in the spirit world with whom he has no doubt already hooked up because of his friendship with Orrin Hatch, than I do his chances at the hands of the Catholic Church and the Pope who hold no authority in this life or the next.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Lutherans Adopt Gay Clergy

I was reminded this morning by Andrew in his e-mail from the missionary front in the Ohio Columbus Mission that the recent decision by the Lutheran Church to approve the appointment of sexually active gay clergymen/women has caused enormous consternation within the traditionally conservative Lutheran and Episcopal Churches, some even going so far as to say that Martin Luther is likely rolling over in his grave. Their view is that accepting gay clergy is the equivalent of forsaking the Biblical imperatives for sanctioned sexual relations to be confined within the bonds of marriage exclusively between a man and a woman.

This is what Andrew reported this morning:

"Quick update on life in Hilliard (I'm out of time). We are still teaching Admire who is our Episcopal Pastor. He is seriously considering the Church in his life. The Episcopal Church is in great turmoil right now because of a huge dispute over gays and lesbians being ordained to the ministry. We have had some good lessons with him and he just might come around."

Sometimes there are those even within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who recoil at our staunch position against the infiltration of sexual perversions within the ranks of the Church, forgetting that many in other churches are looking for a Church that does not compromise its core moral values when the political winds are blowing hither and thither.

Health Care Reform Debate Revisions

This just in -- with the death of Ted Kennedy, KennedyCare is the new ObamaCare. The liberals who embrace the "public option" (translation: Government-run, single payer system) are planning to roll out over 500 newly organized town hall meetings in the next 14 days to counter and hopefully steamroll the conservatives in opposition. It's all political theater at its best, knowing they have all the votes needed to pass whatever they want. They are floating openly some threats to deploy the 51-vote simple majority "reconciliation" option if necessary if they fall short of the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority needed to win in the Senate.

Just a quick explanation. "Reconciliation" is one of those archane Senate procedures to assure budget items get timely treatment without getting bogged down. Historically, that's what got the Bush tax cuts done in the first place when the Republicans were in charge. Since tax cuts are essentially a budget issue, no big deal even though the Democrats cried "foul" back then. But the Republicans are now crying "foul" because if the Democrats use it for erecting what would potentially be the largest entitlement program in history, that move -- use of what is being dubbed "the nuclear option" -- would potentially have adverse consequences and shut down the work of the Senate for decades to come.

But I digress. The flip side of the political strategy from the Republican point of view is even more compelling if you're a Mitt Romney watcher and supporter. The ultra-liberal approach is essentially what Mitt Romney rolled out in Massachusetts as governor, but without making the government the single payor. There are some who are making the case right now that it may signal the second coming of a Romney presidential bid for 2012.

No matter what your feelings about health care reform, one thing is clear -- it's become a (so far) "peaceful rebellion" as John McCain described it the other day in one of his town halls. Both sides are intensifying and sharpening the attacks as they gear up for the end of the August recess and the beginning of the big reform push when Congress reconvenes. It turns out Mitt Romney has a lot to say about health care reform and the issue might be playing right in to his hands.

Despite heading up Massachusetts’ health care reform "experiment" as governor, and even though he brought it up as an issue repeatedly in the 2008 campaign, Romney hasn’t gotten all that much attention in the health care debate so far. But that seems to be changing.

A week ago, I caught him briefly on the CBS Early Show criticizing Obama’s supposed loyalty to “the extreme liberal wing of his party” as well as to talk up his own health care plan. Late last month he told Newsweek that Obama was betraying his campaign promises of bipartisanship by “jamming through a piece of legislation that has numerous flaws”; CNN recently touted “Romney-care” as an alternative to “Obamacare,” and next March will see the debut of a new book laying out his solutions for the U.S., including health care reform. And you don't think he's gearing up for 2012?

For those who don’t know, Romney’s plan in Massachusetts is essentially the same as Obama’s plan (don't be shocked) -– individual mandates, subsidized coverage, a clearinghouse for tightly regulated health insurance options, and an employer pay or play stipulation –- but the essential abhorrent feature of ObamaCare is missing in the Romney plan, because there's no dreaded "public option."

Given this, Romney's got to be licking his chops in preparation for the kill. If health care reform passes (and it probably will in some fashion because the Dems have all the votes they need without or without Republican support) and ObamaCare ends up looking a lot like the reforms over which Romney presided as governor (i.e. no public option), then he can go around bragging that he got health care right the first time. He'll then be able to point out that Obama put the country through months of hardship and political strife when he could have just had Mitt as his advisor. Indeed, in his Early Show interview and in a radio interview with Sean Hannity, Romney defended his model as a rousing success and in the Newsweek interview above he notes that no Democrats have called him to ask for health care advice.

On the other hand, if health care reform passes as liberals want to see it with the public option, then Romney will just rail against big government, pointing to the Massachusetts plan as proof that reform can happen without a government-run option.

And if health care reform doesn’t pass at all, Romney can proudly note that he was able to pull it off as a Republican governor in a Democrat-controlled state. No matter how you slice it, the hubbub over health care reform could provide Romney with a golden opportunity to regain some of the relevance he lost when he got painted as a questionable conservative in losing the GOP primaries to McCain.

One final thought: If the real difference in this debate is that the conservatives (Romney/McCain) hold there should be no public option, and the liberals (Obama/Kennedy) hold there should be, who's to say there's really that much difference between the two extremes? Oh, except two unalterable truths: 1) Government-run ANYTHING will always cost more than originally projected; and 2) it will always be less efficient than private enterprise. Lest we forget.

Hatch/Kennedy Partnership

Much is being made right now about the lifelong friendship between Senators Hatch and Kennedy, strange political bedfellows by any definition. There are lots of stories beginning to emerge about the two and their interactions now that Kennedy has died.

This is my favorite one:

By Jared Whitley

With the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy this week, I wanted to share my one Kennedy anecdote from when I worked in the U.S. Senate.

In December 2006, I got called in to photograph a meeting between Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Kennedy from Massachusetts. The two were discussing health care policy, and Hatch complimented Massachusetts for trying to come up with a health care reform proposal, and commented that Mitt Romney was doing a good job as Governor.

Kennedy kind of rolled his eyes, and Hatch joked, "Just be sure you don't start up with that anti-Mormonism stuff against Romney again!" Kennedy scoffed and said, "Anti-Mormonism! You call Mitt and ask him who got the spire put on your Boston Temple. Thanks to me, half of Western Massachusetts can see the archangel Gabriel all lit up at night."

Hatch replied, "It's angel Moroni, Ted, how many times do I have to tell you?" And one of Kennedy's staff members joked, "Oh no, Senator, you're going to get another Book of Mormon for Christmas."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mormon Eschatology

Eschatology (from the Greek ἔσχατος, Eschatos meaning "last" and -logy meaning "the study of") is a part of theology and philosophy concerned with what is believed to be the final events in the history of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world.

There is a growing sense among the people of the last days that we are on some sort of collision course with the inevitability of the "end of times." Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. Since Christ was first taken up into heaven as His disciples stood and watched in awe (see Acts 1:1-11) with a promise "this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven," speculation has abounded over the timing of the fulfillment of the prophecy.

Christians, however, are not the only source for speculations surrounding the end times. Much is being made of late about the fulfillment of the Mayan calendar coming to an end on December 21, 2012 (see my earlier post). In addition, the Muslims have an end time tradition embodied in the appearance of the Mahdi. According to the Shia and Sunni versions of the Islamic eschatology the Mahdi (مهدي Mahdī, also Mehdi; "Guided One") is the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will stay on earth seven, nine, or nineteen years (depending on the interpretation) before the coming of the day, Yawm al-Qiyamah (literally "Day of the Resurrection" or "Day of the Standing"). Muslims believe the Mahdi will rid the world of error, injustice and tyranny alongside Jesus. The concept of Mahdi is not explicitly mentioned in the Qu'ran nor in the Sunni hadiths such as Sahih al-Bukhari which only mention the second coming of Jesus. It is only one of the six books of hadīth. Some orthodox Sunnī theologians accordingly question Mahdist beliefs, but such beliefs form a necessary part of Shīʿī doctrine.

According to scholars Julie Vryhof and Mitchell Uitvlugt, the advent of Mahdi is not a universally accepted concept in Islam and among those that accept the Mahdi there are basic differences among different sects of Muslims about the timing and nature of his advent and guidance. The idea of the Mahdi has been described as important to Sufi Muslims, and a "powerful and central religious idea" for Shia Muslims who believe the Mahdi is the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi who will return from occultation. However, among Sunni, it "never became a formal doctrine" and is neither endorsed, nor condemned "by the consensus of Sunni Ulama." It has "gained a strong hold on the imagination of many ordinary" self-described orthodox Sunni though, thanks to Sufi preaching. Another source distinguishes between Sunni and Shia beliefs on the Mahdi saying the Sunni believe the Mahdi will be a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad who will revive the faith. Most significantly to Americans and Jews living in Israel, the newly re-elected president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad absolutely believes it is his calling to bring to pass conditions of chaos that will usher in the coming of the Twelfth Imam.

Which brings us to the Jews. In Jewish eschatology, the term came to refer to a future Jewish King from the Davidic line, who will be "anointed" with holy anointing oil and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age. In Standard Hebrew, The Messiah is often referred to as מלך המשיח, Méleḫ ha-Mašíaḥ (in the Tiberian vocalization pronounced Méleḵ hamMāšîªḥ), literally meaning "the anointed king."

Today, the various Jewish denominations have sharp disagreements about the nature of the Messiah and the Messianic Age, with some groups holding that the Messiah will be a person and other groups holding that the Messiah is a representation of the Messianic Age itself.

Traditional thought and current Orthodox thought has mainly held that the Messiah will be an anointed one (messiah), descended from his father through the Davidic line of King David, who will gather the Jews back into the Land of Israel and usher in an era of peace.

Other denominations, such as Reform Judaism, perceive a Messianic Age when the world will be at peace, but do not agree that there will be a Messiah as the leader of this era, rather they believe that it will be brought about by the work of humankind.

It should be clear that what is needed is a unification doctrine around all these disparate ideas. Just such unification can be found, I believe, in the Restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith, the boy prophet of 14 years of age, knelt in a grove of trees in upstate New York near Palmyra and declares: "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other — This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) — and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.'" (JSH 1:16-19).

And thus began the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, built upon the sure foundation of a restored knowledge of the true identity of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. From Them he learned the truth about Christ's return to the earth in a future day as foretold by all the ancient prophets of whom we have written testaments. In subsequent visits with other heavenly messengers, Joseph Smith learned of his role in bringing to pass the fulfillment of events that would precede the Second Coming of the Lord and the ushering in of the Millennium.

It was Moroni who told him about the gold plates that contained the record of ancient American prophets, and provided the means whereby Joseph could translate the record and bring it forth as The Book of Mormon.

Joseph continues his history: "After telling me these things, 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. In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when 'they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,' but soon would come. He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty-eighth verse to the last. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated that the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here." (JSH 1:36-41).

In the revelation given November 1, 1831, we know as Section 1 of The Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord told Joseph: "And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh; For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion. And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world. Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen. (D&C 1:34-39).

Search high and low in the eschatology of other religions, and nowhere will one find the declarative voice of certainty to the degree it is found in the revelations that came forth originally from the Prophet Joseph Smith or from his interpretations of other ancient texts. All that remains is for honest seekers of truth to examine his writings, his sermons and his teachings.

If you want to know the truth about the end times, look no further than Joseph Smith. Do not be deceived by other voices of prophecy that are not nearly as precise.

Ten years ago (and twice again since then), the youth of our ward were invited to submit questions to me, then I presented the answers in a fifth Sunday combined meeting. Whenever I have taught the youth of the Church, there is always an abundant interest in this topic. My guess is they all want to know what I wanted to know when I was in their situation: Will I have time to get married and have a career, a family and do all the things I want to do before the Second Coming? Now a grandfather many times over, I can assure all the youth in the Church today the answer is still a resounding "Yes!" Here's a sampling of their questions and my answers from that first meeting:

Is there really going to be a Second Coming?

This is always one of my favorite questions. It springs from the fertile minds of some in the Church who think all the references to the Second Coming are simply “figurative,” not literal. Like the circumstances surrounding the Savior’s birth, some prefer to shroud the truth in dark and mysterious secrets that aren’t secrets at all. The Lord through his prophets has had a lot to say about the Second Coming. Here’s a sampling of what the scriptural record has to say about that, then you make up your own mind:

Old Testament evidences:

The Lord said unto Enoch: “As I live, even so will I come in the last days.” (Moses 7:60). Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, in the last days, to dwell on earth for a thousand years (verse 65). Enoch prophesied, saying: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.” (Jude 14, 15). So did Job: “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” (Job 19:25). “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence.” (Psalms 50:3; note that verses 4 and 5 tell of conditions that shall attend the Lord's future coming). “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” (Psalms 72:8; see also verse 17; 82:8). “When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” (Psalms 102:16). “The Lord of Hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 24:23). “The Lord God will come with strong hand.” (Isaiah 40:10). “The Lord shall reign in mount Zion even forever.” (Micah 4:7; see also Zechariah 14:9, 20, 21). “The Lord to come suddenly; but who may abide the day of his coming?” (Malachi 3:1-4). “Elijah the prophet to be sent before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” (Malachi 4:5, 6).

New Testament evidences:

“The Son of Man to come in the glory of his Father.” (Matthew 16:27). “The Son of Man to come in glory and to judge the nations. (Matthew 25:31-46). “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven.” (Matthew 24:30). “Of the day and hour of the Lord's coming no man knoweth.” (Matthew 24:36). “Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13:26; see also verses 32, 33, 37). “Of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38). “After many tribulations the people shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27; read verse 10 and the verses following; also 17:26-30). “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12:40). “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night to those not prepared.” (2 Peter 3:10; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:2). “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you.” (Acts 3:20). “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.” (1 Corinthians 4:5; compare 11:26). “From whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20). “At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:13; see also 2:19). “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7; see also 2:1; 1 Timothy 6:14; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28). “Stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh (James 5:8). “That we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:28; see also 3:2). “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him.” (Revelation 1:7; see also 6:12-17).

Book of Mormon and D&C evidences:

“The Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might and power, and great glory.” (1 Nephi 22:24; see also verse 26). “The bands of death to be broken and the Son to reign.” (Mosiah 15:20). “Elijah to come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” (3 Nephi 25:5). “Christ expounded to the Nephites things that should occur until he should come in his glory.” (3 Nephi 26:3). The power of heaven to come down with Christ in the midst (3 Nephi 21:25; compare 20:22; see also 24:1-3). The Three Nephites to remain in the flesh until the Lord shall come in his glory with the powers of heaven. (3 Nephi 28:7). “Ye need not say that the Lord delays his coming.” (3 Nephi 29:2). “Christ to reveal himself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof.” (D&C 29:11; see also 45:44; 65:5). “The time is soon at hand when I shall come in a cloud with power and great glory.” (D&C 34:7, 8, 12). “When he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people.” (D&C 76:63). “The Lord to be in the midst of the saints in glory, and to be their king and lawgiver.” (D&C 45:59; see also 1:36). “The Son of Man now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign on the earth.” (D&C 49:6). “The Lord will come down from the presence of the Father to take judgment upon the wicked.” (D&C 63:34). “Preparing the way of the Lord for his second coming.” (D&C 34:6; see also 39:20; 77:12). “The Son of Man to come in an hour you think not.” (D&C 61:38). “The time of the Lord's coming nigh at hand.” (D&C 35:15; 43:17; 133:17). “Hour and day of the Lord's coming no man knoweth, neither the angels.” (D&C 49:7; 39:21; 133:11). “The good and the meek shall be looking for the time of the Lord's coming.” (D&C 35:15). “He that feareth me shall be looking for the great day of the Lord to come.” (D&C 45:39; see also verses 40-56, and verses 74, 75). “Unto some it shall be given to know the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.” (D&C 68:11 – and I can tell you who “some” are – the people who seek shall find). “I come quickly.” (D&C 34:12; 35:27; 39:24; 41:4; 49:28; 51:20; 54:10; 68:35; 87:8; 99:5; 112:34).

What still must happen before the Second Coming?

That is a question with a very long answer, since most of the prophecies that describe the events preceding the Second Coming are as yet unfulfilled. I hope no one ever asks that question in the spirit of, “How much time do I have left?” We should always be repenting and be anxiously engaged in doing good and seeking to bring about Zion in our own sphere of influence.

My short response always favors Joseph Smith’s teachings about the seven seals in Revelation, each seal representing a 1,000-year period of the Earth’s temporal existence. We are living in the very end time of the sixth seal, because we are still waiting for the two major events of the sixth seal to occur: The “great earthquake” (see Revelation 6:12; also study D&C 77 in depth), and the sealing of the 144,000 high priests, 12,000 out of each tribe of Israel (see Revelation 7:4-8). The actual Second Coming does not occur until after all the events described in the seventh seal have been accomplished. So, those are two significant events yet to occur.

The Prophet Joseph Smith asked this question while in prayer one day. He was shown events in and around Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Jewish temple yet to occur:

"I was once praying earnestly upon this subject, and a voice said unto me, 'My son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years of age, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man.' I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this; and I took the liberty to conclude that if I did live to that time, He would make His appearance. But I do not say whether He will make His appearance or I shall go where He is. I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written — the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old. Then read the 14th chapter of Revelation, 6th and 7th verses — 'And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God and give glory to Him, for the our of His judgment is come.' And Hosea, 6th chapter, After two days, etc., — 2,520 years; which brings it to 1890. The coming of the Son of Man never will be — never can be till the judgments spoken of for this hour are poured out: which judgments are commenced. Paul says, 'Ye are the children of the light, and not of the darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief in the night.' It is not the design of the Almighty to come upon the earth and crush it and grind it to powder, but he will reveal it to His servants the prophets.

"Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, Etc.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make his appearance. There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east." (April 6, 1843.) DHC 5:336-337. (TPJS, p. 286-7).

Do you think that the Second Coming is closer than people think and are prepared for?

As I pointed out in the beginning, what I think – my opinion – doesn’t really matter. There are two widely held misconceptions in the Church about the Second Coming: 1) That you can somehow estimate the time in days, months or years before the Second Coming will occur; and 2) that it will occur when we are sufficiently righteous and prepared for it.

First, the Second Coming will occur when all the events related to it are fulfilled, and not a moment sooner. So you must measure the nearness of the Second Coming in events, rather than with a calendar or a clock. My counsel is that we all become familiar with those events, then we will not be deceived when false prophets come among us determined to deceive us.

Second, the scriptural record seems replete with references that the Second Coming will happen as a day of vengeance and wrath to cleanse the world. The Second Coming will come in a day of perverse wickedness, not unlike the condition of the world just before the great Flood in Noah’s day, not in a day of righteousness. The righteous saints, many of whom will be prepared and ready and waiting anxiously, will neither hasten nor delay the Lord’s coming one way or the other. The events are clearly delineated (though often “scrambled” rather than arranged topically) in the scriptures. The Lord has not been silent on this point:

“What I the Lord have decreed in them [the published revelations and prophecies] SHALL BE FULFILLED.” Again, “Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them SHALL ALL BE FULFILLED. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but SHALL ALL BE FULFILLED, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:7; 37-38). The time of Christ’s Second Coming has always been known to the Father from the beginning. We have no power either to hasten it or to delay it. (Read Joseph Smith-Matthew 40).

How close do you feel the Second Coming is?

This is a serious question, but my answer is the same as above – it doesn’t really matter how I feel about it. As more gray hair grows in among the black ones on my head, my feelings have changed. I could have my own Second Coming tomorrow if I die. In that context, the Second Coming for me could be very close indeed. I suppose that is true for all of us, because no one I know has yet been able to predict the time of death with any degree of accuracy.

So you want my feelings anyway? There are many, many events that must yet occur on this Earth before the Second Coming. You could all be grandparents bouncing grandchildren on your knees before the events are all fulfilled. But I believe that one of the key elements of prophecy relating to the Second Coming is what happens to the two sites of the Millennial temples that must be built before the Second Coming: One in Independence, Missouri (see D&C 84:2-5), and one on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. All the ancient prophets, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Micah, Zechariah, to name a few, saw that future Jerusalem temple in vision. Keep your eye on Independence and Jerusalem if you want a gauge to measure nearness. Then ask yourselves, "Which Church on the earth today holds the authoritative priesthood keys that govern temple building?" When the Jews and the Mormons finally build their Millennial temples in preparation for the Lord’s return, you will know that the day of the Second Coming is not far off. Until then, do as President Wilford W. Woodruff did -- keep planting your cherry trees.

One final thought to younger folks than I. When you live a long time, you outlive your fears of all the things you thought were going to happen because the things you once feared never happened. So I no longer fear the future because I've seen the past and I love today. It's really all I have and I'm going to make the very best of it I can.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dollar Still Holding Its Own

Doubts persist about the future of the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of choice for governments around the world. However, hopeful signs remain that a change in the status quo does not appear to be happening anytime soon. Writing in today's Wall Street Journal, here's Neil Shah, who provides the economic quote of the day. His words should provide some cold comfort on the heels of new deficit projections ($9 TRILLION in 2019). Total U.S. debt is now hovering near $12 TRILLION, about 75% of the total GNP, higher than it's ever been in history. But despite those staggering numbers, take heart, America -- we're not dead yet!

That said, can any justification be found for launching another entitlement program like ObamaCare in this environment? Is now the time? Doubt it. Health care cost reform that doesn't include the "public option" (translation: Government-run health care)? That's more likely. Here's the link to Shah's article:

"There aren't yet many signs that investors are leaving the dollar. China and Japan, the biggest foreign creditors to the U.S., loaded up on longer-term Treasury debt in June, according to the latest Treasury data. China, for example, bought $26.6 billion in notes and bonds, its biggest monthly buying on record.

"'The Treasury rally suggests the U.S. is facing neither an inflationary explosion nor a crisis of confidence,' analysts at French bank BNP Paribas SA [parent company of The Bank of the West] said in a recent note.

"The dollar has held its own against its major rivals in recent weeks. On Tuesday, one euro bought $1.4314, compared with $1.4293 on Monday and $1.4253 at the end of July.

"Any dislodging of the dollar as reserve currency will likely happen gradually if it happens at all, analysts say. Investors like China would suffer major losses if they suddenly sold a large portion of their dollar holdings.

"And a weak U.S. dollar would ripple far and wide, hurting the competitiveness of companies in export-dependent Germany and Japan. That could prompt policy makers there to voice concerns about the dollar's weakness to protect their own economies."

Christ Redeems All but Sons of Perdition


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I AM, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins (D&C 29:1).

Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made; the same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes; I am the same which spake and the world was made, and all things came by me (D&C 38:1-3).

Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the Great I AM, even Jesus Christ – the light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not (D&C 39:1-2).

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world (D&C 43:34).

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that believeth on me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst (John 6:35).

I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).

All mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer (1 Nephi 10:6).

For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished (Mosiah 15:19).

And The Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God (Mosiah 27:25-26).

He has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance (Alma 12:15).

. . . he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins (Alma 11:37).

And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it. . . For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel (2 Nephi 9:23-24; 26).

. . .there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent (Mosiah 3:17).

And thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation – that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe; and they that believe not unto eternal damnation; for they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall because they repent not (D&C 29:43-44).

For behold my blood will not cleanse them if they hear me not (D&C 29:17).

These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels – And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power. Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath. For all the rest shall be brought forth... through the triumph and glory of the Lamb (D&C 76:36-39).

That through him all might be saved who the Father had put into his power and made by him; who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him. Wherefore, he saves all except them (D&C 76:42-44).

. . . in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man, and judge all things, and shall redeem all things, except that which he hath not put into his power [sons of perdition], when he shall have sealed all things, unto the end of all things. . . (D&C 77:12).

. . . only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption (Alma 34:16).

For behold, if ye have [not] procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold ye have become subjected to the spirit of the [Lord], and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath [filled you], and hath. . . place in you; and this is the final state of the [righteous] (Alma 34:35). (See original verse, and compare with this rendering where the meaning is unaltered).

Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets. These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remissions of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves (D&C 138:32-34).

The spirits who repent will be redeemed through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God (D&C 138:58).

. . .this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end (2 Nephi 31:21).

And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation (D&C 138:59).

These all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever (D&C 76:110).

Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet (D&C 76:61).

. . .I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people. . . And now the year of my redeemed is come; and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever (D&C 133:50; 52).

And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost (D&C 50:42).

While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12).

Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories (D&C 66:2).

Having examined some scriptural passages, now let me offer some brief commentary on the meaning of words. I have noticed in recent years particularly that words are gradually using their true meaning through the abuse of the applications they are put to. Remember President Clinton's classic, "Well that depends on what the meaning of the word is is?"

When it comes to being redeemed for example, do we know what that means? Let us consider the meaning of the word. The best way to define a word in the gospel context is to find passages of scripture where the Lord Himself defines the word under consideration. The worst thing we can say when commenting and trying to define a doctrine in a class is "I think." It doesn't really matter what anyone thinks compared to a true scriptural definition.

We all know (at least I think we all know it) that the ultimate form of redemption is salvation or exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. Throughout his discourses to the priests in the court of wicked King Noah in The Book of Mormon, Abinadi consistently taught that Christ has redeemed us in that he has "granted salvation unto his people" (Mosiah 15:18).

At the same time, he stated that such redemption was conditional: "The Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins; . . . that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them. . . For salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such" (Mosiah 15:26-27).

But how does that square with unconditional redemption in the resurrection? We all know resurrection is universal -- that all men and women are redeemed in the sense that the spirit and the body of every mortal will be inseparably joined or reunited in the resurrection. (See D&C 93:33-40). We know that "through the redemption which is made for [us] is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead. And the spirit and the body are the soul of man. And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul. And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things" (D&C 88:14-17).

Moroni testified that God had "created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man. And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord."

Moroni renders a very broad definition of redemption, one in which all men and women have part: "Yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; . . . and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death" (Mormon 9:12-13; see also Helaman 14:17).

Further, the sons of perdition are "the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath" (D&C 76:38), meaning they are the only ones who shall be resurrected but not redeemed unto a kingdom of glory. It is imperative that we note here that everyone else will be redeemed in a kingdom of glory.

Can we be redeemed in this life? If we repent of our sins, forgiveness of sin by God here and now in this life involves redemption from sin. Christ redeems us in this life from sin by virtue of His atoning blood. That blessing comes to us ultimately in the cleansing mission of the Holy Ghost as we experience a mighty change of heart and as we receive sacred ordinances (see Mosiah 5:2, 8; Alma 5:21; 9:27).

Just before he died father Lehi exclaimed with certainty: "The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love" (2 Nephi 1:15). Simply put, Lehi experienced what we all may experience if we repent. He had been forgiven of his sins, had managed to put off the natural man and put on Christ, and had come to know the sanctifying power of the atonement. He clearly states that he knew he had been redeemed while yet in this life.

Lehi explained to Jacob that Christ came to "redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil" (2 Nephi 2:26).

Because of the perfect faith of the brother of Jared, he was redeemed from the Fall and brought back into the presence of Jehovah (see Ether 3:13).

After three days of darkness and anguish of soul, Alma the Younger declared, "I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit" (Mosiah 27:24).

When men and women are born again, when they are changed from their carnal and fallen state to a state of righteousness, when they come alive in Christ through His atonement and are quickened spiritually, they are redeemed of the Lord, here, in this life. That redemption extends particularly to those who "die without law" (see Moroni 8:22).

On the other hand, Amulek observed: "And [Christ] shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death" (Alma 11:40-41).

Consistently, Mormon warned faith must be sufficient among the people to call down the signs and wonders of heaven, and if faith was lacking "they are as though there had been no redemption made" (Moroni 7:38).

The key to the definition of redemption, meaning salvation and exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, is repentance. Some folks are confused about salvation being the equivalent of exaltation, but the Lord defines His own terms: "If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation." (D&C 6:13).

". . . only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption" (Alma 34:16; see also 42:13). The Savior cannot redeem his people in their sins, only from them (see Alma 11:34-37; Helaman 5:9-10).

Here's a valuable insight from Brigham Young to sustain you and give you a perspective on what it means to live in a "redeemed state" every day of your mortal probation:

I do not recollect that I have seen five minutes since I was baptized that I have not been ready to preach a funeral sermon, lay hands on the sick, or to pray in private or in public. I will tell you the secret of this. In all your business transactions, words, and communications, if you commit an overt act, repent of that immediately, and call upon God to deliver you from evil and give you the light of His Spirit. . . If I commit an overt act, the Lord knows the integrity of my heart, and, through sincere repentance, He forgives me. (Journal of Discourses 12:103; emphasis mine).