Two facts this past week have prompted this post. 1) It was announced there will soon be 7 billion people living on planet Earth. Of course these numbers are difficult to nail down with precision, but "close enough" will have to suffice; and 2) according to a new poll by The Hill newspaper, 69 percent of Americans now believe the USA is in "decline." In addition, a whopping 83 percent indicate they are worried about America's future.
So how do those two seemingly unrelated facts intersect? They came together in my mind to suggest that very few people on planet Earth today understand, know or even believe these facts are part of the Grand Design of our Father in Heaven who knows the beginning from the end and has made ample provisions for His children because He loves them all and is no respecter of persons.
The Prophet Joseph Smith has delivered this plain and simple truth: "At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it." (TPJS, 181).
The "we" in his statement includes everyone currently living on the Earth today. Everyone. All 7 billion of us. In fact, it includes everyone who has ever lived on the Earth since the dawn of Earth's creation (more properly "organization," since matter is neither created nor destroyed, but is eternal - see D&C 131:7).
Unlearned Joseph Smith could not possibly have understood the first law of thermodynamics during his lifetime, but it was obviously revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, as he states below, and he shared this insight at a funeral for his good friend, a man named King Follett:
“Now I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God, and have not the gift of the Holy Ghost; they account it blasphemy in any one to contradict their idea. If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and He is within me, and comprehends more than all the world: and I will associate myself with Him.
“You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, 'Doesn't the Bible say He created the world?’ And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the [Hebrew] word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos — chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end.” (TPJS, 350-52).
Abraham was shown all these spirit children before we were born, and he saw that "among all these there were many of the noble and great ones." The Lord then said, "Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born." (Abraham 3:22-23). "The noble and great ones" were all of Abraham's future posterity - referred to as "the elect," those who would hold the priesthood, those who are Lord's "chosen people," those whom we know today in the broad definition as "Israel." Abraham would become "the father of the faithful." (D&C 138:41).
We learned there was a war in heaven, the theme was the contention over moral agency (or sometimes, "free agency.") Taught Joseph Smith: "The contention in heaven was — Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him. (Book of Moses — Pearl of Great Price, Chap. 4:1-4; Book of Abraham, Chap. 3:23-28.)" (TPJS, 357).
"The father of all lies" (see Moses 4:4, Ether 8:25, 2Nephi 2:18) is a perfect description of Satan. Notwithstanding his subtlety and brilliance, Lucifer lost the war in heaven, but he did not quit, nor did he surrender. Instead he took the hosts who followed him, denied the privilege of a physical body, and continues to wage the war against agency today on Earth. Those of us on Earth today saw through his craftiness because the evidence is we are here and we all have physical bodies - 7 billion of us.
At every stage of our existence, first as organized intelligences, followed by our existence as spirits during the war in heaven, then here on Earth today, and someday in the glorious world of spirits and the resurrection yet ahead, we are always granted that precious gift - our moral agency. We may choose freely without compulsion. Everything about our Heavenly Father's plan of salvation suggests it could not exist without moral agency. We are enlarged and our choices expand until they are as wide as all eternity if we are faithful in the correct use of our agency.
It was John who preserved this precious doctrine taught by the Savior: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32).
If (it's a big IF these days) we learn the truth and obey it, we shall be free, even as free as God is.
|President Harold B. Lee|
"It would seem very clear, then, that those born to the lineage of Jacob, who was later to be called Israel, and his posterity, who were known as the children of Israel, were born into the most illustrious lineage of any of those who came upon the earth as mortal beings.
"All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determined by the kind of lives we had lived in that premortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept without any question the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his or her deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn’t it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth life was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here?
"Now there is another important understanding that we have from the scriptures. We are all free agents, which means to some people who manifest a spirit of rebellion that they are free to do anything they please, but that is not the correct meaning of free agency as the prophets have declared in the scriptures where free agency has been defined. I quote:
“'Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great mediation of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.'” (2 Nephi 2:27).
President Lee continued:
“Who are you? You are all the sons and daughters of God. Your spirits were created and lived as organized intelligences before the world was. You have been blessed to have a physical body because of your obedience to certain commandments in that premortal state. You are now born into a family to which you have come, into the nations through which you have come, as a reward for the kind of lives you lived before you came here and at a time in the world’s history, as the apostle Paul taught the men of Athens and as the Lord revealed to Moses, determined by the faithfulness of each of those who lived before this world was created." (Ensign, January 1974, 2-5).
Here's the important point as it affects Israel and all of God's children today: All God's children were of the foreordained spiritual family of Christ in the premortal world and were included in the broad family of Israel. They were all foreordained to join the eternal family of Christ during the days of their mortal probation. The gospel, it was agreed, would be preached to everyone, and they would all be given the opportunity to become the "chosen and the elect" during the days of their mortal probation. All these, we are told, "the Father had put into his [Christ's] power, and they were made by him." (D&C 76:42-43). All were good, and all were deserving of all the blessings they could obtain through their faithfulness in some degree of salvation.
All were given an opportunity to experience this second estate. The elect were foreordained to come into the world through the chosen lineage, and were foreordained to obtain eternal life. Significantly, and sometimes forgotten by all of us, everyone would be given an opportunity to obtain the very same blessings and promises to improve their station and to choose eternal life not only during the days of their mortal probation, but for as long as it took in the spirit world hereafter to fulfill the promises given to them in the premortal world. Whether by birthright lineage or eventual adoption into Israel, all were foreordained to exaltation who were worthy of a body in their second estate. Because God is no respecter of persons, ample opportunities are the sum and substance of His plan of salvation. The key is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Remarkable to me is that we perform all these ordinances vicariously for all in our family tree who have predeceased us. We give them the gift of the Holy Ghost vicariously here on Earth, so they may exercise its blessings in the spirit world where they reside. They are ordained vicariously to the priesthood so they may also minister to others in the spirit world as they advance in light and truth. All are alike unto God, and all have equal claim on all the blessings -- if they repent.
So what does all this mean about America's future? Freedom is the lynch pin that makes it possible for the gospel of Jesus Christ to exist on Earth today and to flourish in our lives. The United States of America is the bastion of freedom in the world today, so that all may come in at the front door of Israel's expansive tent. Yes, we are all kin to the state of Israel politically, but spiritually America's destiny is to provide and to protect freedom for all God's children living on the Earth today no matter where they reside on Earth. Zion is spreading forth globally. Satan's dominions, intimidating as they seem, are only an illusory passing night vision that will one day evaporate like the frost when the sun rises.
We may despair from time to time about America in decline, but truthfully, America will stand as long as the Earth itself stands, and as long as the hearts of freedom-loving people still beat in the breasts of those who reside in "the land of the free and the home of the brave," the outcome is assured.
The New Jerusalem is yet to be built before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and we know it will be established here in America and nowhere else. (10th Article of Faith; D&C 84:1-5).
All the doomsday talk notwithstanding, all the wars and rumors of wars, all the upheavals imaginable, all the filth and wickedness aside, the promises to the faithful remain:
"Zion shall be redeemed, although she is chastened for a little season." (D&C 100:13).
May we always prove worthy of the trust as the chosen seed of Israel and citizens of this great land of freedom as we build Zion together.