Prophets after the Old Testament? The New Testament says so.

Here is the response to a friend I met here in Oklahoma City.  We met most randomly and when he found out I was a member of the church he made it clear he was once a member.  He left for a number of questions he had and could not find answers to.  I asked if I might take a stab at them.  He gave me the three questions and I wrote them down with his e-mail.  The first question dealt with why the end of the Old Testament says “The End of the Prophets” and yet we believe in prophets after the fact.  I told him that was a fairly simple answer as the New Testament answered the question for us.  Here is my response.  I am not convinced it is the most orderly way to present it, but I think it does pretty well for doing it all in one sitting.

I have been looking up these scriptures for a couple of weeks now and trying to piece things together.  You will notice the Bible Dictionary is paraphrased (although not cited!) as well as a couple of other documents like the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

If I royally confused something, or need some more clarification, please let me know.  I already know I messed up the citation markings and format.  I am so confused on them at the moment.  I am sure law school will sort me out very soon! 

Lee,

I know I am delayed in my answers.  Moving into a new home, starting law school, and getting a host of other things squared away take time.  Additionally, I want to prepare some to give a quality and more comprehensive answer to your question.  These are not questions easily answered in one short sentence or two.  I expect you do not want just an answer, but also some scriptural references to reinforce what I am talking about.  Therefore, some of the answers may take a couple of e-mails.

The first question relation to prophets ending with the old testament seems to me pretty straight forward.  “If the end of the Old Testament states ‘The End of the Prophets’ why do you believe there were prophets afterward?”  However, in doing some homework, I find out it is not easily contained in a few short statements with a scripture reference or two to back it up.  While the gospel is very simple, we can dig in deep to find all sorts of nuances.  That is what is so beautiful about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It comprehends all things and is simple enough a child can understand it.

Initially, the question is, what is a prophet?  The classic Merriam-Webster gives 5 definitions.  1) one who utters divinely inspired revelations.  As one who writes the prophetic books of the bible or as one regarded by a group of followers as the final authoritative revealer of God’s will. 2) one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight. 3) one who foretells future events. 4) an effective or leading spokesman for a cause, doctrine, or group. 5) the last definition is the one used by Christian Science which I don’t think is of any relevance to what we are speaking since Christian Science is not part of our discussion.  That seems pretty straight forward.  I don’t think we will differ there.  Let’s recap some of it more directly with Christian theology.

The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will.  Often the message was usually prefaced with the words “Thus saith Jehovah.”  They taught men about God’s character, showing the full meaning of his dealings with Israel in the past.  It was part of the prophetic office to preserve and edit the records of a nations’ history; and such historical books as Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Sam., 1 and 2 Kings were known by the Jews as the former Prophets.  It was also the prophet’s duty to denounce sin and foretell its punishment.  He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness.  When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement.  In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller.

I don’t believe you would have any issues with what we have characterized as a prophet thus far.  I think that pretty well generalizes what most individuals see when looking at the prophets of the Old Testament.

Whether being translated from the greek or the hebrew, the equivalent word basically means, ‘inspired teacher’.  These senses all include the idea of prophecy.  As is apparent, the words come from essentially the same place.  A prophet is a person who possesses the capacity of prophecy.  It is required then that we look into what prophecy means.

Revelations 19:10 tells us, “…I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  A testimony of Jesus Christ requires revelation and prophecy.  When the Spirit of God speaks to our hearts and we feel the confirming witness of Jesus Christ, that is revelation.  At that point we can say to ourselves, “if I believe, I will be saved” or “through Jesus Christ I will be resurrected” or “because of Christ I will be raised up to his everlasting kingdom” or some other variation.  Indeed, if I say to myself or another person that according to such and such a principle you will be saved or damned, that is prophecy.  You are a foreteller of circumstances which can and will occur according to your knowledge of Jesus Christ.  If Revelations is correct, and I testify it is, then your testimony of Jesus Christ in your life makes you a prophet.  For without the witness of Christ until salvation through revelation you would have neither faith nor hope of those things which are to come.  Paul in Hebrews 11 mentions a number of prophets and even Sara and comments in verse 13, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  They were all prophets because they had a testimony of Jesus and looked forward to his promises.  These individuals were first prophets to themselves and to others.

The fact that everyone can be a prophet is mentioned in several places throughout the scriptures.  Moses voiced his approval of two of the Seventy who were prophesying in the camp.  “And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them” (Numbers 11:29).  In the next chapter he tells the people how to tell a false prophet from a correct one giving affirmation to other prophets than just himself.  “And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.  My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.  With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches: and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:6-8).  “And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20).  “Surely God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

If all who have a testimony of Jesus have prophecy, then all who have a testimony of Jesus are prophets.  Moses desired that all people were prophets having prophecy and a testimony of Jesus.  These prophets must maintain the testimony of Jesus thereby maintain that spirit of prophecy and revelation.  All the Lord’s people can be prophets as long as they maintain that testimony of Jesus and the attached revelation and prophecy.

According to this line of reasoning, as long as there is an individual with a testimony of Jesus, we have prophets upon the earth.  Indeed, I would argue the New Testament teaches us that prophets did not end with the Old Testament.

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.  For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Matthew 11:12-13).  The prophets and the law prophesied until John the Baptist.  This does not distinguish a stop at the end of Malachi’s time.

Christ was known for prophesying.  Indeed, they mocked him for it.  “And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands” (Mark 14:65).  If Christ did in fact prophesy, he was a prophet after the Old Testament.  “And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” (Luke 22:64).  “Saying, Prophecy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? (Matthew 26:68).

Zacharias prophesied, “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,” (Luke 1:67).

Paul talks about prophecy as one of the gifts, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith:” (Romans 12:6).  He speaks as if they happen presently, “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.” (1 Corinthians 11:4).  “To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinithians 12:10).  “And thou I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have charity, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2).  “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.  He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edified the church.  I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” (1 Corinthians 14:3-5).  He certainly is encouraging prophesying there, which makes those individuals doing the prophesying prophets.

Indeed not only does Paul encourage prophesy, he warns us against denying it with the very succinct, “Quench not the Spirit.  Despite not prophesyings.  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)  To Timothy, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (1 Timothy 4:14).

Peter, the leader of the church, had a few things to say about prophecy as well.  “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:19-21).

If these instances are not enough to show that prophecy, and therefore prophets, were well and alive in the New Testament, how about instances where there will be prophets to come testified in the New Testament?

“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelations 11:3).  These two witnesses will prophesy and stand as prophets to Jerusalem at some later day yet to come.

Well, I have held so far that having the gift of prophecy entitles one to be a prophet.  I have shown where a number of instances show that prophecy was still alive and well in the New Testament.  What about the testimony of the New Testament of prophets?

The people of Jesus’ day considered John the Baptist a prophet.  “And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things.  The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?  And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not believe him?  But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.” (Matthew 21:24-26).  “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (Luke 16:16).  John was considered present day for them.  Even Jesus Christ states that the prophets were until John.  This is to the present moment and even after Jesus Christ was born.

John was blessed by his father Zacharias, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways:” (Luke 1:76).

Luke eludes the prophets are still around, “As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:” (Luke 1:70).

Peter indicates the same thing.  In fact, he even says Christ is the prophet who Moses testified.  “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled…And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:  Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.  For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.  And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.  Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.  Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in they seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.  Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. (Acts 3:18-26).  “Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” (John 6:14).

After the death of Jesus Christ, there are mentions of prophets.  “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”  (Acts 13:1).  They even mention them by name.  “And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.” (Acts 15:32). “And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.” (Acts 21:10).

What is more, the prophets are mentioned as being a part of the church.  “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:19-20).  Now that scripture does not clarify the fact that the church has presently prophets and apostles.  But it does state Jesus Christ was definitely among the apostles and prophets, in fact the chief cornerstone of them.  However, the next chapter makes it clear prophets are a part of the New Testament church, “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his hold apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 3:5).  “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Anyhow, I think that should all suffice for the moment.  I believe I have showed very clearly that prophecy, prophets, and the testimony of Jesus certainly did not cease with the Old Testament.  The New Testament is replete with all of the above.  Indeed, Paul makes it clear that prophets are one of the fundamental and operating parts of the church.  In fact, all prophets take their cue from he who was a prophet in every sense, even Jesus Christ!

It is my testimony that Jesus Christ lives, that he suffered in Gethsemane, that he died on the cross, and that he was resurrected on the third day.  It was the testimony of all true prophets who have ever lived.  In fact, Jesus Christ bore testimony of it himself.  He was the one who was to be lifted up.  It is through his name, his power, and his capacity that the church of God was organized and continues to operate even until this day.

If you have questions concerning this, please feel free to e-mail you.  I have been pretty exhaustive in the references I could find.  I hope it is very clear what I am trying to show.  As I get a chance, I will start working on your other questions.

Paul Ross

Packing it into the nest

I uploaded another 340 photos for those who are interested.  They cover the remainder of the time we were in England.  They start about Harlech, Wales through London.  I have not named them yet, nor the ones from the last batch.  I will be sure to let you know when I finally do.  Which really means, you shouldn’t look at them until I have them all named!

Another day in paradise.  We keep plugging along.  We finally gathered all our possessions from rented space into the nest today.  At least we have the account closed with U-haul storage now.  They seem like good people.

Our washer was delivered today.  Our large purchases from Lowe’s are now complete.  Frigidaire has reaped some income from our purchase of a refrigerator, washer, and dryer.  (I also learned yesterday I have spelled refrigerator incorrectly all these years.  I spelled it refridgerator.  Darn English language.)  Interestingly, the man who delivered the blessed washer asked where in Utah I was from.  He deducted it from my 801 cell phone number.  I confessed my wife was from Kaysville and he admitted he grew up in Layton.  Small world.  I found out he is now an ordained minister whose sermons go over the trucker radios.  I wouldn’t have thought of a ministry over the radio, but all the best to him.  I found out he wasn’t allowed to attend LDS services growing up, and then did when he could.  He joined the church and then his mother moved to Oklahoma.  He had some questions that he apparently asked the Bishop and the Bishop couldn’t answer them.  I don’t know if he didn’t want to hear the answers or if the Bishop just wouldn’t or didn’t take the time.  He gave me the three main questions and his e-mail address.  I have dropped him an e-mail to confirm the address and then have to start putting together the answers befitting his situation.  Here they are in a nutshell.  If you would like to write with suggestions on how to respond, I would appreciate it.

The end of the new testament states, ‘The End of the Prophets’.  If it is the end, why do we have Joseph Smith or any others afterward?  A typical evangelical question posed.  I will have to establish what a prophet is, what prophecy is, and that even the Savior himself was a prophet.  Then we can build from there.  Certainly cannot forget Revelations stating that to have a testimony of Jesus is to have the spirit of prophecy.

The second question dealt with the old testament stating there was no God before, and no God afterward.  If we believe that, how can we believe in a separate Godhead and other ‘Gods’?  This one is a bit more tricky to build common ground.  I will have to revisit and do homework.  This is another common protestant question designed to create doubt.

Lastly, the question probably most difficult, and one I may not answer as I intend to go in order and discuss them slowly.  For the doctrines really don’t make it clear and it is one of those areas of gray.  I have my thoughts lined out but they are mine and not really to be shared.  Besides, I cannot back them up with doctrine and I don’t think he is interested in statements of latter day prophets.  But, once we become God in our little world elsewhere, is it given to us, or do we create it.  Next, what do we do once we have our own world or universe?

Coming back down to earth.  We found a dead mouse behind some drawers.  Amanda was not happy.  I just laughed.  After all, being a country boy you might as well say I grew up with mice.  But we did work out a deal.  I remove the mice, dead or alive, and she changes the diapers.  I don’t like diapers, she doesn’t like mice.  Boy, am I glad we got that worked out!

Jewish Jerusalem

There is one subject that always draws the attention of any Christian, well one that knows any Old Testament and New Testament history is the restoration of the Jews.  For the most part, restoration has ceased to be a naughty word in our generation.  While most Christians now use the term ‘revival’ it has a similar meaning.  But the restoration of the Jews is one most Christians are well aware.  They and we know that the Savior’s second coming will come after their restoration to Jerusalem.  It is one of those signs we are supposed to know.  Accordingly, most have watched for the day and have even done what they could to expedite the process.  In that vein, here is a scripture I find revealing in the Book of Mormon.
“But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.  Wherefore, because of their iniquities, destructions, famines, pestilences, and bloodshed shall come upon them; and they who shall not be destroyed shall be scattered among all nations” (2 Nephi 10:5-6).
There is little debate this part of the sermon by Jacob has taken place.  They have surely known destruction, famine, pestilence, and the most horrid bloodshed.  The latest of which took place in the past century.  Even before then, the scattering was well under way.  If it were not for the scattering, Hitler probably would not have had so many opportunities to shed their blood.  We see the Crusades and innumerable other attacks on Jerusalem from a variety of people. Christians through the ages have recognized the need of the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land.
Over the centuries attempt after attempt has been made to relocate them back.  The Crimean war is a great example.  The French and Russians claimed it their prerogative to convert them and protect them. The Latter-day Saints recognized a different responsibility upon their shoulders.  They were to gather in Israel.  However, the Jew was to be last.  2 Nephi gives us another twist on the take from normal Christianity.
“But behold, thus saith the Lord God: When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance” (vs 7).
An interesting question arises here.  Who, or which of their fathers was this covenant made to?  What is more interesting is that this restoration is not supposed to start until they shall believe in Christ.  How much do they have to believe?  How many have to believe to start this gathering?  Who will start this process?  They don’t appear to believe yet, so have we really seen much of a gathering yet?
Then comes something more instructive, “And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth; and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance.  Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them, and their queens shall become nursing mothers; wherefore, the promises of the Lord are great unto the Gentiles, for he hath spoken it, and who can dispute?” (2 Nephi 10:8-9).
They shall be gathered in from their scattering by the nations of the Gentiles.  America and Britain definitely fall into this category.  Indeed, the leaders of these Gentile nations shall nurse them because the Lord has so abundantly blessed these nations.  What an interesting observation.  We certainly know many nations have aided in the return of the Jew to their inheritance lands.  How much has this been completed?  We do not know.
On a tangent, Jacob then goes on to say there will be no kings over this nation or land, and that this land is the decreed land of Zion.  None, Jew or Gentile, shall fight against this land and prosper.  A most interesting light considering the scriptures where different nations may lead this land, but there will be no kings, and nobody will ultimately conquer it.  He also states how the seed of Lehi will be afflicted in the land. Anyhow, back to the Jews, I cannot help but think of some comments by Brigham Young.
“The decree has gone forth from the Almighty that they cannot have the benefit of the atonement until they gather to Jerusalem, for they said, let His blood be upon us and upon our children, consequently, they cannot believe in him until his second coming.  We have a great desire for their welfare, and are looking for the time soon to come when they will gather to Jerusalem, build up the city and the land of Palestine, and prepare for the coming of the Messiah.  When he comes again, he will not come as he did when the Jews rejected him; neither will he appear first at Jerusalem when he makes his second appearance on the earth; but he will appear first on the land where he commenced his work in the beginning, and planted the garden of Eden, and that was done in the land of America.  When the Savior visits Jerusalem, and the Jews look upon him, and see the wounds in his hands and in his side and in his feet, they will then know that they have persecuted and put to death the true Messiah, and then will they acknowledge him, but not till then.  They have confounded his first and second coming, expecting his first coming to be as a mighty prince instead of as a servant.  They will go back by and by to Jerusalem and own their Lord and Master.  We have no feelings against them.  I wish they were all gentlemen, men of heart and brain, and knew precisely how the Lord looks upon them” (JD 11:279).
The restoration of the Jews had not commenced yet when Brigham stated those words.    They will return to rebuild Jerusalem before he will return.  The Gentiles will take them back, but their conversion will not start.
“Jerusalem is not to be redeemed by the by the soft still voice of the Preacher of the Gospel of Peace.  Why?  Because they were once the blessed of the Lord, the Chosen of the Lord, the promised seed.  They were the people from among whom should spring the Messiah; and salvation could only be found through that tribe.  The Messiah came through them, and they killed him; and they will be the last of all the seed of Abraham to have the privilege of receiving the New and Everlasting Covenant.  You may hand out to them gold, you may feed and clothe them, but it is impossible to convert the Jews, until the Lord God Almighty does it” (JD 2:142).
“This American continent will be Zion; for it is so spoken of by the prophets.  Jerusalem will be rebuilt and will be the place of gathering, and the tribe of Judah will gather there; but this continent of America is the land of Zion” (JD 5:4).

Scourging?

I promise I do not have a preconceived idea of what I am trying to do here.  This is not solely meant as a series of political treatises.  Perhaps these topics are on my mind and that is why the are jumping out at me.  Who knows.  Tonight’s will be one somewhat in the same vein.

Yesterday I dealt with a land that was to be one of promise.  If the people who possess the land are not righteous and keep the commandments, then the land would be given to another nation.  While that has some scary implications, I find this scripture to be a bit more troubling.

We find the Nephites have now left the Lamanites.  Of course, they are not called by those names yet, but they will be.  There is something fascinating here.  They were those who followed the Lord, kept the commandments, and had to leave their brethren due to the stress they brought upon them.  As they broke away, they did not take on the name of Jesus, or even that of Christ because these people did not know that yet.  They took on the name of Nephi, prophet.  They did not take on the name of the Almighty, Yahweh, Lord, or even Lord God.  They took Nephi.  Due to the tradition this would start, we know this would cause the disputations that would arise in 3 Nephi.  We take it for granted that the name of the church would be after Jesus Christ, but I can sense what their frustration might have been when they were trying to figure out what to call the church after Christ’s coming.  I can see some of the difficulty even in our day.  Anyhow, I am on a tangent.

Nephi takes his people and teaches them to be industrious.  They build buildings, even a temple, and a host of other occupations.  There are the smiths, the carvers, the carpenters, the miners, and the farmers.  Then they give the contrast of those who are not righteous, those who keep not the covenants/commandments.

“…they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.” (2 Nephi 5:24).  There are other scriptures that give us more explanation of those who keep not the covenants.  “…after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations” (1 Nephi 12:23).  “…their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax.  And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us” (Enos 1:20).  “…after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious…giving way to indolence, and all manner of lasciviousness; yea, entirely forgetting the Lord their God” (Alma 47:36).  “….who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches, or upon gold and silver, and precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering, that they might not labor for them with their own hands.  Thus they were a very indolent people, many of whom did worship idols, and the curse of God had fallen upon them…” (Alma 17:24-25).

While I don’t want to give an expose on the characteristics of the ungodly, we do see some of these which are in society and which Latter-day Saints are expressly told to avoid.  The Word of Wisdom is most pronounced.

The contract of the wicked are given to us.  But then comes the clencher.

“And the Lord God said unto me: They (the Lamanites) shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction” (2 Nephi 2:25).

That gives a scary scenario!  These less than obedient individuals are allowed to remain.  Moreover, they will be the one’s who will afflict the righteous when they become not so righteous.  Even more, they will scourge them unto destruction.  That sounds like a pretty good incentive not to lose your blessed and promised state.  Remember, the Lord promised them this land in safety forever if they would remain faithful.  If not, then the promise is they will be scourged, even to destruction.  We see this take place with the Jaredites, we see it with the Nephites later.  The scenario plays out throughout the Old Testament too.

Like most scriptures in the Book of Mormon, this is not the only instance where this counsel is given.  Here are a few more.  “And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance” (1 Nephi 2:24).  “…the Lord will deliver them up, that thereby they become weak like unto their brethren; and he will no more preserve them by his matchless and marvelous power, as he has hitherto preserved our fathers” (Mosiah 1:13).  “…the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God” (Helaman 4:11).  “…because of iniquity amongst themselves, yea, because of dissensions and intrigue among themselves they were placed in the most dangerous circumstances” (Alma 53:9).  “…for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions” (Alma 50:21).  “…Surely God shall not suffer that we , who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions” (Alma 46:18).  “But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction ;and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord” (Alma 9:18).  “…I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall treat them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people…” (3 Nephi 16:15).

If we should think this is something only Mormon, it is also Biblical.

“Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before  you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you” (Joshua 23:13).  “…he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.  Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed” (Judges 2:14-15).  “If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.  But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge” (Job 36:11-12).  “Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.  Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hands of their enemies, who vexed them…they did evil again before thee: therefore lettest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them…yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give year: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands” (Nehemiah 9:26-30).  “Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.  Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far…” (Jeremiah 5:14-15).

You get the picture.  Also take a look at Chapter 28 of Deuteronomy and Chapter 26 of Leviticus.  The Lord even tells of the time he used Israel for the destruction of another nation because of their wickedness in Deuteronomy 9:4-5, “Speak not thou in thine heart, after the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee.  Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

We see how yesterday we described how the Lord would supplant a nation with another nation.  A scourge could certainly be so great so as to replace a nation by violence.  It doesn’t seem that would be the plan for this nation, just that other nations are being allowed to scourge us.  It is an entirely different treatise to show that the Lord will protect and fight the battles for the righteous, perhaps I can cover some of those later (See D&C 98 for a good start).  But here we are showing that other nations can scourge us due to not being valiantly obedient.

These promises are also against those who are being allowed to scourge us.  This scripture shows that God is no respecter of persons.  Those doing the scourging can be scourged if they later reject great obedience to eternal law.

“And they shall be a scourge unto the people of this land.  Nevertheless, when they shall have received the fulness of my gospel, then if they shall harden their hearts against me I will return their iniquities upon their own heads, saith the Father” (3 Nephi 20:28).

So we are to be faithful or else have the chances of scourging.  Just how disobedient a people have to be for scourging I am not sure.  After all, one of the scriptures I referenced earlier (Helaman 4:11) stated that just having blatant disobedience AMONG them could bring upon these problems.  A bit of a Lot scenario.  Just because there are a few righteous won’t save the rest of them.

The righteous will have some scourging on no account of their own.  What are we to do then?  “…if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek ye revenge, ye shall be rewarded.  But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you” (D&C 98:23-24).  You go on being obedient and faithful.

I should be wrapping this up.  I cannot help but see what applications this could have to us as a people, a church, and as a nation.  As we are faithful, the Lord will fight our battles for us and keep us from harm.  I do believe this could be by giving us warning and by thwarting the adversary himself or through us.  When we find we are more and more vulnerable, perhaps we should not be so quick to point fingers, find vengeance, but to look inward.  Find out what we are doing that appears to be lessening our promises from heaven.  Does it appear we are being scourged?  9/11 looks like a scourge of some type.  The scriptures don’t say the people who scourge us are always wicked, half the time they are only ignorant of God’s laws.

Remember, if we bear it not patiently, it is meted out as just measure unto us.  Like President Kimball told of the story of the last summer.  When they found out one was going to betray them/Christ they looked inward and asked, “Is it I?”  Perhaps we should do the same.  When we are afflicted and scourged by other nations, however small, we should ask, “Is it I?”  Rather than looking at them who did the scourging with a condescension and looking for revenge, we should look inward and repent.

I know of only one politician currently running for President who subscribes to this idea.  Perhaps we should seek them out and learn more of their ideas.  After all, they appear to be the most Christian.

“But behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed” (Mormon 4:5).

Immigration guided?

The immigration issue has been a topic of importance lately.  What is the proper decision, policy, and attitude we should take?  Open borders?  Closed borders?  Monitored immigration?  Initially when the nation was founded, immigration was open.  Any and all were welcome.  Slowly we began to regulate and require certain things of those who came into the nation.  Citizenship requirements have changed.  By the 1880’s we were numbering and giving minimums for those coming into the country.
What is the proper way to administer immigration?  If we go for the Founder’s view, it would be a pretty loose interpretation.  Basically, anything goes (or anything comes).  That certainly doesn’t seem to be anything the majority of American’s would be willing to accept at present.  Anyone’s opinion is really valid now when it comes to historical pretext.  We have covered the entire field.
What is the role of immigration with regards to what God would prefer?  I am not entirely sure.  Here is our scripture for thought.
2 Nephi 1:6
“Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.”
This scripture seems to be pretty straight forward.  NONE shall come UNLESS the Lord has brought them.  This is a Prophet speaking.  What is more, it is another Prophet who is recording the comments of another.  In a sense, we have two witnesses of this statement.  Moreover, Lehi himself states it is a prophecy.
That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for play.  Two prophets state, in positive terms, ALL who come to this nation will be brought by the Lord.  The question is then, what about our immigration policy?  If we try to limit it, are we acting against God’s will?  For all these who come in still, even illegally, should we hold such a vindictive attitude towards them?  Are we in a sense an Uzza reaching forth to steady the ark?
The statement seems like it would be still in effect?  There doesn’t appear to be anything in the previous or following verses that would limit it to 1492 to 1827.  Certainly, the LDS would not hold such a view.  The LDS would hold this immigration lead by the hand of the Lord continued en mass at least through 1910.  Why the change?
The gathering is to Stakes of Zion rather than to a central location now.  But this doesn’t appear to be talking about a gathering, or even the covenant people.  NONE seem so be a pretty exclusive statement for those who are covenant or not.
I suppose the real question is should we open the borders and allow all to come?  Or is the Lord inspiring our politicians to limit the immigration while at the same time inspiring others to break that limiting?
LDS are expected to keep the laws of the land, but will the Lord inspire others to break those laws the Saints are expected to uphold?  We hear cries all over against the Hispanic influx.  Is this inspired and is man putting forth his puny arm to stop the flow that God has decreed?  None shall come save it be by the hand of the Lord.
I really don’t know.  But it certainly makes me think.  Personally America is the idea of a tent of charity and of good will.  To me it seems that all are welcome and we will welcome them with open arms.
In the Old Testament, the immigrant went by another name; stranger.  Reminds me of the old western movies.  Do a search of the Old Testament and you shall see quite a few laws and regulations concerning strangers.  They were expected to hold the rest of Israel’s laws faithfully.  Those out of the covenant were treated equally, but were restricted from covenant promises and practices.
One of the first scriptures that come to mind is the reminder the Lord gives to Israel.  Strangers are to be treated well, after all, all Israel was a stranger in the land of Egypt.  It is the old golden rule.  Do unto others as you would have done unto you.  “Also, thou shalt not oppress a stranger, for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex 23:9).
Strangers could buy and sell unfettered.  They could even take some of those under the covenant as slaves (Lev 25).
Strangers were to be given the same laws as the covenant folk.  Additionally, they were to be treated equally before the law.  Even in breaking the law, the stranger was to be treated the same as the children of Israel (Num 15).
Strangers could even offer up burnt offerings.  They were expected to live the same law of health (Lev 22).
Remember, Israel after wandering went into Canaan to take possession of the Land.  The Lord even told them they were being given a land wherein they were going to be the stranger.  The Lord was going to give them the land, despite what the residents thought.  It was when the current residents fought back, and the residents along the way, that they lost their lives (Gen 17:8)  They could very well have assimilated as many other societies have done.
This always brings new meaning to the stranger referenced Matthew 25.  Whatsoever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.  But he uses the phrase ‘Stranger’ several times.  “I was a stranger and ye took me in” (vs 35).  “When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?” (vs 38).  “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?” (vs 43-44).
“Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the Land of Egypt” (Deut 10:19).
“And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.  When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou has commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:” (Deut 26:11-13).
Indeed, the stranger is even classified among the widows and orphans in a requirement for Israel to reach out to them (Deut 24).
Strangers could not take part of temple worship or passover.  Unless, they were willing to be circumcised, then they were no more strangers (similar to citizenship??) (Ex 12).
I will leave it there.  I have turned from the degree of immigration to how we should treat the immigrant.  There doesn’t seem to be a qualification of whether they were living among Israel legally or not.  God seems no respecter of persons.  Why would we treat with harshness the stranger in our midst, legal or not?
Turning back to the original question, I would definitely lean towards open borders and open communication.  It seems most arguments against open borders are for selfish reasons.  Our jobs, our land, our territory and more.  Perhaps we should re-evaluate.

The offering of sacrifices

Being thankful seems to be a crux of most of the gospel.  One of the scriptures I gave you said that they who are thankful will be made glorious.  I certainly believe that is true.  As ole Terry McCombs likes to repeat, “to be thankful, you have to remember; remember, remember, remember!”

I like your train of thought on how to be thankful.  But I think you might be missing a very important part of sacrifices and burnt offerings.  Brad, I am a bit shocked you did not remember this.  After all, we had a string of e-mails last year discussing sacrifice.

“And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.  And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.  And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?  And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5:5-6).

Notice what comes before the offerings to the Lord, it is worshiping the Lord.  Your sacrifices are of no value without the prayers.  Just like fasting with out prayer is just starving you.  Tithing without the prayer is just putting your money in the coffer.  Offerings without prayer is just burning a piece of perfectly good meat!

Think of the temple.  When Adam is offering sacrifice before the Lord, if you notice there is something missing on the altar.  I think that is very telling.  It is certainly more than just trying to save those who could not stomach a piece of burning meat or produce from the garden.

“Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore” (Moses 5:8).

“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Sam 15:22-23).

So thankfulness is manifest in sacrifice, but don’t forget the most important part of sacrifice.  The law of obedience comes first, then the law of sacrifice.  Obedience is that you are to do all things in the name of the Lord.

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faith; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate they performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul” (2 Ne 32:9).

This thing seemed so obvious to Nephi that he grieved that the people were missing it.

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 13:15-16).

“And it came to pass that we did come down unto the tent of our father.  And after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael had come down unto the tent of my father, they did give thanks unto the Lord their God; and they did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto him” (1 Ne 7:22).

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Prov 15:8).

Why do we offer prayers?  It is so that our heart might be contrite.  That is our sacrifice after the obedience.  First our heart, then comes the rest.  Our will, our ego, our all, then comes the physical.

“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Ne 9:20).

“Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (D&C 59:8).

So, there is some more backing on what goes into sacrifices.  Before the sacrifices of meat, or any other type whatsoever (fasting or tithing) it should be preceded by prayer.  All things should be done by prayer.

These sacrifices enable us to come unto the Father, the activate more fully the atonement in our lives, to allow the Spirit a stronger influence, and the whole host of blessings that follow.

As with your examples of David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Thomas B Marsh.  It is not enough to know, but to continually be seeking the Spirit.  One cannot rest on your laurels, or you will be left behind.  Then you will fight to regain your place and it will have been lost.  Whether eternally, or callings within the present.  Do not delay.  Be ever diligent in keeping the commandments every day.  The Spirit helps us see, understand, know as we are known, and not allow those blasted beams in our eyes to block our vision.

I would like to visit Thomas’ grave in Ogden.  We will have to make a trek.  I have some more of my own family to find.

Lastly, to comment on your thoughts in relation to Alma 4:19.  In bearing down in pure testimony, the only way is by the word of God.  First, to have the Spirit (prayer facilitates this greatly) and the advice of Alma, “And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just – yea, it had a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them – wherefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God” (Alma 31:5).  Have the Spirit (which gives you the power of the word) and then use the written word.  It has a more powerful effect than anything else.

That is what President Wightman taught us very diligently.  That is what I try to do.  That is what you try to do.  Let us help others understand it.  We don’t want to be another slap on the back, feel happy church.  We believe in keeping the doctrine pure, and sometimes charity and love hurts, but is always for our best.

One more question…

As I was reading through this e-mail I could not help but think, “Man, I sure do a lot of counseling!”  My next though, “Am I really such a prideful know it all to presume to know all things?”  I sure hope I don’t come off as prideful and arrogant in the things I write and say Brad.  If I do, I am sorry.  I don’t think I do.  If you forwarded my thoughts on to the niece of Uncle, she must think I am an arrogant, prideful fool to say such things without knowing Uncle.

You asked what if people are not humble and accept the truth.  The first scripture that comes to mind, “And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts:” (D&C 29:7).  “And a commandment I give unto thee – that thou shalt write for him; and the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect: for they will hear my voice, and shall see me, and shall not be asleep, and shall abide the day of my coming; for they shall be purified, even as I am pure” (D&C 35:20-21).

It is our job to be messengers.  It is up to them to be not asleep and seeking.  They will recognize the Spirit when it comes upon them.  “And even so will I gather mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, even as many as will believe in me, and hearken unto my voice” (D&C 33:6).  “And even so will I cause the wicked to be kept, that will not hear my voice but harden their hearts, and wo, wo, wo, is their doom” (D&C 38:6).  The Lord makes it clear.  We are to be instruments I his hands and carry his Spirit to others, but what happens on the other side has little or nothing to do with us.  We can be prompted to plant a seed, to testify, but the rest happens in the heart and mind of that person.  “And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them” (Ezek 2:5).  “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 of by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).  “…but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.  And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:30-31).

I wanted to correct one point you made in reference to Adam and Eve.  The man does represent the Lord has husband and father.  He must act in faithfulness and righteousness, otherwise he is not to be respected or obeyed (all according to the Spirit, not personal whims).  The Lord’s way has always been in counseling and working through that means.  All husbands have much to learn from this pattern.  Even the revelations which came to us appear to be very dictatorial of the Lord, but not if you understand under what circumstances they came.  Joseph always sought the answer, counseled with friends, sought the answer and then petitioned the Lord.  Sometimes the Lord answered, other times he did not.  We do not ever see the example of a dictating God, nor should any husband thing that his wife’s obedience should come from his own dictates.  Love, persuasion, and loving kindness are the keys.  We have our ultimate exemplar in Christ.

Just because Eve partook of the fruit first does not mean she was demoted in any fashion whatsoever.  Adam was made Lord over the whole earth and Eve the mother of all living.  Lord did not mean the ruling tyrant who ruled with blood and horror.  But the good Lord, one who watched over, protected, and prepared for the well being and felicity of those under his stewardship.  He was our physical facilities maintenance and overseer.  Even on the other hand was the nurturer, the one who keeps things operating smoothly.  These seem like very noble roles, for both of them to me.  Where do we ever get the idea that being the mother of all is something less.  Like the kingdom would be of any value without its occupants, human, animal, or plant kingdoms.  Wives are for much more than just having children.  She is a helpmeet in meeting the needs of the entire kingdom.  Not just in expanding the kingdom, but in helping the already existing kingdom.  These feminists which are in our midst are so very short sighted and narrow in their views. 

One last thought in regards to the temple from your e-mail.  I don’t know where the notion that we go to the temple for revelation comes up.  I have not researched this one in the scriptures as much, but it seems to have some problems.  Why isn’t there a room in the temple where you can write down your thoughts?  Why can’t you really even take anything with you into the temple?  That is not the purpose of the temple.  It is the Lord’s house.  We are invited to come there as often as we would like and to participate in the work.  We are guests there.  First, we go there for ourselves.  Then we take others with us every time we return.  Also important is that this is the Lord’s house.  He is our exemplar and the one to who we are to look for everything.  It is not enough for us to follow his example, but we need to make his surroundings as his are.  We are taught there the true order of heaven.  We are taught how to receive inspiration.  We are taught how to pray.  We are taught the proper order of houses of God, of families, and how to put them in order.  Should not we take these things away?  Should not we follow the example and do the same with our lives?  Should not our homes have a sanctuary of sorts, a holy of holies, for receiving inspiration?  It is to teach us how to be godly and how to organize our homes.  You don’t go to your neighbors to speak with them and learn of their ways, to go into one of their side rooms to take notes.  How absurd is that?  Go home, and do in your own home what is good and right.  You hit it right on the head.  The temple classroom should be happening at home with the scriptures.  Our homes should be temples away from the temple.