The Gift of Salvation

In the last post we learned that the only way we can be saved in the kingdom of God is through faith, repentance, baptism by water, baptism by fire, and enduring to the end. We also learned that only those in the celestial glory have met those requirements. Meaning that those of the terrestrial and telestial glories do not meet the criteria to be saved in the kingdom of God.

What about salvation then? We’re taught that the three degrees of glory are a key part of the plan of salvation. Is there a difference between being saved and receiving salvation? Some may argue that while we can only be saved in the celestial kingdom, perhaps we can still participate in salvation in one of the lower kingdoms.

Let’s start with the Webster 1828 definition.

SALVA’TION, [Latin salvo, to save.]
1. The act of saving; preservation from destruction, danger or great calamity.
2. Appropriately in theology, the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and liability to eternal death, and the conferring on him everlasting happiness.

SA’VED, Preserved from evil; injury or destruction.

Those two words appear synonymous. In fact, they are used interchangeably in the scriptures:

D&C 6
3 Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap, let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God.

13 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.

Saved in the kingdom                     = The greatest of all gifts of God (meaning no gift is greater)
Salvation                                            = No greater gift (meaning it is the greatest gift)
Greatest of all gifts                           = No greater gift
Salvation in the kingdom of God = Saved in the kingdom of God

All these phrases show that salvation and being saved are equivalent. With that in mind, look at these other scriptures.

D&C 43:25
How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!

Alma 5:9-10
And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved. And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

Romans 10:9-10
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Isaiah 45:17
But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.

Isaiah 25:9
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us:
this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

I don’t think I’m wresting the scriptures when I assert that there is no difference between being saved and receiving salvation. Now that we know they are equivalent, let’s see if the scriptures provide the same qualifications for receiving salvation as being saved.

Alma 9:27-28
And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name. Therefore, prepare ye the way of the Lord, for the time is at hand that all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been—if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil.

Alma 34:15
And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

Alma 26:35
Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name.

So far, these are the same requirements as for being saved in the kingdom of God: faith, repentance, and baptism. These next verses add becoming as a little child and continuing in faith until the end, matching the requirements we found in the last post. But notice the qualifiers in red.

Alma 11:40
And he 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.

Mosiah 3
12 But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

17 And moreover, I say unto you, that 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.
18 For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

Mosiah 4:6-8
I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world. And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.

There is no other way, no other salvation, no other condition by which we can be saved. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. To argue otherwise is to deny the scriptures.

This presents the same problem with the terrestrial and telestial people – they don’t qualify for salvation. Salvation is only for the celestial category of people. Yet God says he will save everyone except for the sons of perdition. How can God save everyone, but only save celestial people? How can he save all, but not the terrestrial and telestial people?

1 Nephi 15:34-35
But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy. And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.

There are no three degrees of glory here. You are either in the celestial kingdom or you are cast out. How can we reconcile what the scriptures plainly teach about salvation and being saved in the kingdom of God with the current LDS interpretation of the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms? It’s not possible. If we believe what the scriptures say, the plan of salvation, as taught by the LDS Church, is really a plan of condemnation. The vast majority of humans will be doomed to the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms, cast out, without salvation, without being saved; while a small portion enjoy the celestial kingdom.

We know that can’t be true, so the conclusion is that our interpretation of what the scriptures say about the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms is wrong. Once we have accepted that truth, we need to cast aside everything we have been taught and start fresh. Which is what we’ll start doing next.

Saved in the Kingdom of God

The three degrees of glory are one of the bedrock traditions of the LDS Church. Unfortunately, many of our beliefs about the three degrees of glory don’t agree with the scriptures. Let’s take a look one of these beliefs.

Near the beginning of the vision in D&C 76, we are given a description of the gospel:

40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;
43 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.
44 Wherefore, he saves all except them

Verse 43 says God saves all the works of his hands except the sons of perdition. It’s so important, it’s repeated again in verse 44. Everyone except for the sons of perdition are saved. Just to be painfully obvious, this is saying that celestial, terrestrial, and telestial people are all going to be saved.

The scriptures say we will be “saved in the kingdom of God”, “saved in the kingdom of heaven”, or “saved in the kingdom of the Lamb”. We want to merge these statements with our interpretation that the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms are places where people will be saved for eternity. This leads us to teach that someone can be a terrestrial or telestial person and still be in the kingdom of God. We teach that we can be “saved in a lower kingdom”, “saved in the terrestrial kingdom”, or “saved in the telestial kingdom”. Yet none of those phrases have a scriptural basis that I can find. So what do the scriptures teach about who is saved, and where they are saved?

What did Jesus teach?

John 3:5
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

3 Nephi 9:22
Whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.

(Notice also that he declares he has laid down his life for those who repent and come unto his as a little child. He doesn’t say he laid down his life for those who don’t repent. Compare this with D&C 76:41-43 at the top of this post.)

3 Nephi 11:33
Whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

3 Nephi 11:38
Ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

According to Jesus, we need to believe, repent, be baptized, be born of the Spirit, and become as a little child or we can IN NOWISE inherit the kingdom of God. The Webster 1828 dictionary gives us this definition of no wise.

NO’WISE, Not in any manner or degree.

According to the resurrected Christ, we cannot in any manner or degree inherit the kingdom of God without believing, repenting, becoming as a little child, and being baptized. Moroni adds some more criteria which we cannot avoid in any manner or degree:

Moroni 10:21
Except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.

Alma piles on, telling us we must also be born of God and be changed from our carnal and fallen state and become a son or daughter of God, and unless we do this, we cannot in any manner or degree inherit the kingdom of God.

Mosiah 27:25-26
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.

Alma 42:24
Justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.

Alma 38:9
And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

Nephi takes it even higher. Now we need to have perfect faith in God or we cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.

2 Nephi 9:23
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.

He then tells us we need to endure to the end or we cannot be saved.

2 Nephi 31:15-16
15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

Just in case we’re thinking there is another way to be saved without having faith and enduring to the end, Nephi closes the door to any such possibility:

2 Nephi 31:21
21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, 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. Amen.

Modern revelation is consistent with this:

D&C 20
29 And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.

Inheriting the kingdom?

In addition to “being saved in the kingdom of God”, the scriptures talk about “inheriting the kingdom of God”. Is there a difference between inheriting and being saved in the kingdom of God? They also talk about “inheriting the kingdom of heaven”. Is there a difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven?

Nephi uses saved and inherit interchangeably:

2 Nephi 9:18
But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.

2 Nephi 9:23
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.

Alma uses kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven interchangeably:

Alma 9:12
Behold, now I say unto you that he commandeth you to repent; and except ye repent, ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Alma 5:51
And also the Spirit saith unto me, yea, crieth unto me with a mighty voice, saying: Go forth and say unto this people—Repent, for
except ye repent ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of heaven.

I don’t know how much more interchangeable you can get than that! He goes on to use inherit and saved in the same sentence:

Alma 11:37
And I say unto you again that 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.

And the criteria for the kingdom of heaven are the same as for the kingdom of God listed above:

Alma 7
14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

It seems that there is no difference between being saved in the kingdom of God and inheriting the kingdom of God. Nor is there is a difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven.

From these scriptures we’ve just reviewed, here’s a list of the scriptural requirements to be saved in the kingdom of God:

  • Faith in God
  • Repentance
  • Baptism
  • Born again / born of God / redeemed of God
  • Become as a little child
  • Hope
  • Charity
  • Endure to the end

Now let’s take a look at terrestrial people:

  • Died without the law / didn’t receive the testimony of Jesus ,  (76:72-75)
  • Blinded by the craftiness of men (76:76)
  • Received the testimony of Jesus, but weren’t valiant. (76:79)

Those people don’t meet the scriptural criteria for being saved in the kingdom of God.

What about telestial people?

  • Didn’t accept the testimony of Jesus, but don’t deny the Holy Spirit.(76:82, 101)
  • Weren’t baptized, or didn’t accept the everlasting covenant (76:101)
  • Liars, sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers (76:102)

They don’t fit the scriptural criteria for being saved in the kingdom of God either.  In fact, we have several scriptures that make it clear that these telestial people will not be saved in the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

If all these scriptures consistently say that telestial and terrestrial people do not meet the criteria to be saved in the kingdom of God, how do we reconcile this with D&C 76:43-44?

43 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.
44 Wherefore, he saves all except them

If we believe in the traditional view of the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms, these people cannot be saved, as only celestial people fulfill the requirements to be saved. Yet God says he saves everyone except the sons of perdition, so he also saves the telestial and the terrestrial people. Both cannot be correct.

I propose that our traditional interpretation of the three degrees of glory is flawed and inconsistent with scripture. For those that disagree with my assessment, I invite you to share with me scriptures that teach that:

  • we can be saved in the terrestrial or telestial kingdom
  • the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms are part of the kingdom of God
  • there is some other way to be saved in the kingdom of God without faith, repentance, baptism, being born again, becoming as a little child, having hope and charity, and enduring to the end.

In the next post, we’ll dive into what the scriptures say about salvation and what that means for the “plan of salvation”.

 

Further references

I have only listed a few scriptures in the main article. Here are other scriptures that teach about being saved:

3 Nephi 23:5
And whosoever will hearken unto my words and repenteth and is baptized, the same shall be saved. Search the prophets, for many there be that testify of these things.

D&C 49:5
5 Thus saith the Lord; for I am God, and have sent mine Only Begotten Son into the world for the redemption of the world, and have decreed that he that receiveth him shall be saved, and he that receiveth him not shall be damned

D&C 53:7
And again, I would that ye should learn that he only is saved who endureth unto the end. Even so. Amen.

D&C 56:2
And he that will not take up his cross and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved.

D&C 68:9
And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.

D&C 112:29
And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

1 Nephi 15:14
And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.

2 Nephi 9:9
Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.

2 Nephi 25:13
Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.

Moroni 7:34
And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved.

Moroni 7:38
For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.

Mormon 7:3
Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved.

Mormon 9:23
And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned;

Helaman 12:22-23
And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be saved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared. Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved.

Jacob 6:4
And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

Ether 4:18
Therefore, repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name; for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned; and signs shall follow them that believe in my name.

Ether 5:5
And if it so be that they repent and come unto the Father in the name of Jesus, they shall be received into the kingdom of God.

Alma 32:13
And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.

Alma 39:9
Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.

3 Nephi 27:6
And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.

4 Nephi 1:17
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

Omni 1:26
And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.

Mosiah 15:11
Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.

Reformatted Scriptures – Major Update

The Old Testament is complete. It’s three volumes:

  • Genesis – Ruth
  • 1 Samuel – Ecclesiastes
  • Isaiah – Malachi

I have also published updated versions of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and New Testament. These correct errors in previous versions and make their formatting consistent with the latest formatting used in the Old Testament.

I have also created “modernized” versions, which convert the archaic -eth verb ending to our current -s verb endings (cometh -> comes, believeth -> believes). There are some other straightforward changes that do not change the meaning at all but can make the text work a lot better for our modern brains (mine house -> my house). Some people love this, some people hate this. Both versions are available, so pick your preference.

I’m really pleased with the end result. I don’t envision any significant changes from here forward. PDFs are free, and printed versions are at cost. Head over here to check them out.

Reformatted New Testament

I’m happy to announce that the Reformatted New Testament is now available.

The main text uses the Joseph Smith Translation (also known as the Inspired Version). One key goal was to highlight the differences between the KJV and the JST. Many of these changes are trivial, and another goal of the project is to improve readability. So rather than showing all of the changes I only highlight ones where the meaning was significantly changed. For example:

JST

And blessed are all they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness

KJV

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness

Those verses are essentially the same, so the changes are not shown.

In this example, from Matthew 13, we have textual additions indicated with a solid underline, and textual changes shown with a dotted underline, with the KJV text in the margin.

As with the other Reformatted Scriptures, you can download the PDF for free and printed copies are available from Lulu Printing.

Head over to the Reformatted Scriptures page to download the PDF or order a printed copy.

The Reformatted Gospels

I’ve been slowly making progress on a reformatted version of the Bible that uses the JST text and highlights in the margins significant differences from the KJV. I’m currently in Acts, so I am only about 50% done with the New Testament.

As an Easter gift to everyone, I’m posting the four Gospels as a standalone document. It’s about 180 pages (90 pieces of paper), so short enough you can print it at home or run to Staples. Once I have the entire New Testament complete I will set it up with the printer like the other scriptures so you can buy printed versions.

I’m continuing to experiment with the layout, so you will see some differences. The biggest is the wide margin is now always on the right side of the page. I’ve also been experimenting with how to capture short responses in conversations, so you will see some inconsistencies. If you see any errors, or have a strong opinion, please send me a note.

The Reformatted Gospels

Rigdon v. Young (1844)

I’ve been quite busy with the podcast and haven’t had much time to devote to the blog. This was something I had been working on last year but never published. We’re going to be covering the Succession Crisis on the podcast next, so I dusted this off and decided to publish it.

August 1844 was an interesting time for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Joseph and Hyrum had been killed less than two months earlier, and there was no clear replacement. Well, actually, there was a clear replacement if you hearkened to the word of God. But the majority of the members didn’t, and so it was put to a vote instead. Brigham Young won the vote and got control, and Sidney Rigdon was excommunicated.

Let’s take a look at what should have happened in August 1844. Doctrine and Covenants has specific requirements for President of the Church. D&C 107 uses several different names for the same position:

  • Presidency of the Church
  • President of the High Priesthood of the Church
  • President of the office of the High Priesthood
  • Presiding High Priest over the High Priesthood of the Church,

I’d sure like to ask Joseph why he did that, but we’ll roll with it. The verses below make it clear these are the same and the highest authority in the church.

D&C 107
22 Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.

64 Then comes the High Priesthood, which is the greatest of all.
65 Wherefore, it must needs be that one be appointed of the High Priesthood to preside over the priesthood, and he shall be called President of the High Priesthood of the Church;
66 Or, in other words, the Presiding High Priest over the High Priesthood of the Church.

79 And the Presidency of the council of the High Priesthood shall have power to call other high priests, even twelve, to assist as counselors; and thus the Presidency of the High Priesthood and its counselors shall have power to decide upon testimony according to the laws of the church.
80 And after this decision it shall be had in remembrance no more before the Lord; for this is the highest council of the church of God, and a final decision upon controversies in spiritual matters.
81 There is not any person belonging to the church who is exempt from this council of the church.

91 And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses—
92 Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.

Verse 22 says this presidency must consist of three high priests – they can’t be elders. Verse 65 says that one must be appointed of the High Priesthood to preside. Appointed of, not appointed to. That means the person needs to already be a high priest. While the other verses could get away with an elder being chosen and then ordained to the office of high priest, verse 65 says he can’t be chosen before becoming a high priest. Verse 92 also says the president is to be a seer, a revelator, and a prophet.

With that criteria in place, let’s evaluate the the status of both men.

High Priest

Sidney Rigdon

Ordained a high priest on June 3, 1831.

Brigham Young

Never ordained a high priest.

 “Now will it cause some of you to marvel that I was not ordained a High Priest before I was ordained an Apostle?  Brother Kimball and myself were never ordained High Priests.”
Journal of Discourses
1:136, April 6, 1853

Sidney was the only High Priest among the two of them. Brigham should have never been in contention for the office of President of the High Priesthood of the Church.

Prophet, Seer, and Revelator

Sidney Rigdon

Ordained on June 3, 1831.

Elder Sidney Rigdon has been ordained a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.
HC 4:364

Brigham Young

“I do not profess to be a Prophet. I never called myself so.”
Journal of Discourses, 5:176

A reader pointed out that this quotation was actually from Heber Kimball, not Brigham Young. I’m glad my error has been corrected.

During the conference in August 1844 where the fateful vote was taken, William Marks, president of the Nauvoo Stake, said this:

“Now is there a man in the church who has received the ordination of a prophet, seer and revelator.  If there is I want to see him…I think I am knowing to all the ordinations, but I don’t know of a man who has been ordained to the office and calling Brother Sidney has.”

Sidney was the only person who had already been ordained a prophet, seer, and revelator. How could Brigham be ordained a prophet, seer, and revelator by anyone other than Sidney? Yet Brigham excommunicated Sydney and had other apostles ordain him to an office that none of them had the authority to give.

Most Senior Apostle

The current church practice is the apostle who has served the longest at the death of the president becomes the new president of the Church. This isn’t in the scriptures, and it evolved over time with various tweaks to ensure the “right” man got the job. The scripturally approved method is in Section 107. But let’s just pretend that this man-made method of succession was in force back in 1844. Surely Brigham would have won here, right?

Sidney Rigdon – called December 7, 1830

Moroni 2:2
…ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles.

D&C 35:6 – Revelation on December 7, 1830 to Sidney Rigdon
But now I give unto thee a commandment, that thou shalt baptize by water, and they shall receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old.

Moroni says apostles give the Holy Ghost, and D&C 35 tells Sidney to give the Holy Ghost even as the apostles of old. Other sections of D&C call Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and others as apostles, years before the Quorum of the Twelve was organized in 1835.

Here’s another interesting tidbit. D&C 84 was received in September 1832, two and half years before the Quorum of the Twelve was organized. Yet the Lord said:

63 And as I said unto mine apostles, even so I say unto you, for you are mine apostles, even God’s high priests; ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends;

This revelation was given to Joseph in the presence of six others. We don’t know their identities (if someone knows them, speak up!). But the Lord declares that these seven people are both high priests and apostles. We know Sidney was ordained a high priest in 1831, and we know the Lord called him an apostle in Section 35. I would not be surprised if Sidney was present when Section 84 was received.

Brigham Young – called February 14, 1835

Brigham had four years less seniority than Sidney had upon the death of Joseph. Brigham should have never challenged Sidney if the current law of succession by seniority was the law of the Lord.

Seniority – Part 2

Back in 1844, seniority wasn’t determined by length of service (Brigham invented that during the later years of his reign). Seniority at this time was determined by age.

Sidney Rigdon – born February 18, 1793
Brigham Young – born June 1, 1801

Under this criteria, Sidney has eight years seniority.

Either way you count it, Sidney had more seniority as an apostle than Brigham.

Conclusion

Final tally: Sidney 3, Brigham 0.

D&C: 42:59-60
Thou shalt take the things which thou hast received, which have been given unto thee in my scriptures for a law, to be my law to govern my church; And he that doeth according to these things shall be saved, and he that doeth them not shall be damned if he so continue.

D&C 43:5-7
And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed.

D&C 84:54-57
And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.

Had the members in August 1844 relied on the scriptures to solve the succession crisis, things would have been vastly different. No polygamy, no Adam-God doctrine, no blood atonement, and probably no priesthood ban. We would have actually had an ordained prophet, seer, and revelator at the head of the church. But they treated lightly the former commandments that told them Sidney was the only choice, and brought condemnation upon themselves and the whole church for generations.

Sickles and Service

In the comments section of one of the episodes of the Iron Rod Podcast, a listener shared a profound insight he had discovered in the Doctrine and Covenants. It was a truth hiding in plain sight that I might have never found, trusting instead in the traditions I had been taught since my youth. These traditions teach that thrusting in your sickle is all about missionary work. Yet Section 11, received in May 1829, does not support that notion.

First, Hyrum is told he must wait before preaching the gospel until he has received God’s word and knows his doctrine.

D&C 11:15-17, 21-22
Behold, I command you that you need not suppose that you are called to preach until you are called. Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel, that you may know of a surety my doctrine. And then, behold, according to your desires, yea, even according to your faith shall it be done unto you.

Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men. But now hold your peace; study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men, or that which is now translating, yea, until you have obtained all which I shall grant unto the children of men in this generation, and then shall all things be added thereto.

Instead of being called to preach, he is called to study the word of God, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Then the Lord gives the key of understanding:

D&C 11:26-27
Therefore, treasure up in your heart until the time which is in my wisdom that you shall go forth. Behold, I speak unto all who have good desires, and have thrust in their sickle to reap.

The Lord is saying to treasure up the word of God until it is time to go forth to preach the word. But notice to whom the Lord is giving this message that it is not yet time for missionary work:  he’s speaking to all who have already thrust in their sickle to reap!

This changes everything. Instead of thrusting in our sickle to reap being about missionary work and harvesting converts, it’s about harvesting our own souls. Thrusting in the sickle is studying the word of God until we know of a surety the Lord’s doctrine. This is quite a bit different from what is taught in the correlated lesson manuals. Surely this one heretic on the internet can’t be right and the correlation committee in Salt Lake City be wrong! Let’s look in a few other places.

D&C 11:3
Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God.

Notice it is the soul of the one thrusting the sickle that gets everlasting salvation. There is no mention of converts being saved here. The benefits of thrusting the sickle are for the person thrusting the sickle, which makes sense if we’re talking about personally feasting on the scriptures. Watcher added a few verses to the comments, one of which nicely summarizes this concept:

Helaman 3:29-30
Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

Watcher also referenced JST Matthew 1:37, that says “whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived.” This confirms the Helaman passage and puts it squarely in a latter-day context. Satan is generating all sorts of false doctrine in an effort to deceive us. The only antidote is a sound knowledge of the word of God.

Now that we know what thrusting in our sickles means, let’s continue with Section 11.

D&C 11:4
Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God.

Notice the order, thrusting your sickle and reaping is what causes you to be called of God. Yet a missionary is supposed to be called of God before beginning to labor. This doesn’t make sense with the traditional interpretation. But the scriptural interpretation does make sense. Studying the word of God until we have obtained the word and know the true doctrine, that is what qualifies us for the work and causes us to be called of God. We have to put the personal effort in before we can be of use to God. But he promises us that he will help us.

D&C 11:12-14
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy; And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.

Remember, this Spirit is being promised long before we are asked to go forth and preach. The Spirit promised here is not to help us preach the word with power, it is to help us learn the word and the true doctrine so we can become qualified to preach the word to others!

My thoughts soon turned to D&C 4. This, after all, is the quintessential missionary scripture. Back when I was on my mission, we repeated this at every district meeting, zone meeting, and mission meeting.

D&C 4:1-2
Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.

Notice that is doesn’t say the words ministry or missionary work. It says service of God, and serving God. How do the scriptures define the service of God? Interestingly, Section 4 is the only place in the D&C that has the phrase “service of God.” Let’s look in the other books.

In the Bible, the service of God is used consistently to describe the work in the tabernacle and temple. Here are two examples:

Ezra 6:18
And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.

Hebrews 9:6
Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.

In the Bible, missionary work is never described as “the service of God.”

In the Book of Mormon, this phrase is used by two people.

Mosiah 2:16-17,19
Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God. And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!

King Benjamin repeated uses the service of God to not refer to missionary work, but to his work as king and being in the service of his fellow beings.

2 Nephi 2:3
Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.

While not as definite as the Mosiah passage, there is no mention of missionary work in the entire chapter. Instead, Lehi is imploring his sons to choose eternal life because he is worried about the welfare of their souls.

In summary, nowhere in scripture is “the service of God” linked to missionary work! So when God talks about those who embark in the service of God, he’s talking about everyone who chooses to seek out his word, his doctrine, and his truth.

D&C 4:3-7
Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work; For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;

And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.

Section 4 was given to Joseph Smith Sr. in February 1829. When did he embark on his first mission? August 1830…eighteen months later. If this is about missionary work, it sure took him a long time to finish embarking! Compare Section 4 to Section 11 and you can see they agree with one another. The work is not missionary work, but personal preparation.

What a great find! Another tradition debunked! And another reminder that everyone has an individual obligation to obtain God’s word by searching out the scriptures. I am so grateful for this community we are creating wherein we can learn from each other.

Episode 008

This week’s episode has been posted over at http://ironrodpodcast.com

Last week’s episode covered the history of the church beginning in 1829 up to the dedication of the Kirtland temple in early 1836. It was a period of amazing revelations and spiritual manifestations. But even then there were signs that all was not well.

This week’s episode picks up in 1836 and shows how the scriptural expectations surrounding the Kirtland temple were not fulfilled and how quickly things began degrading for the church. Financial troubles in Kirtland followed by strife among the leaders and violent conflict with non-members in Missouri eventually led to a new beginning in Nauvoo. But instead of returning to the original doctrines of the church, new practices and doctrines were introduced right up until the death of Joseph and Hyrum. We discuss these issues and put them into historical and scriptural context.

If you like the podcast, please spread the word.

Feedback on Bible format

I’ve been working on the reformatted version of the Bible. The main text contains the Joseph Smith Translation / Inspired Version text, but uses the King James Version verse numbers to keep it useful for looking up references.

Where text has been added in the JST, the words are denoted with a dotted underline. Where text has been changed from the KJV, the JST words have a solid underline and the KJV words are shown in the margin.

I want to standardize on the formatting now before I get too far. It takes a long time to go back after the fact and update formatting. I’d like to get some feedback on this format for showing both versions, scriptural quotations, and other formatting styles. Please take a look and use the comments to let me know what you think.

Episode 006 – The Nature of God

The latest episode has been posted at ironrodpodcast.com

While preparing for this episode, I compiled a list of scriptures that touch on the nature of God. Most didn’t make it into the podcast, so for your reference, they are listed here with a little bit of commentary.

Mosiah 15:1-5
God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.

Notice how the Son is consistently identified with the flesh, whereas the Father never is. The Father is identified with the Spirit. Also notice that the terminology about the Son puts his name and subjection in the future.

3 Nephi 1:13 -14
Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets. Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Sonof the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.

Notice that the speaker above identifies himself as both the Father and the Son, but again only identifies the Son with the flesh.

D&C 93:3-4
And that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are oneThe Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men.

Here are several that show that Christ is both the  Father and the Son:

Mormon 9:12
Behold, he 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.

Ether 3:14
Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

3 Nephi 9:15
Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.

JST Luke 10:23
All things are delivered to me of my Father, and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.

Mosiah 3:8
8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

Helaman 14:12
And also that ye might know of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and that ye might know of the signs of his coming, to the intent that ye might believe on his name.

Ether 4:7
And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.

The LDS church teaches that Jesus, not the Father, is the Lord speaking in the Doctrine and Covenants. Yet look at some of these verses where both seem to be speaking:

D&C 49:5 Thus saith the Lord; for I am God, and have sent mine Only Begotten Son into the world for the redemption of the world, and have decreed that he that receiveth him shall be saved, and he that receiveth him not shall be damned—

D&C 68:6 Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.

D&C 29:42 But, behold, I say unto you that I, the Lord God, gave unto Adam and unto his seed, that they should not die as to the temporal death, until I, the Lord God, should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption, through faith on the name of mine Only Begotten Son.

D&C 124:123 Verily I say unto you, I now give unto you the officers belonging to my Priesthood, that ye may hold the keys thereof, even the Priesthood which is after the order of Melchizedek, which is after the order of mine Only Begotten Son.

Here’s an interesting one from the Book of Moses

Moses 7:59-60
And Enoch beheld the Son of Man ascend up unto the Father; and he called unto the Lord, saying: Wilt thou not come again upon the earth? Forasmuch as thou art God, and I know thee, and thou hast sworn unto me, and commanded me that I should ask in the name of thine Only Begotten; thou hast made me, and given unto me a right to thy throne, and not of myself, but through thine own grace; wherefore, I ask thee if thou wilt not come again on the earth. And the Lord said unto Enoch: As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah;

Enoch calls to the Lord and says he has been commanded to pray in the name of “thine Only Begotten”, which would indicate he is talking to the Father. But then he asks if he will come again. And the Lord says he will come again in the last days. Which would indicate he’s talking to the Son!

Here’s another example of the Father/Son relationship not being clear cut:

Moses 7:23-24
And after that Zion was taken up into heaven, Enoch beheld, and lo, all the nations of the earth were before him; And there came generation upon generation; and Enoch was high and lifted up, even in the bosom of the Father, and of the Son of Man; and behold, the power of Satan was upon all the face of the earth.

Enoch is taken into the bosom of the Father and of the Son. Then Enoch says to “the Lord”:

31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?

Then Enoch declares he is in the bosom of the Father:

47 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 yet, in D&C 38 Christ says:

D&C 38:4
I am the same which have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom; and verily, I say, even as many as have believed in my name, for I am Christ, and in mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father for them.

This should give everyone plenty of things to ponder.