Iron Rod Podcast 005 – Lectures on Faith

Lectures on Faith were added to the scriptures in 1835 by a general assembly of the church. They were removed in 1921 by a committee of six men. In this episode we review the history of how and why the Lectures were created, rebut some of the reasons given for their removal, and discuss a few of the key doctrines taught in the Lectures.

The latest podcast is now posted at ironrodpodcast.com

You can also find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Tune In (for Amazon Echo devices). Please help spread the word.


Preparator or Proprietor?

Read this verse:

1 Nephi 15:35
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.

Now compare it with what the Lord says in this verse:

Moses 6:29
Wherefore, they have foresworn themselves, and, by their oaths, they have brought upon themselves death; and a hell I have prepared for them, if they repent not;

When I first noticed this several years ago, it bothered me. Both statements cannot be correct. Either God prepared hell, or the devil prepared it. I filed it away hoping to one day resolve the issue. When I discovered BYU’s Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, I learned this verse in Nephi had an interesting history. This project analyzed every version of the Book of Mormon, from the original manuscript to the 1981 version.

The original manuscript has prepriator—a word which doesn’t exist in the English language. In the printer’s manuscript and 1830 edition, this was changed to preparator. In the 1837 edition, it was changed again to foundation. The 1981 edition reverted back to preparator.

But what if the original word was supposed to be proprietor? These words differ only by a few letters and sound quite similar. The change was most likely accidental. But there is a shift in meaning that has doctrinal significance. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines proprietor as the person who has the legal right or exclusive title to any thing whether in possession or not.

And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the proprietor 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.

The devil didn’t prepare hell, God did (as Moses 6:29 tells us). The devil, though,  does reign in hell. God isn’t going to dwell there, so the devil has squatter’s rights and it is his kingdom. This meaning is supported by other scriptures.

2 Nephi 2:29
And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.

This is also consistent with modern revelation:

D&C 29:37-38
And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels; And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.

Hell was prepared FOR the devil and his angels, not by them. A simple transcription error introduced a contradiction. This specific example is included as a margin note in the reformatted Book of Mormon. By researching the original transcripts, we can see a simple solution that eliminates that contradiction and reinforces the truths taught elsewhere in scripture. How many other changes are waiting to be found?

Culture vs. Doctrine

When God begins a relationship with a people, he takes them as they are. They don’t start out perfect; they start out full of false traditions that need to be weeded out over time. They also come with the culture in which they were raised. God doesn’t change that culture, but works with the culture the people have to move his purposes forward.

Abraham married his half-sister Sarah. Jacob married sisters Rachel and Leah (albeit against his will). While these were acceptable practices in their culture, a few hundred years later under the law of Moses both of these were unacceptable (Leviticus 18:9 and 18:18). Did God change his mind on what was acceptable to him? Was God still trying to figure out what his eternal doctrine was? Of course not.

Today most Westerners think marrying a first cousin is unacceptable, whereas some other cultures think it is not only acceptable but preferable. Abraham’s culture was different than Moses’ culture. Those were both different than Lehi’s culture. And the culture during Jesus’ ministry was yet again different, just as our culture today is quite different from all of them. We must not make the assumption that because God tolerated a cultural aspect that he endorsed it. Or worse yet, that God revealed that cultural aspect as doctrine and we should all embrace that specific cultural element or risk alienating ourselves from God.

Slavery is a great example of shifting cultural standards and how God deals with that. The Bible uses the word servitude much more frequently than slavery. For that sake of this post, let’s assume they are synonyms.

When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, it wasn’t a brand new concept. They didn’t have to explain to the Midianites what slavery was. Slavery already existed, it was part of their culture. God didn’t reveal it to the sons of Jacob.

When God brought Israel out of Egypt and began to organize them in the wilderness, they already had an established culture that included slavery. They themselves had been the slaves! God didn’t wipe their cultural slate clean and reveal a completely new Israelite culture. You can compare the law of Moses to other ancient near Eastern legal systems like the Code of Hammurabi to see that Israeli culture and laws were quite similar to the rest of the Semitic people in that period. God worked with them the way they were, cultural baggage included.

Law of Moses on Slavery

The Law of Moses has some specific rules on slavery, but they are to protect the rights of the slaves and prevent abuse.

Exodus 21:2-3
If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

Exodus 21:26-27
And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.

Interestingly, even though the law of Moses permitted slavery, it was against the law of Moses to return a runaway slave.

Deuteronomy 23:15-16
Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.

Shortly before the Babylonian captivity, the kingdom of Judah’s unwillingness to obey these commandments by freeing the slaves were one of the reasons for their punishment at the hand of the Babylonians. Read Jeremiah 34:8-32 to see that when the people covenanted to release their servants then changed their mind and brought them back into subjection, the Lord swore destruction and captivity upon the kingdom of Judah. Obviously there were other factors involved as well, but Jeremiah 34 specifically calls this out as a deciding factor.

While the Lord tolerated slavery within Israel, he insisted that liberty be proclaimed and that the servitude be limited in duration with protections for those enslaved. He never commanded slavery or promoted it as a divine institution.

Book of Mormon Teachings on Slavery

In the Book of Mormon, Limhi’s people were willing to become the Nephite’s slaves rather than remain under the rule of the Lamanites. Yet they didn’t know that king Benjamin had eliminated slavery in his kingdom.

Mosiah 2:13
Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you

Alma 27:9
But Ammon said unto him: It is against the law of our brethren, which was established by my father, that there should be any slaves among them; therefore let us go down and rely upon the mercies of our brethren.

King Benjamin wasn’t violating the commandments of the Lord by prohibiting slavery. It never was a commandment. The only commandments God gave put limits on that cultural practice. If the practice was eliminated in the Nephite culture, it was a cultural change, not a doctrinal change.

New Testament Teachings on Slavery

In the New Testament period, slavery was also part of the Greco-Roman culture the members of the church lived in. Specific guidance is given to both slaves and slaveowners on how they are expected to implement slavery within the bounds of the gospel.

Colossians 4:1
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

Ephesians 6:9
And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

Nowhere does God command: Thou shalt own slaves. What he does command is that if your culture permits slavery, be fair and just.

D&C Teachings on Slavery

D&C 101:79
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

One could look at this and say it contradicts the Bible because both the Old Testament and New Testament tolerate slavery. Toleration is quite different than requiring or condoning something. Notice what this verse says:

D&C 134:12
12 We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men; such interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.

It is governments that choose to allow slavery, not God. D&C 134 does not state that we should petition those governments that don’t allow Biblically-sanctioned slavery to convince them to allow it. Slavery was tolerated, not required or even desired.

As part of his campaign for the US presidency, Joseph Smith proposed an economic solution to ending slavery in the US (selling government land to raise money to buy slaves from their owners). Rather than trying to promote and reinforce slavery, Joseph was trying to peacefully end it. Rather than trying to end slavery by force, Joseph desired to end it by a peaceful economic transaction that was agreeable to both parties.

Implications

I specifically chose slavery as the example because it is, for us today, such an abomination. We now know it is wrong and continue to fight against slavery in all forms, sexual slavery being a notable example today. I don’t think we would find many faithful people trying to argue that because the Bible contains rules for slavery, we must adopt that same culture and reintroduce slavery in order to be obedient to God’s commandments. But do faithful people pick other examples from the Bible and insist we must adopt those cultural standards in order to please God?

There are several questions we need to ask ourselves.

When reading scripture, what is only applicable in the cultural setting in which the scripture was received and what is an unchanging doctrinal truth? Rules on marriage and divorce change throughout the scripture. Can I pick the one I like the best and say that is the eternal truth that we all must obey today? What about rules on clothing and modesty? The Old Testament commands to not mix wool with linen. The New Testament says women should cover their hair. Are we all offending God today by not obeying these scriptural rules?

Which of our cultural norms today are we elevating to the status of doctrine? Does every man worldwide have to wear a white shirt and tie to church lest they offend God? Or would God accept the service of someone in traditional African clothing just the same as someone in American 1950s business clothing? Does God only accept Northern European hymns accompanied by organ or piano, or would he also accept songs of praise from cultures where drums and wind instruments are normal and the tempos and intensity are not as subdued? Are only American marriage and divorce procedures acceptable to God, or are other cultural practices, including the paying of dowries, just as acceptable to God?

As we all search for truth, these are some key questions we need to ask ourselves frequently to ensure we’re not straining at gnats and swallowing camels. God didn’t command Joseph to dress like an ancient Israeli; Joseph kept wearing the traditional clothing of his American culture. God didn’t command Joseph to adopt the marriage practices of ancient Israel; Joseph followed the norms of his American culture. Had Joseph been living in sub-Saharan Africa and God chose to begin his work there, the culture of the church would have been dramatically different…but the doctrine would have been the same.

The challenge for us is discerning between culture and doctrine.

IronRodPodcast.com

Episode 3 of The Iron Rod Podcast is now available. In this episode we talk about the benefits of the reformatted scriptures and how we plan to leverage them in 2019.

All the episodes are now available at the new home of the podcast: ironrodpodcast.com

The podcast has been submitted to Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and TuneIn and should be available in the next few days. If you have other podcasting services you’d like added, let me know.


Reformatted Scriptures

For almost two decades I’ve been frustrated with the scriptures. Not with the message, but the physical book. The margins were too small to make notes. The footnotes took up an inordinate amount of space, yet most were of little value and many key links were missing. Section and chapter headers contained precepts of men that contradicted what was written. The uninspired chapter divisions and versification broke up key ideas and changed the natural flow. I dreamed of creating my own edition of the scriptures that fixed all those issues, but how could one person go about such a monumental task? I jotted down some notes from time to time but never thought it would happen.

A few years ago I stumbled upon a website of someone who had experimented with reformatting the scriptures. In addition to posting some drafts of his work, he also posted raw text files of all the standard works. I realized that my impossible dream of reformatted scriptures was not impossible, just really time consuming! I downloaded the files and went to work.

BoM sampleUntil recently, printing was expensive so white space was considered a waste. Look at your current scriptures and notice how little white space there is on the page. While that style minimizes the number of pages you have to print, it makes it difficult on the reader, and almost impossible to make significant notes.

This reformatted version has wide margins for notes. Chapter and verse numbers are visually suppressed so they fade into the background while reading, but are still available to help find specific references. The text is placed into into standard paragraphs, and bullet points and poetic formatting are used when that can help convey the message better. When another scripture is quoted, the quotation has a grey background and the cross reference in the margin.

Both the original manuscript and the printers manuscript of the Book of Mormon had no punctuation. The entire manuscript was one run-on sentence. John Gilbert, the typesetter at the Grandin printing shop, added every period, comma, and capital letter. So as I was reformatting the Book of Mormon, I would sometimes change the punctuation, either to modernize it or help with the new paragraphs I was creating. But the actual scriptural words in the main body match 100% to the 1981 version. I did add some section headers to help identify key topics, but those are in a different font and easily identifiable as an addition of man.

D&C sample

Once I had my first draft completed, I started on the Doctrine and Covenants. Restoring the Lectures on Faith to their proper place was the first thing I did. After adding the D&C and Pearl of Great Price, I also added Joseph Smith’s three other accounts of his history, the complete letter from Liberty Jail from which Sections 120, 121, and 122 were extracted, and a list of the scriptures the angel expounded to Joseph in 1823.

I had these first versions printed and then began editing on paper. That was a humbling experience. I’ve spent the last two years refining them. I learned a lot about selecting fonts, typesetting, and page setting concepts. More importantly, I spent a lot of time just scrutinizing the scriptures. I would print a version, then use it for study for several months and make updates to the electronic version, and then repeat the process with a new printing.

While doing that, I learned about Royal Skousen’s work on BYU’s Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. This effort analyzed every version of the Book of Mormon (the remnants of the original manuscript, printers manuscript, 1830 printing, and every other LDS and RLDS printing of the book). This effort uncovered words that had changed from the original. Most were fairly innocuous (rites vs. rights, clasped vs. clapped, etc.) but some are more significant. I decided to fold some of those in to show both before and after so that I could contemplate the changes. These changes are indicated in the margins, so again, the 1981 text remains unchanged in the main body.

I had also known about the changes between the 1833 Book of Commandments and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. I combined the 1833 and 1835 versions so I could see exactly what changed and contemplate the significance. I also learned that there were other records in History of the Church (including unpublished revelations) that help fill in some historical gaps. I added some of those in the appropriate chronological spots between the existing D&C sections. The Joseph Smith Papers project has also provided valuable information, including changes that have been made to the text of the Doctrine and Covenants. I added margin notes to indicate where the current text differs from the original manuscripts.

My intention was solely to create a personal set of scriptures. I never planned to publish, even after having a few friends ask for copies once they saw my set. Eventually I was convinced to go public.

I have posted PDF versions that can be freely downloaded. I have also made arrangements with a printing company so you can order printed versions at cost plus shipping.

Go here to download the latest files and for links to the printed versions.

 

 

The Iron Rod Podcast

It seems like everybody who is somebody has a podcast these days. Which makes me a nobody…until now!

Watcher from the One Who Is Watching blog, Searcher from the One Who Is Searching blog, and I have decided to collaborate on a podcast. Over the past few months we’ve gotten together both in person and electronically to discuss our various interests and projects, share experiences and ideas, and enjoy each other’s fellowship. We have each been strengthened by this and want to be able to share that with others who may feel like they are a stranger in a strange land.

Our intent is to focus on the word of God and the various things we learn from it. Each of us has specific areas of interest which we will focus on from time to time, but the overarching goal is to focus on the scriptures and foster a sense of community.

For our first podcast, we chose the topic “Searching the scriptures”. You can listen to it here.

Eventually we will get this loaded onto official podcast sites like iTunes to make listening easier. Until then, we will each post the podcasts on our blogs.

Please send us your feedback. We’d love to hear what you like, what you don’t like, and what you want to hear in the future.

Podcast

It seems like everybody who is somebody has a podcast these days. Which makes me a nobody…until now!

Watcher from the One Who Is Watching blog, Searcher from the One Who Is Searching blog, and I have decided to collaborate on a podcast. Over the past few months we’ve gotten together both in person and electronically to discuss our various interests and projects, share experiences and ideas, and enjoy each other’s fellowship. We have each been strengthened by this and want to be able to share that with others who may feel like they are a stranger in a strange land.

Our intent is to focus on the word of God and the various things we learn from it. Each of us has specific areas of interest which we will focus on from time to time, but the overarching goal is to focus on the scriptures and foster a sense of community.

For our first podcast, we chose the topic “Searching the scriptures”. You can listen to it here.

Eventually we will get this loaded onto official podcast sites like iTunes to make listening easier. Until then, we will each post the podcasts on our blogs.

Please send us your feedback. We’d love to hear what you like, what you don’t like, and what you want to hear in the future.

Saved by grace

I was reading in 2 Nephi this week and came across the much-abused scripture: “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”. I can’t help but notice how happy mainstream Christians are that believe they are saved by grace. Conversely, many LDS seem weighed down by believing they have to work for their salvation, and they use this fragment of the verse as the foundation for that belief.

Many say this means that we have to do everything within our power, down to the  last calorie, and then and only then will Christ step in to help us make up the difference. Analogies have been made comparing our salvation to a child wanting to buy a bicycle he can’t afford to show us how Christ will help us, but only after we have completely emptied our personal piggy-bank. So much for his yoke being easy and his burden being light!

One technique I was taught to understand scripture is to avoid using my own definitions and interpretations, but to use the definitions the writers used. If you look around the scriptures, usually you will find that the definition or interpretation is in there. It’s best when the definition is provided by the same author. If it’s a different author, chances are the second author will use the terms consistently, but is isn’t always guaranteed.

Let’s take a look at our “after all we can do” verse in context:

2 Nephi 25:23
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children and also our brethren to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

The primary point of the verse is that they labor diligently to persuade people to believe in Christ and be reconciled to God. Why are they laboring so hard to persuade people to be reconciled to God? Notice that Nephi doesn’t labor diligently to persuade people to perform a checklist of righteous activities. Being reconciled to God doesn’t give you a list of things to do, but it does give you grace. And grace is what saves us. Let’s look at other places that Nephi talks about grace.

2 Nephi 2:6-8
Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

Notice Nephi again states the importance of teaching people to believe in Christ and that it is through his merits, mercy, and grace that anyone is saved. Without that, no matter how much we work, we’re doomed. Christ offers his sacrifice to those with a broken heart and contrite spirit, not those who do a lot of good works. But what about that “after all we can do” phrase?

2 Nephi 10:24
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

Whoa! Nephi says after we are reconciled to God, it is only in and through grace that we are saved. No other works after we are reconciled to God will save us. “All we can do” is to reconcile ourselves to the will of God. We are saved by grace, after we have reconciled ourselves to God.

Nephi repeats this later on:

2 Nephi 33:9
I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat. I have charity for the Jew—I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came. I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.

Why can’t he hope for them except they be reconciled unto Christ? If we don’t reconcile ourselves to Christ, nothing else matters. All we can do is reconcile ourselves to Christ and have faith in him.

This doesn’t mean that once we reconcile ourselves to God that we can do whatever we want with no consequences. What it does mean is that we don’t have to worry about someone else’s lists of tasks that we must do for salvation, nor should we worry if we are doing enough, or if we will ever be good enough.

Now some will accuse me of glossing over the rest of verse 9 in 2 Nephi 33. They may even argue that walking in the strait path does indeed require lists of things we should be doing and if we don’t exert all our energy on all those activities we won’t have done everything we can and we won’t be saved. But that isn’t how Nephi viewed walking in the strait path.

2 Nephi 31:18-20
And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

What are the things Nephi says we must do after we enter the strait and narrow path? Have hope, love God and all men, feast upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end. That’s it! Those things are the foundation of our daily walk with God.

Notice what Nephi doesn’t write? He doesn’t write a checklist of activities we must do to be acceptable to God. He doesn’t talk about attending meetings, home teaching, family history, gardening, emergency preparedness, or anything else. If Nephi the prophet won’t tell us what we are supposed to do after we have reconciled ourselves to God, who will?

2 Nephi 32:3,5,6
Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark. For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ.

If God wants us to do something, he’ll tell us. He will likely tell you do to something different than what he tells me, so comparing your answers to my answers is pointless. His yoke is easy and his burden is light…if we really accept it. If you instead put on the yoke of man and rely on the arm of flesh, your mileage will vary. Jesus didn’t think highly of men who “bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders.” God does not require that we run faster than we have strength – and he knows perfectly how much strength we each have personally. He will tell each of us personally what we wants us to do – we just need to ask and listen.

When we revert to a checklist of things to, and compare our activities to the activities of others, we aren’t relying upon the merits of Christ. We aren’t putting our faith in him. We’re putting our faith in our own works and the arm of flesh that created the checklist.

Once you look at the totality of what Nephi wrote about grace, you realize he and Paul were preaching the same gospel.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Leaders vs. Followers

As Nephi is wrapping up his writings, he gives some detailed descriptions of the last days and the state of churches at that time.

2 Nephi 28:11-14
Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.

How Nephi distinguishes the followers from the leaders is significant. All have gone astray except for a few who are humble followers of Christ. These people are a small minority. Yet their leaders teach by the precepts of men, and cause these humble followers of Christ to err.

Let’s see what the rest of the scriptures have to say about these leaders that cause people to err.

2 Nephi 13:12
O my people, they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths.

Notice the Lord is speaking to his people, the House of Israel.

2 Nephi 19:13-16
For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts. Therefore will the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush in one day. The ancient [elder], he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.

The leaders of Israel cause the people to err. And those that follow these leaders are destroyed, not blessed.

Isaiah 28:7
But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

Although this verse talks about wine and strong drink, it is a metaphor, and cannot be misread to say that leaders who don’t drink alcohol won’t do this. We say leaders can be drunk with power, and we know that doesn’t require alcohol. One chapter earlier the Lord explained what he means when he says leaders are drunk.

2 Nephi 27:4-5
For behold, all ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye shall cry out, and cry; yea, ye shall be drunken but not with wine, ye shall stagger but not with strong drink. For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.

Micah 3:5-7
Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.

Again, the Lord says these prophets make his people err. After the people give heed to these false prophets, the Lord withdraws. Refer to my post on the decline of revelation to see the data showing that the sun did set on the church and there has been no answer from God for quite some time.

Notice how the message these false prophets preach is “Peace”, whereas the true prophets teach repentance and consequences. Here’s an example:

Jeremiah 14:13-16
Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.

How many Christian churches in these days have men they sustain as prophets? How many of these modern churches believe they are the modern day Zion? It is to those churches that think of themselves as modern Zion that Nephi warned:

2 Nephi 28:21
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

Heck, a church like that might even sing a song about how all is well.

Erring by Proof-texting

Part of the problem that causes these errors is that people misuse the scriptures:

D&C 10:63
And this I do that I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much contention; yea, Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them.

Proof-texting is a common example of this. In proof-texting, you start with your conclusion, then look for verses that confirm your precept while ignoring all the others that undermine your precept. One clue that proof-texting is in play is if only a few words from a verse are quoted. Without the context surrounding the words being quoted, it is easy to make a few words mean what you want them to mean.

Here’s one example of proof-texting on this very topic: whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. This gets used all the time to tell us we need to listen to and obey every word that today’s Church leaders say. But if we read everything that the Lord says about these servants in the section, we see that interpretation is wrong.

D&C 1:37-38
Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

The Lord is not referring to talks at General Conference. He is specifically talking about the published revelations in the Book of Commandments. The promise is that his  prophecies and promises shall all be fulfilled, and whether those words are fulfilled by his own voice or the voice of his servants doesn’t matter. He is not opening the door to everything these servants say being backed up by God. Why not?

D&C 1:24-28
Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong,
and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

These servants make errors and need to seek wisdom. They sin and need to humble themselves to receive knowledge. Joseph made it clear that a prophet was only a prophet when speaking as a prophet. To suggest that anything said over the pulpit is the word of God is non-scriptural, for even his servants err.

Jeremiah 6:13
For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

D&C 121:39-40
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

Just because a man is called to a leadership position does not mean he is chosen. Most who are called to positions of authority do not have the nature and disposition to exercise righteous dominion. To pretend that everyone called to a leadership position is a humble servant of God and incapable of exercising unrighteous dominion is to deny the scriptures. The scriptures say that most in authority will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

What else does Section 1 tell us about these commandments?

D&C 1:17-20
Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh— But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

The Lord’s desire is that no one tries to counsel others. A servant trying to fulfill the Lord’s commandments would not insist that people heed his counsel, nor try to maintain that power and influence by virtue of his priesthood position. Nor would there be a hierarchy of counsel, with counsel from someone higher up the ladder being more important than counsel from someone lower down the ladder, or even, heaven forbid, someone not on the ladder at all!

Who specifically are these servants that the Lord gives this authority to in D&C 1? Is it anyone and everyone that assumes a leadership position in the LDS Church? No.

D&C 1:6
Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the book of my commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, O inhabitants of the earth.

The servants that D&C 1 is talking about are a very select group of people – those who were given the Book of Commandments to publish. The last time I checked, none of them were still alive. To claim that verse 38 applies to anyone living today is a proof-text, ignoring the very specific, very limited scope the Lord used in that revelation.

Modern leaders err

D&C 33 was received in October 1830 – six months after the establishment of the Church of Christ. Yet the Lord says only a few do good, and even they err in many instances. This links directly back to Nephi 28:14.

D&C 33:4
there is none which doeth good
save it be a few;
and they err in many instances
because of priestcrafts, all having corrupt minds.

2 Nephi 28:14
they have all gone astray
save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ;
nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err
because they are taught by the precepts of men.

Presumably, the members of the church were among the few people doing good in October 1830. Yet they erred in many instances and were dealing with priestcrafts. These verses link teaching the precepts of men with priestcrafts, which Nephi defined as:

2 Nephi 26:29
Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.

Christ taught us:

3 Nephi 14:13-15
Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat; Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Christ taught that few will find the way that leads to life. Just like Nephi and D&C 10, Jesus follows up talking about the few by talking about bad leaders, in this case false prophets, who will teach:

2 Nephi 28:5-6
Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men; Behold, hearken ye unto my precept;

We have also been commanded to prevent these false prophets from coming among us:

Alma 5:60
60 And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed.

Yet the Lord’s people don’t obey that command:

Jeremiah 5:30-31
A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?

Hope for the future

Fortunately, the scriptures do tell us that at some point in the last days, we won’t have to worry about false prophets any more.

Zechariah 13:1-4
In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:

D&C 64:38-40
For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion. And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known. And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their stewardships shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead.

At that future date, the inhabitants of Zion (not the leaders, but the pure in heart, the humble followers of Christ) shall judge all things. When they do, there will be men claiming to be apostles and prophets who really are not such, and leaders who are not faithful in their stewardships, and others will be planted in their stead.