Honesty: The Worth of a Peso

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What is the worth of a peso? How much would one be worth to you? A peso is not worth much to most people but there is one in particular that is worth a lot to me.

When I was young my family and I visited an old Spanish mission in Arizona. There were a lot of coins in the fountain. Many of the coins were pennies, nickels, and dimes; all glittered and sparkled in the sunshine and through the water. But some of the coins were different, some were from Mexico, which was not unexpected because we no more than an hour from the Mexican border. I liked one of the pesos and took it. I remember looking at it in the car on the way home. Within the next couple days my parents discovered I had the coin and asked where I got it. I told them I had taken it from the fountain. I guess I knew what I had done was wrong because I remember hiding the coin from my parents but it also did not seem like a big deal. However, my father sat down with me and had me send the coin back to the director of the mission. Sometime later I received a letter from the director of the mission. In the letter he thanked me for my honesty in returning the coin. Within the envelope and in addition to the letter he included a few coins – including the one I returned – from around the world that had been tossed into that fountain. I was rewarded for my honesty (or at least the honesty of my parents). This was the start of my small collection of coins from around the world.

What is the worth of this coin to me? It is worth a lesson of the importance of honesty. It was a powerful lesson at the time and still is. The Lord blesses and loves those with honest hearts: “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:2). Jesus was heartened (and still is) by those who were without guile and lies, in part because He faced so many who were full of deceit: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). This was a man to be trusted! This was a pure man. Jesus loves the pure in heart. Honesty is a building block of purity.

I love this description of the honest in heart: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). The honest are like good gardeners who watch with patience until their efforts bring forth good fruit. Honest hearts are good hearts; honesty and integrity imply a lack of spiritual cardiac disease. For those who do suffer from spiritual cardiac disease, there is hope – the Lord promises a heart transplant to those who need it: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekial 36:26). Continued honesty and integrity bring the Spirit, which serves as anti-rejection medicine for this new heart.

The Lord expects His people to be honest and upright in their dealings with Him, others, and themselves. Of one group of righteous people in the Book of Mormon it is written: “And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end” (Alma 27:27). These were the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, those whom were converted by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the sons of Mosiah, rebellious and wicked youth turned righteous and powerful missionaries to the Lamanites. So righteous were these new church members that they were described as “perfectly honest…even unto the end.” They lived their lives in righteousness and holiness because they were perfectly honest.

We can similarly be perfectly honest in all we do and inspire honesty in others. Elder James E. Faust told the following story of the power of honesty:

“I wish to speak to you frankly about being honest. Honesty is a moral compass to guide us in our lives. You young men are under great pressure to learn the technology that is expanding and will continue to expand so rapidly. However, the tremendous push to excel in secular learning sometimes tempts people to compromise that which is more important—their honesty and integrity.Cheating in school is a form of self-deception. We go to school to learn. We cheat ourselves when we coast on the efforts and scholarship of someone else.
A friend related this experience her husband had while attending medical school. ‘Getting into medical school is pretty competitive, and the desire to do well and be successful puts a great deal of pressure on the new incoming freshmen. My husband had worked hard on his studies and went to attend his first examination. The honor system was expected behavior at the medical school. The professor passed out the examination and left the room. Within a short time, students started to pull little cheat papers out from under their papers or from their pockets. My husband recalled his heart beginning to pound as he realized it is pretty hard to compete against cheaters. About that time a tall, lanky student stood up in the back of the room and stated: ‘I left my hometown and put my wife and three little babies in an upstairs apartment and worked very hard to get into medical school. And I’ll turn in the first one of you who cheats, and you better believe it!’ They believed it. There were many sheepish expressions, and those cheat papers started to disappear as fast as they had appeared. He set a standard for the class which eventually graduated the largest group in the school’s history.’

The young, lanky medical student who challenged the cheaters was J Ballard Washburn, who became a respected physician and in later years received special recognition from the Utah Medical Association for his outstanding service as a medical doctor. He also served as a General Authority and is now the president of the Las Vegas Nevada Temple.” (Ensign, Nov. 1996).

What courage that man had to stand up to his classmates and demand their honesty! What integrity and honor! There were blessings because of this honesty – more medical students graduated in that class than previous classes had graduated. Without cheating, the students had to work harder, which meant they learned more and could do better. The world would be a much better place if more people were like that man. The pain and suffering caused by dishonesty in our world is great.

The summer after my mission I needed a summer job before I went back to BYU to resume school. I got a job as a car jockey at a dealership. I drove cars that people brought in for repairs from one lot to another and back. It was not hard work but I was out in the sweltering Arizona heat much of the day and it seemed like most of the cars needed air conditioning repairs. One car I got in was a 1980s minivan with a mattress on its side in the back, which meant I could not see out the back on the passenger side of the car. As I backed up I heard and felt a crunch. I thought, “Oh no! What did I hit?” as I pulled forward back into the parking space and got out of the car. There was a new gray Corvette with a gash in its front driver’s side wheel well. Corvettes (at least this 2001 one) have fiberglass bodies, which means the car body tore instead of denting. The minivan was not even scratched (not that it was really possible to tell anyway – it was old and a bit beat up). I thought of my options: I could go tell my boss or I could drive away and not tell anyone. The second choice was not an option so I went and found my boss. When I told him about the accident his first question was, “What color was [the Corvette]?” I said, “Gray, it wasn’t the yellow one [a fancy Z06 in for a tune-up].” “Oh, that’s good then. Thanks for letting me know.” And that was it. I went back to work driving cars around. Later that same boss went out of his way to find me as a driver for his wife’s car (a BMW) that was in for repairs because he trusted me. I am always glad I told the truth. It is always better to tell the truth, regardless of consequences.

There is an interesting scripture in the book of Moses. It reads, “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4: 3-4). The interesting thing is Satan is called “the father of all lies”; he could have been called many other things (and he can be called many things) but the Lord chose to call him the father of all lies. Satan’s self-proclaimed work is to deceive and blind men and lead them down to captivity, pawns to his will and whims. All lies come from Satan; he is their creator. Those who lie preach the devil’s gospel and spread his bad word. Those who are dishonest become Satan’s children. Is not it better to become sons and daughters of God?

Continuing on in Moses 4 we read the following (I will add some commentary in brackets):

“6 And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world. [Satan thought his lying to Eve would frustrate God’s plan when in fact it furthered God’s plan].
7 And he said unto the woman: Yea, hath God said—Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (And he spake by the mouth of the serpent.)
8 And the woman said unto the serpent: We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
9 But of the fruit of the tree which thou beholdest in the midst of the garden, God hath said—Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
10 And the serpent said unto the woman: Ye shall not surely die; [a lie].
11 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. [This is true].
12 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
13 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons.
14 And they heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
15 And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou?
16 And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself.
17 And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?
18 And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat.
19 And I, the Lord God, said unto the woman: What is this thing which thou hast done? And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
20 And I, the Lord God, said unto the serpent: Because thou hast done this thou shalt be cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life;
21 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall [crush] thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Moses 4:6-21).

Satan tried to lie to Eve. He tried to destroy God’s plan but he didn’t know that he was actually furthering God’s plan; what Satan did was without authority or permission but Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit was part of God’s plan – whether they eventually partook of it by themselves, or someone else gave it to them. In any case, when Satan realized that he was cursed for what he had done (he already was cursed but in this case he was upset he had not actually frustrated God’s plans but furthered them). Satan became very angry and has been ever since. He rages against God and all of us. He tries to cause the nations to rage furiously together, brother against brother, father against son, daughter against mother, neighbor against neighbor, and people against people. I do not believe that Satan is so angry that He cannot think properly – to the contrary, he thinks very clearly – but he is angry because of what he lost and angry at us mortals on earth who have opportunities for progression he will never have. And so Satan lies and deceives and encourages dishonesty in others. He knows that when we are dishonest we are not godlike or godly. He knows the pain and suffering lies cause and so he encourages them and laughs at the suffering of others. He rejoices in our failures and sins and sorrows. God does not.

[The image at the top of the post is the coin I took from the fountain].

The Truth of the Book of Mormon

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As he was completing the Book of Mormon Moroni wrote the following exhortation:

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is. And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.” (Moroni 10:3-7).

Whether or not the Book of Mormon is true is not the question. The question is whether or not we are willing to do what it takes to discover the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. If we pray and ask sincerely, really wanting the answer and with openness to the Holy Ghost, we will know that the Book of Mormon is true. We will never receive the answer that the Book of Mormon is not true. I was once summarily dismissed by someone while I was a full-time missionary when she said that she had prayed about the Book of Mormon and had received witness that it was not true. The fact of the matter is that that is not possible, as audacious as that might sound (but it’s only as audacious as stating that Jesus is the only Way and path to salvation). God will never provide witness that the Book of Mormon is not true.

In other words, the Book of Mormon is True. It’s Truth is independent from us. Our opinions or beliefs or thoughts about its truthfulness do not change its nature, which is Truth. The Book of Mormon is not on trial, we are. It is thus imperative that we deny not the power of God and deny not His word. We can deny His word simply by choosing never to ask about its truth. Many times people make decisions in life by simply choosing not to choose. Choosing never to honestly seek for a confirmation of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is denying the power of God by choosing to remain in ignorance. Being ignorant of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon does not mean the Book of Mormon is not true, it just means one is ignorant and ignorance is not an excuse, particularly when it is a willful ignorance.

Primary Sources

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In research it is generally thought that turning to primary sources is ideal, when possible. This means that we should read what people actually said or wrote instead of reading it through the interpretive lenses of other researchers or writers. This is not always possible, especially if the primary sources are in languages you cannot read, but it is best to go back to the original source as often as possible. What happens when you don’t? Untruths and misconceptions can develop and grow.

For example, in genealogical research, you always want to go to the primary sources if possible (also, read this post). FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com are not primary sources. If you don’t go to the primary sources, you really aren’t doing research, you are just compiling information together that might or might not be true. Start with the online databases but then try and verify everything in there by seeking out the primary sources.

As another example, there is a widespread belief that a majority of people in the Middle Ages believed that the earth was flat. This is merely a myth. Yes, there were some people who believed that but it was not widespread. Historians in the 1800s and early 1900s created the myth, which myth then spiraled out of control until it was taught as historical truth. The problem is that people trusted secondary and tertiary and other sources without actually going back to verify if what they read or heard was in fact true.

The same thing is true for discovering what people believe. Ask them. Don’t assume that you know what they believe. I’ve had a number of experiences where people have tried to tell me that my religious beliefs were different than what they really are. “You believe this and this.” “No I don’t.” “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I don’t mind people telling me what I believe if it actually matches what I believe (e.g., “You believe that there is a Celestial Kingdom.” “Yes, I do.”). Of course, there are a lot of people who do not know what their churches’ doctrines are but that simply adds to my argument that people do not generally check primary sources. Sometimes they don’t even check secondary sources and simply remain in ignorance. A number of Christian churches spend Sunday School time studying the doctrines of other churches. I have yet to hear a good explanation of why they do this (especially in light of a general lack of knowledge of the Bible and other components of Christianity among most church goers). I’d like to be optimistic and state that the doctrines of the LDS Church are always correctly portrayed but I know that is not the case. If the pastors of these churches really wanted to increase the knowledge of members of the congregation, the pastor would encourage them to talk with members of the other churches and read their literature (e.g., The Book of Mormon, mormon.org, Gospel Principles, the Koran, the Watchtower). In other words, instead of learning about other religions people should learn from other religions. That is honesty in inquiry. This is the same standard that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints need to hold. If we don’t want people telling us what we believe, we shouldn’t tell them what they believe.

What primary sources do we have in the gospel? The answer might vary based on what you consider primary. I know some Christians believe the Bible to be a primary source. I’d disagree. The Bible is a collection of smaller books that weren’t even books until relatively recently. It is a translation of a copy of a copy (etc.) of the original document. In some cases it is a translation of a translation. I’m not saying the Bible is incorrect, I’m just pointing out that using a strict definition of primary source means that the Bible is not a primary source. What about the Book of Mormon? This is closer to a primary source than the Bible is. The Book of Mormon as we have it consists of two main parts: the first part was written by Nephi and his near righteous descendants; the second part is Mormon’s abridgment of many other writings with some additions by his son Moroni. So Mormon put most of the book together and Moroni finished it up and buried it. Moroni placed it in the ground with a dedicatory prayer of protection. Then about 1400 years later, Joseph Smith was guided to where the Book of Mormon was buried. It was then translated directly into English by the power of God. Thus, the Book of Mormon isn’t strictly a primary source either. It’s awfully close though.

I’m going to argue that the Doctrine and Covenants is not even a primary source, although it is as good as primary sources get in this life. So just what is a primary source? There is only one Ultimate Source for truth and knowledge. God is the giver of all Truth. If we want to know the truth of anything, we pray and ask Him (see Moroni 10:3-5). This goes for anything that we read in the scriptures or that we hear or read from the living prophet(s) – it can be verified by praying. That is how we check the primary source in the gospel. Now, I’m not saying that we try to supersede the scriptures or living prophets, but we need to do our own research and seek out the one true Primary Source. This can only happen as we ask sincerely with an honest heart. I’ve met at least one person who said they didn’t believe the Book of Mormon because they had prayed to ask if it was true and God told them it was false. Unfortunately, they were mistaken in their answer, assuming they had prayed about the Book of Mormon. I can also unequivocally state that this particular person did not ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, and with faith in Christ (see Moroni 10:4). It was like this person had performed a research literature search, found the article she wanted (e.g., a physics article), read a completely different article (e.g., an anthropology article), and then stated that she didn’t believe the physics article because of what she learned from the anthropology article. We need to read the scriptures, heed the living prophets, and pray to Heavenly Father that His Spirit might guide us and teach us Truth. As we seek the Primary Source of Truth, we will be blessed.

Hugh Nibley on the Council in Heaven

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Here is a quote by Hugh Nibley that provides an interesting perspective (not necessarily entirely true, but interesting) on the Council in Heaven during our pre-earth life.

“I was going to say that the Council in Heaven is quite a theme here [in newly-discovered early Christian documents], especially that Doctrine of the Abbatôn by Bishop Cyril of Alexandria. We won’t go into that. The accounts of the Council in Heaven are that when the creation was proposed, it was voted down because the Earth complained that she would be defiled. The people up there all decided that there would be too much suffering, too much wickedness, too much defilement in this world. There was a deadlock, and they didn’t know what to go on until one person volunteered and said, ‘I will pay the price; I will take the blame.’ You know who that was. When he did that, the whole chorus broke out and ‘the morning stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.’ That was the famous Creation Hymn. See, our word poem comes from Creation Hymn. The poem was the original Creation Hymn, the hymn that was sung in the heavens to announce the glory of the creation – all the earliest poems are. The Greek poiema means creation. It was the Creation Hymn. The muses first sang it together with the Greeks, etc. You have many references to that. They broke out in hymn because it was the Lord that made it possible to go on with the creation, carry this out, and allow this to happen. Even in spite of all this wickedness and corruption, he would pay the price. Only one person could clean up that mess, and he would do it.” (Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, Covenant Communications, 2004, p.215).

One thing I love about Hugh Nibley’s writings and teachings is that he was able to take diverse sources – anything from ancient Egyptian writings or histories to modern events – and link them to the gospel. Hugh Nibley was someone who could see Truth in just about anything. That is something that Joseph Smith taught – that we should seek the good and true in all things. “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may” (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, annotated by Richard Galbraith, Deseret Book Company, 1993, p.351).

Amen

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Within Christianity it is common to say the word amen to assert agreement with a statement or a prayer. Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we say amen at the end of prayers as well as at the end of a talk in sacrament meeting (usually following the bearing of testimony) and at the end of some ordinances. The word amen is a Hebrew word meaning “so be it” or “truly” or “verily.” The word can be used as an affirmation of agreement or a statement of conclusion (e.g., a speaker in church closes her talk by saying “…in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” The congregation members then all say “Amen.” The speaker said amen as both an affirmation of the truth of what she just said and for the finality of it (akin to saying “The end” or fin or finis). The congregation members say amen implying that they are in agreement with what was said. [This means that maybe it is not appropriate to say amen after a talk or testimony if the speaker espoused obvious false doctrine. Not saying amen should never be done out of personal dislike but rather because someone simply was teaching grossly incorrect things {of course, the presiding authority in the meeting in that case should either find a way to – tactfully – get the person to stop talking or to at least – tactfully – teach the correct doctrine following the talk or testimony}].

As a further side note, the root word for amen is also the root of the word Mammon. I am not a linguist but I want to conjecture that amen is related to the word Ahman, which is a name for Jesus Christ found in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C; 78:20; D&C; 95:17). This could imply that whenever we say amen to something we are not only affirming our agreement with it and the veracity of it but also we are declaring our devotion to Jesus Christ. We close in His name and then say amen not just as a statement of conclusion but also in recognition as Christ as the End, even Omega. Again, that is conjecture.

I want to return to what we imply when we say amen following a talk or prayer given by someone else. We are not only saying that we agree with what they said, we are accepting ownership for their words. This is more than slipping in a colloquial “What he said” or “Ditto”; it implies that you agree with what was said as if it were you were the one originally saying it. The distinction might seem trivial but the implications are not. It means you not only agree with the words but you are willing to be responsible for them and to sustain them. Saying amen is a verbal commitment to the truths of God as found in what was just said. Next time we say amen I hope we will think more about what we are really saying.

The Light of Truth – Part 4

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In this manner is intelligence, as used in the scriptures (as something that can grow and progress), quite different from how psychologists understand it (as something that is usually quite static), which is not necessarily wrong, just different. I briefly mentioned earlier a few ways people secularly define intelligence. One theory I particularly like is based around an underlying global construct of intelligence, referred to as Spearman’s g. This general intelligence can be quantified, assuming we understand all the components of it, by a single value. Why I like this theory is because it seems to fit with scriptural and prophetic references to intelligence, especially as found in the book of Abraham: “If there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other” (Abraham 3:19).

This seems to mean that we all can be ranked according to our intelligence – there is someone less and more intelligent than you (unless you happen to be at the very bottom of the rung {or at the top but God is at the top}; even so, I don’t believe intelligence is limited to humans, so even the not brightest spirit has animals below him! However, as I stated before, one of the great blessings of the plan of salvation, of God’s plan for us, is that even the most humble intelligence can progress and grow and gain an intelligence like God’s according to the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ). Because we can be ranked according to our intelligence, a unitary measure of intelligence seems the most concise way of ranking; hence my affinity for the concept of g. Additionally, I like to simplify things as much as possible – simplicity is often beautiful.

I want to return to the concept of intelligence as the light of truth. Light is an interesting thing. It exhibits properties of both a particle and a wave. Light has a dual existence – the duality of the wave-particle. We too are dual beings – spirit and body (not that our spirits are waves or our bodies particles but we have dual existence). Light has a set speed in our universe – almost 300,000 kilometers per second. Light, as particles called photons, has energy. In fact, light is part of the equation of the relationship between energy and mass: E=mc^2. There are other physics equations that describe the properties of light waves and particles. They are not the focus of this essay.

Light is energy. It gives power and force. In fact, photons are what allow the electromagnetic force to work – they carry the force that binds molecules together. Without light, without photons, atoms could not stay together in molecules. Without photons, all creation could not exist in an ordered state. Light is a powerful force in the universe. When we learn that intelligence is the light of truth, we can change the words slightly to say that intelligence is the power of truth or the force of truth. Intelligence just might be part of the basic power of the universe. I believe that intelligence is light and light is intelligence! It’s no coincidence that we refer to people who are (or at least seem to be) more intelligent as bright.

I am grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who instituted a plan whereby all mankind might be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and through the atoning blood of Christ. He blessed us with portions of His intelligence – His light – and mapped out the way for us to progress to the perfect day where we may gain intelligence like His. Regardless of our abilities at this stage of our lives, we can grown and learn and shine. We lived and learned before this life; we live and learn in this life; we will live and learn in the next life. I pray that we might strive to remember what we were taught before we came to this earth. I pray that we will remain true to our eternal selves – that part of us that came to earth “trailing clouds of glory” (Source). I pray that we might seek to improve upon our talents and intelligence, even if we were only given a little (see Matt. 25:14-30) so that our Father might say unto us, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

Link to part 3 of this essay.

The Light of Truth – Part 3

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In the scriptures intelligence is often equated with knowledge, or at least knowledge comprises a significant portion of intelligence (as it does to some degree on modern intelligence tests). Joseph Smith stated that he “received instruction and intelligence” from Moroni each time Moroni appeared to him (see JS-H 1:54). In this instance intelligence implies knowledge but intelligence is not exactly the same as knowledge; I will demonstrate the difference in a little bit. First it is important to point out that Joseph received instruction – he was taught – and he received intelligence. Both were gifts given by Moroni.

We already know that intelligence is the light of truth (see D&C; 93:29). Notice that intelligence does not equal truth, intelligence is the light of truth. Elsewhere intelligence was referred to light and truth (see D&C; 93:36). I believe these are two slightly different uses of the word intelligence. The light of truth is like the light of Christ – the effects and power of the Holy Ghost given to all creatures that helps us understand right from wrong, within our spheres. Light is energy and power. Light gives power to truth – it is the power of truth. When intelligence is light and truth is truth that is edifying, clarifying, and powerful. It is superordinate to truth, meaning that truth, at least in this meaning of intelligence, is a subset of intelligence. Does this mean that there is truth without light? I believe so. There is truth in hell, there is truth in outer darkness, but there is not light.

We also learn more about intelligence from Joseph Smith: “Truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also” (D&C; 93:30). Intelligence is independent and able to act for itself within its sphere of existence. Intelligence has the independence of agency. This implies that there is some sort of life (even if it is not distinct from power) to intelligence (and truth!). This brings us back to Joseph receiving intelligence from Moroni. Joseph received light and truth; he received the light of truth. He did not just receive knowledge, although knowledge can be part of truth and intelligence (however not all knowledge is true or intelligent or good, which is why Joseph did not just receive knowledge but also intelligence). He gained more of the light of Christ. He gained more of the power of truth.

Link to part 2 of this essay.

The Light of Truth – Part 2

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The prophet Joseph Smith taught us more on this topic of intelligence. I’m going to quote at length from Doctrine & Covenants 93 in order to provide some context. This will help us understand better what intelligence is and how it grows.

“He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things. Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple. The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C; 93:28-36).

God organized us and taught us the plan that would allow us to progress and gain intelligence like His. Regardless of our starting intelligence or ability, we are able to grow and progress in this life and in the eternities (more so in the next life) to become like our Father. Again, I will repeat this point because it is important: regardless of our starting intelligence we can progress and gain intelligence like God’s! That is quite the blessing.

We add to our intelligence by study. How much we know is a component of intelligence. As we study, especially by faith, we gain more light. This light will be spiritual; it will also be temporal. The power of faith rends through the inky shroud of ignorance. It helps truth resonate in our minds and our spirits. I believe that much of the truths we discover in this life are actually un-covered, or more accurately, re-membered – brought back again to our memories. That is why some truths and knowledge resonate with us – we knew it in our life before this life. There are great blessings promised to those who seek and gain more intelligence. Pay attention to the key words in this passage:

“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C; 130:18-21; emphasis added).

The key words were diligence and obedience but the key word is obedience. We gain knowledge and intelligence through diligence and obedience – in fact we obtain all blessings from God by obedience. Knowledge and intelligence are blessings from God; He is the source of all Truth. As we are obedient to the principles and ordinances of the gospel we obtain more light and truth. As we are obedient to our pursuit of knowledge and intelligence, we will be blessed accordingly.

Link to part 1 of this essay.

The Witness of the Book of Mormon, Part 4

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“And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day. And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come. And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews [the Bible, mainly the Old Testament], and also my words [the Book of Mormon], and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God [contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and spoken by modern prophets], behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day” (2 Nephi 33:10-14).

As we accept the truths of the Book of Mormon we will better understand the doctrines found in the Bible. In addition to verifying the truth of the Bible, the Book of Mormon can clarify its teachings. Over the years of translations and copies of copies, changes were introduced into the Bible – on purpose or inadvertently. Most were inadvertent and could have included simply choosing to translate one word in a particular manner. Even aside from changes, people interpret the Bible in many different ways. Interpretations might be similar but many are significantly different.

Some people take the Bible as a completely figurative and spiritual book while others take everything strictly literally. Joseph Smith explained it well: “The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others….the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” (Joseph Smith-History 1:9,12).

Joseph did not state that the Bible was false or untrue or wrong; he just said that people argued and debated over what particular passages of scripture meant. Some of the arguments were and are very bitter. If he asked the Baptists, they said one thing. If he asked the Methodists, they said another. These debates continue today; look at the myriad Christian churches throughout the world. There are as many different and distinct churches as verses in the Bible (to be a bit hyperbolic)! So who has the truth? Do they all have the truth? I believe all have truth but do all have all the truth (or at least all the truths necessary for salvation)? No. How can we know the truth? Who is the source of truth? Who inspired prophets in Biblical times and gave them revelations that they wrote down? The Lord did.

Because God is the source of truth, Joseph’s solution was to do as the Bible suggested in James 1:5 (verse 6 is also linked to), “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph knew he had to ask the Lord in prayer. The Lord is the source of Truth so Joseph went to that Source. In response to Joseph’s prayer at the age of 14, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph. They called him by name and called him to be the prophet, a role he would grow into over the years.

Link to part 3 of this essay.

The Witness of the Book of Mormon, Part 3

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As Latter-day Saints we believe that the Book of Mormon is a collection of the writings and teachings of prophets who lived in the Americas over a span of a few thousand years. The Savior taught “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). When the Savior visited some of the people in the Americas after His resurrection He said, “And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (3 Ne. 15:21). However, He had even more sheep that needed to hear His voice: “And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister” (3 Ne. 16:1). We believe that God’s words do not cease. He speaks to us today through His prophets just as He did in Biblical times.

Brigham Young said something that I think is important here: “Learning a, b, c, d, does not hinder me from learning e, f, g” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 245). In other words (and to adapt his quote to this essay), just because someone happens to know a and b does not mean they cannot also know c, d, and e. Believing in the Bible does not preclude believing in the Book of Mormon. Or, having the Book of Mormon does not lessen the importance of the Bible. In reality it increases the importance of the Bible because it stands as another witness to the veracity of the Bible. We have that additional testimony that the Bible is true! “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor. 13:1; see also Deut. 17:6, Matt. 18:16, D&C; 6:28). God establishes the truth of His words through many witnesses. However, many believe that the Bible is enough. The Lord cautioned those who state that the Bible is all they need.

“And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible…. Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Know ye not that there are more nations than one?…Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another?

Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever. Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written….

For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it. And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews” (2 Nephi 29:3,6-13; emphasis added).

Those are strong words but sometimes the truth is hard to bear. However, they are also very loving words; they show God’s care and concern for all His children. He speaks to many nations so they may know His words of great joy and love. He wants all His children to hear His words. I think all would be glad to know that God speaks to us today (except for those who find it more convenient to believe God is dead, God doesn’t exist, or God at least only spoke to a bunch of old dead guys)! His words and works do not cease. His work and glory is to provide eternal life to as many as will accept it (see Moses 1:39). I testify that the Book of Mormon contains the words of Christ. It builds, strengthens, and fortifies the Bible.