Your Path Into the Light of Christ

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There is a lovely road that runs northeast from Mesa, Arizona into the mountains. These mountains are tree-covered and jagged, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. The road climbs hundreds of miles into them, to a small mountain city called Payson; and from there you look down on one of the fairest valleys of Arizona. About you there are trees and rocks and you may hear the forlorn crying of the red-tailed hawk. Beneath your feet is the Mogollon Rim, a 200 mile wide cliff rising sharply from the desert valleys. It is upon this cliff you can look down from forests of pine onto the red and gray rocks that are softened by rich greens and browns. It is lovely beyond any telling of it. If you look off the rim before the dawn, you can look down at the darkened valleys. The sun first lights the mountain tops. The valleys are filled with darkness but the dawn’s light will come, just as it has for millions of years. The sun then reaches part of the valley, leaving part in darkness. The light will come there too, just as it has for millions of years. Eventually the light of the sun chases away all the darkness of night.1Extensive quoting with paraphrasing from Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, Chapter 1

After rising out of the valley, you can contemplate the vastness of creation upon this wind-swept plateau. You can marvel at the beauty of the earth — mighty mountains, towering trees, and whispering wind. You can marvel at rising from dark desert valleys into the sunlit mountains. This elevation gain comes from traveling a twisting trail up away from dark valleys towards sunlit mountaintops. Without knowing the destination it is easy to doubt the journey. Why does this road turn here instead of going straight there? Wouldn’t it be faster and shorter to head straight up? What might seem fastest is not always safest. Engineers designed the road to provide safety while traveling. We too, can travel twisting roads in life. Prophets talk of strait and narrow roads. If we pay attention, most of the time the reference is to a strait — S – T – R – A – I – T — rather than straight — S – T – R – A – I – G – H – T — road. The first strait means narrow. The second straight means without turns. Our safest road through life to return to the Savior, who is the light of the world, might twist and turn; some of the turns might even appear to move us away from our destination.

This year [2020] we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s enlightening vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Pres. Nelson asked us to prepare for the upcoming General Conference by immersing ourselves in the light of the restored gospel of Christ. Pres. Nelson wrote: “The time to act is now. This is a hinge point in the history of the Church, and your part is vital.”2 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/blog/my-2020-invitation-to-you-share-the-message-of-the-restoration-of-the-saviors-gospel?lang=eng We are in the midst of a hinge point — an adjusting turn — in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is neither a course-correction nor an unplanned deviation. This turn is part of an exalting, covenant path. This hinge point will provide safety as it elevates us from darkened valleys into God’s everlasting light. The Lord doesn’t want us to wait in dark valleys until His light eventually reaches us, He wants us to rise into His light. We are to act and not wait to be acted upon. We are to seek additional light and knowledge and not just wait for it.

It is no coincidence that we study the illuminating Book of Mormon as a church this year [2020]. Alma the Younger was one of the great Book of Mormon prophets. He was a rebellious son of the prophet Alma, who previously served a wicked king but was converted to the Lord. Alma the Younger also was converted under miraculous circumstances through faith in Jesus Christ. All conversion, all repentance and forgiveness, is a miracle even if the circumstances seem less noteworthy than Alma’s. Alma repented and became a great church and political leader. He later gave up the accolades of the world to serve full-time as missionary and prophet. One mission brought him to people who had established an apostate church. The members of this church denied the coming of Christ. They set themselves up as lights to the world rather than basking in the light of Christ. They coveted riches and cast out the poor.

It was among these poor and cast-off that Alma and his missionary companions found people who were willing to listen. “They began to have success among the poor class of people; for behold, they were cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their apparel…therefore they were poor as to things of the world; and also they were poor in heart.”3Alma 32:2-3

These humble people gathered to hear the words of a prophet. They said to Alma, “[the priests] have cast us out because of our exceeding poverty; and we have no place to worship our God; and behold, what shall we do?”4Alma 32:5 When Alma heard this, he turned to them to teach them in their humility. Alma said, “I behold that ye are lowly in heart; and if so, blessed are ye. Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God. Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only? And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?”5Alma 32:8-11

There is a lesson here as we continue to learn what worship means as part of a home-centered church. Worshiping God is not just once a week, two hours on Sundays; it can occur in our homes throughout the week. We can worship God when we live as disciples of Christ, ministering as He did. We worship Heavenly Father when we pray and when we study the words of ancient and modern prophets. As we always remember the Savior, we can always have His Spirit to be with us.6Doctrine & Covenants 20:77 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/20.75-84?lang=eng#p77 With our lives and homes built on a Christ-centered foundation, we then come to church to be strengthened together as we partake of the sacrament, participate in lessons, and serve one another. We then minister to others as the Savior would — caring for them, helping them feel the Spirit and the love of Christ, and inviting them to receive ordinances.

As we minister to others, we nourish their faith and our faith. As faith is nourished, it will grow into a tree of everlasting life, as Alma taught.7See Alma 32:28-43 This tree, as Lehi saw, is found at the end of a strait and narrow road.81 Nephi 8:20-21 It is at the tree we partake of God’s loving grace and worship Him. It is at and by that radiant tree that we are filled with an eternal light. Lehi saw in his vision one tree of life. Alma taught that each person needs to plant and nourish a seed of faith that will grow into a tree of life: “If ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life. But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.”9Alma 32:40-41 Lehi saw an iron rod representing the word of God. Alma compared the word to a seed of faith. As we hold to that rod, as we plant and nourish that seed, we gain access to a tree of life and can partake of the fruit. We each need to plant and nourish our own tree of life. We plant and nourish the seed but God gives us the tree and fruit. He blesses us with His Spirit and His love.

We can nourish this seed of faith as we regularly pray in our fields, in the wildernesses of our lives, in our homes, our church buildings, our closets, and our hearts. As we do so, we will be filled with the Holy Ghost. Having the Spirit of God in our hearts and homes is necessary for us to arise from the dark valleys of life and bask in the Savior’s light. Pres. Eyring encouraged us to “never delay an impression to pray.”10 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2020/02/the-first-vision-a-pattern-for-personal-revelation?lang=eng Prayer invites revelation. In prayer we can seek and receive a changed heart. A one-time change of heart is not enough. In prayer, as we plead daily for forgiveness of our sins, we will receive enduring change. King David was a man after the Lord’s heart but he made mistakes, sinned, and fell from the light of grace.11 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22; D&C 132:39 Salvation is not a single event; following the covenant path requires enduring faith, repentance, service, sacrifice, and prayer.

Another way to nourish the seed of faith and follow the strait and narrow road is regularly reading the scriptures. In 1 Nephi 1 we read of one of Lehi’s visions; he saw Jesus Christ and the twelve original apostles: “And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read. And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.”12 1 Nephi 1:11-12 The first of these heavenly visitors gave Lehi a book to read. This book was filled with prophecy and revelation — it was scripture. When Lehi read the revelation-filled scriptures, something important happened — “he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.” When Lehi read the scriptures he not only felt the Spirit but also was filled with the Spirit. That’s the difference between being thirsty and having a few drops of water fall on you and being thirsty and drinking your fill of refreshing water. Feeling water doesn’t satisfy thirst like drinking and being filled does. That is one reason why it is important to read the scriptures regularly – so we can be filled with the Spirit each time we read. The scriptures are filled with prophecy and revelation. As we feast upon them, we will be filled with the Spirit of God, receiving personal prophecy and revelation.

I’ve met people who refused to read the Book of Mormon. I can understand the hesitancy. People are busy and reading a long religious book isn’t a high priority for many people. There are many reasons why people refuse but I wonder if some were worried what would happen if they read it. If they read and felt or were filled with the Spirit, that would require change. When people read the scriptures, they invite the Spirit to fill their hearts. When people see the scriptures, hear the words of prophets, and understand, they will be converted and healed. This healing is simple. Because it is simple, many people, like the ancient children of Israel, refuse to look and be healed. We should read and invite our families to read the scriptures. As we read the scriptures individually and as families, we will see, hear, and understand the words and be filled with the Spirit. We should invite those to whom we minister to read the scriptures. As we love, serve, and share scripture with others, they will be filled with and lightened by the Spirit. They will be healed. The Spirit will fill their hearts and start the softening process of conversion.

It is with the great love of Christ that I urge you to use this hinge point in our church to experience greater individual and family conversion. If you are not filled with the Spirit of God, make the necessary changes. Start by reading scripture and praying. As we read and study the teachings of ancient and modern prophets, we will invite the Spirit into our lives and homes. As we pray, we will receive revelation. As we minister to others, we and they will nourish our seeds of faith. The Spirit will provide the guidance needed to help us stay on the strait and exalting road, even if it twists and turns. As we actively strive to follow the living prophet, we will rise into the light. We will see the light of the Son chase away the darkness of night in our lives. Jesus Christ lives and loves us! He is the light of the world.

Notes and References   [ + ]

1. Extensive quoting with paraphrasing from Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, Chapter 1
2. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/blog/my-2020-invitation-to-you-share-the-message-of-the-restoration-of-the-saviors-gospel?lang=eng
3. Alma 32:2-3
4. Alma 32:5
5. Alma 32:8-11
6. Doctrine & Covenants 20:77 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/20.75-84?lang=eng#p77
7. See Alma 32:28-43
8. 1 Nephi 8:20-21
9. Alma 32:40-41
10. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2020/02/the-first-vision-a-pattern-for-personal-revelation?lang=eng
11. 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22; D&C 132:39
12. 1 Nephi 1:11-12

Contentions in the Church

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After signs and wonders of Christ’s birth were seen in the Americas, a great work of conversion occurred. Nephi kept busy teaching and baptizing. This inevitably resulted in increased peace in the land. Peace, unfortunately, rarely lasts long. In 3 Nephi 1:24-25 we read:

“24 And there were no contentions, save it were a few that began to preach, endeavoring to prove by the scriptures that it was no more expedient to observe the law of Moses. Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures.

“25 But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit; yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away till it should all be fulfilled; therefore in this same year were they brought to a knowledge of their error and did confess their faults.”

These verses remind me of the movement pressing for the ordination of women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve written of this movement previously: Response to Ordain Women.

There are some within the Church who are following the pattern of contention described in the scriptures. They are at best premature and at worst completely off the mark. “Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures [and the teachings of the prophets].” We would all be wise to follow the prophet and avoid contention.

2013 Edition of LDS Scriptures

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As a full-time missionary I started a process of finding the typographical errors in the LDS edition of the scriptures that I owned (I am a bit of a copy editor at heart). Examples include:

  • Alma 9 footnote 4a – there was a double dash between (9–10) instead of a single [this might have been an issue with the master copy from which prints were made].
  • Leviticus 20:9 included an extra space
  • In the Topical Guide under Affliction, “D&C” needed to be inserted after Helaman 12:3.
  • In the Index to the Triple Combination under Power, Powerful the reference listed as Alma 3:15 should be Alma 31:5 [correct online – I’m not sure about the new printed version]

Then there is my favorite typo (this has been corrected for a number of years but was a typo in the scriptures I received in 1992) from Luke 7:39.


The LDS Church did many other things than just fix the sporadic typos that occur – they standardized fonts, headings, and updated context based on all the work they’ve been doing with primary sources, particularly from Joseph Smith’s life. This is where the great and potentially greatly beneficial changes are – in updating the context of modern day revelations and providing clearer chronologies of church history.

One other thing I like is that the Church documented all changes. Even though 99% of changes were to supplementary material (e.g., Topical Guide or headings or footnotes), there will be individuals who use these changes as yet another tired way to attack the LDS Church (“I thought the church was perfect!”). I say that from experience because corrections or changes over the course of various editions of the LDS scriptures came up frequently when I interacted with certain individuals as a full-time missionary for the LDS Church. I was always frustrated by people dogmatically picking at such motes – not frustrated by their arguments, just frustrated that they criticized the LDS Church for having the audacity to update its own scriptures yet they saw no problem in changing which translation of the Bible they used. Some of the translations of the Bible are substantially different from the others. These same people were also not willing to read the Book of Mormon themselves; they tended to rely on the word of their pastor or “un-fettered” [anti-Mormon] writings about Mormons instead of finding out for themselves. Many of the people I talked to who were this way were pleasant individuals, they just did not care to hear about Mormons from Mormons. We all have our biases and inconsistencies, which is why the Savior taught that we should not worry so much about judging others as we should making sure that we are free from sin.

If you have time and interest, peruse the detailed summary of changes (PDF linked to in the preceding paragraph). There are many interesting changes.

Hidden Truths

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In Alma 45 we read of a beautiful exchange between Alma (the Younger) and his son Helaman.

“Alma came unto his son Helaman and said unto him: Believest thou the words which I spake unto thee concerning those records which have been kept? And Helaman said unto him: Yea, I believe. And Alma said again: Believest thou in Jesus Christ, who shall come? And he said: Yea, I believe all the words which thou hast spoken. And Alma said unto him again: Will ye keep my commandments? And he said: Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart. Then Alma said unto him: Blessed art thou; and the Lord shall prosper thee in this land.” (Alma 45:2-8).

Before passing on the responsibility of keeping the scriptures and before adding other responsibilities to his son, Alma interviews Helaman to assess his testimony in the Savior and the teachings of the prophets. In many ways, this was similar to our modern temple recommend interviews or personal priesthood interviews in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After Helaman bore his testimony, Alma continues on to prophesy of things to come, acting in his role as seer. Prophecies of the future (or past) are not unique in the scriptures – there are many such prophecies; what is unique, or at least explicitly stated is that Alma prophesied things to Helaman that Helaman was not to reveal to anyone else; he was to record it upon the records but not tell anyone else. Why the secrecy? What was this important prophecy and why, if it was important, keep it from general knowledge?

Keeping revelations and prophecies and doctrine secret or, rather, sacred, has been the practice of prophets from the beginning. Christ taught this in the Sermon on the Mount: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matt. 7:6). We also know there is a sealed portion of the Book of Mormon that has not yet been revealed to the world. There are prophecies of the brother of Jared and John the Beloved that are not widely revealed. Sometimes these are kept from the world because the prophecies are so great that most people are not ready for them. Isaiah taught of the importance of solidifying foundations before grasping at straws of doctrines beyond current comprehension: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10) and “But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isaiah 28:13). What Isaiah meant is made clear in the Book of Mormon: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30).

This reminds me of working with my oldest daughter on mathematical concepts and problems. She is young enough that she is still learning arithmetic; while I am constantly trying to push the boundaries of what she knows, we cannot jump ahead to trigonometry or calculus or even much algebra because she does not have all the basics of mathematics learned yet. This does not mean I cannot or do not teach her pre-algebra (I do) or introduce more complex concepts of mathematics but most of what I could teach her is not possible for her to understand – she doesn’t know enough of the basics to understand more and her brain is physically/physiologically/neurologically not capable of comprehending these higher order concepts of mathematics yet; these concepts require complex abstractions that a very young brain cannot process. Thus, my daughter’s understanding is not just limited by a lack of knowledge (ignorance) but also a lack of physical development.

Gospel and spiritual knowledge are the same way. We cannot comprehend greater light and knowledge without understanding the foundations of the gospel – the doctrines of Christ – faith, repentance, resurrection, the Atonement, charity, and so forth. In a like manner, we might not be able to understand “higher” doctrines simply because we are spiritually undeveloped – our spirit brains, if you will, are not yet matured. This spiritual maturation comes from learning, accepting, and living the gospel over time. Without such development, we cannot understand what some call deeper doctrines.

This is why Alma asked about Helaman’s testimony; this is why many prophecies remain hidden to us (and this specific prophecy of Alma remained hidden until the coming forth of the Book of Mormon) – many people who might hear them or read them are not ready for them. So what did Alma tell Helaman?

“Behold, I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, according to the spirit of revelation which is in me, in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief.” (Alma 45:10)

Not only will Christ appear to the Nephites following His resurrection but also there will come a time of general apostasy among the Nephites and Lamanites. This apostasy mirrors that of the Old World among the Jews and early Christians. When Moroni wrote his last words on the plates of gold and sealed up the record it was around 421 AD. Christ appeared to the Nephites around 30 AD (plus or minus 6 years or so), which means that by the time 400 years had passed, the Nephites were all extinct. Alma continued:

Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct—Yea, and this because they shall dwindle in unbelief and fall into the works of darkness, and lasciviousness, and all manner of iniquities; yea, I say unto you, that because they shall sin against so great light and knowledge, yea, I say unto you, that from that day, even the fourth generation shall not all pass away before this great iniquity shall come. And when that great day cometh, behold, the time very soon cometh that those who are now, or the seed of those who are now numbered among the people of Nephi, shall no more be numbered among the people of Nephi. But whosoever remaineth, and is not destroyed in that great and dreadful day, shall be numbered among the Lamanites, and shall become like unto them, all, save it be a few who shall be called the disciples of the Lord; and them shall the Lamanites pursue even until they shall become extinct. And now, because of iniquity, this prophecy shall be fulfilled.” (Alma 45:11-14).

So the day will come when the Nephites will all be destroyed or will no longer be called Nephites, having joined the Lamanites (this makes it clear that Nephite and Lamanite are mainly political terms rather than strict references to genealogy). Further, the few righteous disciples will be hunted down and killed. Why would knowing the timeline of the destruction of the Nephites be hidden knowledge? Knowledge brings accountability. This prophecy was also not essential for the Nephites and Lamanites to know. How would it benefit their salvation? How would it increase faith in Christ? It wouldn’t. It was the type of knowledge reserved for a few righteous individuals, those with solid spiritual development. What this means is that people were not ready for the revelation. This was like the revelation of the brother of Jared – specific revelation about future events; we still do not know what is contained in that revelation. Why do we not have access to that revelation? We are not ready and at this point it is not important for us. What is important for us to do is to have faith and do what is right. Light and knowledge will come as we demonstrate our faith over time.

For Our Day

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As I go through and read the Book of Mormon, I try to keep in mind that it is a book that was written for us in our day. Everything selected for inclusion by Mormon and his son Moroni was selected to help strengthen and teach us in our day. That is one reason why it is such a remarkable book.

Mormon lived during the collapse of his civilization. He lived about 350 A.D. in the Americas. Mormon was the leader of a small group of people called the Nephites. At this point in their history, most Nephites had become wicked and many had either been killed or had defected to their enemies, the Lamanites. During this time of fighting, leading armies in battle and trying to salvage whomever of his people that he could, Mormon was also involved in editing the records – sacred and secular – of his people. He transcribed the sacred history of his people onto plates made out of gold, a laborious task made difficult by the difficulty of writing on gold plates. Gold was important to use though because it does not corrode; gold plates would last the 1500 years until they were needed to help bring light to a dark world.

As his civilization collapsed, Mormon edited the scriptures he had been given stewardship over into a single volume. He chose words carefully and only included things that the Lord revealed unto him to include. Everything was chosen to bless the lives of those who would read it in the future. The Book of Mormon really was written for us; only Mormon and Moroni (and possibly a select few others at the time) ever had access to the plates. Only Joseph Smith and a few others in his day ever had access to the plates (there were about 15 individuals who saw the gold plates). What was important was not the composition of the plates but the words inscribed upon those plates; the message was what was more than worth its weight in gold.

As I read, I try to think about why the particular scripture verses were included. Why was the precious space on the precious plates used for those particular scriptures and that particular message? What can I learn and what can the world learn from from the Book of Mormon?

There is an LDS Seminary song that fits well with this post. Click here to listen to the song (right click {or command click on a Mac} to download). There is also piano / vocal sheet music of the song available (.pdf format).

Filled With the Spirit Through Reading the Scriptures

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“And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read. And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.” (1 Nephi 1: 11-12).

What’s the context of these verses? Lehi had a vision; he saw God, Jesus Christ, and the twelve original apostles of the Savior. One of them – Peter – gave Lehi a book to read. This book was a book of prophecy and revelation; in essence, it was scripture. When Lehi read the book, when he read the scriptures, something important happened: “he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.”

When Lehi read the scriptures he felt the Spirit. But even more, Lehi was filled with the Spirit. That is one reason why it is so important to read the scriptures – so we can be filled with the Spirit. This is a principle that missionaries use – let people read the scriptures for themselves so that they might feel the Spirit. There, I revealed one of the tricks that missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use – have people read the scriptures themselves. It’s so tricky because then the missionaries don’t have to do any convincing, they just let the Spirit of the Lord do it for them – they let God convince those reading the scriptures of the truthfulness of what they read. It’s much easier on the conscience to reject people than it is to reject God.

What is important though is that however we feel, if we feel lost and alone, if we feel discouraged or distraught, if we feel burdened down by cares and concerns, we can find solace in the scriptures. The solace comes from the words of the prophets but more importantly from the Spirit of the Lord that accompanies the reading of the scriptures.

Feast Upon The Word

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16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:

17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.

20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. (Luke 14:16-24).

We have all been invited to a feast, a daily feast upon the words of Christ.

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3).

The call was made, will we respond? Will we make excuses not to partake because we are too busy – our car needs washing, a book needs reading, a movie needs watching? Will we ignore the feast and starve ourselves spiritually? It does not take long for a body to die without physical nourishment. How long does it take the spirit to waste away without spiritual nourishment? Daily scripture study and frequent feasting upon the word of God can provide spiritual sustenance necessary for spiritual life.

Do we respond to the Savior’s call to feast at His great supper, or do we make excuses and not partake?

Establishing the Word of the Lamb

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Last night I was really struck by the following verses in the Book of Mormon:

“And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records [the “other books” – likely the Doctrine and Covenants and other scriptures], which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first [the Bible], which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.

And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.” (1 Ne. 13:40-41).

I love these verses because they really establish the centrality of the Savior to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not that there is any doubt of Christ’s role but there are many who do not believe members of the LDS Church are Christian. That’s another discussion but what verse 40 states is that the additional scripture that we Mormons have clarify the Bible and serve the purpose of establishing that “the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men [and women] must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.” We recognize and proclaim Jesus’ divinity. He was and is much more than a great teacher. Jesus is the Savior of the World.

The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price all serve to establish the veracity of the Bible. The contain the words of the Lamb of God. What we know is that it is not sufficient to believe just the Bible. “All men must come unto [Christ], or they cannot be saved. And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed [the Book of Mormon], as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb [the Bible].” This means that we can only and truly come unto Christ by heeding His words as contained in the Book of Mormon; the Bible is necessary but not sufficient. Even the Book of Mormon is not sufficient – there are living prophets we must heed and ordinances we must receive and perform.

That might sound like a bold proclamation – that the fulness of the gospel and the only true path to salvation resides in the teachings and actions of Christ as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This does not negate any of the good in other teachings and religions but Christ established the way and that way is inseparable from the LDS Church. That is one reason why we do so much work for the dead in the mountains of the Lord’s houses – baptisms, confirmations, endowments, and sealings. God established the way home and that way can be understood from reading the scriptures – ancient and modern.

Are All the Answers in the Scriptures?

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While listening to a talk in church this morning something a speaker said reminded me of something I had been taught in my youth. This is something I was taught in church or seminary that is not true. The speaker today did not teach this but something she said reminded me of this false teaching. What is this great falsehood? All answers to our questions are found in the scriptures. Sometimes this was softened with a “most answers” instead of “all answers” but while the sentiment is good, there is a lurking untruth at the core of this teaching. Occasionally I had teachers who got it right though – they said that the answers might not be in the scriptures, the scriptures will tell us how to find the answers. That is the truth, not that the answers are all in the scriptures.

We have living prophets and the gift of the Holy Ghost precisely because all the answers are not in the scriptures. Joseph Smith read the Bible but had a question that could not be answered by the scriptures – “which of all the churches was right?” What he did find in the scriptures is how he could get an answer – ask God in prayer. The scriptures guided Joseph to his answer but God provided the answer. That is how it should be in our own lives – we seek knowledge from the scriptures but guidance best comes from the living prophets and the Holy Ghost.

Knowing that the scriptures do not, in fact, have all the answer does not diminish the importance of them; to the contrary, it raises their importance as a source of direction but the scriptures are given greater power by the prophets and by the Spirit. The scriptures were never meant to be a closed canon of the summation of God’s teachings for us. Personal revelation and ongoing revelation is vital in our lives.

Is the Bible Infallible?

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While doing a search online to see what people say about whether or not the wise men visited the infant Jesus in the manger (they didn’t), I came across a comment about the Bible that I’ve heard numerous times – namely, that the Bible is literally God’s word given directly to man. In other words, there are those who believe that the Bible needs to be taken strictly literally. It is God’s completely infallible and perfect word. While that is a nice sentiment, it is not the case. The Bible was written by inspired men but men nonetheless. However, to borrow a phrase from the Book of Mormon, if there are flaws in the Bible, they are the flaws of men.

So if we take the Bible literally in everything, we do get wise men who visited the young child Jesus in a house. They didn’t find the mother and infant in a manger. Jesus was as old as almost three by the time the wise men found Him. But this isn’t really the purpose of this post. I want to continue on with the topic of the literality of the Bible.

There are those who take everything in the Bible as strictly literal. They also usually take it as God’s perfect, unblemished word. These same people also balk at the LDS article of faith that states, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith 1:8). “How could the Bible be anything less than perfect?” they argue. I’ve heard this many times from different people. We as Latter-day Saints don’t even claim perfection from the Book of Mormon. We believe it was translated correctly but it is not without error. But again, those errors are the works of men (and are very, very minor). God uses imperfect humans to do His work (at least on this side of the veil).

So, is the Bible perfect? Should we take it completely literally? Since I referred to the wise men previously, let’s continue on in Matthew 2. After Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned from Egypt, they moved to Nazareth: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matt. 2:23). With the slaughter of the children and infants in Bethlehem, a prophecy was fulfilled (see Matt. 2:17-18). With Joseph and family moving to Nazareth, another prophecy was fulfilled. The trouble is that this other prophecy is not found elsewhere in the Bible. There existed a prophecy stating that the Messiah would be from Nazareth but this is not included anywhere in the Old Testament. Clearly then, there are prophecies that are not in the Bible. There is no other logical conclusion that can be drawn from this. So is the Bible complete and perfect? Maybe that particular prophecy wasn’t meant to be in the Bible. But then why was it quoted in Matthew? Maybe the Bible isn’t complete. Maybe it isn’t perfect and infallible.

There are a number of other examples similar to this that can be found in the Bible. There are even times when writers/translators of the Bible seems to contradict one another. I won’t point out any specifics but they exist. There are numerous sites that document contradictions, some from a view of faith and others from a view of anti-faith. There are even sites that seek to point out contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Bible, which might scare some away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but are all non-issues for the believer. I’ve found that the Bible is only clarified by the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelation; any other contradictions are due to errors in the Bible (which is something that I demonstrated is possible) – the doctrines in the Book of Mormon are pure, even if the grammar or particular choice of words in some cases isn’t always perfect; that’s one of the difficulties in translation and in writing down the translation in a time before there were wide consistencies in grammar and spelling.

My point in pointing out that the Bible is not infallible is not to weaken faith, rather it is to highlight that we need to have faith in Jesus Christ more than in the Bible. Truth comes from Christ; what is in the Bible are multiple translations of that Truth. The great teacher Truman Madsen taught about faith, testimony, and prophets in this manner:

“What about witness? That leads us both to the question of authority and the question of our own testimony. Said the Prophet [Joseph Smith] again, ‘No generation was ever saved or [for that matter] destroyed upon dead testimony‘ (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 159). I think he means by ‘dead’ the record of the remote past. We’re not fully accountable to that, but we are accountable to a living witness who bears living testimony to our living spirit. That’s when we reach the zenith of responsibility. We recognize that and perhaps run from it. When a child runs away with hands over ears, what is happening? Doesn’t the child already pretty well know the message? Do we cover our ears while saying, ‘I didn’t hear you’?

“Heber C. Kimball, without being grammatical, put the point elegantly after the outpourings of the Nauvoo Temple. He said, ‘You cannot sin so cheap no more.'” (Madsen, T. G. 1994. On How We Know. BYU Speeches, p. 5).

His point and the Prophet Joseph Smith’s point is that you need concurrent revelation. If we look throughout the Bible, the teachings of Noah didn’t save the children of Israel from the Egyptians. Even Christ didn’t teach all the world; He sent out His apostles after His resurrection to do that. If we put all of this together, we can conclude that not only is the Bible not perfect, it is also not complete. Yes, I am biased because I believe that we have a living prophet upon the earth – Thomas S. Monson at this time – but I’ve found no evidence in the Bible that the Bible is complete and perfect. It wasn’t even put together in its present form for many years after the deaths of the original apostles. What we have in the LDS Church are Christ’s prophets who speak to us today and teach us what God wants us to know.

Now I’m going to shift gears back to talking about whether or not we take the Bible literally. It seems that if we do, we realize that the Bible is neither complete nor perfect. However, if we don’t take it literally then we ignore a lot of important doctrines (such as the literal and physical resurrection of the Savior). Another doctrine we might miss if we don’t take the Bible literally is that of baptism for the dead: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for thedead?” (1 Cor. 15:29). Well, maybe we get to pick and choose what to take literally from the Bible. That way we can say it is something just figurative. Well, who gets to make the judgment call on what is literal or not? It sounds like something a prophet would do.

I think other Christians would find (if they give LDS Church members a chance) that we take the Bible very literally; I think to an extent that few other Christians do. There are things that we don’t take literally though (e.g., the Creation story is one because we know that the 7 days were 7 time periods of unspecified length – millions to billions of years, most likely. I’m not saying that we do not believe in the Creation, I’m just saying that LDS Church doctrine specifies that the earth was not created in 6/7 24 hour days).

So, taking the Bible literally is a two-edged sword. On it’s [the Bible’s] own, it is difficult to know what to take literally or not. This is where having the witness of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and modern-day prophets is so important; it allows us to discern what is literal and what is not. Those without this knowledge are in a bind – if the Bible is 100% infallible, why are there missing passages? Why are there some contradictions? Why is there a need for multiple translations of the Bible? Why do the Catholics have a different Canon than most of the Protestants? Further, if the Bible is taken literally, how do you account for teachings that contradict doctrines of many Christian religions? How can you pick and choose what to accept?

I know some of the things I wrote about are not entirely this simple, but I wanted to respond to those who take the Bible as “GOD’S PERFECT WORD” (again, that’s a description of the Bible I read and hear frequently). The Bible forms the foundation of the LDS canon of scriptures, we place it first in our scripture sets, we love the Bible and follow its doctrines. However, we are not limited to the Bible. We have the Book of Mormon and other scriptures; we have living prophets and modern revelation. Our canon is not fixed and closed, it is open and expanding. God speaks to us today, just as He did in Biblical times.