Saturday, December 26, 2009

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..."

Prophets had long foretold the advent of the Savior of the World. There may be people who read this who question, and very rightfully so, the need for a Savior. From what exactly do you or I or anyone need to be saved? And if it is assumed that we must be saved, why or how does a certain person save us? These are very valid questions.

It is possible that if you are someone who has these questions and if you ask these questions to others, especially to other Christians, you may find a negative reaction. You may even find that people look at you as though you are uttering blasphemies, or showing irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred. As if to say to you, "How could you possibly question the need for a Savior?"

No one should be made to feel evil for trying to understand one of the most important ideas in all of Christianity. There are answers to these questions. In this post I will touch on them briefly and will engage in a more thorough discussion of them in a future posting. My intent is not to belittle people's questions or ideas, but to hopefully help provide answers to questions that at some point in our lives should stir within all of our hearts and minds.

On December 25th of each year a special event in the history of humankind is remembered, honored, and celebrated. The event is the birth of a baby, a special baby, a baby unlike any other before or since. It is the birth of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned, the coming of a Savior was foretold from the foundation of the world and ever since by prophets. God the Father spoke of this in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:14-15). Jacob prophesied to his sons of the coming of one whose right it is and that He would come through Jacob's lineage (Genesis 49:10, 24). Moses prophesied to the Israelites of a future Prophet to whom they should listen (Deuteronomy 18:15). The psalmist speaks of the future crucifixion of the Savior (Psalms 22:16; 34:20). Micah prophesied that the birth place of the Savior would be in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

The prophet Isaiah most notably prophesied of the birth of the Savior.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Immanuel is translated in Hebrew to mean "With us is God" (See also Matthew 1:23). Isaiah continued his prophesy.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isaiah 25:9
Later Isaiah gave a description of both the Savior's outward appearance to the world and the inward spiritual power and authority He would possess.
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:2-5
So why all the prophesies? Why was it so important that this little baby Jesus be born? What was His purpose? Why is it said that we need to be saved? My response is that these answers are not simple, but they are plain. What I mean by this is the answers are easy enough for a child to understand, but the details behind them are so beautiful, lofty, and inspiring that only through the Holy Ghost could one learn them all. As I said, I will briefly touch on these subjects here, and in future postings go into further details.

To understand why we as human race need a Savior and what the purpose was of the Savior, we must understand the nature of our relationship to God. There is a reason why we call God "Father." God is literally the Father of all human beings (Malachi 2:10, Acts 17:28-29, Romans 8:16). Our lives existed before we were born into this world through our earthly parents (Job 38: 4, 7; Jeremiah 1:5). We lived with God, our Father, in heaven. He wanted to give us, His children, the opportunity to become like Him.

God's plan involved sending His sons and daughters, you and I, to earth so that we could obtain a body and be proven to see if we would keep God's commandments (Genesis 1:26-27; John 15:10; Revelation 22:14; Romans 8:16-17). Lucifer or Satan was not always the devil. Lucifer was also a spirit son of God. He rebelled against God and His plan. There followed a war in heaven, which resulted in Satan being cast out of the presence of God along with 1/3 of the spirit sons and daughters of heaven who followed Satan and rebelled against God. They were cast down to earth without receiving bodies of their own to tempt us and try to prevent us from keeping the commandments of God (Isaiah 14:12-20; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:4-13).

The most important part of God's plan revolved around how to be able to bring us back into His presence. God knew that when we came to earth we would be tempted and that at times we would not obey the commandments of God perfectly (Romans 3:23). When we disobey God's commandments we commit sin (1 John 5:17). The problem is that once we have committed a sin, we are no longer clean or worthy to return to God's presence (Psalms 140:13; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46). In essence as soon as we sin in this life, we are doomed. Knowing this, God prepared a way to overcome the effects of sin by providing a Savior, His son Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, free of sin. He obeyed all of the Father's commandments perfectly (Hebrews 5:8-9). The law of justice demands that if a law is broken, a punishment must be paid. If someone who committed no crimes and broke no laws of God paid the punishments of all broken laws and commandments for everyone then that person would then have fulfilled all the demands of justice. In essence, that person could then determine what requirements would need to be met for the person who had originally broken the commandment or law. This is also called extending mercy.

Let me use an example with which you might be able to relate. Let's say that one of your children broke a neighbor's window. Justice will demand at the very least that the window be replaced and perhaps a punishment of an extra amount of money be paid to the neighbor for the inconvenience that was created. You know that there is no way that your child will be able to fulfill all that is now demanded because of the requirements of justice. So in place of your child replacing the window and paying the extra penalty for the inconvenience, you have the ability to fulfill these demands for your child but with the understanding of your child that you will then set the terms of what your child will need to do as a consequence of their actions. It is agreed upon and you fulfill to your neighbor what is required, they can demand nothing more. You then outline to your child certain rules that he or she must follow that will help prevent the child from breaking another window and that the child will have to go without an allowance for a period of time. While this will not be easy for the child, it will be possible. You have set a standard that is achievable by your child and have been able to extend mercy without robbing justice.

This is the role that Jesus Christ took upon himself. He paid the price of our sins, something we could not do on our own and still hope to be able to live with God again, and gave us His requirements to follow, which makes it possible to return to God's presence. This is known as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The central doctrine of the gospel is what is known as the atonement (Romans 5:11). This means the reconciliation of God and humankind as accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Jesus Christ. In some way that is incomprehensible to us, Jesus paid the price of our sins while in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42) and during his crucifixion at Golgotha (Matthew 27; Mark 15; John 19).

The world needs a Savior because we all fall short of holiness due to our sins. This prevents us from being able to return to God's presence and live with Him forever. Jesus Christ is the Savior because he paid the price of our sins and gave us His gospel which if followed will allow us to live with God forever. This is the reason why prophets had long foretold of the coming of the Savior. This is the reason why we reverence and remember His birth still today.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17
I am so thankful for the Savior of the World, my personal Savior, even the Lord Jesus Christ. I love Him and seek to keep His commandments. The price He has paid for my sins is unimaginable. I echo the words of Isaiah and reverently marvel, for truly unto us a Son was given.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The First Vision

In the previous posts I have attempted to explain the circumstances and condition of the human family as a whole that led to the need for a restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. I have referenced the restoration as a singular thing, indeed as the knowledge of God being returned to the earth. However, the fact is that the restoration is not a singular event, but a collection of countless revelations, visions, visitations and teachings that when combined restore the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We are in actuality still in the midst of the restoration.

What I will write about in this post is not the restoration, but merely the first part in the myriad important truths that had long been lost but were beginning to be restored. This post will help explain how the restoration began and that there was much, much more to come. The fact that not all things were restored at once and that it has been a process accords with the scriptures. Isaiah and later Paul each spoke of the necessity to have the appropriate amount of truth be revealed at the proper time.
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breast. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little. Isaiah 28:9-10

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned...And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 1 Corinthians 2:10-14, 3:1-2
The principle or nugget of divine knowledge taught in these scriptures is that God will teach us a little more and a little more as we are prepared to understand. The analogy used is of a baby being fed milk for a time and being weaned to more complex foods like meat. Everyone can understand this. It's not that God couldn't give us everything at once, He is the Almighty. But in His wisdom and love He gives us what we can handle before He gives us more. You can't understand algebra and calculus before you understand basic numbers.

It is my hope that you have understood that God's knowledge comes from Him directly through revelation to authorized servants called prophets. I hope that you have recognized that due to wickedness periods of apostasy have occurred throughout time. And I hope that you have seen that new periods of time when prophets have been authorized and revelation has been given have constituted a dispensation, or a restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ being taught again on the earth. And it is my hope to share with you today knowledge of a new dispensation and a restoration of the true gospel that has and is occurring in our modern day.

On December 23, 1805 in the state of Vermont in the United States of America an ordinary boy was born to ordinary parents Joseph Smith Senior and Lucy Mack Smith. The boy was Joseph Smith Junior, their third son and third of nine total children. There is nothing especially noteworthy of this family or this boy as he was growing up. The Smiths were a hard-working, honest and God-fearing family. The Smiths, like most people of that day, made their living through farming. After successive crop failures in Vermont, the Smiths moved to Palmyra in upstate New York. After four years in the Palmyra Village, the Smiths saved enough to move to their own farm on the outskirts of Palmyra, in the township of Manchester. It is at this point that I will quote from the history written by Joseph Smith Jr.
Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.

I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia.

During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. Joseph Smith History 1:5-8
Joseph writes that the denominations, from Presbyterian to Baptist to Methodist, were decidedly against one another. He said that each church sought to point out the errors of the other and with zeal try to establish their own tenets as correct. Joseph continued as follows:
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: 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.

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for 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.

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. Joseph Smith History 1:10-13
As I said before, what follows is but the first of countless revelations and miracles that have been poured out upon the human family since the early 1800's. As you read, I would encourage you to pay attention to the feelings of your heart. As Paul admonished, the things of God cannot be understood through the words that man speaks, but only through the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Ghost's function to testify or confirm to us of the truthfulness of things, primarily and especially the things of God. The Holy Ghost does this through the feelings that we feel. These feelings are positive and uplifting. Paul described some of the fruits of the Spirit or Holy Ghost to the Galatians.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance...Galatians 5:22-23
If, as you continue reading, you feel these types of positive feelings or if you have been feeling them as you have been reading these posts, know that it is the Holy Ghost teaching you that these things are true. I have felt the Holy Ghost while reading these words from Joseph Smith. I have felt unspeakable joy and peace. It is through these feelings that I can write and say without hesitation that I know, not just believe, but know what you are about to read really happened. Remarkable as it will sound, and as seemingly unbelievable it may be to imagine, because of the Holy Ghost and the testimony it has borne within me I can only picture the things you are about to read unfolding exactly as Joseph Smith describes. Here are his words.
So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy? Joseph Smith History 1:14-20
Joseph Smith saw and spoke with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. It wasn't through this experience that Joseph suddenly became a prophet. This experience is known as the First Vision because it was just that, the first of several experiences that followed. It was through this and the experiences that followed that Joseph became a prophet. Although it wasn't through this experience alone that Joseph became a prophet, nevertheless Joseph Smith did become a prophet. And the only reason why that is even important is because all Joseph Smith and any other prophet of God ever did was teach people of Jesus Christ and His gospel. That's what prophets do. They testify of Jesus Christ and His divinity.

Finally, at long last, after over a thousand years of darkness once again a chosen prophet of God has been called to teach the human family of the divine plan of salvation through the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Prelude to The Restoration

"Restitution" and "Restoration", two words commonly found in today's vernacular. We typically connote restitution with the obligation to repay someone after something of value has been taken away, particularly in a criminal sense. For example, if a thief has been found guilty, a typical sentence might include not only time in prison but the thief must also pay restitution, or the return of that which was taken or the return of something equivalent.

Restoration lends itself to a more positive connotation. Its meaning is to bring back to an original state. Unlike restitution, the use of restoration is more commonly used in a positive frame of reference. Restorative dentistry, for example, is repairing a lost tooth or a cavity with dentures, crowns or fillings. Or perhaps the restoration of an old home or an old painting. Careful work is done to try to bring the old home or painting back to its original glory.

The following is not an exhaustive list, but note the interchangeability in the following definitions:
RESTITUTION: Restoration to the former or original state or position. Source

RESTORATION: A return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition. Restitution of something taken away or lost. Source
As outlined in previous posts, Jesus Christ has established His gospel throughout time. And each time after its establishment, it has been taken away through the disobedience of the inhabitants of earth, also known as apostasy. Each period of apostasy has been followed by a restitution or a restoration of the gospel; a period of time when the true, original gospel of Jesus Christ is reestablished through revelation to prophets. Each period of time when the true gospel is found on the earth and an authorized servant called of God to teach these truths is found on earth it is known as a dispensation.

We have already examined the prophecies concerning the Great Apostasy that occurred after the death of the apostles at the time of Christ. (November 16, 2009 post) But what the apostles and prophets also knew was that there would one day come another restitution of the gospel. In fact, a final restoration of the gospel and a final, or last, dispensation of the gospel.

Peter, the chief apostle, prophet, and leader of the church on the earth after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, admonished the people of Israel to look forward to a future time when Christ would come again and to be converted before that time comes.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. Acts 3:19-21
The "times of refreshing" and the "times of restitution of all things" is referring to a future and new gospel dispensation. A time when the true gospel of Jesus Christ would be found on the earth following the Great Apostasy. The apostle Paul also declared to the church members, or saints, in Ephesus that there would be a future dispensation of the gospel. By a careful reading of these verses and chapter it is clear that Paul declares these things only after there was revelation to him.
Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him. Ephesians 1:8-10
After reading this verse, I would ask if all things have been gathered together in one? Have all things both in heaven and on earth been gathered together in one, even in Christ? One needs only turn on the local news to discover that the answer to these questions is a resounding "No." So we know that this "dispensation of the fulness of times" did not occur in the past. At the time of Paul it was a future period of time.

There will come a time when all things will be gathered together in Christ, and that will be at His Second Coming. What we then learn from this passage of scripture is that the Second Coming of Christ will occur during the dispensation of the fulness of times.

Not only New Testament prophets and apostles knew of this future dispensation of the fulness of times. A dispensation that would not fall into apostasy. The ancient prophet Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar's dream through revelation.
Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven...Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these...This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king...And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. Daniel 2:19, 27-28, 36, 44-45
If the Great Apostasy happened, and I testify that it did, when then did God set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed? In other words, when was there a time when Jesus Christ's gospel and His church were never again taken away from the earth or when has the church never fallen into apostasy? This passage of scripture states that these things will come to pass in the "latter days." Or in other words, the period of time right before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

In order for the human family to be in the latter days, we must also be in the dispensation of the fulness of times. In order for the human family to be in a dispensation, we must have emerged from the great apostasy through the restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. In order to have had a restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, there must have been an authorized servant called of God put here on the earth to reveal God's will. It's my conviction and witness that all of these things either have happened or are happening today. The Restoration will be our next topic.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"...except there come a falling away first..."

God has always called prophets, authorized by Him, to teach people on earth the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a pattern that God has always followed. While the pattern is always followed, it doesn't mean, however, that God has had a prophet on the earth at all times.

Whenever there is an authorized servant of God, a prophet, on the earth to oversee the instruction of people and the administration of gospel ordinances it is known as a dispensation. Meaning it is a period of time when a prophet is called to dispense the glorious truths of the gospel to earth's inhabitants.

God has given all of His children agency; the privilege and freedom to choose whatever they want and to receive the attached consequences, good or bad, of those choices. God sends prophets to teach what is correct and good so that people can exercise their agency and choose that which is good. However, because people have their agency, people also have chosen wickedly throughout time. They choose to reject the prophets, rebel against them and God, and in many instances ultimately choose to kill the prophets.

When individuals or large groups of people, including nations, reject God-revealed truths and abandon the prophets sent to teach them it is known as apostasy. Whether an individual chooses to reject the truth or is born and raised and taught false ideas by their parents, in either case one is living in apostasy.

The scriptures are replete with examples and references of apostasy. In the Old Testament we read of the apostasy of the nation of Israel. After Moses led the children of Israel, or the Israelite nation, out of the bondage of Pharaoh in Egypt the Lord offers them the same covenant and blessing that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) received.
These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel...That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord
thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Deuteronomy 29:1, 12-13

In the same covenant, the Lord warns Israel of what will happen if they choose to reject this covenant.
Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; And it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. Deuteronomy 29:18-20

The words of Moses include the explanation of why these curses will have come upon Israel should they occur. It is because of the forsaking and rebellion against the Lord and His covenant that they will be cursed.
So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the Lord hath laid upon it...Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: And the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: Deuteronomy 29:22, 24-27

The book of Judges chronicles the later generations of the Israelites who had received the covenant of which Moses spoke. The Israelites had settled into the land of Canaan and were led by the prophet Joshua. But we read of their apostasy from the true ways of the Lord.
And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old...And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. Judges 2:7-8, 10-13

Again the scriptures illustrate the Israelite apostasy as they elaborate on the actions of the Israelite nation.
And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves. Judges 3:5-7

God continued to reach out to the Israelite nation, sending them judges to try and bring them back into the way of the Lord. But it wasn't until a new prophet was called that Israel again emerged from the spiritual darkness of this period of apostasy. Samuel was the new prophet chosen by God.
And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only. 1 Samuel 7:3-4

Without divine guidance, an authorized servant of God receiving revelation, man is left to its own wisdom. No matter how sincerely a person may believe and practice their religion, if it is not founded in the divine gospel as revealed by God to His prophets it will not lead us on the correct course and is apostasy.

The pattern of divine guidance through prophets, followed by the rejection of their teaching and the apostasy of the people is repeated time and again in the scriptures. The prophet Isaiah spoke frequently of this.
Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof...The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant. Isaiah 24: 1, 4-5

As I said before, God always follows the pattern of providing authorized servants, but He has not always had prophets on the earth because of the wickedness of the people.
For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered...Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men. Isaiah 29:10, 13

The pattern of wickedness leading to apostasy continued throughout the Old Testament. When Jesus Christ was born and a new gospel dispensation commenced. He formally organized His church and called 12 apostles. The word apostle means "one sent forth." Apostles not only were prophets who received revelation (see Matthew 16:15-17 & Revelation 19:10) but were also called to be special witnesses of Christ's divinity and of His bodily resurrection from the dead (see Acts 1:22).

The Savior, Jesus Christ, set up His church with prophets and apostles guided by divine revelation. The apostle Paul made this clear in his epistle to the Ephesians.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. Ephesians 2:19-20

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. Ephesians 4:11-14

Before Jesus was crucified, Christ promised Peter that he would receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven or the authority to act in the name of Christ on the earth. This consisted of not only the priesthood authority, but special duties that only select prophets were given. These special duties are known as keys. Here is the promise Jesus made.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19

The fulfillment of this promise came to Peter, James, and John at the Mount of Transfiguration. For a complete accounting of this remarkable event, please see Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36. It was Christ's intention that the authority and power to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ would remain in the hands of His apostles after His death.

The Church of Jesus Christ did continue on for a number of years after the death of Jesus Christ. Matthias was called to fill the vacancy in the Twelve Apostles after the betrayal of Judas (see Acts 1:23-26). The apostles called others to serve with them in declaring the word of God (see Acts 6). Saul was chosen as an apostle and is known thereafter as Paul (see Acts 9 & 13). And missionary work is authorized to go to not only the Jews, but also to the Gentiles, or in other words the rest of the world (see Acts 10).

Yet even with so much early success, the Lord and the Apostles new that the church Christ set up and the authority to administer the gospel and its ordinances would be lost from the face of the earth. Even ancient prophets prophesied of the apostasy that would occur after the death and resurrection of Christ.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. Amos 8:11-12

Jesus taught His disciples of Jerusalem's impending destruction and of the apostasy that would follow.
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many...For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matthew 24:3-4, 24

Paul echoed the words of the Savior as he spoke to members of the church.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Acts 20:28-30

Paul prophesied of our day to his fellow saint Timothy concerning evidences of future apostasy.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 1 Timothy 4:1-3

And later Paul said to Timothy:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4

The prophets, apostles and Jesus himself knew that there would still come another time when people would reject the gospel and the earth would fall into apostasy. They knew there would come a day when no authorized individuals would be found on the earth to administer the gospel and its ordinances such as baptism.

Perhaps the most glaring prophecy concerning this comes from an epistle that Paul wrote to the saints, or members of Christ's church, in Thessalonica. Paul writes concerning the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and is pleading with the saints to not be misled by teachings as though they were coming from the apostles. He states that there would first come a falling away from the truth before the Second Coming. Here are his words.
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

The "falling away" that Paul spoke of is the loss of authorized servants of the Lord on the earth to teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. This happened. The prophets and apostles were eventually killed or taken from the earth. This came about because people chose to reject the prophets and apostles and rebel against God. This brought about the long prophesied "famine of hearing the words of the Lord." This period of time began within approximately 100 years of the death of Jesus Christ. And it ended in the year 1820. Much of this time is known in history books as the "dark ages", for indeed without the true gospel of Jesus Christ found on the earth it was dark. This time is also known as the Great Apostasy.

Jesus Christ has always called prophets. Periods of apostasy have occurred all through human history. Jesus established his church on the earth, but it too fell into apostasy. These things did happen, but God has ushered in a new dispensation and we are living in it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What makes a prophet a prophet?

There are many things that distinguish prophets from other people. In this post I will elaborate on this idea. However, it is equally important to understand that prophets are ordinary men. They have their faults and weaknesses, just like every other human being. They each have their own challenges to face in this life. Each prophet has to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ and obey it just as we do. There is no free pass to heaven because one is a prophet. Prophets are ordinary people. I say that this is important to understand because the things that distinguish a prophet from all others are not plainly visible. My hope is to help you understand what a few of these distinctions are.

Among many, three things that distinguish prophets from other people are: #1 They are called by God. #2 They learn the gospel of Jesus Christ through revelation and teach it to others. #3 They possess the authorization of God to teach the gospel to others.

Prophets have always been called by God and no one else. This is done through revelation. Revelation is the act of revealing or uncovering. Revelation can come in the form of information, such as gospel teachings. Revelation can also be receiving visitations from heavenly beings; from angels to God himself.

We can see this pattern in the scriptures. Moses, a prophet, is the great revelator of the Old Testament. Most of the things that we know concerning Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob up until Moses' time we have learned from the revelations that Moses received. It is fitting then that we start with him.

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. Exodus 3:2-6

And later in Exodus.

And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend... Exodus 33:11
Jacob, also known as Israel saw angels and later saw God.

And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host...And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel [the face of God]: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. Genesis 32:1,2 & 30
The pattern continues with Isaiah.

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Isaiah 6:5
The second thing that distinguishes prophets from other people is that they learn the gospel of Jesus Christ through revelation and are commanded to teach it to others. The fact that each prophet learns the gospel by revelation is important because it means that each prophet does not have to depend upon previous prophets in order to understand the gospel.

Today, we are blessed to have the writings of prophets in sacred books called scriptures. However, scriptures as we know them today did not always exist. A prophet couldn't just learn the gospel by reading the scriptures. It had to be revealed to that prophet each time, anew. This way a people would not have to rely upon a previous prophet's teachings.

Throughout the Old Testament we see a prophet teaching and guiding a righteous people. Slowly the people exercise their agency and choose to reject God and His chosen prophet and they fall into great wickedness. They separate themselves from God and His teachings. When this happens it is known as an apostasy. During this period of time, there are not authorized servants of God, prophets or apostles, found on the earth to teach the gospel. It is only when God calls a new prophet and reveals the gospel anew that this period of apostasy or spiritual darkness can end. Perhaps the most striking example of this is found during the time of Noah.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:5-8
God calls Noah to be a prophet and establishes His covenant (or the teachings and understanding of the gospel) anew with him.

And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark...And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou and thy sons, and thy wife and thy sons' wives with thee...Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. Genesis 6:13, 14, 17-18, & 22
After the flood, all except the people and the animals on the ark were destroyed. Through Noah, God gave commandments for the remaining people and taught Noah the gospel of his "covenant".

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you and with your seed after you. Genesis 9:1, 8-9

Prophets are sent to teach people the gospel and to testify of Christ. After the nation of Israel had killed some of the prophets and fallen into idolatry, the following is said of God.

Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear. 2 Chronicles 24:19

The Lord, through His prophet Jeremiah, spoke of His desire for people to follow Him through the words of the prophets.

Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck... Jeremiah 7:25-26

And as a witness of the truthfulness of this pattern of prophets being called by God and being taught the gospel by revelation and then being commanded to teach others, we read the words of the Savior himself.

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. John 20:21

The final thing that I will outline in this post that distinguishes prophets from all other people is the proper authorization. Much of the world believes that to be authorized one must study in a school or ministry. It's commonly believed that by seeking to learn about the gospel or God, that somehow one will be authorized to speak in the name of God. While studying and learning about God and the gospel is certainly worthwhile and admirable, it is absolutely false to think it authorizes you to speak in the name of God.

So then, what does authorize one to speak in the name of God? True prophets called by God are given the priesthood, or the power and authority to act in God's name for the salvation of His children. One cannot bestow or grant the priesthood to oneself. It must be given to an individual by one who has authority. Take for instance this scripture from the New Testament.

And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. Hebrews 5:4-5

It is clear that just as Jesus Christ did not make himself a high priest (a position within the priesthood) but was given this priesthood by One who had authority, namely God the Father, so it is with every other man. The priesthood can only be given by those in authority to those who have been called by God.

The prophet Moses was commanded to call others to the priesthood. The previous scripture just quoted, Hebrews 5:4-5 has reference to the brother of Moses, Aaron. The command to call Aaron and his sons to the priesthood is as follows.

And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons...And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations. Thus did Moses: according to all that the Lord commanded him, so did he. Exodus 28:1; 40:15-16

The same gospel message of priesthood authority was taught to Moses of the Old Testament as well as to Peter of the New Testament. Consider the similarities of these two passages of scripture.

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. Exodus 19:5-6

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1 Peter 2:9

Lastly, I call to mind the words of Jesus Christ as he spoke to His apostles concerning their ordination to the priesthood.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. John 15:16

What makes a prophet a prophet? In short, God makes men into prophets as He calls them through revelation. He gives ongoing revelation to His prophets and authorizes them through the priesthood to act in the name of God for the salvation of His children.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Where does the knowledge of God come from?

The six major religions in the world are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Judaism. While I am by no means an expert on all religions, I have endeavored to understand, at least in basic, beliefs and ideas of these major religions. By my understanding, two tenets that run through these religions are: #1 The belief in a supreme being or state of being. #2 A teacher or teachers who explain how to get near to the supreme being or achieve the supreme state of being.

In Islam, this is represented by Allah and Muhammad. Hinduism has the Trimurti and Ancient Sages. In Buddhism, the goal is to achieve Nirvana and it is modeled and taught by Gautama Buddha. Sikhism believes in Waheguru and follows the teachings of the ten Sikh gurus. Judaism believes in the Creator as taught by Moses. Christianity believes in God the Father, God Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Ghost as taught by prophets.

I start here with these two similarities, a supreme being and teachers, to hopefully create a common ground from which to base what I will outline in this blog. This applies too if you do not believe in God. Even if you are Atheist, Agnostic or a non-believer the following question still applies. Who, What, Where, When, Why and How did everything and everybody that we know and experience each day come into existence?

To answer that question, it is necessary to understand the concept of truth. Truth is something that cannot be altered. 2 + 2 = 4, this is a truth. No matter if I want to believe this or not, it will still be just as true tomorrow as it was yesterday and as it is today. There is either a God or there is not. Each religion describes its beliefs; they are either true or false. In a future posting I will expand upon this concept. But it must be understood that when it comes to answering the question posed in the previous paragraph, I leave no wiggle room. It either is one way or not. And you can choose to accept it or reject it, just as I have had to do since I did not decide what the truth is.

With that said, the answer to the question is that there is a God, and He created all things. (Ecclesiastes 11:5, Acts 17:24) As I said before concerning truth, this either is or is not. It either happened or it did not. The truth, independent of what either you or I think, is that these are facts.

Now having this understanding, the question is how do we know these things? We know these things because we have teachers. But not just any kind of teacher, specifically we have prophets. A prophet makes known God's will and acts as His messenger. And when I say that a prophet acts as "His messenger" I mean exactly that. It is God that has sent that individual. God has authorized this person to act in His name. Just as Paul explained in his epistle to the Romans.
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" Romans 10:13-15
God has always sent prophets to communicate His will.
"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." Amos 3:7

There are true prophets. This is a fact. Everyone else who teaches falsehoods, regardless of how sincerely that teacher may believe what they are teaching, is an impostor. This is how Jesus Christ explained it.
"And many false prophets shall rise, and deceive man...For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Matthew 24:11, 24

Back to the title question, where does the knowledge of God come from? It comes from God himself through His chosen prophets. This is truth. As I said before, one can chose to believe this or disbelieve, regardless this will be as true tomorrow as it was yesterday as it is today. God does exist. He created all things. And He works through prophets. These are facts.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


This name of this blog refers to the book of Acts, chapter 17 from the New Testament. In it, the Apostle Paul is on his second mission journey and is visiting the city of Athens in the Roman province of Achaia. At the time of Paul’s visit, many of the Athenians had become engrossed in unprofitable superstitious discussions. Idolatry (the worship of nature in one form or another, from the sun, to animals, to inanimate objects) was common and accepted by the majority of people at that time. People knew not how to worship and much less whom. They built altars to offer sacrifices to their various ‘gods’.

In these circumstances Paul stood among a crowd of men on Mars Hill in Athens. In verses 22 and 23 Paul said the following: “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” The people of Athens did not know who to worship, so in setting up their various idols and altars, they set up one to an unknown god just in case the gods they had set up for themselves didn’t quite cover everything. Astutely, Paul realized this and he taught the people of Athens who the “unknown god” is.

Today, He is still unknown to billions of people on the earth. Today, billions of people practice idolatry and worship false gods. I am creating this blog with the intent to help people understand and come to know who the unknown god is. Together with Paul of ancient times, I declare unto the world that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World is the unknown god. My hope is through this blog you, the reader, may come unto Jesus Christ.