Sunday, March 28, 2021

Your Churches, Yea, Even Every One

As General Conference approaches I always have the hope that someone will speak on the Fulness of the Gospel and what it takes to be a part of Zion. They usually talk about "hastening the work" and that "the Second Coming is soon" and to "get prepared" but that is about where the instruction ends and there are very few details are given about what those things specifically entail.

The purpose of the Gospel is to raise a people who can endure His presence which is what brings about Zion. The entire Temple Endowment and Sealing points to that end and nowhere does the endowment ever say that the blessings will be bestowed in the afterlife. We hasten to the Temple to help 'kindred dead' receive this blessing, while we neglect to recognize the lack of attainment of the endowment for ourselves. 

Joseph Smith mourned the failure of those around him to accept what was offered:
“Any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too. But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [cornbread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [hammer]. Even the saints are slow to understand.” (TPJS p. 331)
We LDS tend to exclude ourselves from this assessment, assuming we are succeeding where the Saints who went before us, failed. When we judge for ourselves how well we received the fulness from Joseph Smith, his words are not encouraging. More so it appears he was frustrated at their failure to understand what they were rejecting. 

Christ is not the only one in the Book of Mormon who spoke of the gentile rejection (3 Nephi 16: 10-12). Moroni prophesied to us personally (Mormon 8):
35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. 
This warning is to those who read and believe in the book; not those who will never read its pages. His warning could not be more clear. He tells us our churches, “even every one” of them, “have become polluted.” He did not allow for any exception. There is simply no church belonging to us gentiles that has not become “polluted” because of our “iniquities.” If Moroni’s words are taken at face value, he is telling us we have filled every church, including ours, with iniquities.

He goes on: We love money instead of people (Mormon 8: 37, 39). We have secret abominations among us (v. 40). He asks us: “O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?” (Mormon 4: 40) 

Since he saw our day, it is not likely he would call any other religious denomination other than the Latter-day Saints the “holy church of God.” It makes no sense for him to refer to Catholics or Lutherans as the “holy church of God.” To read this warning as a caution to those who do not accept the Book of Mormon as scripture seems cruel. At the plainest of meanings, Moroni prophecies we have polluted the holy church of God.

Joseph Smith also spoke against the church’s iniquity. He said:
“We have thieves among us, adulterers, liars, hypocrites. If God should speak from heaven, he would command you not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to covet, nor deceive, but be faithful over a few things. As far as we degenerate from God, we descend to the devil and lose knowledge, and without knowledge we cannot be saved, and while our hearts are filled with evil, and we are studying evil, there is no room in our hearts for good, or studying good. Is not God good? Then you be good; if He is faithful, then you be faithful. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and seek for every good thing.

"The Church must be cleansed, and I proclaim against all iniquity. A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.” (TPJS, p. 217)
If Joseph declared there were “adulterers, liars, hypocrites” among the saints in his day, then it stands to reason that the Lord’s warning that the gentiles would be filled with “lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations” (3 Ne. 16. 10-12) has already happened.

Elder Orson Pratt in 1873 was one of the church’s first Apostles and said:
“There must be a reformation, there will be a reformation among this people, for God will not cast off this kingdom and this people, but he will plead with the strong ones of Zion, he will plead with this people, he will plead with those in high places, he will plead with the Priesthood of this Church, until Zion shall become clean before him. I do not know but that it would be an utter impossibility to commence and carry out some principles pertaining to Zion right in the midst of this people. They have strayed so far that to get a people who would conform to heavenly laws it may be needful to lead some from the midst of this people and commence anew somewhere in the regions round about in these mountains.” (JD, 15: 360-361)
There is no place in scripture where you can find a people who brought Zion about as a result of generations of slow and steady work.

Enoch did not lay a foundation for others to gradually build on over generations.

Neither did Melchizedek.

They came with power, held the fulness of the Melchizedek priesthood, and through teaching the truth to people willing to live it, established Zion.

Each time Zion has come, the Lord visited and dwelt with them.

In the Book of Mormon, Christ came to Bountiful after His death and ministered to the Nephites. It was Christ who established a people of peace. His community then dwelt in harmony.

Do you consider yourself greater than the people at the time of Bountiful?

They touched the Savior personally. They were healed by Him. Listened to Him teach for days. Had their children blessed by Him. Christ personally established His church among the Nephites.

***Additionally Jesus left three translated beings living among them for four generations...***

...and yet even they still fell into apostasy (3 Ne. 28: 4-23).

Are you greater than those at Bountiful during the time Christ ministered to them directly?

How much more cautious must we be in our day, four generations after Joseph’s death, with no personal visitation from Christ and no translated beings directly remaining with us like the people in Bountiful?

This is why Joseph truly lamented the failure to complete the Nauvoo Temple while he was still alive when he said: “And I would to God that this temple was now done, that we might go into it, and go to work and improve our time, and make use of the seals while they are on earth.” (TPJS p. 330). He knew the “seals” which he possessed would soon depart. Joseph died and Zion had not been brought again.

We have moved further away from Zion since the early days of Nauvoo. Until we understand the God of the Old Testament and the New as well as remember the Book of Mormon and renew ourselves by accepting what was once offered through that “covenant,” our minds will remain darkened (D&C 84: 54-57) and Christ can not come.

Because Christ is Zion.