There is an image from my childhood that still haunts me. It was in a storybook my mother read to me about Hansel and Gretel.
As a young boy I almost wept, listening to how those poor children were abandoned by their parents, leaving breadcrumbs to mark their path so they could find their way home through the forest, only to have the wicked crows come down and eat the crumbs.
Without the trail of breadcrumbs to guide them, the children were lost.
Lost, alone, scared . . . much like I felt.
Of course, crows are everywhere. And getting mixed up with crazy old witches in gingerbread houses is easier than you'd expect.
But in Hansel's case, what I found particularly horrific was the way the witch locked him in a cage and fattened him up because she meant to eat him.
I think one of the reasons I am so passionate about freedom is because I abhor the thought of someone sticking me in a cage to satiate their spiritual cannibalism.
Every morning the woman crept to the little cage, and I imagined the terror Hansel must have felt as she cried, "Hansel, stretch out your finger that I may feel how fat you've become."
Hansel took a little bone he found on the floor of his cell, and stretched out the bone for her to feel. The old woman, whose eyes were dim, thought it was Hansel's finger.
That is the image - a young boy holding out a bone - that sticks in my mind.
Liberty and Carthage
I can picture Joseph Smith huddled in Liberty Jail where he could not stand up, being told:
God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit; yea; by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now.
I can picture him another jail, Carthage, on the night before his death, when in the middle of the night he heard gunfire and laid himself on the floor between Dan Jones and John Fullmer, saying, “Lay your head on my arm for a pillow, Brother John." (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 601)
A month earlier Joseph had said,
Let the penitentiaries be turned into seminaries of learning, where intelligence, like the angels of heaven, would banish [darkness]. ‘Amor vincit amnia.’ Love conquers all.
(Times and Seasons, vol. 5, No. 10, p. 532, 15 May 1844)
There are worse prisons than those made of cement, steel and stone. The prisons of hate, anger, and sinfulness. Who will set us free? Who will unlock the door to this narrow cell? Who will deliver us from the wicked witch?
Christ holds the key.
I'll Huff and I'll Puff
A key is an interesting device:
it can lock others out and lock us in -or- it can be used to let others in and let us out.
So a key a prison makes . . . or breaks. It depends on how you use it.
The Lord gave Peter the keys to the Cadillac:
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 in heaven.
But look at what Jesus said immediately before:
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Fact: Hell has a gate. (D&C 10:69)
Fact: The gates of hell have a lock. (Revelation 20:3)
Fact: The Lord has a key to unlock the gates of hell. (D&C 138:18)
Fact: The Lord sometimes lets men or women borrow his keys (as long as they remember to fill up the tank with gas on the way home). (D&C 65:2)
Question: If you have these keys, should you use them to lock people in hell or to let them out of hell? (Asking for a friend)
Well, I suppose sometimes you gotta seal up the rebellious and unbelievers. But . . .
[Jesus] entered into a village . . . and they did not receive him.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
And he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know what what manner of spirit ye are of.
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.
Rainbows and Bones
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel described the glory of the Lord as a rainbow.
The appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.
It is impossible to find the end of a rainbow, and so it is that there no end to God’s infinite love.
We are each faced with our own valleys of dry bones, desperately needing the pure love of Christ to restore our desiccated hearts.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
We are all Hansel, sticking out a bone through the cage bars, pleading to God, "Can these bones live?" Sometimes on Sunday when I partake of the broken bread, I am reminded that breadcrumbs mark the way home for all of us.
From the dust and ashes of death the Lord’s love calls forth new life. Our weary, arthritic bones will become young as we love as little children.
But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer.
When Ezekiel beheld the glory of God, he wrote, “I fell upon my face” (Ezekiel 1:28). When I was young and naive, I wanted to learn what love was and how it worked. I mean, on a molecular level. What is the atomic weight of love? It didn't take long before I gave up.
Why? Because we don't learn to love by studying how to love; we learn to love by coming to know Christ.
We don't find the record of God's love written on papyrus paper or upon gold plates but in the fleshy tablets of our hearts whereupon God has written and sealed His name forevermore, and it is Love.
Before I continue the series "Teach Us Thy Statutes, Thy Law", we need to take a detour; a very important one. Consider this a road trip - like the ones you used to take with your college roommates for Spring Break, traveling to CBS Studios in Los Angeles to join the studio audience of The Price is Right.
Speaking of the Price is Right . . .
I was *this close* to getting on to The Price is Right during my senior year. But Bob Barker called the name of my roommate instead. He won some trips and kayaks.
In this series, "Stewards of Grace", I want us to look at the issue of money and mammon, particularly in the context of religious bodies and Zion. Is it possible to overcome economic inequality?
No, don't leave! Come back -- I brought cookies!
What is the Currency of Heaven?
Picture this: an angel scout is having a bake sale. They've set up a lemonade stand on the corner of Damascus Drive and Amos Blvd. You smell the chocolate (of course there's only dark chocolate in heaven) and wander over.
"Hey Boaz," you say.
"Hey. Want a cookie?"
"Yeah, they look delicious. Do you have any milk?"
Boaz rolls his eyes. "Of course. And honey, if you like to double dip."
"Great, I'll just take a chocolate chip cookie and some milk."
At this point do you:
A. Take out your wallet and pay the angel $1.00; B. Promise to leave a good Yelp review; C. Thank the angel and go on your merry way; D. All of the above; E. None of the above F. All of the above except A
What does a cookie cost in heaven?
In our economic system, you need at least two things:
(1) a price that a willing seller and a willing buyer agree upon ("fair market value"); and
(2) a way to exchange value, like currency.
The "price" of something is based on the relationship between supply and demand.
What is the supply of God?
What are the resources of God?
What are the streets of the celestial kingdom made from?
Gold. (D&C 137:4)
(That's right, the streets of heaven are so impressive they earned themselves an entire verse in scripture.)
Hmm. If you have unlimited supply, what does that do to the economy?
If you want to live in the Big Apple and rent an apartment in Manhattan, it'll cost you about $4,000 a month for 700 sq. feet. That's around the size of a swimming pool. Talk about drowning . . . in debt.
Joseph Smith taught:
All men who are immortal dwell in everlasting burnings.
But who's gonna pay the gas bill for all that heat?
Do angels have to earn an income?
According to Brigham Young, we won't be doing that in the next life:
No one supposes for one moment that in heaven the angels are speculating, that they are building railroads and factories, taking advantage one of another, gathering up the substance there is in heaven to aggrandize themselves.
No Christian believes this; they believe that the inhabitants of heaven live as a family.
(Journal of Discourses 17:117-18)
The Facts of Life
The average cost of raising a child to maturity in the United States is $233,000.00. And that's before they move back into the basement after completing their history degree.
Since I have five children, I will invest around $1.25 million in my kids before they go to college. (There goes my Porsche Spyder.)
Remember the two conflicting commandments that God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? To multiply and replenish the earth and not eat the fruit?
That must have been nice. Nowadays the conflicting counsel is to multiply and replenish the earth and get out of debt.
Uh, sure. But I admit, what an investment children are!
And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked.
We tell our children they are entitled to food and clothes, but everything else is a privilege. Except the television - that's a member of the family.
Christ is our Father
We do not take money from our children. We do not charge six-year-olds for the meatballs on their spaghetti. We take care of them.
We are children of God. He doesn't need our money. He won't take money from us. We don't need to give our money to God because his gift of grace is free.
(I know, I know, hold your horses. We'll get to tithing eventually.)
But do you know who does need some assistance? Our neighbor, our brothers and sisters, the widow and orphan, even strangers.
When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
What's a Soul Worth?
Think of ourselves with a price tag: and that is exactly how Satan views us—someone with a price, something to be bought.
And Satan loves to get paid. He has such plans for all that gold and silver.
It is true we have all sinned, and in the process have become second-hand merchandise.
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
None of us are "new-in-the-box" who have reached the age of accountability.
The wages of sin is death, and Satan comes to collect. God ransoms us from our captor, and the price He paid is proof enough of our worth.
Jesus Christ “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). He actually took our place.
He did not pay the ransom with a stack of unmarked bills in a black briefcase given to our kidnapper in exchange for our freedom.
Christ gave his own life in exchange for ours so we might go free.
Remember when I said the "fair market value" of a thing is what a buyer is willing to pay? Well, Jesus paid the blood price for us.
Our worth is equal to the price he paid - the value that he was willing to exchange for each of us - which was "infinite and eternal" (Alma 34:10).
Can't Buy Me Love
I guess it's true: There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's Mastercard.
If an earthly parent is responsible for the care and nurture of their children in every aspect, just imagine the kind of care our Heavenly Father gives to us.
Sometimes it may seem like he isn't there, like a deadbeat dad late on child support, but the reality is the opposite: he is right here, with us, in us. He has never left us.
I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
He did. He has.
And what does he ask in return? "Love one another, as I have loved you."
Some of you may be Noble and Great Ones. (If so, you may skip ahead.)
Keep the Faith
Those of you trying to fight the good fight and keep your heads up, welcome to the club. At least we find ourselves in good company: people like the apostle Paul and the high priest Nephi struggled, too:
O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of myflesh.
Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin.
(2 Nephi 4:17-21, 28) Paul:
I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
It is no small task we face: how do we live a Celestial Law (the Law of Love, as summarized in the Sermon on the Mount) in a Telestial Kingdom?
There is much we do not know, and much of what we believe we do not fully understand. But here are a couple of things I believe with all my heart, which encourages me. Here is what I want to share with all of you beloved Owls:
1. We chose to come to this telestial kingdom.
We were not sent here as punishment.
We were not sent here against our will.
We chose to be here because we sought what this Kingdom had to offer. (And what is that?)
And let's not forget -- even a Telestial Kingdom is still a Kingdom of Glory!
2. So why did we choose to come here?
We came to this kingdom to increase our capacity to love.
I mean, where better to learn how to love fearlessly?
C.S. Lewis wrote that when we are filled with divine love, we find a way to love those who are "not naturally lovable; lepers, criminals, enemies, morons, the sulky, the superior and the sneering." (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, London: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1960, 128.)
Guess how many lepers we'll find in heaven? None.
On earth we have eight billion.
We are at the epicenter of the worst outbreak of spiritual leprosy in the universe. That's a lot of loving to do.
Sure, it requires us to love outside of our comfort zones.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:18)
(Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747), St. Francis Heals a Leper)
Saint Francis of Assisi
In his Testament, Saint Francis wrote, “When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them. When I became acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became the source of spiritual and physical consolation for me.”
After he got over his revulsion, after he was filled with divine love, Saint Francis and his friends started a ministry to the leper colonies. They fed them, they cared for them, ate with them, and kissed their wounds. For real.
How do we overcome our fears?
How about we face our fears head on. Right here, right now, in this smelly back alley on the bad side of Kolob.
Here we are staring down our worst nightmare. Welcome to mortality!
After all the pain and blood and horror this world can throw at us, we can overcome -- but not by ourselves, not on our own. We need Christ and the power of His pure love to turn our collective pain into paradise, this pitiful hell into heaven, transforming our deepest fears into unshakable faith thru Him who shined His light into the darkness so we would no more be afraid of the dark.
That's what I believe.
A promise I give unto you . . . that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me . . . the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am.
What in the world are we afraid of, with Christ as our King? Tanks and missiles are child's toys compared to the power of love.
Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.
Okay, Noble and Great Ones, You can Rejoin Us Now
If you walk into any Sunday School class and ask, "Why did we come to earth?", chances are you'll receive an answer like this:
Answer: "To get a body."
Me: Sounds good. But let's continue this line of questioning: Why do we need a body?
Answer: "To become like Heavenly Father."
Me: You got me there! But I am not satisfied yet. Whydoes Heavenly Father have a body?
Answer: "Um . . . well . . . you know, I don't think we learn that until the Second Anointing. Above my pay grade."
What's a Body For?
Carol Lynn Pearson wrote the LDS musical My Turn on Earth. To this day, I go around the kitchen scaring the kids, bursting out:
I have a plan, it will save every man! . . .
In the song "Everybody Ought to Have a Body," it says: It can frown, it can stare, It can pull somebody's hair. It can pound around and weep and sob. It can hit, it can bite, It can even fight. Teaching a body is really a job.
Ponder the implications of what Joseph Smith said:
God is Good & all his acts are for the benefit of inferior intelligences--
God saw that those intelligences had not power to defend themselves against those that had a tabernacle;
Therefore the Lord called them together in Council & agreed to form them tabernacles so that he might gender the spirit & the tabernacle together so as to create sympathy for their fellow man--
for it is a natural thing with those spirits that have the most power to bear down on those of lesser power; so we see the devil is without a tabernacle. (Joseph Smith, reported in William P. McIntire Minute Book, 28 March 1841; quoted in Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith; punctuation and spelling modernized.)
A body is simply expression incarnate. Through our five senses, we perceive the world around us, and our body is the way we interact with it.
But above all, a body is the ultimate expression of love, meaning, it is the way we express what we truly love (good or evil).
Love is part of our basic biology.
Imagine how boring eternal life would be if we were unable to feel emotions produced by love, both pleasurable (joy) and painful (sorrow).
Hard Pass on Impassibility
I am glad our God is not, as the theologians say, "impassible."
A lot of Christians believe in the impassibility of God, which means that He does not experience pleasure or pain based on the actions of another being. Why not? Because if we were able to cause God to be sad, then that makes Him subject to us! This is why the creeds say "God is without passions," because they believe him to be immutable.
God weeps! He has tear ducts! Jesus's resurrected bowels are "filled with compassion" towards us (3 Nephi 17:6).
Love produces a physiological effect even in glorified Beings.
There are only 118 known elements in our universe. (And we could probably do with less Californium.)
When Jesus entered this world as a Man, the same 118 elements composed His body as ours.
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fullness of joy.
How does God deal with all those "feelings"?
A body does not make us like our Heavenly Father!
A pure heart does.
This should sound familiar:
For this is Zion -- The pure in heart.
Let's save this topic for another post. Stay tuned.
Snake Tastes Like Chicken
So here we are, with our brand-new physical bodies designed to make us the most loving people in the universe . . . and then we're thrown a curve ball. A 90 mph curve ball barreling straight toward us.
And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God . . . And they loved Satan more than God.
And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.
Really? Well, before we cast stones, who among us wants to eat a green salad after you've tasted fried chicken? Let him eat the first soybean.
Cain was sick of working hard for a living, tilling the cursed ground and offering up zucchini, when all he had to do was take advantage of his brother. Then he'd have lots of lamb chops to eat. All's fair in love and war . . . and advancing our career.
Life is "for the sake of getting gain" (Moses 5:50), isn't it?
Satan's wonderful, terrible plan all along has been to get us to love the wrong thing.
When Josiah Quincy, the Mayor of Boston made a visit to Nauvoo, Joseph Smith showed him some of the Egyptian papers.
Quincy said, "The parchment…showed a rude drawing of a man and woman, and a serpent walking upon a pair of legs. I ventured to doubt the propriety of providing the reptile in question with this unusual means of locomotion. “Why, that's as plain as a pikestaff,” was the rejoinder [from Joseph]. “Before the Fall snakes always went about on legs, just like chickens. They were deprived of them, in punishment for their agency in the ruin of man.” (Millet & Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price, p. 92. (Here's a picture taken from an engraving found in the tomb of Ramses IX.)
How Do We Learn to Love the Light?
You think I know? It is what I am trying to learn. And with the Lord's help, we may just get there together.
When I was ten years old my dad brought home a couple of giant pizzas for dinner. The pizza was delicious. But that night I became sick and threw up. A lot. To this day I cannot stand the taste of black olives. They're the the only food I won't eat.
You may love olives. You might not understand how someone could not love olives. You might try to get me to eat them, even just "a bite", the way we try to get children to eat their vegetables, hoping if they eat broccoli enough times they will eventually like it. (Don't get me started on Lima beans, whose real name is phaseolus lunatus, which better describes their taste.)
My point is, we cannot force someone to love something. God himself cannot make us love Him.
Spiritual taste buds cannot be manipulated, or tricked, into loving the light. There is no "gimmick" that will bring conversion to Christ and His law of love.
But sin can dull our taste buds to the point we lose our sense of taste, requiring more and more salt to get the same satisfaction.
Love is something we must experience, we must taste, for ourselves.
I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.
If we want to learn to love, we better ask Christ to teach us.
Ye shall pluck the fruit [of the tree of life], which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure;
And ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
As we spend time with Christ, love will abound.
Joseph Smith recollected the way he felt after his First Vision:
My soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great joy and the Lord was with me.
Tonight, please, let us ask Christ to show us the way.
“Which way do you face?” President Boyd K. Packer [asked Elder Lynn G. Robbins]. . . . “A Seventy,” [President Packer] continued, “does not represent the people to the prophet but the prophet to the people. Never forget which way you face!”
(Lynn G. Robbins, "Which Way Do You Face," October 2014 General Conference. See also, Boyd K. Packer, "Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council," 1993; and Boyd K. Packer, "Which Way Do You Face?", 1979.)
Are we gunslingers in a Western movie, facing each other at twenty paces, seeing who's the fastest draw?
When did this become a stand-off?
Well, before picking sides, we should ask ourselves, "Are there only two ways to face?"
(After all, we live in a three-dimensional universe.)
What if there was a third option:
Why will ye die? Turn ye, turn ye unto the Lord your God.
Why pick sides, why draw lines, why make it "us vs. them"? Can't we all just face the Lord?
And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you.
Which way do we face?
Here's an example of what we should be doing:
And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people:
Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?
Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
In my last post I said, "it is not the messenger that matters: it is the message; and in fact, the message proves whether or not the messenger is of God, not the other way around."
So let's recap: we only want to obey the word (i.e. spiritual law) that comes from God.
No man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law.
If we put this into a math equation, it might looks something like this:
Law = Word x (God + y)
where "y" stands for anyone who speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost, whether it is a stranger, an angel, or your hair dresser.
King of Kings
Now imagine a kingdom in which all of the citizens are kings and queens. And there is One among them who is King of Kings.
Let's call this kingdom . . . the Celestial Kingdom.
Does being a king in that kingdom mean we get to rule over the other kings? Does being a queen mean we get to boss the other queens around?
Of course not. We wold all be equal. And there would be one Lord of Lords.
[We] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.
You might ask, "What good is being a king if I am not in charge? After all, if we are all kings, it is like no one is."
Since God's word is sovereign, do we need a hierarchy in heaven? Is Zion going to be run like the Roman Catholic Magisterium, or the Dominican Republic, or the Pepsi Cola Corporation? Those are all hierarchies. Many people assume Zion'll have a president, a governing board, executive level officers, middle managers, workers . . . and some poor sap who'll feel lucky just to take out the trash.
Let's look at the definition of "hierarchy."
HIERARCHY, noun: "a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority."
Contrast that with this definition:
ZION, noun: "They who dwell in [God's] presence . . . and he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion" (D&C 76:95).
Are these two systems compatible? Let's find out, shall we?
Can People Be Equal in a Hierarchy?
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." George Orwell described human nature: we all support the idea of equality, so long as we're a little more equal than everyone else.
We should ask ourselves, does God really want us to be "equal"?
That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.
For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;
For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you.
Answer: Yes, God wants us to be equal.
What does it mean to be Equal?
I am not LeBron James's equal on the basketball court (I think that is safe to assume). On the other hand, I bet LeBron James can't sing Rodolfo's O soave fancuilla from La Boheme as well as me (but to be fair, I have never heard LeBron reach for the High C at the climax of Che gelida manina).
So equality doesn't mean we all possess the same aptitude or skill. We all have different strengths and weakness.
These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord they God, I am more intelligent than they all.
Being "equal" does not mean we are the "same."
When I was young I thought that the goal of becoming “one” meant we would all be like each other. Now I realize that it means we would all be like Christ. We share one heart because the heart is His.
The gospel teaches unity, not uniformity. Our Father in Heaven created individuality in His children just as He did in the snowflakes that fall from the sky: no two are alike.
Even though we are not equal in our nature, we can be equal in our status. What does that mean?
Christ desires to make us "joint heirs" with him in the Celestial Kingdom.
He that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom;
Therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
This is referring to our status: we will receive all that the Father "hath" and be made equal "in power, and in might, and in dominion" (D&C 76:95).
ZION DOES NOT HAVE A HIERARCHY
Yes, you read that correctly: Zion does not have a hierarchy. *Gasp*
At this moment you are probably thinking of a dozen reasons why I am wrong.
Maybe I'm bonkers, but let me explain before you decide.
Take out your No. 2 pencils and let's begin:
Question 1: When you kneel at your bedside to say your evening prayers, how do you begin your prayer:
Question 2: Which of the following better describes your idea of heaven:
(a) A football team -or- (b) A family
Question 3: Does Christ cast a shadow?
(a) Yes, Christ casts a shadow -or- (b) No, Christ does not cast a shadow.
To create a shadow, all you need is an obstacle to block the light. When light cannot pass through an object, it creates a dark "umbra".
[Christ] cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left.
Why can't Christ have a shadow? Because he is the Source of light, like the sun. There is no shadow in him.
Are shadows bad?
Shadows represent the legalism that creeps into our faith through the Trojan horse of "the traditions of men."
That wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
Remember our equation:
Law = Word x (God + y)
Look at how it can be slightly altered with just a bit of shadow:
Law = Word x (God) + y
See the difference?
Jesus called us out of the shadow of the law; and he specifically rejected the traditions of the Jews, who had come to believe the law and their traditions were one and the same.
Oddly, many people like to be another's shadow (to get out of the heat, I guess, because it can get pretty warm in the refiner's fire).
Shadows cool us off because they provide us with black-and-white certainty, thereby saving us the trouble of inquiring of the Lord.
We see the shadow's umbra growing when a person tries to get others to live the gospel . . . according to Tim, or Bill, or Tiffany, or President So-and-So.
"Well, So-and-So said we have to [fill in the blank: take the sacrament with the right hand; do not drink caffeinated beverages; or use poker cards; or wear a blue shirt when passing the sacrament; or eat too much meat; or wear hats in church; or listen to rock music]" and so on. (It's a very long list.)
Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up -- that which ye have seen me do.
(3 Nephi 18:24)
I have never seen the Lord drink a Mt. Dew. But then, I have not not seen him drink one, either.
Question 4: Do hierarchies create "umbras"?
(a) No, bodies standing between me and the Lord do not cast shadows. -or- (b) Yes, bodies standing between me and the Lord do cast shadows.
Why would we allow anyone to block any portion of Christ's light from reaching us?
One of the big problems with hierarchies is that they enable idolatry ("hero worship" of those at the top).
I saw no temple [in the holy Jerusalem] for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
Imagine! John is describing a reality very different from the one we see in the workplace, in government, or at church.
Question 5: How old were you when stopped needing a babysitter?
(a) I am 53 years old and I still need a babysitter. -or- (b) I was around eight or nine years old when my parents trusted me to be home alone.
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 [Till! 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.
In Zion we will have "come of age", as Paul points out, and the hierarchical training wheels will come off.
I think most of us assume the hierarchies we see on earth will exist in some form in heaven -- that between us and God there'll be layers of bureaucratic red tape and angels standing as sentinels like bouncers at the bar.
Maybe we'll be able to wave at Him from the nosebleed section.
Question 6: Can you "lay off", "fire", "terminate" "demote" or "excommunicate" a member of your family?
(a) Yes, the good-for-nothings are dead to me. -or- (b) No, we will always be family no matter what; we share the same blood.
How did you do? Add up the number of times you chose Answer (a) and score yourself:
5 - 6 = Master Mahan 3 - 4 = Pope Stephen VI 1 - 2 = Zeezrom 0 = Zoram (congratulations!)
The truth is there is NO ONE that stands between us and our Savior. He is right here. He is in us!
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.
The sanctified are one with Christ. The way we treat each other is the way we treat Him. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Not So Fast
"Wait a minute," I imagine someone is saying. "Won't there always be an organizational structure, a heavenly hierarchy, to manage the concourses of angels?"
That depends. Is the Church of the Firstborn a hierarchy?
They who dwell in [God's] presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.
And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.
The organization of Zion is that of a family.
Instead of a "rank and file" organization, I view us holding hands in a circle around Christ so that we all receive a fullness of his light equally -- like this:
Even though I can't draw, I wanted to illustrate this point: our purpose is to strengthen each other, arm in arm -- not as "rulers" but as brothers and sisters.
When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Leadership was never about being "in charge" because we already have a Shepherd who is in charge.
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
And [Jesus] said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
Why is it that we want our churches to operate like a gentile kingdom, when Jesus forbade such a thing -- and told us explicitly not to "exercise authority" like the world?!
Even Peter -- the apostle we associate most with priesthood authority and keys -- said:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
(1 Peter 5:2-3)
So we see that we do not need a hierarchy to tell us how to act, what to think, how to dress, what to drink, what to watch, who to date, what to pay, how to pray . . . we need friends.
What we need is to repent and lovingly help others come unto Christ.
Christ can change our nature, but we cannot change even a hair on our head -- let alone a hair on the head of our neighbor! So let's stop sewing toupees.
We just need to support and love one another while Christ works things out.
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.
A Roman legion was comprised of 6,000 men. How in the world do you keep them all organized on the battlefield?
The solution was a military formation called "Rank and File." The "rank" describes the the row you stand in. Your "file" refers to the column you're assigned to. (B4, you sunk my battleship.)
"Rank and file" has a lot of benefits in a military context. Imagine you're a soldier, feeling squeamish at the sight of all those barbarians charging at you. You want to flee? Sorry, you're stuck. You have literally nowhere to go. Fight or die. Strength in numbers!
Chain of Command
The reason we need "ranks" in the military is to keep track of who's in charge. We call that the "chain of command." In fact, the whole army is structured around the principle of authority. The chain of command helps them maintain order.
This "chain" determines your place in the line of authority: someone who holds a "higher" rank than you can issue orders you must obey. But the good news is, if you can climb high enough up the chain, you get to be the one giving orders to those of lesser rank.
So far so good. But what if your commanding officer gave you an order that you felt was wrong? Well, you do it anyway -- or you commit insubordination, refusing to obey orders.
The notion of insubordination fascinates me because it places an officer's duty not in the "rightness" or "wrongness" of the order, but in the person who issues it. "Right or wrong be damned, General Obedience, Sir."
I can't think of a prophet who has not been insubordinate to man's authority.
Two of my favorite examples:
Then the king sent unto [Elijah] a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.
And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume thee and they fifty.
And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
(2 Kings 1:9-10)
Peter and John
[The rulers of the people] commanded them not to speak at all nor teach the name of Jesus.
But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
A good soldier, though, does not have the luxury of second-guessing an order issued by the chain of command.
You're going to love this: if a member of the military gets in trouble for doing something bad, and is prosecuted for it, they can assert the Nuremberg defense. What is that? It's where you can be found not guilty if you were just following the orders of a superior officer.
A Royal Army
We're soldiers in Christ's army, and His house is a house of order, and so of course we want to be organized by rank and offices, right? We've all heard someone refer to "the rank and file of the priesthood."
A friend told me recently, "I've always been told if my bishop tells me to do something, even if it is wrong, and I do it, I will be blessed."
The Problem with Rank
The notions of "rank and file" are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ and detrimental to our spiritual well being -- as well as to the cause of Zion, where we will be of "one heart, and one mind."
The dichotomy between "leaders and laity", "clergy and congregation", "priest and parishioner" creates rank in the church and leads to spiritual abuse.
Not convinced? Let's look at a few examples:
1. Rank and File Mentality Diminishes Personal Initiative.
Here's the Lord's standard for organizational behavior:
He that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant.
Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.
But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded . . . and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
The Lord has endowed us with (1) the light of Christ, (2) the Holy Ghost, (3) a brain, (4) agency, (5) the gifts of the Spirit, and (6) the scriptures. He has loaded us up with inspiration.
What happens to our spirituality when we look to others to tell us what to do, how to serve, who to serve, when to serve . . .?
In most religious traditions there's a glass ceiling placed on our ability to freely exercise our gifts or initiative. There are powerful socio-cultural forces that pull us towards orthodoxy and hegemony.
We Interrupt This Post for a Message from A Wrinkle In Time
"The houses in the outskirts were all exactly alike, small square boxes painted gray. Each had a small rectangular plot of lawn in front, with a straight line of dull-looking flowers edging the path to the door. Meg had a feeling that if she could count the flowers, there would be exactly the same number for each house. In front of all the houses, children were playing. Some were skipping rope, some were bouncing balls. Meg felt vaguely that something was wrong with their play. It seemed exactly like children playing around any housing development at home, and yet there was something different about it. She looked at Calvin and saw that he too was puzzled.
“Look!” Charles Wallace said suddenly. “They’re skipping and bouncing in rhythm! Everyone’s doing it at exactly the same moment.”
"This was so. As the skipping rope hit the pavement, so did the ball. As the rope curved over the head of the jumping child, the child with the ball caught the ball. Down came the ropes. Down came the balls. Over and over again. Up. Down. All in rhythm. All identical. Like the houses. Like the paths. Like the flowers."
Martin Luther gave this wonderful example that shows what a "chain of command" does to individual initiative:
"Would it not be an unnatural thing, if a fire broke out in a city, and everybody were to stand by and it burn on and on and consume everything that could burn, for the sole reason that nobody had the authority to put it out?"
(Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate (1520), accessed at https://web.stanford.edu/~jsabol/certainty/readings/Luther-ChristianNobility.pdf)
Have you ever wondered, "I feel like I should [fill in the blank]. Can I do that? Would it be okay with [so-and-so]? I better ask. After all, I want to 'stay in my lane.'"
Is that an example of "quenching the Spirit"?
Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
2. Rank and File Mentality Cripples Spiritual Self-Reliance
Joseph Smith knew a thing or two about organizing a body of believers. This is what he said:
Prest. J. Smith & wife then entered. Prest. J. Smith rose, read the 14th Chap. of Ezekiel -- said the Lord had declar'd by the prophet that the people should each one stand for himself and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church -- that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls --
applied it to the present state of the church of Latter-Day Saints -- said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall -- that they were depending on the prophet, hence were darkened in their minds from neglect of themselves.
"Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book," p. 51, The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/nauvoo-relief-society-minute-book/48
What does it mean to be spiritually self-reliant?
Here's a hypothetical: you live in Jerusalem circa 600 B.C. and have forewarning that Babylon will destroy the city. Do you follow Jeremiah into exile? Do you accompany Lehi? Do you chart a third path? What do you do?
And at that day . . . shall the parable be fulfilled that I spake concerning the ten virgins.
For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived-- verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.
Who do we follow? Who leads us? The Holy Spirit.
I think what Joseph was worried about is people relying on him too much and missing out on the chance to develop their own spiritual discernment.
When we go hiking in the wilderness, we are told not to "drink downstream." It's better to get water from its source, where it is pure -- before it has traveled through mud and leeches and deer poop and gathered giardia.
Joseph Smith's teaching reminds me of what Nephi warned against. In fact, Nephi pronounced a formal curse.
Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or hearkeneth unto the precepts of men save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
(2 Nephi 28:31)
Would Nephi be "for" or "against" a chain of command?
Somebody might say, "But Tim, when I follow the Lord's servants, I am following the Lord himself. What's the difference?"
That's a valid point. There is NO difference. When someone speaks by "the power of the Holy Ghost" it is like God himself speaking.
But that proves my point: there cannot be a "rank and file" in the Kingdom of God because God can speak through anyone. Out of the mouths of babes.
They shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.
This promise applies to all of us. "What I have spoken to one, I have spoken to all." This is an "ensample" of how God operates.
It doesn't matter who is talking, or what rank they hold -- it only matters whether they speak by the Spirit (which can come from anywhere, or anyone -- including those we view as "beneath" us).
I have learned it is not the messenger that matters: it is the message; and in fact, the message proves whether or not the messenger is of God, not the other way around.
3. The "Rank and File" Mentality Promotes Pride
The messenger, in fact, is usually a nobody. How ironic -- it is almost like the Lord is testing us. Will we discern his voice from the most unlikely of sources?
Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness-- in the wilderness, because you cannot see him-- my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound.
I don't own a trumpet anymore, but I did play the trumpet in the 4th Grade. I wish I still had one so I could proclaim as Joseph did:
It is a love of liberty which inspires my Soul, civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.
The enquiry is frequently made of me, "Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?" In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views but we could all drink into one principle of love.
One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.
Joseph Smith, "History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844]," p. 1666, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 23, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-e-1-1-july-1843-30-april-1844/36
Would we have listened to Samuel the Lamanite, or shot at him?
Because I am a Lamanite, and have spoken unto you the words which the Lord hath commanded me, and because it was hard against you, ye are angry with me and do seek to destroy me, and have cast me out from among you.
When we're prideful, we ignore people we don't think are "proper" sources.
That's a problem because the Lord intends:
That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.
The "weak and simple" servants of the Lord are easily overlooked.
I want you to imagine a library with millions of books. But I am going to remove all of the book jackets, covers, and title pages, so that we don't know the names of the books or who the authors are that wrote the words.
Now, you've got to figure out who said the following (oh, and there's no Google):
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.
Don't wrestle pigs. You both get dirty but the pig likes it.
[Answer: Mark Twain]
He was wounded or our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him.
I'll bet you guessed them all correctly. How did you do that? Because you've become familiar with the author's voice. Everyone has a unique "tone."
Could we find the book written by Jesus from the words alone? The humble followers of Christ listen for his voice everywhere.
I stopped using Roman numerals to number these posts because Arabic numerals require less brain power.
I did not expect these posts to stretch so long, but there is a lot more to say as we wind our way towards the ultimate subject of this series: the Government and Laws of Zion, even if it takes 100 posts! (Or, "C" Posts, you could say.)
Say "Paradisaical" Three Times Fast
Let's have a look at this simple statement:
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel
and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes;
that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent;
that Christ will reign personally upon the earth;
and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaical glory.
(Article of Faith 10)
Hahaha. I said this was a "simple" statement.
Timing is Everything
Here's an important question: Are these events sequential? Will they occur in this particular order, or is it haphazard?
Let's pretend for a minute that this does lay out a specific order:
1. Gathering of Israel 2. Restoration of 10 Tribes 3. Zion will be built 4. Christ will reign on earth 5. Earth will be renewed in glory
So, where on this list do we find ourselves in the year 2020?
According to the Science and Security Board Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who maintain the Doomsday Clock, in January 2020 (this was before we knew anything about 2020) we were just 100 seconds from midnight, or in other words, destruction. The Atomic Scientists explained:
"Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode." -- John Mecklin, editor.
Anyway, back to our spiritual doomsday clock, a.k.a. Article of Faith 10. How far are we down the list? Well, we have not seen the New Jerusalem yet -- so that narrows it down to (1) the gathering of Israel, or (2) the restoration of the Ten Tribes.
Before we can evaluate this question, I guess we'll need to agree on what the "restoration of the Ten Tribes" means. There is no consensus, and the purpose of this post is not to enter that debate. People have strong opinions about it. Maybe some day we we'll get to the subject of the Lost Ten Tribes, so for now . . .
Oh, why not. We can at least introduce the topic of the Ten Tribes.
First, you may wonder why the Ten Tribes matter at all in the 21st century. Who cares?
I would like to point out that the Ten Tribes are part of our Articles of Faith (and a lot of other important things didn't even make the cut). It also appears to be a major event in the coming latter-day drama. Could the restoration of the Ten Tribes be related to the building up Zion?
A Brief History of Israel
Once upon a time, around 4,000 years ago, a man named Abraham received some special promises from God that we call the Abrahamic Covenant.
If we were cramming for a midterm test on the topic, all we need to remember for now is there were three promises, each with a temporal and a spiritual fulfillment.
1. Priesthood 2. Posterity 3. Promised lands
(They all start with "P" to make it easy to remember.)
These promises were renewed upon Abraham's descendants: Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
Jacob's name was changed to Israel and the family settled in Goshen, near Egypt, so they could have Sunday dinners in the palace with Joseph.
Now, fast forward 400 years. (To put that in context, Columbus discovered the New World around 400 years ago.) By now, the Israelites had grown into a large nation and were slaves in Egypt, and Moses, 80 years old at this point, showed up in Pharaoh's court, bringing some plagues with him, and he freed the slaves by parting the Red Sea. Afterwards he received the Decalogue and destroyed a golden calf.
So here we've got, say, two or three million Israelites, wandering around the wilderness eating lots of manna for 40 years, which puts them in a bad mood, pining for Egypt's melons and cucumbers.
Moses is succeeded by Joshua, who takes the people into the the holy land where they battle their neighbors for a very long time.
Fast forward another 400 years, after the period of the Judges ("Bye, Debbie!") when Samuel anoints Saul to be the king of Israel. ("Hello, Goliath!")
We made it: the heyday of Israel. David united all 12 tribes into one kingdom and became the coolest poet king around 1000 B.C.
This is interesting: when the kingdom was carved up like a porterhouse, each tribe got its own territory. But the Tribe of Levi did not receive a land inheritance because they were priests supported by the offerings of the people. That way, Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh got their own territory because Joseph received a double portion for his birthright. So there were really 13 tribes. (But who's counting?)
David's son Solomon is a wise and wealthy man who kept some very nice horses in a fancy stable. He also finished the Temple.
After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took over the family business and was abysmal at it. A bunch of elders from the Northern 10 tribes of Israel petitioned Reb to lower their taxes, and he refused. I think he said, "My little pinky finger will be heavier upon you than my father's thigh." (He must have had gout.)
In any event, the Northern tribes did not like Reb's attitude and they went to war. The civil war resulted in the kingdom being split into two nation-states: the North, called Israel (I know, confusing), and the South, called Judah (mainly composed of Judah and Benjamin).
The Northern Kingdom of Israel became very wicked and didn't repent even though Elijah was running around doing everything he could, and thus Israel was ultimately "destroyed" when the Ten Tribes were taken captive by the global superpower of that time, Assyria, around 721 B.C.
After a good while, perhaps 20 or 70 years, the Ten Tribes were freed. Some of the people went home, some stayed in Assyria, some wandered away into the "north countries."
And that is where the mystery begins: where did those people go? Where are they now?
The prophet Esdras recorded:
And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow passages of the river. For the most High then shewed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over. For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth.
(2 Esdras 13:41-46)
What Happened to the Lost Tribes?
In search of an answer, we could begin by seeing what others have come up with. This list of books, below, is by no means exhaustive, but something I compiled years ago.
The Lost 10 Tribes by Joseph Wild (1880)
A Trip to the North Pole: The Discovery of the 10 Tribes by O.J.S. Lindelof (1903)
The 10 Tribes, Discovered and Identified by Stephen Malan (1912)
The "Lost" 10 Tribes by James Anderson (1927)
Are the Lost Tribes Found? by Thomas Brookbank (1929)
The Lost Tribes of Israel by Reader Harris (1941)
The Kingdom of God by Francis Darter (1941)
God's Covenant Race by James Anderson (1946)
3 Timely Treasures: Dispensations, Ten Tribes, Kingdom by Leon Strong (1949)
The Gathering of the 10 Tribes of Israel by Ariel Andersen (1965)
The Lost Tribes: History, Doctrine, Prophecies and Theories by Robert C. Brough (1979)
A New Witness for the Articles of Faith by Bruce R. McConkie (1985)
A Scriptural Search for the 10 Tribes and Other Things We Lost by Joseph McConkie (1987)
From Samaria to Samarkand: The 10 Lost Tribes of Israel by David Law (1992)
The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel - Found! by Steven Collins (1995)
Gathering of the Waters: A New Discussion of the 10 Tribes by Clay McConkie (1997)
To the Ends of the Earth: The Quest for the 10 Tribes by Rivka Gonen (2002)
The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth by Tudor Parfitt (2002)
The 10 Lost Tribes: A People of Destiny by Clay McConkie (2002)
Lost Tribes & Last Days: What Modern Revelation Tells Us by Kent Jackson (2005) Missing Links Discovered In Assyrian Tablets by Raymond Capt (2010)
And don't forget the scriptures are a great source, too. Jesus told the Nephites he had to show himself "unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them" (3 Nephi 17:4).
Nephi recorded a promise from the Lord, saying we "shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews" (2 Nephi 29:13).
So what will their return look like?
The days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
But, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
I think everyone agrees that the Ten Tribes will return and be restored. The problem comes when we start talking about how, or where, or when.
Bruce R. McConkie rejected the notion that the Ten Tribes are still around today as a separate body, or distinct people, believing instead that the Ten Tribes are being gathered through modern day missionary work: "There is something mysterious and fascinating about believing the Ten Tribes are behind an iceberg somewhere in the land of the north, or that they are on some distant planet that will one day join itself with the earth, or that the tribe of Dan is in Denmark, the tribe of Reuben in Russia, and so forth." A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 1985, p. 520.
This view is shared by many wonderful scholars and believers. One of them, Bob Millet, summarized their position in the 25th Annual Sperry Symposium: "I have concluded simply that the ten tribes are scattered among the nations, lost as much to their identity as to their whereabouts. Thus it seems to me that the restoration, or gathering, of the ten tribes consists in scattered Israel . . . coming to the knowledge of the restored gospel, accepting Christ's gospel." Doctrine and Covenants: A Book of Answers, 1996, pp. 216-217.
The Plot Thickens
In John Whitmer's 1831 History, he recorded some comments made by Joseph Smith at a general conference held June 3, 1831:
The Spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph in an unusual manner. And prophecied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel who had been lead away by Salmanaser King of israel, to prepare them for their return, from their Long dispersion.
John Whitmer, History, Document Transcript, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed at https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/john-whitmer-history-1831-circa-1847/18#full-transcript.
In a somewhat obscure but primary source, the Sketch Book of Oliver Cowdery, we find an entry for January 23, 1836 where Oliver says: "Conversed considerable time with president Rigdon on the subject of his vision concerning the return of the Ten Tribes." Leonard J. Arrington, "Oliver Cowdery's Kirtland, Ohio, 'Sketch Book'", BYU Studies, Vol. 12, no. 4, 1972.
(Isn't it funny how people in the old days thought journals were for marking weather conditions and who they talked to . . . but didn't put in the details of those conversations!)
I've searched for more information about Sidney Ridgon's "vision concerning the return of the Ten Tribes." The closest I have found is an article that Sidney Rigdon wrote 11 months later, on December 3, 1836, published in the Messenger and Advocate, vol. 3, no. 27, p. 419:
"It is a well known fact, that Israel is widely scattered, and that they help to people [populate] almost every division of the earth with which we are acquainted, and must people some parts with which we are not acquainted, or else the ten tribes are not in existence on the earth, and if that is the case, the testimony of the prophets is surely false; and they will be found false witnesses for Israel; for Jeremiah has declared in the third chapter of his prophecy that Judah and Israel shall walk together . . . For though great things are to be accomplished, still those things are to be accomplished by the agency of men. It will be found to be a fact, that if the the Lord ever does fulfil the testimony of the prophets, it will be by the faith and agency of his saints." (The whole article is really interesting -- definitely worth a read. You can find it at: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Latter_Day_Saints%27_Messenger_and_Advocate/Volume_3/Number_3/The_saints_and_the_world)
The Craziest Theories
In 1957, Hugh Nibley wrote in An Approach to the Book of Mormon that "in olden times the Jews believed that even the Ten Tribes 'in order to be able to live the Law without molestation, resolved . . . to depart from the society of mankind and migrate in terram aliam,' that is, to the Other World . . . 'in a land beyond, where no member of the human race had ever before lived.' "
In 1840, Leonora Taylor (wife of John Taylor) attended a sermon preached by John E. Page, and wrote to her husband, who was serving a mission in England at the time (the letter is found in the Millennial Star, vol. 1, p. 63-64). The fascinating part is where she says John Page used the text of Job 28 to teach about the Ten Tribes:
There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen:
The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it.
He putteth forth is hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots.
One theory is that the Ten Tribes were taken off the earth like the City of Enoch, and that they will return one day in similar fashion. This was a common belief held by members of the church during Joseph's lifetime. In 1841, Parley P. Pratt published in the Millennial Star, vol 1, no. 10, p. 258, the following:
"The stars which will fall to the earth, are fragments, which have been broken off from the earth from time to time, in the mighty convulsions of nature. Some in the days of Enoch, some perhaps in the days of Peleg, some with the ten tribes, and some at the crucifixion of the Messiah. These all must be restored again at the "times of restitution of ALL THINGS." This will restore the ten tribes of Israel; and also bring again Zion, even Enoch's city. It will bring back the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God; that you and I may partake of it. [See Rev. ii, 7.] When these fragments, (some of which are vastly larger than the present earth) are brought back and joined to this earth, it will cause a convulsion of all nature; the graves of the Saints will be opened, and they rise from the dead; while the mountains will flow down, the valleys rise, the sea retire to its own place, the islands and continents will be removed, and earth be rolled together as a scroll."
Finally, I can't resist throwing in the Philo Dibble Drawing, supposedly given to him by Joseph Smith.
What is the truth? Is it important for us to know?
When Enoch could no longer stay Amid corruption here, Part of thyself was borne away To form another sphere.
That portion where his city stood He gain’d by right approv’d; And nearer to the throne of God His planet upward mov’d.
And when the Lord saw fit to hide The “ten lost tribes” away, Thou, Earth, wast sever’d to provide The orb on which they stay.
(Eliza R. Snow, Hymn 313, 1856; appeared in the LDS Hymnal until 1912)
The Great Library in the city of Alexandria, Egypt was considered to be the capital of world knowledge in ancient times. For hundreds of years it housed a repository of mankind's learning, law and progress.
Then it all went up in flames. (Turns out, scrolls and papyri are highly flammable.)
Here's what happened: a guy named Julius Caesar was having a bad day. His soldiers were under attack at Alexandria, so they had the bright idea to set Ptolemy's ships on fire (he was Cleopatra's brother . . . long story). Fire got out of control and consumed 40,000 scrolls of the Great Library.
By comparison, the United States Library of Congress -- the largest library in the world -- has more than 170 million items in its collection. (No open flames allowed.)
How Many Laws Are There?
How many laws would you guess the United States has? After all, it is a relatively young nation.
Answer: No one knows.
As unbelievable as that is, let it sink in. Something as simple as counting our laws (for just a single country) is beyond our capacity.
We literally cannot keep track of our laws because there are so many.
Here is a quote from the Library of Congress:
"We are frequently asked to estimate the number of federal laws in force. However, trying to tally this number is nearly impossible. . . .
"In 1982 the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. [Just the criminal laws? Forget about the rest.]
"In a project that lasted two years, the Department compiled a list of approximately 3,000 criminal offenses.
"This effort, headed by Ronald Gainer, a Justice Department official, is considered the most exhaustive attempt to count the number of federal criminal laws.
"In a Wall Street Journal article about this project, 'this effort came as part of a long and ultimately failed campaign to persuade Congress to revise the criminal code, which by the 1980s was scattered among 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law.' Or as Mr. Gainer characterized this fruitless project: “[y]ou will have died and [been] resurrected three times,” and still not have an answer to this question."
The sovereign authority must be absolute in order to protect the people. Men must choose: will they be ruled, or will they be free? Liberty leads to anarchy. It is better to have security, so we should let the sovereign make all necessary laws for our safety.
Witness Two: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
I disagree with Tom. It is possible for people to be ruled and yet remain free . . . but only if men rule themselves. When the people are sovereign, they remain free.
Witness Three: Joseph Smith
Thanks JJ. I think you're on the right track. But self-government, alone, does not guarantee freedom. I see a day when people everywhere will come and plant their feet on the sacred soil of freedom, and exclaim, 'America means friendship!' That is why I teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves.
Witness Four: Moses
Ten is a nice, round number.
(For more on this interesting debate, see , Margaret C. Robertson, "The Campaign and the Kingdom: The Activities of the Electioneers in Joseph Smith's Presidential Campaign," BYU Studies, vol. 39, no. 3; and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Penguin Books, 1968.)
There's probably a mathematical formula out there that could help us (sorry, I am not a political scientist, neither am I very good at math), so this is the best I could come up with:
On this spectrum we see that the more wicked we get, the more laws are needed to "keep us in check."
As society becomes more wicked, refusing to govern themselves, the "government" steps in to fill the void with more laws.
Satan stirreth them up continually to anger one with another.
When I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.
A Chicken Story:
A friend asked me one day in court, back when I was a prosecutor, how to get their neighbor criminally charged for maintaining an animal nuisance.
"What's going on?" I asked. "Do they have a dog keeping you up at night with their barking, or something?"
"No, it's their chickens. They have so many chickens that poop everywhere, including against our fence, I can't go out and enjoy my backyard because the smell is so bad."
"I am sorry to hear that," I said.
"Do you know how many chickens we are allowed to have in a residential zone in my city?" they asked.
"No, but I could look it up for you."
"I already did," they said. "You can have 5 chickens (and no roosters). That's all! Guess how many my neighbor has?"
"I have no idea," I said.
"At least 20."
(Here's the really interesting part:)
"Okay," I said. "Have you gone over and tried talking to them about the problem?"
With a shocked expression, they said, "No. I am not going to go over there. The animal control officer needs to go over there and issue them a citation."
"So . . . I guess you're going to call the police?" I asked.
Excuse Me For A Second
WHY DO PEOPLE COMPLAIN ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT BECAUSE WE HAVE EXACTLY THE GOVERNMENT WE DESERVE. IF WE WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO SETTLE ALL OUR DISPUTES THEN OF COURSE WE HAVE BIG GOVERNMENT BECAUSE WE CAN'T TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN PROBLEMS AND WE EXPECT SOMEONE ELSE TO FIX THINGS FOR US. BUT IT'S GONNA COST US!
I feel much better now.
We Just Need Two Laws
We'd save a lot of ink (and trees) if we realized we need only two laws.
A child could count them. A child of God could remember them, always:
The Lord said unto Enoch: Unto thy brethren have I said, and given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father;
But behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.
When people talk about "going" to heaven, I imagine our spirits floating up to some faraway place where we pass through pearly gates into a celestial city perched on clouds aglow with lots of gold paving.
(Spoiler Alert) Where is Heaven?
The sobering reality is that we do not "go" to heaven; we create it.
There is no celestial kingdom for us other than the one we create. Right here. On earth.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Now, some of you may be pouring ashes into your hair, screaming, "But Tim! You said in your last post that this place is hell. How can this be both hell and heaven?"
(In fairness, I did say the earth will become our heaven in its sanctified state.)
Former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch told Politico his favorite joke:
A man died and went up to the pearly gates and appeared before St. Peter and asked, “Where do I go from here?”
Peter said, “Well, you’re a border line case. You have the choice of either going to heaven or hell. Of course, I know which one you’re going to choose.”
The man responded, “Don’t be so sure, how about telling me the differences between the two.”
Peter said, “Well, Heaven is a land of smooth flowing brooks and streams, green forests, green pastures, and good companionship. Hell is just a vast hot dry desert.”
The man said, “Well, I kind of like the heat.”
Peter escorted the man to the gates of Hell. Peter shook his head, opening the gates, and sighed. “Okay, in you go. You made your choice.”
As the gates opened, the man looked in and his eyes widened. "Wow!" he said, admiring the lush green forests, green pastures, smooth flowing brooklets and streams.
Peter, looking in, exclaimed, "Oh, those damn Mormons! They’ve been irrigating again!”
Heaven on Earth
How is heaven created?
Christ is a Creator. He is the "Creator of heaven and earth" (Jacob 2:5). But he doesn't start from nothing, ex nihilo. He works with what he's got.
Read the following quote, which will be familiar to you, but look at it in the context of how God creates, or organizes, a celestial kingdom:
God Himself had materials to organize the world out of chaos--chaotic matter-- which is element and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles that can never be destroyed. They may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. Nothing can be destroyed. They never can have a beginning or an ending; they exist eternally.
("The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text," by Stan Larson, BYU Studies, 18:2.)
God doesn't go off to some undeveloped corner of the universe and say, "I am going to put up some luxury apartments for the saints, and we'll plant a tree of life over there, and I'd like to have a river here, and this looks like a good spot for the pearly gates . . ."
No, God condescends to earth and makes himself a tabernacle of clay, and says to the rabble he finds lying around: "Let's start with picking up the garbage. And then we can plant some flowers to spruce things up. And, you know, it wouldn't hurt if you all took a shower."
I will comfort Zion, I will comfort all her waste places; and I will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
(2 Nephi 8:3)
So Christ has a marvelous work to do: he is going to organize a heaven from this existing hell.
The Law of Zion
Heaven is created when a group of people choose to live Christ's celestial law.
His law is the blueprint for creating the celestial kingdom here on earth.
This is the labor Christ invites us to join in as co-creators. But look carefully at our different roles:
Wherefore, go to, and call servants, that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard, that we may prepare the way, that I may bring forth again the natural fruit, which natural fruit is good and the most precious above all other fruit.
Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard.
And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard, even until the bad had been cast away out of the vineyard, and the Lord had preserved unto himself that the trees had become again the natural fruit; and they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal.
In the musical Brigadoon, two New Yorkers wander into a Scottish village where the people are acting strange. Turns out (spoiler alert) that their minister prayed to God to have Brigadoon disappear two hundred years ago, and the miracle was granted: Brigadoon reappears for just one day every hundred years.
But there was a catch. If any of the residents of Brigadoon crossed over the borders of the village to leave, then it would disappear forever.
That seems like a pretty important condition -- one that should not get lost in the fine print.
What if there were conditions, or laws, just as important for you and me?
What are those?
We're Not in Kansas, Anymore
First we need to figure out where we are.
And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.
If we can discover what kingdom we're in, then we can learn the laws that govern here.
But first we've got to know where "here" is! If this is Timbuktu, then what are the laws of Timbuktu? If this is Willy Wonka's workshop, then we better know that (and avoid the blueberry gum).
All kingdoms have a law given; And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.
"If It Please the Court"
I am going to build a case to show what kingdom we're in by introducing some facts and evidence. If you find the evidence persuasive, then great. If not, no worries.
Exhibit A: The earth we find ourselves on is really special. I mean, super-duper-special.
The earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation and transgresseth not the law --
Wherefore, it shall be sanctified . . . That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.
(D&C 88:25, 26, 20)
There's a lot to unpack there. Let's just say for now that this earth is destined to become our heaven:
This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants that dwell thereon.
Exhibit B: Those who won the War in Heaven got to come to earth with physical bodies.
But . . . where did these physical bodies come from?
Well, we are carbon-based life forms, aren't we? 60% water? Lots of hydrogen and oxygen, and in my case, beef jerky.
Our physical bodies came from the elements of this earth. We are made of the same stuff as the earth. Like Christ, we are all of the same substance.
To be technical, our first parents came from this earth before the Fall, when it was called "good" (Moses 2:10).
And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth.
And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground.
(Moses 3:5, 7)
Exhibit C: Surprise! We are not alone here. The losers of the War in Heaven got to come to earth, too (without physical bodies). Hmmm.
Exhibit D: It is necessary, as part of God's plan, that the earth die.
Yes, that's right.
Yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it.
Exhibit E: Death as we understand it is not possible in a celestial state. Houston, we have a problem.
As part of the Fall of Mankind, the earth fell from the place of its creation and ultimately came to reside here, in this solar system, orbiting a minor star in the Milky Way Galaxy, in what is the ghetto of the universe.
The earth is slumming it.
So while the earth is living a celestial law (like Christ), it is also mortal: we all find ourselves in a fallen condition, earth included.
Exhibit F: Due to the Fall, the kingdom we're currently in is a "lesser" kingdom.
But which kingdom?
Well, this should come as no surprise. The people on this planet murdered their King, didn't they?
Those who are the more wicked part of the world . . . shall crucify him . . . and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.
(2 Nephi 10:3)
In what kingdom do we find murderers, liars, adulterers, and those those who are "thrust down to hell" (D&C 76:84).
The Telestial Kingdom.
Exhibit G: Here we are cut off from God's presence. We can die and turn to dust. We suffer temporal and spiritual death.
And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish.
(2 Nephi 2:5)
Exhibit H:We are stuck here in this Telestial Kingdom. I don't think we talk about this fact nearly enough.
We are literally stranded here.
If the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God . . . . And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God.
(2 Nephi 9:8-9)
So it is not just our bodies that are stuck here, but also our spirits. When we die, our spirits enter the spirit world . . . which is still "here."
Exhibit I: Where do we send criminals, like murderers and robbers? Well, Prophets describe our home here as:
Spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies . . . by the power of the resurrection.
(2 Nephi 9:12)
Exhibit J: Here's an intriguing piece of evidence: Satan is permitted to be in charge here as the "prince of this world" (John 14:30).
Well, we've marshaled the evidence. I hope you've realized something profound:
We are in hell.
Highway to Hell
Jesus showed us the only way to heaven is through hell.
He descended below all things,
in that he comprehendeth all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth.
We are "serving time" here on earth. We fell short of the glory of God and have been placed on parole.
At least we have been given the opportunity of "work release."
And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation.
(2 Nephi 2:21)
One of the purposes of coming here was to be cleansed again through the baptism of birth.
We were all pardoned when we entered this world, and we will all be resurrected because of it, thanks to Christ.
Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
So, was it possible for us to sin before we were born? What sort of crimes could we have committed in the premortal world?
And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son . . . from the foundation of the world . . . on account of their exceeding faith and good works . . . while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds.
Sounds to me as though things were not so different.
Our warden, Satan, wants us to serve out our life sentence (and considering we are eternal beings, that is a very long time).
The devil wants us to forget where we are, and so he's created this world -- our prison-kingdom -- to be filled with sinful diversions.
Babylon has so many pleasures we may forget we are in bondage at all.
Remember, the most perfect prison is the one we never want to leave.
Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Lucifer seeks to lull us to sleep in carnalsecurity. "Shhhh. All is well. This place ain't so bad . . ."
Jesus to the Rescue
What was Jesus's first sermon about? What did he say about his mission?
He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.