Years ago I read a book about marketing. It taught me a valuable lesson that I remember to this day.
The research showed that selling to people is simple when you don't make it complicated.
Why? Because people are not very good at making complex decisions. One of the best ways to derail our decision-making-ability is to give a person too many options to choose from.
To explain this principle, the book talked about an experiment that was conducted at the County Fair. The researchers manned a booth selling jams and preserves.
At one booth there were, like, 12 different varieties of flavors: marmalade, strawberry, cherry, boysenberry, grape, and so on.
Well, guess what? Potential customers would come and admire the bottled jams, picking one up and then another, but in the end a majority of them walked away without making a purchase.
At another booth, the researchers only had three options: strawberry, raspberry, and rhubarb (I can't remember exactly, so I am taking some liberties with the specific flavors).
Well, lo-and-behold, the sales at the 3-item booth were much greater, despite there being fewer options.
It takes Two
Lucky for us, the Lord has made His gospel extremely simple.
And this is the gospel which I have given unto you-- that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
(3 Nephi 27:13)
Walk up to the Lord's booth and we only find one thing: love. It is called many things in scripture, but the pure love of Christ incorporates all the grace, light, and truth in the world.
But there's another option. A second booth stands right next to His offering its wares. It sells all sorts of sin. Pick your poison. But at the end of the day, choose we must between these two booths.
We find dualities all over scripture, where opposites are paired so we can choose and be agents:
- Liberty and captivity - Eternal life and death - Good and evil - Bitter and sweet - Light and dark - Babylon and Zion - Bride and Whore - Fear and faith - Charity and contention
There are also two priesthoods: a greater and lesser. And don't forget there are two laws: a higher and a lesser.
You get the idea. The Lord sums them all up when He described two roads: (1) one that is straight and narrow, and few there be that find it, and (2) the other wide and broad and many go in thereat.
No Power or Influence
So to begin, there are two quotes I want to put on the table.
One is from a discourse given by Joseph Smith in 1840, and the other is a JST emendation made in the Book of Romans.
Liberty Jail was something of a watershed moment for Joseph Smith. If we read what he said before and after his incarceration, it is almost like listening to two different people.
Post-Liberty-Jail-Joseph had a lot to say about priesthood. He gave us a doctrine of the priesthood that had distilled upon him like dew from heaven (and as anyone who runs a distillery knows, the best ambrosia is brewed from heavenly dew).
1. Quote No. 1: "Ordination"
Let's begin with the first quote:
"The power, glory and blessings of the Priesthood could not continue with those who received ordination only as their righteousness continued."
(Joseph Smith, Discourse, Oct. 5, 1840, History of the Church 4:207-209)
If you re-read that quote, it appears Joseph is saying that ordination alone is insufficient to grant divine authority to a person (after all, many are called but few are chosen).
This is not surprising, really, to anyone who believes in a "Great Apostasy." The Apostasy occurred not because there was a lack of priesthood ordination, but a lack of righteousness.
In other words, ordination does not, and cannot, perpetuate divine authority. Each generation must "continue" in righteousness on their own two feet.
Word of My Power
Joseph seems to be saying that ordination is really a kind of initiatory: rather than bestowing actual priesthood power and authority (in the scriptures, power & authority are always a two-for-one), institutional ordination serves as an invitation for us to individually press forward and receive the Oath and Covenant directly from God, feasting on the words of Christ, through which all power and blessings flow.
You may think I am leaping to conclusions and reading too much between the lines, but look where Joseph goes with this idea:
"Thus we behold the keys of this Priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah, that he talked with him in a familiar and friendly manner."
Here Joseph is implying that priesthood keys are the means (not the ends) by which we obtain the voice (or word) of Jehovah. It is in the word, then, even the word of God that indwells His sons and daughters, that we find the power and glory.
This concept was important enough that it was one of the first things the Lord taught Moses:
And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.
How is the "word of my power" related to the priesthood? Well, in D&C 124 the Lord explains the real purpose of the priesthood, which is to "receive the keys by which he may ask and receive blesisngs" (D&C 124:97).
In other words, contrary to what we're taught in Church, priesthood keys are not for ruling and reigning ("presiding") and exercising dominion, but instead represent our ability to communicate with God and obtain his word.
So power and authority in the priesthood ― and the "glory" and "blessings" thereof (even "the blessings of the fathers," see Abraham 1:2) ― come not by virtue of our office or ordination, but "as their righteousness continued."
Now this might be puzzling because we know that righteousness is not in us but in Christ. I mean, "Righteous" is one of His names:
We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
(1 John 2:1)
So how does righteousness "continue?"
2. Quote No. 2: "Justification"
The second quote is from the JST of Romans 3:24 in which Joseph changed a word. Just a single word couldn't make that big of a difference, could it? Judge for yourself:
Therefore being justified /freely/ [Joseph struck freely and replaced it with] /only/ by his grace.
Hmm. There's nothing wrong with teaching we are justified "freely" by Christ, so why the change? Doesn't it sound a little too . . . Protestant?
Joseph's change mirrors Paul's doctrine of grace, who taught we are NOT justified by works of the law. Ever!
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight . . .
[now here's the important part I want us to focus on]
But now the righteousness of God [there's that word again, "righteousness"] without the law is manifested.
If we blinked we might have missed it: God's righteousness is revealed not through the law, but specifically "without the law."
This is quite the opposite of what we're used to hearing in Church, where we extol the virtues of clean living. We believe God's righteousness is manifest by our obedience to His commandments, don't we? Isn't being a goodie-two-shoe the way we glorify God?
But what if obedience to the law is not "righteousness" (so we can discard our Exhibits A thru Z of our good works we were saving to bribe St. Peter with in order to get into heaven).
On the contrary, what if obedience to the law was merely "self-righteousness."
Call My Lawyer
But here's the problem. How can we reconcile Joseph's doctrine of grace (that we are justified "only" through Christ's grace) with what it says in D&C 88?
And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.
That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment.
Okay, it sounds like the celestial condominium association has a lot of By-Laws!
For many years we've debated this tug-of-war between law and grace.
Am I justified by obedience to the law ("preserved and perfected") or by Christ's grace?
I think the key to this passage is found a few verses earlier:
And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
I've written many times before about higher versus lesser laws.
For our purposes, and to oversimplify things a bit, the scriptures divide law into two camps: the law of Christ and the lesser law (what Paul described as obedience to the Law of Moses in his day; and in ours it would be obedience to the Church Handbook and leaders).
When we live the Law of Christ, we are exempt from and relieved of following any lesser or inferior laws (see Romans 8:2).
This is the reason Paul said "all things are lawful for me."
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
(1 Cor. 6:12)
Now I want to connect this concept of being freed from the lesser law to the Melchizedek Priesthood. In Hebrews we're told:
After the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
I want to suggest that "power" is not found in the law but in the grace of Christ. The law of Christ is not legalistic; His yoke is "easy."
For what is the "law of Christ" but love? He commanded us to love God and to love one another: there we find the power and authority of God manifest.
Here's the rub: while the power of God is manifest without the law, the devil derives his power from our following lesser laws.
I mean, if we truly trusted in Christ's law of grace, and practiced our religion free of lesser laws and carnal commandments, then it could be said of us:
If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
You see what it says there about the devil's power?
The money to pay for the electricity to keep the lights on in hell come from our following a lesser law.
No one would knowingly follow a lesser law, right? So the craft of the devil is to deceive us into believing we are living a higher law, when in fact we are not.
This, my friends, has all led me to this point:
When Isaiah says we would "call evil good and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20), he was talking about far more than people relabeling sinful behavior as something laudable.
The ultimate switcheroo is to fool us into following the lesser law as if it were Christ's law. What better way to take us off course than to make us believe we're on the right road when we're not; to impede our progress ― for if we break a law we might see our need to repent; but Satan's true masterstroke is to get us to obey a lesser law and thereby feel justified, and hence believe we have no need to repent.
The greatest evil is to make us believe we are feasting on Christ's word when in fact we are gorging on vomit.
This, then, explains Lucifer's Plan.
And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.
Remember what Joseph said earlier about the keys of the priesthood being about obtaining the voice of Jehovah?
The Road Not Taken Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.