Sunday, January 31, 2010

Three Month Without Shopping And Feeding A Family Of Twelve?

We may all learn a lesson from Crystal J. Young from Omaha, Nebraska.  She is a mother of ten children and home schools six of them.  She has taken on a challenge to go three months without going to the grocery store.  She is going to try to make it on her food storage.  She is giving a day by day account on her blog.  By following her blog we may all learn something about our own food storage.  Click here to follow her blog.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

These I Will Make My Rulers.

Below is a quote from President Spencer W. Kimball.  It is from a filmstrip that he made to introduce Regional Conferences in 1978 that was entitled "These I Will Make My Rulers."
Craig R. Frogley made the Power Point image.  (click on image to enlarge)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pearl of Great Price Class

Starting next Thursday, February 4, the Thursday evening Pearl of Great Price Class will be broadcast to the Lindon Chapel at 700 East Center, Lindon, Utah.  Those living in Utah County will find it more convenient to attend at that location.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two Commandments and The Origin of Adam

I like the way Robert J. Matthews handles the "problem" of the two commandments and Adam's origin:

Why the Lord Did Not Simply Create Man Mortal
Other questions that arise in association with theistic evolution include the following: Why didn't the Lord simply create man in a mortal, fallen state? Why cause him the trauma and difficulty of facing conflicting commandments? Did Adam obey God's will when he partook of the fruit? If so, why was he punished?    
We do not yet have the complete story of the fall of Adam, nor do we know all of the elements and circumstances that were operative in that event-that is, in the process of Adam and Eve's becoming mortal. If we had more of the facts, I believe we would see that it was all accomplished in a very orderly way and according to eternal principles and procedures. Hidden behind the story of the rib and the forbidden fruit are some deeper meanings.          

Consider these words from President Joseph Fielding Smith:          
Why did Adam come here? Not subject to death when he was placed upon this earth, there had to come a change in his body through the partaking of this element-whatever you want to call it, fruit-that brought blood into his body; and blood became the life of the body instead of spirit. And blood has in it the seeds of death, some mortal element. Mortality was created through the eating of the forbidden fruit, if you want to call it forbidden, but I think the Lord has made it clear that it was not forbidden. He merely said to Adam, if you want to stay here [in the garden] this is the situation. If so, don't eat it.    
One can tell that President Smith did not view the Fall as a tragic miscarriage of, or impediment to, the purposes of God. It was just the opposite-the Lord wanted Adam to fall. Mortality was an essential step in the progress of the human family. President Smith said he understood the Lord's words to Adam to mean that Adam was forbidden to stay in the garden if he ate a particular fruit-not that he was absolutely forbidden to eat the fruit in the first place. That clarifies a vital point, and I appreciate the spiritual insight of this great latter-day prophet and theologian.          

Now let us consider the query, Why didn't God just create man mortal and thus save him the trauma and experience of a fall brought to pass through transgression and seemingly conflicting commandments? There are in the scriptures no one-sentence answers to this question, but we have been given enough knowledge concerning God's plan to think through a possible response. In the plan of salvation God does for human beings only what they cannot do for themselves. Man must do all he can for himself. The doctrine is that we are saved by grace, "after all we can do"  (2 Ne. 25:23).  If Adam and Eve had been created mortal, they would have been denied one of the steps in the process that they were capable of performing themselves. As we read in the Book of Mormon, man "brought upon himself" his own fall  (Alma 42:12).  Since the Fall was a necessary part of the plan of salvation, and since man was capable of bringing about the fallen condition himself, he was required-or rather it was his privilege-to take the necessary steps.     
Furthermore, the Lord has told us that he does not create temporal or mortal conditions nor function on a mortal level. Notice this interesting statement:      
"As the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit.    
For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal-    
First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work-   
Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.         
Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.       
Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual."  (D&C 29:30-35.)           

I take this statement and explanation by the Lord to be another of those universal fixed principles of eternity. Since the Lord works by law, I take it that he could not create Adam and Eve as mortals because in so doing he would have been creating man by a temporal, mortal law, an area in which he says he is not engaged. God did not need to create our first parents in a fallen condition anyway, because Adam and Eve, by their agency, were capable of bringing about the Fall quite effectively.        
If God had created man mortal, then death, sin, and all the circumstances of mortality would be God's doing and would be eternal and permanent in their nature (see  Eccl. 3:14) whereas if man brings the Fall upon himself, he is the responsible moral agent, and God is able to rescue and redeem him from his fallen state. Moreover, Adam and Eve's having brought about the Fall themselves made them subject to punishment or reward for their actions. A little reflection upon these matters leads one to conclude that the Fall was accomplished in the very best possible way. As Lehi said about the Fall and the Atonement, "All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things"  (2 Ne. 2:24).         
We can benefit from the observation of Elder Orson F. Whitney, who said, "The fall had a twofold direction-down-ward, yet forward."It is as the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "Adam was made to open the way of the world." Adam and Eve had the privilege of getting things under way by their own actions. This is far better than their being created mortal and sinful. Here we might also observe that, since Adam opened the way of the world, it follows that there could not have been such worldly things as death, birth, sin, and reproduction going on before Adam's transgression-that is, before he opened the way.          
Adam's Origin         
    I am in no position to speak for the Church or for the Brethren, but I want to express my personal belief on the subject of the creation of Adam. I believe that Adam's physical body was the offspring of God, literally  (Moses 6:22) that he was begotten as a baby with a physical body not subject to death, in a world without sin or blood; and that he grew to manhood in that condition and then became mortal through his own actions. I believe that Adam's physical body was begotten by our immortal celestial Father and an immortal celestial Mother, and thus not into a condition of mortality, a condition which would have precluded Jesus from being the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh  (D&C 93:11)- flesh meaning mortality. Jesus' physical body was also begotten of the same celestial Father but through a mortal woman and hence into mortality.   
Commenting on  Luke 3:38  ("Adam, which was the son of God"), Elder Brace R. McConkie wrote: "This statement, found also in  Moses 6:22, has a deep and profound significance and also means what it says. Father Adam came, as indicated, to this sphere, gaining an immortal body, because death had not yet entered the world.  (2 Ne. 2:22.)  Jesus, on the other hand, was the Only Begotten in the flesh, meaning into a world of mortality where death already reigned."         

Evolution would place Adam's body as the offspring of animals, each generation having gradually evolved and improved in structure and in intelligence until a creature came into being that was more man-like than animal-like. This seems to me such a time-wasting process. We know that God can beget children: he is the Father of Jesus' body and has also begotten innumerable spirit children in his own likeness and image. Why would the Father resort to animal evolution to bring his very own family into the new world that he had created, rather than he and the heavenly mother doing it in just one generation by begetting Adam themselves? Surely we would not deny the heavenly parents the privilege of begetting their own children. If our heavenly parents were but spirits only, there might be some cause for expecting they would need an alternate way to produce Adam's body. But since they are tangible resurrected beings of flesh and bone, there seems to be no necessity to resort to the animals to produce bodies for Adam and Eve. How could Adam be called the son of God  (Moses 6:22)  if he were the offspring of animals?    
Furthermore, if Adam were the product of animal evolution, it could hardly be said that he was created in the physical image of God; yet we know that the scriptures say man was created in God's image  (Gen. 1:26-27).  There is a very compelling passage in  Mosiah  that speaks of this same matter: "He [Abinadi] said unto them [the Nephites] that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God"  (Mosiah 7:27).  It is easy to see the thrust of that passage: The image of man in which Christ appeared was the same image in which man was created in the beginning, the image of God. The particular wording of this verse calls for a single and standardized image for man all along from the beginning-a Godlike image, not an image barely removed from that of a brute. 
Before leaving this subject, I would like to address one other related issue. There are those among the advocates of theistic evolution who do believe in a version of the fall of man. The scenario goes something like this: In the physical creation, God used the evolutionary process of natural selection and generation until an apelike animal was produced that was sufficiently advanced physically that God could place a man's spirit-namely, Adam's-into the body instead of an animal spirit, the latter having been used in all previous generations. This was the first man, these theorists claim, and he was immortal at this point; hence, when Adam subsequently fell, the effects of his transgression-death and the ability to produce children-applied only to man and not to the animals, those processes being already present in the animal kingdom.      
Now, as I see it, a problem with this position is that it asks its adherents to accept the premise that advanced, wholly-mortal apelike beings (themselves subject to death and callable of reproducing) produced a man, Adam, who was not subject to death and who could not reproduce unless he transgressed in the garden. Thus, ironically, Adam had to transgress to become mortal like his apelike parents. This scenario seems to be an illogical situation from the standpoint of an evolutionist, whose emphasis is on the natural processes of reproduction and selection; the idea that Adam's mortal animal parents produced an immortal child seems to override, if not nullify, the natural evolutionary process. 
These ideas thus raise more questions than they answer. How does the theistic evolutionist account for Adam's unique deathless situation, if his body was completely the product of mortal animals? Why did Adam not inherit death and reproduction from his parents? Would a theistic evolutionist who advocates the above scenario be willing to suggest that the scriptural statements about Adam's deathless and childless state do not really apply to our first parents? To so state would be tantamount to rejecting the plain declarations of the scriptures; and if a person does that, what has happened to the "theistic" part of his theory? How many scriptures can one neglect and still have theistic evolution? Moreover, the scriptures that relate to this subject cannot be dismissed on the grounds that they are archaic or translated incorrectly: the scriptures that speak of the Fall and its effects upon mankind are latter-day scriptures found in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.         
            (Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible! , p.185-190)

Brother Matthews is a retired BYU professor from the Religion Department and the foremost scholar in the Church on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


The creation process as described in the Pearl of Great Price is open ended and ongoing, entailing careful planning based on vast experience, long consultations, models, tests, and even trial runs for a complicated system requiring a vast scale of participation by the creatures concerned. The whole operation is dominated by the overriding principle of love. You may accept the Big Bang, with its potential for producing all that came thereafter, but by any reckoning the earth was definitely not among the instantaneous productions of the first millisecond or even of the first fifteen minutes. No matter how you figure, it came along much, much later after a great deal had happened. "Worlds without number" had already come into existence and gone their ways: "And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words." (Moses 1:38.)   
            (Hugh Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies, edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton, p.70)

If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.   
            (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.373)

 God has made certain decrees which are fixed and immovable; for instance,-God set the sun, the moon, and the stars in the heavens, and gave them their laws, conditions and bounds, which they cannot pass, except by His commandments; they all move in perfect harmony in their sphere and order, and are as lights, wonders and signs unto us. The sea also has its bounds which it cannot pass. God has set many signs on the earth, as well as in the heavens; for instance, the oak of the forest, the fruit of the tree, the herb of the field-all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there; for it is a decree of the Lord that every tree, plant, and herb bearing seed should bring forth of its kind, and cannot come forth after any other law or principle. (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. 4:554-55)    
            (Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q.Cannon )

Adam, our progenitor, "the first man," was, like Christ, a pre-existent spirit, and like Christ he took upon him an appropriate body, the body of a man, and so became a "living soul." The doctrine of the pre-existence,-revealed so plainly, particularly in latter days, pours a wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man's origin. It shows that man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality. It teaches that all men existed in the spirit before any man existed in the flesh, and that all who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner.   
It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was "the first man of all men" (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race. It was shown to the brother of Jared that all men were created in the beginning after the image of God; and whether we take this to mean the spirit or the body, or both, it commits us to the same conclusion: Man began life as a human being, in the likeness of our heavenly Father.   
True it is that the body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man. There is nothing in this, however, to indicate that the original man, the first of our race, began life as anything less than a man, or less than the human germ or embryo that becomes a man.   
            (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75), 4:, p.205-)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some Events In Pre-earth Life

The following two images should be down loaded and be brought to the Pearl of Great Price Class.  We will be discussing some of the events that took place in pre-earth life that influence our mortal sphere.

(click on images to enlarge)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Organized Before The World Was - by Elder Neal A. Maxwell

The doctrine of premortality can strengthen and reassure us in all circumstances, as it doubtless did Joseph when, at sunset, he peeked through the grates of "this lonesome prison." Whether we are confronted by confinement or vastness, the doctrine succors us. Indeed, while gazing at the heavens on a starlit night the thoughtful soul can have an inkling, though on a very small scale, of how Moses must have felt after the spectacular but humbling panorama the Lord presented to him regarding this one particular planet: "And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed" (Moses 1:10).    
Overwhelmed by both the vastness of "the world upon which he was created" as well as the demographic detail-"all the children of men which are, and which were created"-Moses "greatly marveled and wondered." What he saw confirmed man's worth in the sight of God even though, comparatively speaking, a meek man may feel he is "nothing" (see Mosiah 4:5). In God's plans, man, as God's child, is as "everything" to him. Our loving, redeeming Father has so said, declaring to an overwhelmed and meek Moses: "For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).    
This declaration is consistent with other declarations from the Lord and his prophets:    
For thus saith the lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the lord; and there is none else (Isaiah 45:18).    
Behold, the lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it (1 Nephi 17:36).    
He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world (2 Nephi 26:24).    
For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father-    
That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (D&C 76:23-24.)    
The truth about man's premortal existence thus can cradle us amid the vastness and the otherwise inexplicableness of space, reassuring us of man's worth and of God's overseership. As we encounter the "what" of space, the plan of salvation gives to us the "why." If it were not so we might myopically conclude that "all flesh is grass" (Isaiah 40:6), ultimately as well as proximately. Isaiah's words, however, pertain not to man's worthlessness but to the transitoriness of this second estate. It is the briefest of our estates, like unto the "small moment" twice emphasized by the Lord to Joseph in the prison-temple.    
This powerful, plain doctrine of premortality contains nourishment, both explicit and implicit, to sustain us during our afflictions and adversities-which, comparatively, "shall be but a small moment" (D&C 121:7). Indeed, in the words of the hymn, we should let this doctrine "as the dew from heaven distilling" revive us, "thus fulfilling / What [God's] providence intends" (Hymns [new edition], no. 149).    
As pertains to this expansive doctrine, we should do what King Benjamin advised-"Believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend" (see Mosiah 4:9-10). If necessary, we should even be willing to say, "Lord, . . . help thou my unbelief"(Mark 9:24).    
The acceptance of the reality that we are in the Lord's hands is only a recognition that we have never really been anywhere else.    
As already observed, this doctrine of premortality is not, however, an excusing or relaxing doctrine. For each of us there are choices to be made, chores to be done, adversities and ironies to be experienced, time to be well spent, and talents and gifts to be well employed. Because we were chosen "there and then" surely does not mean that we can relax "here and now." Having been chosen and having been prepared "then," the work remains to be done by us "now."    
It was surely hard work for foreordained Joseph, through whom this doctrine was revealed, but, as promised, Joseph liked to do the work to which he had been called "before the world was."    
In fact, adequacy in the first estate may have merely insured a stern second estate with many duties and no immunities. Additional schooling by suffering (along with the suffering common to man which is caused by our own mistakes and sins) appears to be the pattern for the Lord's most apt pupils (see Mosiah 3:19;mosiah 1 Peter 4:19).    
How earnestly the adversary has striven to keep the doctrines of the premortal existence of man and the reality of the resurrection from coming generally within man's circle of awareness, let alone conviction! When people are thus deprived, this creates a one-dimensional man. If created ex nihilo, man did not really exist before; this false doctrine, Joseph said at the 1844 Follett funeral, "lessens man" (Words, p. 359).    
Denying the doctrine of the premortal existence of man shrinks man's perspective. He begins to think, mistakenly, that this life is all there is; that the insignificant "me" of a tiny "now" is not only all there is, but all there ever was. The adversary is quick to use the "what if" there is no purpose to life in order to induce some to act "as if" such were the case. The resultant misbehavior only deepens the despair (see Moroni 10:22).    
Naturally, such a view tends to be accompanied by a diminished belief or a pronounced unbelief in the resurrection and a perpetuation of personality, which pushes a person's hope for the future down to nil. This "no-answer" attitude equates with a "no-answerability" concept that too often leads to the "eat, drink, and be merry" outlook. Thus one-dimensional mortality relentlessly promotes a one-dimensional morality!    
The coming forth (through "a choice seer") of the "other books" of scripture, however, makes possible the confounding of the false doctrine of ex nihilo man-man created from nothing. More than anyone else in modern times, the "choice seer" did battle with this heresy that became orthodoxy, using the reality of our premortality as his sword. More than we as Church members yet appreciate, this precious truth frees us from the dichotomy of the Creator-creature and from the awful challenge of explaining evil in a mankind created ex nihilo! With the truth about our identity comes clarity as to our accountability.    
Utilizing full gospel perspective man soon begins to see how everlasting life is. Though very imperfectly, he can then begin to see how purposeful this life is and how bright the future can be. On the other hand, without the full doctrine of the plan of salvation and premortal existence, not only is one's view of life affected but one's view of the universe is shrunken.    
Just as the restored gospel expands our understanding of things, secularism shrinks them. It is so easy for one-dimensional man with a one-dimensional view of the world to focus intensively on the cares of this world and to yield to the appetites of this world and of this moment.    
Given all the disapprovals of past synods and councils, the doctrine of premortal existence is demonstrably not one that could have been reestablished by backward reasoning or research. It could only have come through modern revelation and restoration. Though the doctrine does not abuse logic, it is more than logic alone can fully support. It rests upon the certitude and direction which can come only from divine revelation and affirmation, which is precisely what occurred.    
As is so often the case, these powerful truths must rest awhile upon the mind and upon the soul. They must ripen before they begin to nourish our individual comprehension, and certainly before they provoke our individual articulation. It seems to have been so for Joseph.    
Chronologically, as already noted, Joseph Smith would have first encountered this doctrine when he was translating the great bulk of the Book of Mormon. (April-June, 1829.) Whether he then merely intellectually noted the doctrine, amid the relentless pressures of a highly compressed work of translation, we do not know.    
Joseph's incomplete but inspired translation of the Bible brought about, as earlier indicated, the revelation we know as the book of Moses. This would have heightened the Prophet's awareness of other worlds, God's plan for man, and, significantly, the creation of all things spiritually before they were naturally on the earth. Even so, Joseph did not often cite the relevant biblical passages pertaining to premortality, as he sometimes did with regard to other key doctrines-such as the nature of God.    
Liberty Jail seems to have hastened the process of the Prophet's "going public" with this doctrine. His epistle from the prison-temple to the Church in March, 1839, urged Church leaders and members alike to improve, especially in view of their having been "called and chosen ... before the foundation of the world." Moreover, Joseph was told in the prison-temple about a "Council of the Eternal God of all other Gods" before the world was (Writings, pp. 397, 398). The curtains were being parted ever wider.    
The book of Abraham came still later, being published in 1842. It gave immense illumination: "If there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal" (Abraham 3:18).    
While the Book of Mormon gave us "precious" information about our premortal existence, it was not given there in overwhelming abundance. This is attested to by the statement of Elder Orson Pratt about the unfolding of this vital doctrine: "Joseph Smith ... was commanded to translate the Bible by inspiration. . . . This same doctrine [premortal existence] is inculcated in some small degree in the Book of Mormon. However, I do not think that I should have ever discerned it in that book had it not been for the new translation of the Scriptures [Bible], . . throwing so much light and information on the subject." (Journal of Discourses, 15:249.)    
Nor was this doctrine "in the air" in America. All of which makes its coming in its fulness and uniqueness stunning to contemplate.    
All we have mentioned on this subject except the book of Abraham came very early in Joseph's ministry. Yet there is an apparent "gap" of six years before the Prophet began to speak or write publicly of the doctrine of premortal existence. With his first recorded public utterance in writing in the March 1839 epistle, his first mention in public speaking was in early August 1839, not long after his Liberty Jail experience.    
Willard Richards recorded these words of Joseph Smith:    
The spirit of man is not a created being; it existed from eternity and will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be eternal; and earth, water, etc.-all these had their existence in an elementary state from eternity. Our Savior speaks of children and says their angels always stand before my Father.    
The Father called all spirits before him at the creation of man and organized them. (Words, p. 9.)    
The Prophet held forth on this important doctrine on a number of later occasions, according to those who kept some record of his sermons. Several times he spoke about things having been instituted prior to "the foundation of this earth" or noted that "the morning stars sang together [and] the Sons of God shouted for joy" (Words, pp. 38-39). Periodic discussions of premortal existence continued thereafter: "At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and the plan of salvation made and we sanctioned it" (Words, p. 60).    
The most remarkable example of Joseph's having developed this doctrine more fully later in his ministry occurs in his King Follett sermon given to ten thousand people, perhaps more, on April 7, 18441 (Words, pp. 340-62). The latest and most complete study of this special sermon is that of Donald Q. Cannon and Larry E. Dahl, published by Brigham Young University's Religious Studies Center.    
In this sermon the Prophet spoke of our mortal existence in the context of our being spirit children of our Father in Heaven. Consistent with the May 1833 revelation (section 93), Joseph described the existence of intelligence even before our spirit birth.2 "Intelligence is eternal and it is self-existing. . . . God has made provision for every spirit in the eternal world" (Words, p. 346).    
A few weeks later the Prophet noted that:    
Brother Joseph Smith was chosen for the last dispensation or seventh dispensation. [At] the time the grand council set in heaven to organize this world Joseph was chosen for the last and greatest prophet to lay the foundation of God's work of the seventh dispensation. (Words, p. 370.)    
At the general and grand council of heaven, all those to whom a dispensation was to be committed, were set apart and ordained at that time, to that calling. The Twelve also as witnesses were ordained (Words, p. 371).    
Joseph's preoccupation with this doctrine can be gauged by these lines: "The great thing for us to know is to comprehend what God did institute before the foundation of the world. Who knows it? It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty." (Teachings, p. 320.)    
Also late in his ministry, of course, the Prophet Joseph Smith was heavily involved with teaching and administering the temple endowment and its plain but penetrating truths.    
These major doctrines, intertwined, may have been part of what Joseph was so anxious to impart to the Saints-"I never have had opportunity to give them the plan that God has revealed to me," he wrote from the temple-prison (Writings, p. 387). Certainly Joseph's urgency about unfolding things is seen in the way he prepared the Twelve subsequently. From January 1844 until his martyrdom, he met with the available members of the Quorum of the Twelve frequently.    
The pattern, then, was one in which the impressions and revelations concerning this important doctrine, accumulated over an earlier period of time, appeared in the sermons and writings of Joseph Smith during the last year or so of his prophetic ministry. Even then, Joseph may have been more ready than the members of the Church were to receive and explore the doctrine, as the reactions, then and since, to the King Follett sermon have amply demonstrated.    
Though this doctrine of premortality was not "in the air," it is a doctrine fully consistent with the divine instructions to us to strive to become perfect as are the Father and the Son (Matthew 5:48;Matthew 3 Nephi 12:48; 27:27).    
Yet, interesting as the process of its coming forth is, the important thing is that it came forth! Its substance, even more than the process, invites examination and appreciation.    
It is a doctrine which brings both unarguable identity and severe accountability to our lives. It underscores the actuality of the brotherhood of man as a result of the actuality of the Fatherhood of God, both as the Father of our spirits and as a loving Father whose plan of salvation for his children is his work and glory; this second or mortal estate is the unfolding which follows the shaping first estate. It is also a doctrine which explains things as they really were, are, and will become.    
This is a doctrine, likewise, which reminds us mortals that we do not have all of the data. There are many times when we must withhold judgment and trust God lest we misread, as did Jesus' disciples when they inquired about the man blind from birth and Jesus gave the immortal reply: "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him" (see John 9:1-3). Trusting God's plan even in the midst of "all these things" is thus made easier, because he has so declared his purposes, plainly and simply, concerning the proving and tutoring dimensions of mortality.    
This precious doctrine also allows for both promises we earlier made to God and promises we were given earlier by him, back beyond time. We begin to understand that certain mortals were especially called and prepared before the foundations of the world were laid. It thus permits us to have a sense of identity, and to allow for blossoming in our individual lives as well as in the general unfolding of the plan of salvation. Thus we can praise God for all that he has done with us and for us. Moreover, though justifiably unimpressed with ourselves now, we can see that a loving and redeeming God has done so much for us, considering what he had to work with.    
The precious knowledge which flows from this doctrine also permits us to maintain both a backward and a forward perspective. It gives us, for instance, cause to entertain a hope such as generous Sir Thomas More expressed with regard to his accusers and defamers (see chapter 6). Such perspectives can make us less inclined to rush to judgment, giving us more humility and more trust in God, for we are truly in his hands. Still!    
In light of this doctrine developmental discipleship assumes genuine significance, inasmuch as our individual spiritual growth is so vital to our happiness and salvation. These words of King Benjamin take on added meaning: .... . and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father" (Mosiah 3:19; see Alma 13:28).    
It is no accident that Alma's words about what we should be in the process of "becoming" (Alma 13:28) follow by a few verses his preaching about the premortal existence.    
Thus, for the Christian, individual existence is not only a continuum but also the motivation for seeing a particular developmental outcome. "All these things" which can give us relevant "experience," as the Lord told Joseph in the prison-temple, can be for our "good."    
The grand scheme of tutoring has been under way for a very long time. It was in our first estate that we received our "first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord" (D&C 138:56).    
All of this brings us now to the need to examine a doctrine within a doctrine within a doctrine. Within the plan of salvation is the doctrine of premortal existence; we then encounter the delicate but important doctrine of foreordination.    
The doctrine of foreordination is one of the doctrinal roads "least traveled by." Yet it clearly underlines how very long and how perfectly God has loved each of us and known each of us, with our individual needs and capacities. It is so powerful a doctrine, however, that isolated from other doctrines, or mishandled, it can induce false pride, stoke the fires of fatalism, impact adversely upon agency, cause us to focus on status rather than service, and carry us over into the false doctrine of predestination. President Joseph Fielding Smith warned:    
It is very evident from a thorough study of the gospel and the plan of salvation that a conclusion that those who accepted the Savior were predestined to be saved no matter what the nature of their lives must be an error. . . . Surely Paul never intended to convey such a thought. . . . This might have been one of the passages in Paul's teachings which caused Peter to declare that there are in Paul's writings "some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (Improvement Era, May 1963, pp. 350-51; see 2 Peter 3:16).    
Paul stressed running life's race the full distance; he did not intend a casual Christianity in which some had won even before the race started.    
Yet, though foreordination is a difficult doctrine, it has been given to us by the living God, through living prophets, for a purpose. It can actually increase our understanding of how crucial this mortal second estate is and can further encourage us in humble good works. This precious doctrine can also help us go the second mile, because it indicates that we are doubly called.    
In some ways our second estate, in relationship to our first estate, is like agreeing in advance to surgery. Then the anesthetic of forgetfulness settles in upon us. Just as doctors do not de-anesthetize a patient in the midst of authorized surgery to ask him, again, if the surgery should be continued, or varied to meet a now-discovered need, so in mortality we are not periodically asked to reaffirm our previous agreement to come here and to submit ourselves to certain experiences. Of our situation, Truman Madsen has said, "Our amnesia is God's anesthesia." And the surgeon stays with us!    
Of course, when we mortals try to fully comprehend rather than graciously accept foreordination, the result is finite minds futilely trying to comprehend omniscience. A full understanding is for now impossible. We simply have to trust in what the Lord has told us, realizing that we are not dealing with guarantees from God but with extra opportunities-and certainly heavier responsibilities. Foreordained Joseph Smith found himself, for instance, in Liberty Jail and finally in Carthage. He was buffeted by the world from the moment he left the Sacred Grove.    
If one's responsibilities are in some ways linked to past performance or to past capabilities, it should not surprise us. If the tutoring one receives bears down especially upon what remains to be refined, why should it be otherwise?    
The Lord said, "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." (D&C 130:20-21.) This eternal law prevailed in the first as well as in the second estate. It should not disconcert us, therefore, that the Lord has indicated that before they came here he chose some individuals to carry out certain assignments in mortality, and that these individuals were foreordained or set apart to those assignments.    
Foreordination is like any other blessing-it is a conditional bestowal subject to the recipient's faithfulness. Prophecies foreshadow events without determining the outcome, this being made possible by a divine foreseeing of outcomes. So foreordination is a conditional bestowal of a role, a responsibility, or a blessing which likewise foresees but does not fix the outcome. Remember John's sequence-"called, and chosen, and faithful" (Revelation 17:14).    
There have been those who have failed or who have been, in one degree or another, treasonous to their trust or callings-people such as David, Solomon, and Judas. God foresaw the fall of David but was not the cause of it. It was David who saw Bathsheba from the balcony and sent for her and who ordered what happened to her husband, Uriah. But neither was God surprised by such a sad development.    
Thus foreordination is clearly no excuse for fatalism, or arrogance, or the abuse of agency. It is not, however, a doctrine that can be ignored simply because it is difficult. Indeed, deep inside the hardest doctrines are some of the pearls of greatest price.    
The doctrine pertains not only to the foreordination of prophets but also to God's precise assessment beforehand as to each of those who will respond to the words of the Savior and the prophets. From the Savior's own lips came these words: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). Similarly he said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). Further, he declared, "And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts" (D&C 29:7).    
This responsiveness could not be gauged without divine foreknowledge concerning all mortals and their response to the gospel-a foreknowledge so perfect that it leaves the realm of prediction and enters the realm of prophecy.    
It does no violence even to our frail human logic to observe that there cannot be a grand plan of salvation for all mankind unless there is also a plan for each individual. The salvational sum will reflect all its parts.    
As part of his infinite foreknowledge, for example, the Lord would need to have perfect comprehension of all the military and political developments in the Middle East for all time. Some of these are unfolding only now, bringing to pass a latter-day condition in which Jerusalem, as Zechariah foretold, will be a "cup of trembling," a "burdensome stone for all people." "All nations" will be gathered "against Jerusalem to battle." (Zechariah 12:2, 3;Zech. 14:2.)    
It should not surprise us that the Lord, who set bounds and habitations before the world was (see Acts 17:26; Deuteronomy 32:8), would know centuries before the event how much money Judas would receive-thirty pieces of silver-at the time he betrayed the Savior (Matthew 26:15, Matthew 27:3, Zechariah 11:12). Or that the Lord would watch over and encourage his prophet in a Missouri jail.    
We are permitted at times, through a process we call inspiration and revelation, to access that divine databank-the knowledge of God-for the narrow purposes at hand. No wonder that experience is so unforgettable!    
There are clearly cases of individuals with special limitations in life, conditions we mortals cannot now fully fathom. For all we now know, the seeming limitations may have been an agreed upon spur to achievement-a developmental equivalent of a "thorn in the flesh." Like him who was "blind from birth," some come to bring glory to God (John 9:1-3). Some are spiritual pioneers in developing nations who are called by revelation in the midst of environmental deprivation.    
            (Neal A. Maxwell, But for a Small Moment , p.87-98)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Second Pearl of Great Price Class

This semester I am teaching a second Pearl of Great Price Class on Wednesday mornings from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm.  It is held at the Crestview Chapel located at 2795 E. Crestview Dr. Salt Lake City, Utah 84108.  Some of the evening students may be interested in going to that class if it is more convenient and/or closer to your home.  The chapel is located just east of the Hogle Zoo.  Crestview Dr. is the street immediately east of the zoo off of Sunnyside Avenue.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More On Pre-Earth Life

A. F. J. Klijn states that the idea of preexistence comes from Judaism, where the idea of the heavenly robe "may be taken from the description of Adam and Eve in paradise."  Of course, he refers to the tradition that Adam's nature was like bright light before the Fall, even as the garment is a garment of light, but after the Fall Adam lost his preexistent glory.  J. Rendel Harris points out that the Odes of Solomon also contain the ideas of "the pre-existent soul that has to leave heaven for earth, and that of the unfallen creation of God, whose environment is changed from a coat of light to a coat of skins." The "garment of skins" became the "garment of light" possibly because the Hebrew [word for] (coat of skins) so closely resembles [Hebrew word] meaning "coat of light."  Even so, the Apocryphon of  James  tells us that when the spirit returns to its heavenly treasure it will become "as you were first, having clothed yourself, you become the first who will strip himself, and you shall become as you were before removing the garment."
The garment also represents the treasure laid up in heaven awaiting the soul's return, and, in this context, the glory of the resurrected body.  An ancient Christian writing known as the Ascension of  Isaiah  states, "The saints will come with the Lord with their garments which are now stored up in the seventh heaven, with the Lord will come those whose spirits are clothed upon."  The Book of Enoch is replete with references to garments. In connection with the resurrection the Book of Enoch says, "And the righteous and elect shall have risen from the earth, and ceased to be downcast in countenance. And they shall be clothed with garments of glory, and they shall be the garments of life from the Lord of Spirits."  The Manual of Discipline, found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains a concept very similar to that of the Book of Enoch:
And as for the visitation of all who walk in this spirit [of truth] it shall be healing, great peace in a long life, and fruitfulness, together with every everlasting blessing and eternal joy in life without end, a crown of glory and a garment of majesty in unending light.
            (The Necessity of a Sinless Messiah by Ronald A. Heiner Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 22 (1982), Number 1 - Fall 1982, p.17-)

Compare the above with,

2 Ne 9:14
 14 Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness. (emphasis added).

Monday, January 4, 2010

In God's Image And Likeness, Ancient And Modern Perspectives On The Book Of Moses

There is a new book out on the Book of Moses entitled, In God's Image And Likeness, Ancient And Modern Perspectives On The Book Of Moses by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.  I just got mine in the mail several days ago. For those of you who are building a library, this book would be an excellent addition.  It is over 1,000 pages long and the research is exhaustive.

To read and interview with the author click here.

For more information on the book click here.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Some Insights On Pre-Earth Life From Ancient Documents

The late Hugh Nibley gives some insights into pre-earth life from ancient documents.  This material should be read for the general impressions given and not to develop specific doctrines. 

Hugh Nibley, Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe, p.12-1,13-14

The Apocalypse of Baruch is a very valuable one that goes way back. You'll find that in R. H. Charles. It says, "The multitude of those who should be born was numbered and for that number a place was prepared where the living might dwell." And this is another view: What are we here for then? Was our coming down here a fall or a calamity? Well, the Gnostic doctrine was that we are here in prison. We are being punished. "Man's descent from heaven at the moment of conception with his human form and divine seal (showing that he had existed before)" But unlike Origen and the Gnostic schools, the Cabala does not regard life as a fall or exile but as a means of education and a beneficial trial. As  Nephi  says, "Our time here became a time of probation." That's what the Cabala teaches. But Origen, the Gnostics and the Christians went off in this direction-that it is a fall, an imprisonment, and a curse. Well, just like "Adam brought the curse of man's first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree whose bitter taste brought death into the world and all our woes." It was utter calamity that brought us here. In the Jewish teaching that was not so. It's a benefit, a time of education and learning, and a time of testing. So in the third chapter of the Book of  Abraham  we read, "We will make an earth whereon these may dwell, and we will prove them herewith to see if they will do all the things whatsoever we shall command them. They who keep their first estate shall be added upon"    

Another book we are going to cite is from the Zohar. This is a very important writing which has been neglected by the Jews; they come back to it. They used to think it was just an invention of  Moses  of Leon in 1240 A.D., a work of the Middle Ages, but now they know it is very old. It has come out in a number of editions. I have a beautiful, complete Hebrew edition of the Zohar that just came out. It's full of not just biblical teachings, but things that might have been in the Bible. Remember the canon of the Bible is a very arbitrary sort of thing. Many things are in there that shouldn't be, and things are left out that should be there. But the Zohar tells us here: "All men before they lived on earth were present in heaven in the identical form they possess in this life, and everything they learn on earth they knew already before they came to this world." That's an interesting thing; how could you be tested if you knew it already. This becomes a very interesting problem in physics. According to the Talmud, this world is only a marshaling area, a sort of freeport, while that world above is the true dwelling. We have just left it temporarily to be tested here. "All spirits which are to enter into the body exit from the day of creation of the world until the earth shall pass away."     

Now a powerful passage in the Zadokite Document from the Dead Sea Scrolls tells how God condemned the wicked in the preexistence by not counting them among those chosen. "From of old, from the days of eternity and before they were established, he knew them and abhored their generations. With exactitude he set out their names, but those whom he hated he caused to stray." Remember in the Pearl of Great Price, Satan was a liar from the beginning.     

This expression that is used is another important one: "from eternity to eternity." In the Serek Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2:1, it uses the expression me'olam le'olam. It's more than an ecstatic outbreak "from ever to ever." The Christians use it, and Barnabas uses it in his  epistle eight. Barnabas-remember he is one of the seven apostolic fathers, one of the earliest fathers after the New Testament. He says, "From eons unto the eons means that you come out of the eons and you go into the eons." You have an eternity behind you, and you have an eternity before you. This is the bottleneck you pass through to determine for a long time to come which way you will take hereafter. He says, "The way of light is the Lord from eons into the eons; the way of life leading from one eternity up to the other one to come. The eschatology is inconceivable without the protology. Typical of this common background to Jews and early Christians is the prayer of Anna in the Pseudo-Philo. "Hast thou not, O Lord, examined the heart of all generations before thou formedst the world?" In the Secrets of Enoch in the Slavonic Enoch (this is one very close to the Joseph Smith Enoch), the Lord says to Enoch, "Sit down and write the names of those who are not yet born and the places which are prepared for them forever; for all the spirits were prepared before the foundation of the earth." Enoch speaks here, "I swear unto you, my children, that before man was made in the womb of his mother, he was prepared; and how each has sojourned in this age that a man might be tested in the balance while he was here." There's your probation and preexistence too. "There has indeed been prepared in advance a place for every human soul."    

We'll go back to our friend Gregory of Nyssa again. "The soul had a previous existence and a life of its own where, even as in this life, it was given its free agency by the Creator. And such as grew weary at doing good entered this life at a disadvantage, having passed the test less satisfactorily than others." Now this is writing which is accepted by Origen, the earliest Christian theologian, and he says that this is what the brethren taught. "I don't believe it," he said, "but the brethren in the early church taught it." Now the fact is when we are born into this world it's with unequal advantages, isn't it? Some are born blind, lame, crippled; it's terrible. Some are born into poverty; some into riches. He says, "How does that happen? They used to teach that before we came here life was a test too, and when we passed the test, we came into this world. Our life here is a reward for our performance before we came here." He says that would certainly explain the inequality of people being born. Or as Gregory of Nyssa says here, "The soul had a previous existence for even as in this life, it was a free agent." Remember there was a Council in Heaven. They voted and some preferred this and some preferred that. You were perfectly free to take your way there. You had your free agency. And such as grew weary in doing good entered this life at a disadvantage because they passed the test all right, but less satisfactorily than others passed it. Well, there's an interesting thesis that Origen developed. Needless to say, it was slapped down.    

Well, Basilides, also a contemporary, says that suffering in this life is punishment for sins in the preexistence, not by way of denying that there was preexistence, by insisting that the opportunity to suffer here, even martyrdom, is rather a reward earned before, an opportunity for greater glory. Persecutions are not to punish the saints but to sanctify them. Then back to Origen again, "The spirit stands for progress and by definition evil is refusal to accept progress. This is the principle of apostasy that you refuse to progress, and when you dug in your heels in the other world, you came here at a lower level. "Learn this one thing," wrote Cyril of Jerusalem, "that before coming to this cosmos, the spirit did not sin, but that we came down sinless here and now. And now we sin by choice."  
Well, which is it? Is it a matter of sin up there? We had to come down here and take on flesh, I suppose, to be tested in a particular way. No, it's the level of performance that we are judged on in coming down here. And that's another interesting thing-that wonderful passage where the Lord says that one will be more intelligent than another. Don't resent it because you know perfectly well why you are not more intelligent than you are. We only use one thousandth of our potential anyway. So you can't complain that somebody is ahead of you. You might be far far better than you are. So don't worry about him; just improve yourself. And this is the gospel of repentance. Well, the time is up and we are still bogged down in these fundamentals. But they are the fundamentals that are treated with peculiar address and clarity in the Pearl of Great Price, and as far as I know, nowhere else.