Friday, October 26, 2007

Holy Ground

We come prepared with broken hearts; a contrite spirit is our part.

On bending knee in fervent pray, Lord count us worthy to enter there.

The things of God are of deep import and love and virtue are in our hearts.

We come to thee in humility, with careful, ponderous solemnity.

We have clean hands, our hearts are pure, in this we promise to endure.

Let us serve with holiness of heart, in sacred ordinances that are taught.

In thy House the Christ is found, thy light thy truth and love abound.

By: Kent Wentzell

Seven Angels

It is proposed that Elohiem, Jehovah, and The Holy Ghost (whose name has not yet been revealed) make up the presidency of the heavens and for all the Children of God. As pertaining to this world on which we reside there is also a presidency. Also seven Archangels or the seven chief angels of God that have been speculatively identified, along with some of their principal roles. Here is a brief review of the order in which each will sound the trump to open the Millennium. (This is not doctrine, but scriptural logic and speculation)

1. Peter and the Celestial Kingdom. First is the trump to announce those who resurrect to the highest heaven, the celestial kingdom, where God the Father dwells (D&C 88:94-98; 76:50 70). It was proposed that the first angel is Uriel, known in mortality as Peter, whose principal assignment is to preside over those valiant Christians who qualify for that highest heaven.

2. Moses and the Terrestrial Kingdom. The second trump is for the terrestrial kingdom, the second highest heaven, which is prepared for the honorable people of the earth who chose not to accept and live all of the teaching of Jesus Christ. It was proposed that the second angel is Raguel, known as Moses in his mortal probation, who has been like a shepherd to his people both in life and afterward, to prepare them to receive Christ either at his first or second coming.

3. Abel and the Telestial Kingdom. The third trump is for the telestial kingdom, designed for those who rejected the word of God, but who someday will bow the knee to Jesus. After death they suffer torment, and have to remain in hell until after the Millennium (D&C 88:100-101; 76:81-90, 98-112). Those in this kingdom do not enjoy the presence of either God the Father nor Jesus Christ, but are presided over by the Holy Ghost and ministering angels (D&C 88:86-88). It was proposed that the third angel is Sariel, known in life as Abel, and that one of his key roles is to preside over hell, and attempt to help its inhabitants repent and qualify for the highest kingdom possible. Abel was the first martyr and the first to enter the spirit world. In the Greek myths it is Hades who presides over the underworld, so Hades can be identified with Abel. After hell shuts down at the end of the Millennium, presumably Abel will continue to lead his "graduating class" in the telestial kingdom.

4. Enoch and Sons of Perdition. The fourth trump is for those who not only reject Jesus Christ, but also the Holy Spirit after having received it. Even after all of Satan's deceitfulness is exposed during the Millennium and those who mistakenly served Satan repent and turn to Christ, these will still willingly serve Satan by choice (D&C 76:25-38, 43-49). It was proposed that this fourth angel is Raphael, known in life as Enoch. He was translated to heaven (celestial kingdom) with his whole city. When some of those angels fell to the enticing of Satan, even after all that they knew, they became sons of perdition. Thus Enoch presided over a righteous city on earth (Moses 7:19-21), over his followers in the highest heaven, and also over the lowest of the low. But after the final Judgment Day at the end of the Millennium, Enoch's charge over them might end when they are cast out into the lake of fire with Satan (Rev. 20:10-15). Moreover, Enoch was known as "the scribe" and it is proposed that he acted as a secretary to the Presidency of Peter, Moses and Abel. As has been discussed, each of those four members presided over a different level of spirituality, and the areas of heaven and hell where such people reside. But it was proposed that Enoch served a double role, also being secretary to the following presidency.

5. Joseph Smith, Second Counselor. It was proposed that the Prophet Joseph Smith is the fifth angel, Phanuel, and that he functions as a second counselor in a presidency over all of the above individuals, but arranged into different groups. He is the counselor assigned to Zion, being the western hemisphere. He also has the special assignments of ushering in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, when all of the other six angels returned and gave him their keys and gifts so that the fulness of the Gospel would be restored on earth in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He also has the special assignment of the salvation of mankind, both the living and the dead, in a role similar to Jesus Christ in the First Presidency of Heaven of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. He was even sacrificed as a lamb, as was the Savior.

6. Noah, First Counselor. It was proposed that Noah is the sixth angel, Gabriel, and that he also functions as the first counselor in the First Presidency of the Earth. He is assigned to the eastern hemisphere, where his ark landed after the great flood. He is also assigned to spiritual roles, comparable to the Holy Ghost in the Godhead. He presides over the restoration of the gospel (as Elias/Gabriel, D&C 27:6-7), likely including the pouring out of knowledge and blessings on the heads of the saints (D&C 110:9, 121:33).

7. Adam, President. The scriptures explicitly tell us that the seventh angel is the archangel Michael who will lead the armies of God to overcome Satan in the great war at the end of the Millennium when Satan is finally defeated forever (D&C 88:110-115). Michael was known during mortality as Adam (D&C 27:11), the father of our human family. It was proposed that he presides over all of the earth and all of mankind. Adam's duties almost all pertain to the earth, rather than heaven or hell.

Suffering ourselves with reward?

How could God be just if children born in the covenant were to inherit the celestial kingdom in spite of their worthiness?

An Orson Whitney quote on this subject gives some astonishment and a feeling that some may think that it is not sound LDS doctrine, i.e., too good to be true. We recognize that one must not commit sin against the Holy Ghost, regardless of anything else. Moreover, We know of the descriptions of suffering and payment to be made–certainly not pleasant (but necessary) to endure. In other articles, however, we’ve read about people forfeiting their exaltation through sin and breaking of covenants.

How does this relate to and reconcile with being born in the covenant?

Just for completeness, let me add one other source of the statement in question by Orson F. Whitney—
“I have here an interesting statement by Elder Orson F. Whitney: “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared-and he never taught more comforting doctrine-that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Conference Report, April 1929). If any of you have a child or loved one in that condition, do not give up. Pray for them and love them and reach out to them and help them. (Jordan Utah South Regional Conference, March 2, 1997.) (Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p.54)
Now let’s explore that doctrine a bit to see if we can demonstrate its rationality. In the first place, some given premises—

1) God is just
Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just (Mosiah 29:12).
2) God is merciful and kind
thou [God] art merciful and kind forever (Moses 7:30).
3) God’s word is always fulfilled, without an question or exception
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same (Doctrine & Covenants 1:38).

The eternal marriage covenant in the holy temple is a conditional covenant. It’s fulfilment depends on the faithfulness of the participants. If either of the participants violates any of the conditions of that sacred covenant, it is no longer valid, and the marriage of such people terminates at the death of the first partner to die, exactly the same as all the marriages that are performed by any other authority in the world.

The sealing of children to parents, on the other hand, has no extenuating conditions associated with it. Those sealings, pronounced by the authority and power of the holy priesthood, articulate the very words of God. They are therefore always fulfilled. How then would the above premises relate to such an inevitable condition that is deemed to apply in spite of the worthiness of the recipient?
How is justice obtained in such a condition? From Orson F. Whitney’s statement—
“They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path…”

Such recreant children, depending on the degree of their disobedience, may not even come forth in the first resurrection, and would be remanded to the custody of Satan for the thousand year period until the second resurrection at the end of the millennium. They would have paid the full price for all their wickedness, just as if there had been no divine redemption. Justice will have been served, and they would have learned obedience by the things that they would have suffered. The price to justice having been fully paid, the promise made to them in the holy temple would remain in force and they would be restored to their parent’s custody in the celestial kingdom of God. However, in the celestial kingdom there are three glories or degrees—

In the celestial glory there are three glories or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase (Doctrine & Covenants 131:1-4).

The highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom is called exaltation. Thus, those who are saved in the celestial kingdom, but have not taken upon themselves or have not fulfilled the required conditions of the eternal marriage covenant—
when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory (Doctrine & Covenants 132:16).

Blacks and the Priesthood

Blacks and the Priesthood
By: Kent Wentzell

The punishment of Cain was, as he told the Lord, more than he could bear, and feared that others would seek to take his life.

And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.(Gen 1:13-14)

So the Lord promised Cain that if any were to kill him or his descendants, vengeance would be taken on them sevenfold, and he put a mark on Cain and his posterity to set them apart so that others finding them would not slay them. That mark was a black skin, and it was given to them as a protection and a blessing, not as a curse. (see Genesis 4:15)

The curse = no priesthood for himself or his posterity

The mark = black skin

The curse and the mark are not the same thing!

Prior to 1835 some blacks were ordained to the priesthood. The concept of withholding the priesthood from blacks of African decent was revealed when Joseph Smith translated the papyrus containing the Book of Abraham. The mummies containing the papyrus were purchased by the Mormon Church in July 1835. In “The History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” by the prophet, this entry for 7 October 1835 is found—
“This afternoon I re-commenced translating the ancient records.”
In this translated volume is the record of how the seed of Cain survived the great flood. The wife of Ham, one of three sons of Noah, was Egyptus, who was from the loins of Cain—
From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land (Abr 1:22).
The curse that the Lord put upon Cain for killing his brother, Abel, was that neither he nor his descendants would have the right to hold the priesthood. Cain, in lamenting this fact, said—
Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me (Gen 4:14).
So to protect Cain from the wrath of others, the Lord gave him the following protection—
And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him (Gen 4:15).

The mark was a black skin, and it was given to Cain as a protection from the evil of others, not as a curse (As mentioned above, the only curse was withholding the priesthood.) Egyptus carried the genetic strain of a black skin through the flood. The daughter of Ham and Egyptus discovered the land of Egypt, and her son, Pharoah, became the first ruler of the land. In Abraham 1:26 we read—
Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.

Prior to 1835 some blacks were ordained to the priesthood, but in accordance with the information revealed in the Book of Abraham that practice was discontinued. However, each of the presidents of the Mormon Church, from Joseph Smith to Spencer W. Kimball, prophesied that the day would come when the Lord would remove the curse of withholding the priesthood from the descendants of Cain. This came about through a revelation given by the Lord to President Spencer W. Kimball, and was published in an Official Declaration to the world on 30 Sept. 1978, which says in part—

He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. (The Doctrine and Covenants Official Declaration–2).

To me this revelation is truly one of the signs of the times in this dispensation of the fullness of times when all things shall be restored.

The old notion that blacks were less worthy in the pre-existence and that black skin is a curse is completely false and is based on evil prejudice and bad speculation. It was merely a distinction to protect Cain. I personally would speculate to say that God had foreknowledge that the descendants of Cain would eventually settle in the equatorial regions of the earth and therefore the black skin would eventually become a blessing for there protection against the sun and hence one of the reasons for this particular mark and also a reason to survive the flood through Ham’s wife. The lord does all things in wisdom and with a righteous purpose. The curse of the priesthood was however real but has nothing to do with worthiness or skin color of individuals. Gratefully we have a religion that has revealed that all the same blessings and privileges will be given in due time to all of God’s children no matter what distinction and no matter whether they live in the past present or future.

Why did the Lord wait so long to permit the posterity of Cain to receive the Priesthood? We don’t know! But as Isaiah says:

Isaiah55 “8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

We need not fret over the unknown, He says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”. Remember to keep in mind all of the promises he has made to us concerning our eternal happiness. We will one day see that all commandments are consistent with that happiness, even if we don’t see and understand it yet.

I think it’s hard to fully comprehend all things and reasons why the lord commands us to do things. But his ways are not our ways. I’ve often asked myself if there was no other way Nephi could have got the brass plates without the necessity of killing laban which is contrary to the lord’s commandments. Nevertheless the lord commanded it by the hand of Nephi, and it was a challenge of great faith by Nephi to be able to follow through, despite how faithful he had been that far in their journey. It goes to show that the lord must prove our faith in all things to be counted worthy.
Joseph Smith once said that if there was any other way the lord could have tried Abraham further than that of offering his son, he would have done it. We too must be tried at some point and somehow like Abraham.
Our faith is tried today as we live by commandments given in these latter days by our prophets. We neither see proof, nor most times have things even explained to us. Yet, it must be so as to try our faith.

Many claim that President Brigham Young and other early church leaders were racist and pro slavery, but the opposite is true. In referring to the ban on the priesthood:

“President Young felt it, however, to be his duty to make plain the attitude of the Mormon people in Utah on the subject. In an address to the legislature he said: “The Lord said I will not kill Cain, but I will put a mark upon him, and that mark will be seen upon the face of every negro upon the face of the earth; and it is the decree of God that that mark shall remain upon the seed of Cain until the seed of Abel shall be redeemed, and Cain shall not receive the priesthood, until the time of that redemption. Any man having one drop of the seed of Cain in him cannot receive the priesthood; but the day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have. I am opposed to the present system of slavery.” (Wilford Woodruff, His Life and Labors, comp. Matthias F. Cowley, p.351)

The church as a whole has never been racists, we have only followed the Lord’s will in faith, praying with hope and love for his blessings upon all of us.

How glorious the blessings of the Lord to live in this dispensation of the fullness of times and to have a prophet on the earth today who can receive revelation.