Saturday, April 15, 2017

My Awakening, Part 3 - Departing From the Right Way

Moroni tells us that one reason why God ceases to do miracles among us is because we "have departed from the right way" (Mormon 9:20).

What is the right way?
 29 And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out. (2 Nephi 25:29)
In Joseph's day, belief was more than accepting something as true, it was to "To expect or hope with confidence; to trust." (Webster's 1828 dictionary, believe) Therefore, to believe in Christ is to put your hope and trust in Him. To deny Him is to contradict, gainsay, disown, refuse, neglect to acknowledge, reject, and not receive or embrace Him. (Webster's 1828 dictionary, deny)

Today, it is estimated that there are 40,000 different "Christian" denominations worldwide. Presumably, every one of those denominations professes belief in Jesus Christ. Yet, how many of them actually believe in Him and deny him not? When Joseph asked the Lord which church to join, the Lord described the state of the Christian world.
"...they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof." (JS-H 1:19)
Anyone who believes in the restoration can agree that all Christian sects have departed from the right way, but what about the Latter-day Saints? Do we draw near to Him with our hearts and not just our lips? Do we teach His commandments, or the commandments of men? Do we have the power of godliness, or only a form thereof?

Even a casual reading of the Doctrine & Covenants will show that from the very beginning of the restoration, the Latter-day Saints had departed from the right way. Within two years of the organization of the Church, the Elders received a revelation that said:
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion. (D&C 84:54-58)
The saints in Jackson County, Missouri were commanded to build up Zion, but were suffering under great persecution. The Lord gave them this promise in August of 1833:
25 Nevertheless, Zion shall escape if she observe to do all things whatsoever I have commanded her.
26 But if she observe not to do whatsoever I have commanded her, I will visit her according to all her works, with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire. (D&C 97:25-26)
By December of that same year, the saints had been driven from their homes by mobs. The Lord explained why:
1 Verily I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted, and persecuted, and cast out from the land of their inheritance—
2 I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;
3 Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels.
4 Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.
5 For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.
6 Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.
7 They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.
8 In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me. (D&C 101:1-8)
The Lord also said the following concerning the saints in Kirtland:
19 Behold, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with many who are in the church at Kirtland;
20 For they do not forsake their sins, and their wicked ways, the pride of their hearts, and their covetousness, and all their detestable things, and observe the words of wisdom and eternal life which I have given unto them.
21 Verily I say unto you, that I, the Lord, will chasten them and will do whatsoever I list, if they do not repent and observe all things whatsoever I have said unto them.
22 And again I say unto you, if ye observe to do whatsoever I command you, I, the Lord, will turn away all wrath and indignation from you, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. (D&C 98:19-22)
God always promises to protect His people who keep His commandments, yet the saints were expelled from both Kirtland and Missouri because of their wickedness and hard hearts. The Lord gave them one more chance in Nauvoo. There, they were commanded to build a temple.
28 For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood. (D&C 124:28)
It should be emphasized here that the Lord had taken away the fulness of the priesthood at some time previous to this, because the saints had not lived worthy of it. The Lord now required the temple to be built so that it could be restored.
31 But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.
32 But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 124:31-32)
The seriousness of the situation for the saints here cannot be overstated. The Lord gave them sufficient time to build a temple. If they did not build it in that time, then they would be rejected as a church, with all their dead. That means that no amount of family history and temple work will matter, because the Lord would reject it. The Lord even goes on to say:
43 And ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it.
44 If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy.
45 And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.
46 But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them.
47 And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
48 For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord. (D&C 124:43-48)
So, what happened? Did they build the temple in the time given them? Did the Lord come to that temple, as promised?

3.5 years after the revelation in D&C 124 was received, Joseph and his brother Hyrum were martyred. According to Wikipedia, by that time the Nauvoo Temple was only 50% complete. The walls were built up to the second floor. You can actually see how far it was completed because of the martyr line. Before the death of Joseph and Hyrum, they used small bricks, but after the martyrdom, they decided to hurry and finish, so they began to use larger bricks so as to complete the walls faster. The new Nauvoo Temple (dedicated in 2002), in order to stay authentic with the original, replicated the martyr line. You can see pictures of it here.

There were buildings that were completed in the 3.5 year time frame, including houses for the church leaders, a Seventies’ Hall, and a Masonic Lodge. Following is an excerpt from Wikipedia on what happened to the temple.
 As mob violence increased during the summer of 1845, [Brigham Young] encouraged the Latter Day Saints to complete the temple even as they prepared to abandon the city, so portions of it could be used for Latter Day Saint ordinance, such as baptisms for the dead in the basement font. During the winter of 1845-46, the temple began to be used for additional ordinances, including the Nauvoo-era endowment, sealings in marriage, and adoptions.
The Nauvoo Temple was in use for less than three months.
Most of the Latter Day Saints left Nauvoo, beginning in February 1846, but a small crew remained to finish the temple's first floor, so that it could be formally dedicated. Once the first floor was finished with pulpits and benches, the building was finally dedicated in private services on 30 April 1846, and in public services on 1 May. In September 1846 the remaining Latter Day Saints were driven from the city and vigilantes from the neighboring region, including Carthage, Illinois, entered the near-empty city and vandalized the temple.
...around midnight on 8–9 October 1848, the temple was set on fire by an unknown arsonist. Nauvoo's residents attempted to put out the fire, but the temple was gutted...
After the fire of 9 October 1848, only the four exterior walls remained standing.
...On 27 May 1850, Nauvoo was struck by a major tornado which toppled one of the walls of the temple. One source claimed the storm seemed to "single out the Temple", felling "the walls with a roar that was heard miles away" (from
Here are some additional facts taken from historical sources:
  • The endowments performed in 1845-46 were performed in an unfinished attic. Canvas was used as temporary partitions in the attic to separate different areas used for the endowment.
  • On the February 9th, 1846, the roof caught fire and the attic was left badly damaged. It was never fully restored.
  • The public dedication of the temple occurred on May 1, 1846. By this time, most of the saints had already fled Nauvoo. "The Temple was dedicated in the presence of strangers and all who would pay one dollar for admittance."
  • On the third day of dedicatory services, "the Saints approved a resolution to sell the Temple and use the funds to help the poor in their move West."
Based on the above history, here are some questions to consider:

Did the saints build the temple in the sufficient time allotted by the Lord? (D&C 124:31)
Is there any record of the Lord coming to the temple and restoring that "which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood"? (D&C 124:28)
Were the saints "moved out of their place"? (D&C 124:45)
Considering what you know of what followed for the saints in the following years, would it be easier to characterize what they lived through as "blessings" or "cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments"? (D&C 124:48)

They say history repeats itself. Perhaps the Lord knew what was going to happen when he said:
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; (D&C 84:23-26)
The Lord wanted the saints to sanctify themselves, so that they could behold His face. They were commanded to build up Zion. Yet, the revelations show that they failed in Kirtland, they failed in Missouri, and they failed again in Nauvoo. Where are we today?

Joseph taught:
The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participate in and help to roll forward the Latter-day glory. (History of the Church, 4:609–10; from “The Temple,” an editorial published in Times and Seasons, May 2, 1842, p. 776; Joseph Smith was the editor of the periodical.)
Are we establishing Zion? Are we any closer to Zion today than the saints in Joseph's day? They attempted to build up Zion but failed. Are we even attempting it anymore? If not, then have we not departed from the right way?

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