Sunday, July 22, 2018

What is the Iron Rod? (Part 4)

In my last two posts, I examined the written scriptures and the teachings or commandments of men. I found that they both fall short of the standard of the iron rod. While they both can and do provide light and truth, they also can contain error, contradiction, and darkness. Today, I want to look at personal revelation.

What role does personal revelation play in our path back to God’s presence? Does personal revelation meet the standard of the iron rod, providing a straight, unerring path back to the tree of life?

Joseph Smith wrote: no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God, so no man knows the spirit of the Devil, and his power and influence, but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysterious operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious windings.
Did you catch that? The devil can have an “angelic form”, a “sanctified look and gesture”, and a “zeal” for the glory of God”. He can appear “prophetic”, “gracious”, of a “godly appearance”, wearing a “holy garb”.

Joseph continued:
A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power and baneful effects. Long pilgrimages have been undertaken, penances endured, and pain, misery, and ruin have followed in their train; nations have been convulsed, kingdoms overthrown, provinces laid waste, and blood, carnage and desolation are habiliments in which it has been clothed. 
The Turks, the Hindus, the Jews, the Christians, the Indian in fact all nations have been deceived, imposed upon, and injured through the mischievous effects of false spirits.
He didn’t exempt the Latter-day Saints from feeling this influence, as he also added:
...who can drag into daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day Saints?
Anyone familiar with the restoration knows the story about how Joseph and Martin Harris lost the 116 pages of the Book of Lehi. We know now that Joseph erred at that time in that he trusted more in the persuasions of men than in the counsels of God. Toward the end of his life, David Whitmer, one of the 3 witnesses to the Book of Mormon, wrote a letter in which he related another story about Joseph that I think teaches a powerful lesson.
“...How easy it is for a man to drift into errors, and think at the time that he is doing God's will. Brethren, few of us know how wily and cunning Satan works, and how easy a man can be deceived and led into errors. Satan works in many ways to lead the spiritual man into error step by step. I will state a few facts concerning some of Brother Joseph's errors in the beginning, also the errors of us all, in order to show you these most important truths, viz: How humble and contrite in heart a man must be to receive revelations from God: and how very weak man is, and how liable to be led into error, thinking at the time that he is doing God's will. 
At times when Brother Joseph would attempt to translate, he would look into the hat in which the stone was placed, he found he was spiritually blind and could not translate. He told us that his mind dwelt too much on earthly things, and various causes would make him incapable of proceeding with the translation. When in this condition he would go out and pray, and when he became sufficiently humble before God, he could then proceed with the translation. Now we see how very strict the Lord is; and how he requires the heart of man to be just right in His sight, before he can receive revelation from him. 
When the Book of Mormon was in the hands of the printer, more money was needed to finish the printing of it. We were waiting on Martin Harris who was doing his best to sell a part of his farm, in order to raise the necessary funds. After a time Hyrum Smith and others began to get impatient, thinking that Martin was too slow and under transgression for not selling his land at once, even if at a great sacrifice. Brother Hyrum thought they should not wait any longer on Martin Harris, and that the money should be raised in some other way. Brother Hyrum was vexed with Brother Martin, and thought they should get the money by some means outside of him, and not let him have anything to do with the publication of the Book, or receiving any of the profits thereof if any profits should accrue. He was wrong in thus judging Bro. Martin, because he was doing all he could toward selling his land. Brother Hyrum said it had been suggested to him that some of the brethren might go to Toronto, Canada, and sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon for considerable money: and he persuaded Joseph to inquire of the Lord about it. Joseph concluded to do so. He had not yet given up the stone. Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copy-right, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father's house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Canada. Well, we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil." So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man. When a man enquires of the Lord concerning a matter, if he is deceived by his own carnal desires, and is in error, he will receive an answer according to his erring heart, but it will not be a revelation from the Lord. This was a lesson for our benefit and we should have profited by it in future more than we did. Without much explanation you can see the error of Hyrum Smith in thinking evil of Martin Harris without a cause, and desiring to leave him out in the publication of the Book; and also the error of Brother Joseph in listening to the persuasions of men and enquiring of the Lord to see if they might not go to Toronto to sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon, when it was made known to Brother Joseph that the will of the Lord was to have Martin Harris raise the money.”
The counsel "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil." was confirmed later in a revelation given in March 1831 wherein the Lord said:
But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.
Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; (D&C 46:7-8) 
So, the Lord can and does reveal His will to us by revelation, but we must be humble and ever watchful, lest we are deceived. Evil spirits can appeal to our pride and ambitions, our lusts, our unbelief, or anything about which we are weak. So, the Lord says "beware lest ye are deceived". Is revelation, therefore, the iron rod, upon which we can hold fast to without hesitation? Is it the means that multitudes laid hold upon to enter into eternal life? Haven't multitudes been deceived by that same power?

Seeing now that the scriptures, the words of men, and even personal revelation all fall short of the perfect standard of the iron rod, what did God mean by representing His word as a rod of iron? The whole world, and everything in it, is subject to corruption and error because the hearts of men are corrupt and desperately wicked. So, how could there be something like an unerring guide in this world that leads to eternal life? And how could it exist so that it was within the capacity of many multitudes to lay hold upon it and “cling to” or “hold fast” to it? Where can one go to find the Word of God, unspoiled by man?

This is the question that has troubled me for a long time. It was confusing to me such that I could see how anything could fit the description of an iron rod as seen in Lehi's dream. I prayed many times for understanding. After a great while, the answer was given to me. This is the thing that I have wanted to share. I now believe there IS an iron rod. Next week, I hope to share what it is and how I came to that answer.

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