Aaronic Priesthood, calling and election, God's hand, Israelites, latter-day saints, Melchizedek Priesthood, Moses, New Jerusalem, principles and ordinances of the gospel, Second Comforter, Second Coming, Zion
I was asked to talk today on “How I can learn to see Heavenly Father’s hand in all things.” The key word in that question is see. But in order to see, we must first have our eyes open and if our eyes are open, we need to ask ourselves what it is that we are focused on. In 3 Nephi 13:19-24, we read:
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
22 The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.
Jesus Christ is telling us to make a choice. We either focus on heavenly things or we focus on worldly things. There is only Zion and Babylon. There are only two churches, as Nephi explained many years before–the church of the Lamb of God and the church of the devil. There must be an opposition in all things and we can only choose one or the other.
When we were baptized and confirmed members of the church, we were commanded to “receive the Holy Ghost.” Only when we have obeyed and truly received this great gift can we know that we have truly been reborn. And one of the changes that is wrought in us by this literal baptism of fire is a powerful willingness to submit or to obey. It is this obedience out of love and faith that will lead us back to the Lord’s presence.
The question then begs to be asked, “have I been born again?” There are two great witnesses, which may be called to answer. The first is evidence in the fabric of your soul. If your life is filled with charity; if you have no more desire to sin; if your soul yearns for prayer and love of the Lord; if you have no more desire to accumulate wealth, power, position, worldly acclaim or honor; if all your hobbies, pastimes and possessions become nothing more than a child’s play things to be put away and forgotten; if these things are true without exception, then you have been reborn.
The second witness is the very source of truth, which is the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I remember when I experienced that mighty change of heart in my life. The Spirit poured into me like fire that lasted many days. I knew that I had been reborn. I had received the Holy Ghost, which has been my constant companion ever since. In D&C 88: 63 and 67 we read:
63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
67 And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
In ancient Egypt, after Joseph (who was sold into slavery and then freed to protect Egypt from famine) had brought his family to settle in Goshen, his family began to grow into a great nation. These Israelites had found themselves in bondage to Egypt. After their cries to the Lord, He did remember His covenant to bring them out of Egypt and lead them to a land of promise. It was His intention to bring them into His presence and not simply to free them from oppression just so that they could continue in their worldly ways. But to do this, they need to be washed and anointed and receive other ordinances. So Moses was commanded to build a tabernacle. In D&C 84:18-25 we read:
18 And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God.
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
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.
For all intents and purposes, the Israelites had a temple in their midst. Zion was in their grasp. And they rejected it. They enjoyed their freedom and their worldly ways too much. You could take the Israelites out of Egypt, but you couldn’t take Egypt out of the Israelites. And among their acts of idolatry, they built a golden calf to worship as proof.
Just as the Egyptians feared being outnumbered by the growing nation of Israel after Joseph’s death, so too did the early Americans of eastern cities fear being outnumbered by the growing membership of the early latter-day saints after Joseph Smith had restored Christ’s church. It was the Lord’s intention to bring them into His presence with the restoration of both priesthoods and the bringing forth of temple work and the establishment of New Jerusalem. However, because of divisions, contentions and their ultimate failure to follow Joseph Smith west to the Rocky Mountains and instead, convincing him to surrender after much persecution, Joseph was taken from them.
Despite ongoing persecution under Brigham Young’s leadership, the saints managed to build the Kirtland temple where ordinances could be performed. But like the ancient Israelites, the saints had failed to build up Zion. The greater (Melchizedek) priesthood was not taken, however, and Brigham Young led the saints west to the Rocky Mountains where they could try again.
Dispensations earlier, a young man named Enoch preached and prophecied to a very wicked generation. As a result of his great faith and great works, a city was built where they lived the law of consecration and where no poor lived among them. Enoch and his people walked with God and God dwelt among them. They had successfully built Zion. Because of their righteousness, they became a translated city. This is what the Lord was offering Moses and the people of Israel. This is what the Lord was offering Joseph Smith and the early latter-day saints. This is what has been offered to all the children of God in each dispensation since the days of Adam. And this is what God has been offering to us ever since.
Brothers and sisters, we have been under condemnation since the days of Joseph Smith for taking lightly our duty to obtain the fullness of the gospel, which is the fullness of the priesthood, which is the fullness of the Father. It is this fullness that parts the veil and brings us into Christ’s presence as the city of Enoch was brought into Christ’s presence. Remember that the lesser priesthood, which is the Aaronic Priesthood, is what endured with the ancient Israelites after Moses was taken from them. This priesthood contains only the preparatory gospel, which is faith, repentance and baptism.
But the greater priesthood contains much more. With the Melchizedek Priesthood, we can receive the everlasting gospel, which contains the ordinance of the baptism of fire, which is the gift of the Holy Ghost. But there are more. If Joseph Smith had published ten principles and ordinances of the gospel it might look something like this, although there are more:
Baptism (of water)
Baptism (of fire) or gift of the Holy Ghost
Washing and anointing
Calling and election
In Brigham Young’s journal of discourses, we read that when God dwelt with the people of Enoch, He taught them the great doctrines and principles of translation, for that is a doctrine the same as the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which is among the first principles of the plan of salvation. And we may also say that the doctrine of translation, which is intimately connected with that of the resurrection, is also one of the first principles of the doctrines of Christ. In Moses 1:39 we read:
39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Brothers and sisters, it is our privilege and our duty to continue on our journey beyond the first four principles and ordinances of the gospel; to purify ourselves continually; to seek our calling and election; to seek further light and knowledge always and to be led by the Spirit and to seek the face of the Lord. This is the purpose of temple ordinances that through our obedience to covenants made and through our worthiness, we can converse with Jesus Christ through the veil and find ourselves in His embrace.
We have been promised that if we ask, we will receive. If we seek, we shall find. And if we knock, it shall be opened. We must learn to take the Spirit for our guide when we are reborn, keeping our eye single to God’s glory, to begin to see His hand in all things. In D&C 84:54-58 we read:
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.
Can we remove this condemnation from us? Nephi takes great length to teach us plainly in his two books that we can. He emphasizes his entire message in a few short verses. In 2 Nephi 32:5-7 we read:
5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
6 Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.
7 And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.
Joseph Smith said in a sermon to the saints, “then I would exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until you make your calling and election sure for yourselves, by obtaining the more sure word of prophecy, and wait patiently for the promise until you receive it.” Many other prophets besides Joseph preached this doctrine. They continually tried to get the saints to develop a Zion stature. To my knowledge, the last prophet to publicly teach this was Marion G. Romney in the April 1977 session of general conference. He gave a beautiful talk. To summarize, he said:
“…When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John…I should think that all faithful Latter-day Saints “would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God…”
Since 1977, I have not heard another prophet or apostle with the possible exception of Bruce R. McConkie expound on such doctrine in public. Perhaps it is because as a membership that spans the globe, we simply are not seeking these things. Sure, we attend church most Sundays; maybe we do our home teaching assignments; maybe we read our scriptures once in a while; maybe we attend the temple if we can clear our schedules. But this is not enough. This does not make our eye single to His glory. This does not develop within us a Zion stature. We are commanded to serve with all our heart, might, mind and strength. We have made covenants in the temple, especially to live the law of consecration.
The ancient Israelites failed to build Zion as did the early latter-day saints of our dispensation. Only Enoch’s people succeeded in building Zion and thus they escaped the great cleansing that was the flood. Have we bid Babylon farewell and have we begun to build Zion in our hearts and in our homes? Brothers and sisters, another great cleansing is coming and the Lord has declared that upon His house will it begin and from His house will it go forth. He called it a day wrath; a day of burning; a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning and of lamentation.
The second coming of Jesus Christ when He comes in glory with the powers of heaven will not happen until Zion exists on the Earth. Zion will not exist on the Earth until New Jerusalem is built and New Jerusalem will not be built until there are saints who have fully developed an eye single to God’s glory and to His work. We can see His hand in all things as long as we open our eyes and purify ourselves and as Nephi exhorted us: to seek knowledge! In D&C 59:21 we read:
21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.
I testify that the Lord’s hand is in all things even today. I testify that miracles, even great miracles have not ceased, and that angels minister to us today, and that Jesus Christ does visit men today, and that He does open when we knock. In closing, I leave you with the words of the prophet, Mormon, which he wrote in an epistle to his son Moroni, which we read in Moroni 7:
27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?
29 And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.
30 For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.
36 Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain…
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.