FULL EFFECTS OF THE ATONEMENT: part 4 – Sanctification

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

Sanctification

We have seen that the first stage (resurrection and intersession) is given to everyone who lives on this earth. We have also seen how Justification is also given to everyone who does not come out in open rebellion. These are universal effects of the atonement. As the hymn says

No creature is so lowly,

No sinner so depraved,

But feels thy presence holy

And thru thy love is saved.

Tho craven friends betray thee,

They feel thy love’s embrace;

The very foes who slay thee

Have access to thy grace.

 

But, even though these things are universally given to all men, the last two stages of salvation are only made possible for those who properly seek them. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants “that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true” which tells us that all are justified. But we then read that “sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.” (D&C 20: 30-31) Thus we see that sanctification, unlike justification, is contingent on our personal worthiness, and it is this sanctification that is the third stage of our salvation.

To be sanctified means that one is set apart, or consecrated as being Holy unto God. The process of Sanctification is fairly well outlined in the Fourth Article of Faith, as it is these first principles that sanctify us. Jesus taught the Nephite Disciples that “this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” (3 Nephi 27: 20) So, those who believe in Christ must then repent, and be baptized. Then, when they are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, this gift sanctifies them and makes them holy.

This sanctification is the narrow gate that leads to the Celestial Kingdom and eternity with God the Father. It is salvation from endless separation from our Father. Only those who are born of water and the spirit will inherit this gift, and then only if they endure to the end.

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FULL EFFECTS OF THE ATONEMENT: part 3 – Justification

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

Justification

After the resurrection and intercession of Christ, then comes the judgment. Here, again, I think many people miss the full scope of the effects of the Atonement. At the judgment all men will be justified, with the exception of those Sons of Perdition that come out in open defiance of God. Paul, in writing to the Romans, made this very clear. He writes “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Romans 5: 18)

Let that sink in for a moment. All men are justified, thus all men will have their sins forgiven them. That is a free gift of the Atonement. Nothing we do can ever earn us forgiveness of sins, nor can we in anyway pay for this forgiveness. It is a free gift to all, with that one exception of those who come out in open defiance against God, for Christ himself declared in Matthew that “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men…neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Matthew 12: 31-32) So, justification is a free universal gift to all men, and this is salvation from the Second Spiritual death.

Through this justification men are raised out of Hell and brought into either the Telestial or Terrestrial glories. Those who receive of the Telestial are they who are truly wicked. John describes them as “…fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars…” (Revelation 21: 8). They will be the last to receive this justification through the Atonement, as the Lord told Joseph Smith “These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.” (D&C 76: 85). Those who receive of the Terrestrial the Lord describes as “honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men…These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.” (D&C 76: 75, 79). These were good men in mortality, but did not follow the fullness of the gospel.

Again let all this sink in. All but one sin will be forgiven eventually. The vilest murderer will be forgiven and justified, saved from the second spiritual death. This is true for, even though they will never return to the presence of the Father again, they will be ministered to by the Holy Ghost (D&C 76: 86), who is God, or a member of the Godhead. Thus even murderers will not be completely separated from that Divine influence. And thus the only ones that will suffer the second death are those sons of perdition that I mentioned earlier. The Lord has told us that “These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone…the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power; Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord…” (D&C 76: 36-38)

FULL SCOPE OF THE ATONEMENT: part 2 – Resurrection

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

Four Stages of Salvation

It is by the Atonement that salvation comes to mankind. So, to understand the full scope of the Atonement we must look at salvation and learn what it is. I find that this is easiest when we look at salvation as coming in four levels, or stages. I call the first Resurrection and Intersession; the second Justification; the third Sanctification; and the fourth and greatest Exaltation. These stages or levels are all made possible through the Atonement, and they come to us in the order that I have listed them. Each stage brings us salvation in some form, and each form is different. Let us look at each of these stages more closely.

 

Resurrection and Intersession

It is well known in the church that all who are born on this earth will be resurrected; that their spirit and physical body will be joined forever in immortality.  This is salvation from physical death, which is an effect of the fall of Adam.

It is less well known that the Intersession of Christ will bring all who are born on this earth back into the presence of the Father. This is salvation from the First Spiritual Death, which is defined as separation from God (Gospel Topics: Death, Spiritual at www.lds.org).

We know that both physical and spiritual death are the result of the Fall of Adam, as Alma tells us “the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death.” (Alma 42: 9) By this we also know that it was part of God’s plan to not only redeem us from the physical death, but from the spiritual death as well.

It is by the Atonement that salvation from these two deaths is made possible. While we all know everyone will be saved from physical death through the resurrection, Lehi taught us that “because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him.” (2 Nephi 2: 10) Thus all men are redeemed from the spiritual death through the intercession of Christ.

 

THE FULL SCOPE OF THE ATONEMENT: Part 1 – Grace

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

 

When speaking of the Atonement we must first remember that it is a specific event. It began in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Christ took upon himself the sins of the world. It ended when Christ was resurrected and glorified at the right hand of God. The Atonement was completed by Christ and is finished. We should not think of it as an ongoing event or process, nor should we think that anything we do can affect the Atonement in any way. Only Christ could perform the work necessary, and we are eternally indebted to him for doing so.

 

Grace: The Medium

However, while the Atonement is finished, its effect can be felt in our lives and continues to bless mankind throughout all ages. But, there must be a medium through which the Atonement is connected to our lives. That medium is what we refer to as Grace. Grace is the catalyst or activating agent, through which the effects of the atonement are applied to our lives.

In describing Grace the church writes:

“Grace is the help or strength given through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the grace of God, everyone who has lived will be resurrected—our spirits will be reunited with our bodies, never again to be separated. Through His grace, the Lord also enables those who live His gospel to repent and be forgiven.

Grace is a gift from Heavenly Father given through His Son, Jesus Christ. The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” Gospel Topics: Grace at www.lds.org

Thus all things come through grace, and without this activating power the Atonement would have no effect in our lives. We must remember this as we learn of the Atonement and what it does for each of us.

Little Known Propaganda: 16 – Apostates Become Wrinkled and Black

5 Sep

This is my continuing responses to the list of “little known facts” referenced at the blog Sound Doctrine. On this blog the author presents the list along with responses to each from a F.A.I.R. Mormon scholar, known only as CleanCut. In addition the author of this blog, known as Damon, gives a response to CleanCut. As I said in my introduction blog, I am writing a response to each fact in a lengthy series. I will not, however, comment on what CleanCut or Damon said.

See also Fact #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13a, #13b, #14, #15

 

FACT #16. Brigham Young claimed that those who leave the Mormon Church would turn “wrinkled” and “black.”

The following curse was pronounced by Brigham Young:

“. . .but let them apostatize, and they will become gray-haired, wrinkled, and black, just like the Devil.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 332)

There have been tens of thousands of people leave the Mormon Church – Where are the “black and wrinkled” ones?

 

As much as some may hate to admit it, this is an actual quote from Brigham Young. However, I see no problem with it, when you understand the full context of his comments. This is truly just another example of the author twisting the words of great men in order to make it appear as if they are guilty of something they are not.

So, here is the full context of the quote.

I feel to bless this people, and they are a God−blessed people. Look at them, and see the difference from their condition a few years ago! Brethren who have been on missions, can you see any difference in this people from the time you went away until your return? [Voices: “Yes.”] You can see men and women who are sixty or seventy years of age looking young and handsome; but let them apostatize, and they will become gray−haired, wrinkled, and black, just like the Devil.

Notice that Brigham Young is not speaking of just the physical characteristics of a person, but also of general appearance, or what could be called the countenance. Countenance is generally defined as “appearance, especially the look or expression of the face.” It is also true that Black has several uses, one being “boding ill; sullen or hostile; threatening.” This meaning is also used in the Bible by the prophet Jeremiah. He uses such phrases “For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black” (Jeremiah 8: 21), “they are black unto the ground” (Jeremiah 14: 2), and “Their visage is blacker than a coal” (Lamentations 4: 8). Some of these refer more to sullen or gloomy dispositions, but they are still used to describe the attitude, or countenance of the person rather than their physical features.

So, Brigham Young is saying that those who live the gospel of God are blessed with good health and vigor, and that their very appearance is brighter. On the other hand, those who apostatize are not so blessed, but will show the signs of age more acutely, and their expressions and mannerisms will be sullen or hostile; or, in other words, black.

 

Now, the author points out that many people have left the church, and asks where the black ones are. But in doing so he is trying to force the reader into believing that Brigham Young used the term as a physical description, and not in the way he was actually using it.

On another note I will admit that Brigham Young uses the term wrinkled, but since he has specifically referenced those who are 60 or 70 years old, I think wrinkles are hardly surprising if one is showing their age.

 

Also, leaving the church and apostatizing are not exactly the same thing, as the author implies. Leaving is a simple falling away and disinterest. Apostasy is much more involved, and those who truly are apostates do tend to become very hostile to the church. I have met some apostates, and I would describe their demeanor and basic character as black, as their only real goal seems to be tearing down and destroying what they once believed. They have no real desire to bring others to believe in Christ in anyway. As long as they can destroy the faith that they have come to hate, that is all that matters. This is a black character, and these kinds of people generally show their age more acutely, largely because such hatred stresses the body and wears it out faster.

Little Known Propaganda: 15 – Shake a Messenger’s Hand

4 Sep

This is my continuing responses to the list of “little known facts” referenced at the blog Sound Doctrine. On this blog the author presents the list along with responses to each from a F.A.I.R. Mormon scholar, known only as CleanCut. In addition the author of this blog, known as Damon, gives a response to CleanCut. As I said in my introduction blog, I am writing a response to each fact in a lengthy series. I will not, however, comment on what CleanCut or Damon said.

See also Fact #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13a, #13b, #14

 

FACT #15. Mormons are taught to “shake hands” with a messenger to determine if he is from God or if he is the devil.

The following information is found in Mormon scripture:

“When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you. If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand. . . . If it were the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.” (Doctrine and Covenants 129:4, 5, 8)

Rather than trusting in “feelings” the Bible commands us to: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (I Thessalonians 5:21)

 

On this point I think a closer, and more thorough, look at the passages in question is in order. After all, this Fact quotes only three verses. Thus a little more context will shed light on the matter; and section 129 of the Doctrine and Covenants is only 9 verses long.

1-3. There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones—For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.

Here we are taught that there are two types of heavenly beings. This is very significant. We are also taught what these two types are, and what the difference between them is. This is a radical idea, and shocking to some, for Joseph Smith is talking of heavenly beings as being men who once lived in mortality and have been glorified by God. It is a very new idea to many.

After this explanation of the types of heavenly beings, Joseph Smith then proceeds to tell us a means by which we may know which type they are, or if they are heavenly messengers at all.

4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.

This is a very simple thing, and, like Naaman the Syrian, many people in the modern day are offended that such a simple, and obviously mortal act, could be used to discern heavenly messengers. But, as Naaman learned, it is by simple means that God does some of the greatest work.

5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.

What could be more logical than the idea that it is possible to feel the hand of a being that has a physical body? If it is physical than surely it would be perceptible to the physical senses? So, what more natural way to determine if a messenger is an angel, who has a physical body?

6-7 If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.

And here is how a ministering spirit is known. Just as it is logical to assume that a being with a physical body can be felt, it is just as logical that a being without a physical body cannot. Knowing this a ministering spirit from heaven will not shake hands.

Now, it says this because it is contrary to heaven for him to deceive you. But how would this be a deception? It would merely prove that he is not yet resurrected, wouldn’t it? But this is explained next.

8 If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.

Devils, ever seeking to deceiving, will try to convince a person they are an angel from heaven by shaking your hand. But, as they are spirits, never having the privilege of being born into physical bodies (Bible Dictionary: Devil), we cannot feel them. This is just as logical as everything else stated in this section.

The reason ministering spirits are forbidden to shake hands is because the devils do try to. Thus, if the ministering spirits did they would be causing confusion and strengthening the deception of the devils. After all, it would be much harder to discern between a devil and ministering spirit if they both shook your hand and you didn’t feel it.

As I said, this is a radical idea to many, and may very well shock those who are not acquainted with the church and what it teaches. But is very logical in how it is presented, and the means given cannot be easily dismissed.

 

The author seems to want to refer us back to Fact #9, and his objection to inner feelings as testimonies of truth. While I have, in that article, shown that such inner feelings are biblical, they have no bearing on the issue at hand. This teaching is talking of physical sensation, not an emotion reaction. It is an attempt on the author’s part to mislead the reader by making a false association.

However, the author does give a biblical quote in an attempt to show that the bible teaching things differently. He quote Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians where he exhorts them to “Prove all things.” So, I would ask “How do we prove all things?” After all, Paul doesn’t actually give us any processes whereby such proof can be obtained. He simply tells us to obtain it.

How do we prove things? Well, in the case of ministering angels and spirits, we prove them through a handshake. There is nothing contradictory here. Joseph Smith has merely provided the means by which we may do as Paul has exhorted us.

Little Known Propaganda: 14 – 56 Year Prophecy

25 Aug

This is my continuing responses to the list of “little known facts” referenced at the blog Sound Doctrine. On this blog the author presents the list along with responses to each from a F.A.I.R. Mormon scholar, known only as CleanCut. In addition the author of this blog, known as Damon, gives a response to CleanCut. As I said in my introduction blog, I am writing a response to each fact in a lengthy series. I will not, however, comment on what CleanCut or Damon said.

See also Fact #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13a, #13b

 

FACT #14. In 1835 Joseph Smith prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord.

At a meeting called by Joseph Smith he instructed the Latter-day Saints that it was “the will of God” to go forth and “prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh-even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.” (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 182) Eight years later he reinforced this by stating:

“I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written – the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till 1 am eighty-five years old.” (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 336)

These are obvious False Prophesies which would make Joseph Smith a False Prophet.

 

Before I address the full claims being made here, I would like to point out first that this fact is completely true, as it is stated initially. Joseph Smith did indeed prophesy concerning the coming of Christ. Of course, so did almost every other prophet who ever lived, so it should not be surprising that Joseph Smith would as well.

However, what the author is really trying to do is claim as fact his opinion that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. He doesn’t state that as part of the fact, of course, but that is the intention of including this in the list.

 

On this point, of Joseph being a false prophet, the author provides two different references to where Joseph Smith spoke concerning the coming of Christ. Let us look at each separately.

 

His first reference is from the second volume of the History of the church, and comes from the minutes of a meeting that Joseph Smith had called on February 14, 1835 in Kirtland. At this meeting all those “who journeyed last season to Zion for the purpose of laying the foundation of its redemption” were called together. After opening the meeting Joseph called the men together and addressed them regarding their service in Zion’s Camp. It was at this meeting, on the second day, that the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was chosen, and soon after that the first Quorum of the Seventies was called.

In the context of this meeting we are given a summary of what Joseph Smith said to the brother. The minutes were taken by a scribe and recorded in the History of the Church. In this record we read that Joseph

“gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending while journeying to Zion…and said God …had it in remembrance yet; and it was the will of God that those who went Zion…should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.”

What was being said here? It is clear that the subject was the calling of the men of Zion’s Camp to the ministry, in preparation of the coming of the Lord. However, the exact words are not known, and thus the exact meaning is not known.

If it is calculated 56 years from the year 1835, brings us to the year 1891. We know that Christ did not return in that year, but there is something else of note that did happen. By the year 1891, all of the original 12 apostles were dead. From all I have been able to discover, the seven presidents of the Quorum of the Seventy were also dead. A little extra research is needed, but it appears that all members of Zion’s Camp had died by the year 1891. So, it would appear that 56 years did, in fact, wind-up the scene of the ministry that these men were called to.

 

 

Now, the second reference seems even more damning, as it is in Joseph Smith’s own words. However, if you look at what he is saying, and look at the context, you will see that what he said did, in fact, come to pass. So, let us see the full quote.

I was once praying earnestly upon this subject, and a voice said unto me, “My son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years of age, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man.” I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this; and I took the liberty to conclude that if I did live to that time, He would make His appearance. But I do not say whether He will make his appearance or I shall go where He is. I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written—the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old.

So, the only definite thing that Joseph Smith prophesied was that Christ would not come before he was 85 years old. That would have been the year 1891 again, and we can all agree that Christ did not come before that year. As such, Joseph Smith’s statement was perfectly fulfilled.

Beyond this, Joseph Smith himself stated that he was unsure of what to make of the revelation given, and that it could have reference to Joseph’s death, and thus him seeing Christ beyond the veil.

Then, to take the reference even farther, we read the following from Joseph Smith in the next paragraph of the record.

Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. …all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven…as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.

So, far from saying that Christ would return in the year of 1891 (or the year Joseph would turn 85), Joseph made it clear that many things had to happen before the Lord would return, and that it would not happen until sometime after the year 1891, and not before.

None of this is in error, and thus Joseph Smith is once again shown to be a prophet.