LDS Gospel Topics
Principles of Full Salvation
Scriptures Pertaining to The Mysteries
Why Salvation is a Family Matter
Oath & Covenant of the Priesthood
Intercesson - A Case Study
The Spirit World & the Gates of Heaven
The only way to obtain truth and wisdom, is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer
and obtain divine teaching. (WoJS, 3 Oct 1841, Times & Seasons 2: 15 Oct. 1841, pp 577-78).
Principles of Full Salvation
We have been clearly given to understand that the very existence and purpose of God is to bring to pass the “immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), which we understand to be the essence of the kind of life that God experiences. We may then reasonably assume that God holds Himself responsible to provide the realization of this opportunity to each one of us, though obviously predicated upon certain conditions.
We may also conclude that obedience to the church ordinances and endurance to gospel commandments are a prerequisite to the objectives of full salvation which include eternal family units and procreation, celestial glory and ultimately the creation and administration of our own worlds.
So, is this really what is an actual process with us, or are we missing some details?
In relation to this thought, how seriously do we take the Savior’s injunctions to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect?” (Matt 5:48) Well, we can be perfect in the ordinances, and many of us can even be rather good at the basic commandments. We can be good at living the forms of the gospel. So were the Jews.
We are told that Moses sought diligently to sanctify the tribes of Israel so that they might behold the face of God, but they balked and would rather have Moses intercede and explain things to them. We may think them ignorant but then we, with very few exceptions to this point, have not done any better. Are we perhaps listening, but not understanding?
How do we know where we stand with God? If we have our bodies in all the right places and at the right times so that we can put all the check marks in the check boxes does that mean we are on track? Do we then have a ticket on the Celestial Train which will eventually drop us off at the Celestial Station…where we may live happily ever after, surrounded by loved ones?
We would here suggest that we may be particularly good at living the forms of our religion and be no better off than the Jews who rejected Christ. When we view, for instance, what the early saints in this dispensation suffered for their faith and how many apostatized even after witnessing the golden plates, angels and miracles? When we read of the mortal challenges faced by saints of earlier dispensations, might we not question if we really understand what is required?
So, aren’t the brethren and the scriptures telling us what we need to know and do? The answer is, of course, in the affirmative. We are taught throughout all the scriptures, ancient and modern, and throughout all the conference addresses what we need to do…that is, to find out what we need to do.
What we really need to know are the mysteries. Not the distance to Kolob or the location of the lost ten tribes. We need to know the mysteries of godliness and how to acquire godly traits (the number of scriptures that attest to this are too numerous to reference). By in large we are not doing this. People who avoid any responsibility for the “the mysteries,” or the “greater knowledge” by ignorantly wrapping themselves in a cloak they refer to as the “mainstream of the church” will find themselves woefully unprepared for the hereafter.
The Law of Moses was a schoolmaster to bring Israel to Christ. The Church and Kingdom of God on earth is also a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Living the forms are necessary and provide the keys to obtain the “greater knowledge” that is also necessary. But if we do not learn and apply the principles of sanctification and personal repentance, we are no better than the ancient Jews.
In the Lectures on Faith the Prophet Joseph explains that salvation consists of being “assimilated” into [the] likeness of god” and that upon “this hinge turns the door of salvation.” (JS Lectures on Faith, 7:16) This is not some magic that happen to us upon or after death, for that same spirit which possess our body when we go out of this life shall have power over us in the eternal world (Alma 34:34). This spirit is not referring to some demon, it is referring to our personal spirit.
Our spirit comes to mortality armed with the lessons it learned in the pre-mortal realm and arrives with essentially a clean slate covered by the Atonement. However, the spirit we take with us through the veil of death is that same spirit with the acquired lessons, habits and dispositions it has accumulated in its mortal experiences. If it has not overcome all things it is arriving there with taint, addictions and emotional and spiritual baggage. Though a certain degree of baggage is inevitable, there is an attainable threshold of repentance and personal acquisition of the Divine Nature required of each of us in mortality.
We are to seriously come unto Christ…with a broken heart and contrite spirit…regularly…daily (3 Ne 12:19). The Old Testament temple worship of the daily oblation or sacrifice—morning and evening, is the sacrifice replaced by the broken heart and contrite spirit and a clue to its potential frequency of exercise (D&C 59:8, 3 Ne 12:18-20).
What is the broken heart and contrite spirit really about? It is a spiritual weeping and godly sorrow intrinsically involved with repentance. It is a gift from the Father as a result of true repentance. Without it there is no genuine repentance (See 2 Ne 2:7). Without it there is no gift of the Divine Nature that replaces the weakness or sin that hopefully brought us to our knees—the one the Lord revealed to us…because we asked Him to know what it was we should be repenting of.
This is the marvelous key as to how our fallen nature is changed to become incrementally more like that of our Savior and the Father. It may help to appreciate that the Law of the Father is a perfect law that accommodates no sin whatsoever. By virtue of the Father’s perfect law no flesh could be saved. It is through the Savior’s Atonement and its attendant Law of Redemption that salvation is possible. So, we also need to understand that salvation requires perfection. At some point the Savior must present us to the Father without spot, that is with our having acquired a personal character that can dwell with God, the Holiest Being in the universe. And as Joseph Smith indicated, to live with God we must be like Him.
We have long been told that God’s grace only works for us, “after all we can do.” Well, what does that mean? It means, as King Benjamin tells us, to obtain and retain a “remission of sins from day to day” (Mosiah 4:26). It means sanctifying ourselves and maintaining that state. Enduring to the end is not just making all our meetings and ministering assignments until we die. It means consistently raising our level of Light and Truth and our capacity to do God’s will until we can be taken to paradise where we will continue to be ministering servants or angels there. This was and is our objective before mortality, in mortality and after mortality. It is the purpose of life. It is the purpose of eternal life.
Unfortunately, many members of the church tend to view repentance as pertaining mainly to serious sins. Rather, it actually pertains to every character flaw that separates us from beholding God’s face and dwelling in His presence. There is never a time in mortality when we cannot continue to learn line-upon-line and precept-upon -precept as the Spirit of the Lord enlarges our understanding of Godly things—until we receive all that is necessary for us to pass through the veil and enter into the rest of the Lord. Through symbolism the temple ceremony teaches the ideal manner of prayer (e.g. dictated by the Spirit of the Lord) and the manner in which the necessary personal information is received in order to pass through the veil into the Celestial world (e.g. personally from the Lord).
Since “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” (D&C 131:6). The question is, ignorance of what? Answer: Ignorance of God’s will... God’s will for us…God’s daily will for us…and a knowledge of where we stand with Him. In order to be among the wise virgins, we must have taken the Holy Spirit for our guide, which requires we are doing the things which allows and engenders the Holy Spirit. This requires repentance and personal revelation. Indeed, repentance is the price of personal revelation.
"The doctrine of the priesthood is known only by personal revelation. It comes, line upon line and precept upon precept, by the power of the Holy Ghost to those who love and serve God with all their heart, might, mind, and strength." (Italics added, See D&C 98:12) Bruce R McConkie, The Doctrine of the Priesthood, Priesthood session, Apr. 1982) Also, President’s Nelson’s very first conference topics as prophet were that of repentance…daily repentance (We Can Do Better and Be Better, Priesthood Session, April 2019) and personal revelation (Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives, April 2018).
When the bell rings for us…that is, when we begin to understand what is actually required, it becomes necessary to apply these principles daily and to maintain this consistent walk of sanctification through the reminder of our life—so that we may be permitted to continue to progress in the gifts and attributes of God and godliness. Our daily activities will acquire a more eternal nature. We acquire new power to raise and lift others. When we humbly put our agency upon the altar, we become useful to the Lord in new ways and we begin to see the world with new eyes, and we find that peace which transcends all worldly things.
Finally, here are some pertinent words from the Lord through the prophet Moroni, who wrote this specifically to us.:
Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief. Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief. Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel. Ether 4:13-15
And also through the prophet, Joseph Smith:
Reading the experience of others, or the revelations given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience in these things, through the ordinance of God set forth for that purpose…The disappointment of hopes and expectations at the resurrection [of those who do not acquire this knowledge], would be indescribably dreadful. That the organization of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, and of spiritual and heavenly beings, was agreeably to the most perfect order and harmony—that their limits and bounds were fixed irrevocably, and voluntarily subscribed to by themselves—subscribed to upon the earth—hence the importance of embracing and subscribing to principles of eternal truth. He [Joseph Smith] assured the saints that truth in reference to these matters, can, and may be known, through the revelations of God in the way of his ordinances, and in answer to prayer. 9 Oct 1843 Times and Seasons 4 (15 Sep 1843): 331-32.
A doctrine or gospel "mystery" is a truth that cannot be known or understood except through divine revelation.
Scriptures Pertaining to The Mysteries
The purpose of this discussion was prompted by the idea, often expressed among Latter-Day Saints, that “the mysteries” are to be avoided and that the so-called “mainstream” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints represents a safe haven from such temptations.
Now if the mysteries alluded to have to do with topics such as the medieval monks pondering how many angels can stand on the head of a pin or more recent conjectures about the location of Kolob and how many of the ten tribes are living under the polar ice cap, steering clear of these makes perfect sense.
However, an aversion to the mysteries is not taught by the scriptures. As there are clearly mysteries that pertain to an understanding of who we worship, His attributes and the principles upon which our salvation rests taught by the scriptures, it behooves us to consider them. And if the mainstream of the Church were actually devoid of the mysteries it would be a sad commentary on the so-called mainstream. An examination of Holy Writ on this subject can actually be a little scary. The following are a small sampling of the scriptures relating to this topic (with italics added):
1 Ne 10:19: For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.
Alma 12:9: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the b lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.
Alma 26:22: Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God…
D&C 6:7: Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.
D&C 42:61: If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.
D&C 63:23: But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.
D&C 76:5-10: For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory. And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations. And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught. For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man.
D&C 84:19: 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.
D&C 93:28: He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
D&C 107:18-19: The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
King Benjamin teaches his people and us the principles of humility, dependence upon God, the need of a broken heart for sin and a mighty change in our nature and that we enter into a covenant to serve God. I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view. (Mosiah 2:9) And it is by humility, a regular repentant soft and broken heart and by personal covenants that a remission of sins is obtained and retained from "day to day" (see Mosiah 2:26).
The above is merely a sample of the emphasis placed throughout all the scriptures on the importance of understanding the mysteries of God and the mysteries of godliness…that is how we are to become gods through the principles and path of sanctification.
So, what exactly are these mysteries that we are clearly told to acquire and understand? Though the above scriptures are rife with clues the catch is that they, the mysteries of God and godliness, are only truly understood by those to whom they are revealed, “…for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.” (D&C 76:16-18) And it would seem that being able to bear His presence in the world of glory would certainly apply to occupying a place in the Celestial Kingdom.
It should be clear at this point that a knee-jerk avoidance of any consideration of gospel mysteries may be a formula for failure to achieve what the Lord has intended for the faithful. In fact, we may observe that Satan loves this kind of obfuscation of important terms and concepts. The mysteries the Lord has for us are the keys to the necessary spiritual transformation that celestial glory and residence requires. We cannot live with God unless we are in a serious and effective process of becoming more like Him.
However, the grand key that unlocks this knowledge is an even more common theme of the scriptures. It is simply application of the principle of repentance. It is by and through repentance that the mysteries of God and godliness are revealed and acquired. The most common misunderstanding about repentance is that it was instituted, as symbolized by the ancient daily temple sacrifice, as a daily activity…even a daily necessity.
Is there ever a time in our mortal progression that we have arrived and no longer need to acquire knowledge “line upon line and precept upon precept”? 2 Joseph Smith stated that salvation requires knowledge and that if we do not have sufficient knowledge some being form the unseen world will have power over us. Acquiring a knowledge of the necessary mysteries of full salvation requires personal revelation. And personal repentance could be considered to be the price of personal revelation, the exercise of which guarantees King Benjamin’s admonished object of obtaining and retaining “a remission of sins from day to day.” (Mosiah, op.cit.)
One can have shelves of church and gospel related books full of underlining and not understand the very basics of salvation. The path to the Celestial Kingdom not only requires having checks in all the appropriate check-boxes (which is simply living the forms, like the law of Moses) but also repenting of all our sins. Our sins, past and present (e.g. daily), all stand as sentinels preventing our entrance into the realms of heaven. The mysteries of God and godliness have to do with placing our sins on the altar and getting rid of them…all of them. This is not magic, and the process does not defy logic. Rather, it requires an active participation in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As we make the necessary offerings of repentance and service we receive the necessary instructions (revelation) of how to proceed and we receive the necessary changes in our character as each sin is removed and replaced by the appropriate “gift of the divine nature.”
We must exercise caution that we do not emulate the ancient Jews who were always looking beyond the mark and missing the true nature of salvation. There are many modern-day Pharisees among us and rafts of books devoid of the actual knowledge that saves. It is unfortunate that since the works of Hugh Nibley so many authors feel the need to emphasize scholasticism over spiritual knowledge.1 When people write books and teach for money and honor we should expect to be careful with the contents of their work. There is seldom a commentary that replaces or exceeds what one might receive from the Spirit of the Lord pertaining to a particular passage of pondered scripture.
If one or more of the three Nephites appeared to us, what instructions would we likely receive? Besides calling us to repentance, which is their main function, would they tell us to read more church books, attend more seminars, tune into more podcasts? Not likely. Rather they would tell us to spend more time with the actual scriptures and the Book of Mormon in particular. You know, the most perfect of all books. Then, of course, there is the Doctrine and Covenants and conference talks, which actually contains revelations specifically for our day…and do this prayerfully, seeking revelation. And in our prayers to ask the Lord what to repent of…each day.
If we do these things, we will find great treasures of knowledge taught to us by the Spirit of the Lord and in a manner that cannot be duplicated by any other means. In effect, we will have been taught directly by the Lord. This is how we are to pass through the veil of death and also pass by the sentinels that are set there and receive our exaltation.
The resultant incremental gifts of the divine nature, accrued through valiant testimony, daily repentance and acceptable offerings of service and broken hearts, constitute and facilitate the path of character and personality transformation that lead to an ultimate celestial version of our still unique identity and to our personal godhood.
Though extremely erudite in many fascinating subjects, Dr. Nibley understood that the actual road to higher knowledge was opened and sojourned by virtue of daily repentance.
"The doctrine of the priesthood is known . It comes, line upon line and precept upon precept, by the power of the Holy Ghost to those who love and serve God with all their heart, might, mind, and strength." (Italics added, See D&C 98:12) Bruce R McConkie, , Apr.1982, General Conference, Priesthood session, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
And Saviors shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau (Obed 1: 21)
[The mount of Esau are those who, like Esau, have sold their birthright]
Why Salvation is a Family Matter
To introduce this topic, we call attention to two revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants in which we have interesting instances in which early church members were apparently held responsible by the Lord for the eternal fate of their ancestors:
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 134:32 Italics added)
It is contrary to the will and commandment of God that those who receive not their inheritance by consecration, agreeable to his law, which he has given, that he may tithe his people, to prepare them against the day of vengeance and burning, should have their names enrolled with the people of God. Neither is their genealogy to be kept, or to be had where it may be found on any of the records or history of the church. D&C 85:3-4 Italics added)
Though the Lord was, in each case, clearly emphasizing the importance of obedience to His commands to: 1) build a temple, and 2) to keep law of consecration covenants that had been made, we may, for the present purpose, take note of the seeming threat to the salvation of the saint’s ancestors.
To these remarkable declarations by the Lord, we include here what seems another pertinent account relative to ancestral responsibility— a visit by the Prophet Joseph to President Brigham Young several years after the Prophet’s death. During this conversation from beyond the veil President Young asked the Prophet if he had a message for the members. He responded that if they if they would get the Holy Ghost they would go “just right.” The Prophet further went on to explain that in the pre-mortal councils every generation of the earth was organized down to the last man but that because of darkness the world lay in chaos (in other words disrupting the original inspired order). (Documentary History of the Church, Feb 17, 1847, also in Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878),
Perhaps also relevant, the Prophet Joseph likewise appeared at a later date to Wilford Woodruff, though hardly having time to talk, which discussion left Elder Woodruff marveling at the level of activity among the heavenly host. He had supposed that the faithful would get to rest after death but was informed that this dispensation had not this luxury (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p.288-89).
If we connect the dots it seems not unreasonable to assume that our generational lines were organized in the beginning and likely reorganized from time to time as difficulties and darkness prevailed on the earth and upset the original order of our lineages. It seems also likely that one of the reasons the heavenly host are so busy is that they are trying to get the right people together in each generation to preserve and restore blood lines, facilitate mortal bodies for spirits with latter-day commissions as well as to protect mortals from the constant threat of temptation and destruction.
It seems instructive that since some early saints were twice threatened with being expelled from the kingdom along with their dead, a natural question would be: why should member’s ancestors be punished for the deeds or lack of diligence of their mortal descendants? The answer seems clear—that there is an undeniable accountability at work here. Surely we, the living, are here in this dispensation not only because the Lord agreed to it, but also because we were selected by the members of our progenitor lineages to be the ones to come here in this last dispensation, accept the gospel, and do their work in the temples—that is, to be Saviors on Mount Zion. Consequently, we were perhaps, according to this reasoning, among the best spirits that they had to offer!
Notwithstanding this fairly obvious consideration, we will here submit that there is even more to this issue of accountability. If we are truly to be saviors to our ancestry, we also have ancestral chains to deal with. Over the generations since the last dispensation while the world labored in darkness Satan had his way without much opposition on earth and no saving ordinances—leaving many generations of the spirits of the dead bound in spirit prison. And even though the gospel has been preached among these people in the realm of spirits, they have still labored under the burdens their spirits acquired during their previous mortal experiences without the benefit of redeeming ordinances and the gift of the Holy Ghost. In fact, many were in such darkness that it is unlikely they were even able to receive the gospel message. Certainly, acceptance of the gospel message from Christ’s death and resurrection until now was not universal—nor did it mean universal exaltation for those who have accepted the gospel in the spirit world.
It may be helpful to realize that the acceptance of the gospel message and ordinances whether here or in the spirit world may provide a remission of past sins, it does not wipe out all habitual tendencies nor does it install an absolute or even the minimal necessary understanding of the application of saving truths. The incremental accomplishments of the covenant path must be worked out there as well as here with determination and even with “fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12, Morm 9:27, Teachings p.76, 334, 347) 1
We also understand that the sins of the fathers were and are visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation. And it has been our experience that if the third or fourth generation has not repented of these sins the cycle will be repeated and perhaps with some additions. Though the spirits of the dead have, upon conversion, the opportunity “that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit,” (2 Pet 4:6) they still face many of the same types of challenges and learnings that mortals do including overcoming their negative dispositions and lack of knowledge. Line-upon-line and precept-upon-precept is the program there just as well as here.
We suspect that few understand the challenge that this dispensation faces with respect to its objectives and conditions including some outlined here. The saints in the meridian of times faced threats to their survival for merely taking the name of Jesus upon their lips. The early saints in this dispensation faced persecution, threats to their lives, moving to and fro and the sacrifice of all their worldly goods. By comparison, even though many of the “signs of the times” are clearly upon us, the greatest challenge we have currently could very well be complacency.
Rather than operating on assumptions, it is incumbent upon us to find out where we stand with respect to the requirements of this dispensation and our progress within the covenant path. Joseph Smith stated that unless people “have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint.” (Lectures on Faith, for more in depth see footnote) 2. This knowledge of our personal situation relative to our salvation requires personal revelation and sacrifice. Our prescribed manner of worship requires making and keeping covenants (temple covenants and personal covenants with God) and is important not only for our own welfare and salvation but also those within our stewardships, family and lineage. And this knowledge is not available without personal revelation and offerings in the similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten.
In the process of sanctifying ourselves we are not only obligated to see that our ancestor’s temple work is done to the extent possible, but we are also obligated to some extent to free them from their mental, emotional and spiritual bondage. We have been given to understand repeatedly by our leaders that it is easier to repent (meaning to change our behavior, attitudes, dispositions and beliefs) here in mortality than after death. This same disadvantage exists among all the spirits in the spirit world who did not take constant repentance seriously while in the flesh—whether out of ignorance or knowingly, and whether before the Restoration or since.
Since the Prophet Joseph explained that, “they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect,”(D&C 128:15) there is likely more to this link with our forebearers than meets the eye. Some of our ancestors, due to the difficult circumstances of their mortal lives, are in no condition to accept the gospel in the spirit world. They are stuck in darkness experiencing mental loops of negative emotions. Satan does his work on them in mortality and sends them through the veil wrapped in chains of emotional and spiritual servitude—a program still very successful today, including among Latter-Day saints.
For some of our ancestors, due to their lives of integrity and often against the odds, they may have relatively clear sailing after death. But for most, this is not the case. Consequently, their problems are often our problems. In many cases we may also have inherited their negative traits and dispositions. This fact, that of the existence of transgenerational inheritances for the living of ancestral character traits, dispositions and the effects of trauma, are now clearly supported by science. Though still little understood we now know that such related effects are preserved in an epigenetic manner over several generations.(See, for example: https://www.neuro-genix.com/research, Stress, PTSD and Holocaust Studies & https://www.neuro-genix.com/appendix-b, Generational Effects Manifest in the Living)
When we, through effective personal repentance, break these generational chains we empower our kindred on the other side of the veil. There are also other things we can do for them besides breaking the particular chains we have inherited (and these are typically distributed throughout the members of our living family just like our ancestral DNA). The Prophet Joseph instructed, for example, that if there are those [on the other side of the veil] for whom we have much affinity, “we may pay the depts they owe.” (WJS, pp.321,323) One of the ways this works, besides repenting of our version of their sins, is to pray for them and volunteer with the Lord to carry their burdens in order to assist their repentance. By this manner we may become, “the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in” (Isa 58:12).
This form of intercession, when permitted and directed by the Spirit of the Lord, can also be done for living family members and friends. The bearing of burdens for others, that their burdens “may be light” (Mosiah 18:8) is a form of offering up “sacrifice in the similitude of the Only Begotten” (D&C 138:13) and it is our experience that this can be done for the dead as well as for the living—though only with permission and direction by the Lord through personal revelation (hence the importance of personal revelation).
With respect to full salvation, it is both individual and collective. Ideally, we are saved as family units or at least with as many family members and ancestors as possible. In our clinical work in which we are monitoring personal frequencies (measures of personal subject’s Light and Truth) we find that warm family reunions upon the death of regular active church members are the exception rather than the rule.
Our testing indicates this is because many mortal members have not acquired enough spiritual integrity or internalized enough Light and Truth to reside in a requisite level of paradise upon death. They are taking their unrepentant sins and dispositions with them that should have been dealt with here. There are sentinels there by whom they cannot pass.3 This situation is, unfortunately, not unusual as we tend to misunderstand the level of repentance and change required of us. Though we may slip by here, we do not get away with anything on the other side of the veil. If we have not been on a consistent path of acquiring the characteristics of godliness while in the flesh we will find that there is no cheating the laws of justice there. For the saints, there may still be some limited opportunity for repentance there, however no negative or insufficient character trait will be overlooked.4
It is not just big things that mortals and spirits of the dead must repent of—it is the little and big things, all of them. It is the daily program of dealing with these that provides the Lord the opportunity to change us and our dead to the extent necessary to dwell with Him. It is the humble soft and broken heart and godly sorrow for each and every sin that unlocks the keys of the Atonement and that of a celestial character. It is also this process that opens the channels of personal revelation and the power to fulfill the covenants we make here and the commissions we accepted from the Lord and our ancestors before coming to mortality.
We would suggest that the basic problem we see with an apparent lack of preparation for eternity by many of the saints is that we are too busy making bricks for the Tower. We have been stealthily carried captive into Babylon and are found too often serving the Babylonian gods of mammon or other social and personal idols and preoccupations. This makes the necessary sacrifices and personal revelation difficult. We have traveled down this road in many cases while faithfully observing the Mosaic forms of our religion. In some important and attractive elements of our subculture we have also substituted scholasticism and catchy speculation for spirituality. Though the historical works are first rate, the BYU doctrinal religion faculty, the Maxwell Institute and the reams on the shelves of Deseret Book output are too often exhibits A-Z of various missing-the-mark tangents. Who else among us talks and writes about daily repentance besides the prophets and the First Presidency? The so-called educated among us have become socially smart, articulate, progressive, liberal and wealthy. Where have we seen this before? And where does it lead?
1. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and .trembling. (Philippians 2:12); Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him. (Mormon 9:27); “I saw the father work out his kingdom with fear & trembling.” 7 April 1844 (JS Teachings, p.76, 334, 347)
2. Joseph Smith outlines the role, type and need of knowledge in our personal salvation: ”Such was and always will be the situation of the saints of God, that unless they have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; for such has been and always will be the opposition in the hearts of unbelievers and those that know not God, against the pure and unadulterated religion of heaven, (the only thing which ensures eternal life,) that they will persecute, to the uttermost, all that worship God according to his revelations, receive the truth in the love of it, and submit themselves to be guided and directed by his will, and drive them to such extremities that nothing short of an actual knowledge of their being the favorites of heaven, and of their having embraced that order of things which God has established for the redemption of man, will enable them to exercise that confidence in him necessary for them to overcome the world, and obtain that crown of glory which is laid up for them that fear God.
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest; and be a partaker of the glory of God.
For unless a person does know that he is walking according to the will of God, it would be offering an insult to the dignity of the Creator, were he to say that he would be a partaker of his glory when he should be done with the things of this life. But when he has this knowledge, and most assuredly knows that he is doing the will of God, his confidence can be equally strong that he will be a partaker of the glory of God.
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.” (JS Lectures 0n Faith, Sec. 6:4-8)
3. Angels and, to a certain extent, demons, can look upon us and our spirits and see the level of Light and Truth which we possess. A knowledge of symbolic tokens and signs is not sufficient to pass by the angels or sentinels who guard the several gates or levels of heaven. It is only when our spirits possess the requisite levels of Light that we may escape hell or some level of spirit prison and pass to and through the various levels of paradise upon or after death.
4. If so, “we would spoil the neighborhood.” Joseph McConkie (M. M. Ede, BYU 1996 class notes)
Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
The following passage in the Doctrine and Covenants refers to a remarkable ordinance in which an oath of confirmation witnessed by angels is sworn by our Father in heaven at the time of and associated with mortals receiving the Melchizedek priesthood.
For whoso is a faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come. And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you. (D&C 84:33-42, italics added)
The blessings promised here are impressive and certainly to be desired, however we believe that there is a common misunderstanding with relation to the nature of this ordinance and its bestowal of priesthood power. Considering the nature of the personal powers associated with the confirmation of this priesthood (as we will further examine) as well as the severe consequences of turning from it after its bestowal (as also mentioned above) we think that this ordinance is actually an uncommon occurrence. Among the key elements to be examined in the above revelation are the words: confirm, by my own voice, and angels.
Fortunately, there are a couple clear scriptural examples of the confirmation or bestowal of what will prove to be the fulness of this priesthood and its authority. Perhaps the clearest example is detailed in chapter ten of Helaman in the Book of Mormon, as Nephi, the son of Helaman, receives this very ordinance detailed in the account as follows:
And it came to pass as he was thus pondering—being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people of the Nephites, their secret works of darkness, and their murderings, and their plunderings, and all manner of iniquities—and it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments. And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people. Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people. And thus, if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain, it shall be done. And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done. And behold, if ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass. (Helaman 10:3-10, italics added)
Notice some key elements here: the voice of the Lord, witness of angels, and great bestowal of power including power to seal and loose on earth and even in heaven. Another example of the fulness of the priesthood is found in the Joseph Smith Translation of the fourteenth chapter of Genesis of the King James Bible which, not ironically involves Melchizedek himself:
Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child, he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire. And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained a high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, It being after the order of the Son of God, which order came not by man, nor the will of man, neither by father nor mother, neither by beginning of days nor end of years, but of God. And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name—For God, having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself that everyone being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course, To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God, to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world. (JST Genesis 14:24-31, italics added)
This Melchizedek or high priesthood as explained above is after the order of the covenant God made with Enoch, which is actually also and originally after the Order of the Son of God (see D&C 107:2-4). As such, it has enabled mortals to do mighty works in the name of the Lord and even to be translated (see JST Genesis 14:32). Notice also the voice of the Lord, the swearing of the oath and the bestowal of unusual powers.
This high priesthood was also restored and conferred upon the Prophet Joseph as recorded in D&C 132:
For I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time. And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven. And again, verily I say, whomsoever you bless I will bless, and whomsoever you curse I will a curse, saith the Lord; for I, the Lord, am thy God. And again, verily I say unto you, my servant Joseph, that whatsoever you give on earth, and to whomsoever you give any one on earth, by my word and according to my law, it shall be visited with blessings and not cursings, and with my power, saith the Lord, and shall be without condemnation on earth and in heaven. For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the b end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father. Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac. (D&C 132:45-50, italics added)
Another common theme associated with reception of the fullness of the priesthood is the acknowledgment by the Lord of faithful service and the requirement of sacrifice in some form.
Regarding the necessity of receiving the “fulness” of the Melchizedek priesthood to qualify for celestial exaltation Joseph Fielding Smith, considered the last word on doctrine during his tenure as church historian, apostle and prophet, penned the following:
I do not care what office you hold in the Church—you may be an apostle, you may be a patriarch, a high priest, or anything else—but you cannot receive the fulness of the priesthood and the fulness of eternal reward unless you receive the ordinances of the house of the Lord…. Then [the door is] open so you can obtain all the blessings which any man can gain…. You can have ["the fulness of the Lord's blessings"] sealed upon you as an elder, if you are faithful; and when you receive them, and live faithfully and keep these covenants, you then have all that any man can get. There is no exaltation in the kingdom of God without the fulness of the priesthood" (Joseph Fielding Smith, first address to the Priesthood as President of the Church, 4 April 1970, The Improvement Era 73 [June 1970]: 65-66, italics added).
Regarding the necessity of acceptable sacrifice, Cook and Ehat, in their excellent parallel work to the Teachings, write that: Priesthood ordination does not, by itself, assure a man that God will ratify all his acts as a priesthood bearer. Perhaps Abraham received the "anointing and sealing" (the priesthood ordination of king and priest) under the hands of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-24 and JST Genesis 14:25-40), but the "election sure"—the absolute assurance of power in the priesthood—came directly from God only after Abraham indicated his willingness to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14, italics added).
In the Lectures on Faith the Prophet Joseph explains the importance of sacrifice on this covenant path:
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him. It was in offering sacrifices that Abel, the first martyr, obtained knowledge that he was accepted of God. And from the days of righteous Abel to the present time, the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God, is obtained by offering sacrifice: and in the last days, before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. Ps. 50:3- 5.
Those, then, who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist. (JS Lectures on Faith, 6:7-10, italics added)
The fulness of the priesthood was not available in this dispensation until after Elijah had appeared in the Kirkland temple and bestowed the sealing keys (D&C 110:13-16), hence the seriousness of the Lord’s construction deadline instructions and the anxiousness of the Prophet to complete the temple. See D&C 134:32, and
Previous to his death. the Prophet Joseph manifested great anxiety to see the temple completed, as most of you who were with the Church during his day, well know. "Hurry up the work, brethren," he used to say, "let us finish the temple; the Lord has a great endowment in store for you, and I am anxious that the brethren should have their endowments and receive the fulness of the Priesthood …. Then," said he, "the Kingdom will be established, and I do not care what shall become of me." (George Q Cannon, WJS, 27 August 1843, footnote 30, italics added)
One of the major milestones, if not the major milestone, of the Latter-day work was to be the restoration of the fulness of the priesthood (D&C 124:28). The Prophet's "mission … [was to] firmly [establish] the dispensation of the fulness of the priesthood in the last days, that all the powers of earth and hell [could] never prevail against it" (History of the Church, 5:140, or Teachings, p. 258, italics added).
What was this fulness of the priesthood? The most concise but inclusive definition of the authority of the fulness of the priesthood was given by Joseph Smith in his 10 March 1844 discourse when he said, "Now for Elijah; the spirit, power and calling of Elijah is that ye have power to hold the keys of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the Kingdom of God on the Earth and to receive, obtain and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God … [to] have power to seal on earth and in heaven." (WJS, 27 August 1843, footnote 30, italics added)
However, with respect to the fulness of the priesthood holding the sealing keys was not, in and of itself, sufficient. An ordinance was required.
…the Prophet had not as yet administered the ordinances that made men kings and priests. Brigham Young said three weeks before this discourse [27 Aug. 1843] that no one yet in the Church had the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, "For any person to have the fullness of that priesthood, he must be a king and priest" (History of the Church, 5:527, which is quoted verbatim from the original source kept by Wilford Woodruff, Church Archives). These ordinances were instituted on 28 September 1843 and in the next five months were conferred on twenty men (and their wives, except for those whose names are asterisked): Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Newel K. Whitney, William Marks, John Taylor, John Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, Alpheus Cutler, Orson Spencer, Orson Hyde*, Parley P. Pratt*, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Levi Richards*, Cornelius P. Lott, William W. Phelps Isaac Morley, and Orson Pratt.* (op. cit., italics added)
The fulness of the priesthood and the individual sealing referred to as calling and election may be considered as proceeding essential hand-in-hand. And certainly, at least to the present point in this dispensation, this penultimate blessing package has not been a common occurrence.
Hopefully, there is enough information here to dispel the notion that Heavenly Father swears an oath every time someone is ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood or even as a high priest. Clearly what is bestowed upon LDS male members when ordained to the priesthood are temporary keys that may be exercised to ultimately obtain the fullness of the priesthood. In essence, the priesthood is loaned to us to see what we will do with it. The powers available and manifest by and through those who have actually had the fullness of the priesthood bestowed upon them would be dangerous in the hands of the less exercised in priesthood activities. The fulness of the priesthood requires a great deal of trust from the Lord, as He explained to third Nephi, “for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.” (Helaman 10:5, italics added)
In order to achieve the fulness of the priesthood our works and sacrifices must be done through inspiration, guidance and acceptance of the Spirit of the Lord. We must become an instrument in the Lord’s hands, a ministering servant whom the Lord may direct as He sees fit. This is not to say that we cannot present our own ideas and desires to the Lord. This is generally pleasing to the Lord and likely the byproduct of personal inspiration and revelation anyway.
And we do not choose our sacrifices. Such are up to the Lord. What is required is a willingness to put everything on the altar, including our own lives if necessary..
And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God. And verily I say unto you, that the a conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise,.. are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name? Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not a appointed? And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was? (D&C 132:6-11, italics added)
The Lord’s house is a house of order. The only works that men and women do that have eternal effect and merit are those in partnership with the Lord and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The results of all other works will be shaken, destroyed and be of none effect (see Hebrews 12:27). And from the above we may clearly see that our service and our sacrifices, if they are to be acceptable and if they are to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, are to be made in the Lord’s name. Nor are we to use His name in vain (without authority or direction). In other words, we must always seek the Lord’s will and His permission prayerfully and ask for our works and offerings to be consecrated to our good and the highest good of our stewardships. Put another way, we must be among the wise virgins that were ready for the marriage of the Bridegroom by having taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and not have been complacent or deceived. (see D&C 45:57, italics added).
In summary, it is sobering to consider that the oath and covenant of the priesthood is a very sacred ordinance that is the culmination of a sustained effort of righteous service and appropriate and inspired sacrifices walking in lockstep with the Spirit of the Lord. Through the gospel and temple ordinances we receive the keys and rights to obtain all the blessings the Lord has for the righteous to the degree that we keep the commandments and do the works the Lord directs—directs through His servants and through His Spirit and as confirmed and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. And though they may constitute learning experiences those works not approved by the Holy Spirit will be of none effect in the eternities. It would seem, therefore, incumbent upon us to regularly determine by divine communication our personal commitment and progress on the covenant path.
Intercession – A Case Study
This discussion is lengthy and relatively detailed. We feel that all the details are worthy of consideration but for a quick read there is a summary of bullet point at the end. See:
To introduce this topic we are starting with the Jaredites. During the eight years that the Jaredites traveled in the wilderness after leaving the vicinity of the Tower of Babel they faced regular challenges associated with traversing rivers, mountains, deserts, wild beasts, fatigue, obtaining food and shelter, and various uncertainties that surely stimulated regular reliance upon the Lord. Like Lehi and his family in the desert, there was apt to be need for almost constant direction from the Lord. Certainly prayers to their God were on the lips of the Brother of Jared and his flock continually as their existence and journey through uncharted wilderness demanded the Lord’s constant protection and oversight.
However, when the Jaredites reached the seashore it is evident that life became simpler and more comfortable. It is also likely that, in the Lord’s discretion they deserved a rest after eight years of toil including bearing and rearing children along the way. Subsequently, however, after another four years of what we suppose was relative comfort for the Jaredites, we find the Brother of Jared enduring a three hour chastening by the Lord.
And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord. (Ether 2:14, italics added)
Now it seems a strange thing that a prophet of the Lord, especially one who was clearly exercised in the practice of prayer and to whom the Lord had once revealed the body and presence of His spirit as well as numerous other revelations, would not have offered any prayers for the space of four years. The idea that the Brother of Jared did not have regular family prayer, prayers on the daily meals, blessings of children, etc., is highly unlikely. The key to understanding this apparent anomaly lies in the next verse.
And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him. (Ether 2:15, italics added)
It is highly unlikely that the Brother of Jared was chastised for not praying at all, he was chastised for not praying for his people. This is the responsibility of a prophet. In fact, it is everyone’s responsibility, but especially that of priesthood holders and prophets in particular.
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. (Hebrews 5:1-2, italics added)
Prophets and priesthood holders are human with human weaknesses, but they are still expected to succor others and make the necessary sacrifices required of their particular stewardships—sanctifying themselves and those whom they serve.
If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5, italics added)
As another example we also find that when the Lord was upset with the prophet Job’s friends for their uninspired advice to him in his extreme suffering, that the Lord commanded them to offer sacrifices and instructed Job to pray for them so that they could be forgiven. Consequently, the Lord did forgive them and blessed Job and “the LORD turned the captivity of Job , when he prayed for his friends.” (Job 42:10, italics added)
Not only are we to pray for our enemies and those who despitefully use us (Matt 5:43-48), we are to pray for our family members and friends in order that their burdens may be light and that they may also have the power to advance in the gospel covenant path of righteousness. This type of service is also known as intercession.
The term intercession is defined as the action of intervening on behalf of another or, in a specific religious sense: the action of saying a prayer on behalf of another person. An example of a type of intercession is the bearing of other persons’ difficult emotional and spiritual burdens that they may have more power to exercise their will and face challenges. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma, speaking to his little flock of new believers by the waters of Mormon, explains to some degree how this works:
…and now, as ye are a desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are a willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— (Mosiah 18:8-9, italics added)
Coming into the fold of God through baptism is an invitation to all members to bear one another’s burdens that those with such need may have their spiritual and emotional burdens made lighter. Like the stars and planets of heaven we give light to each other in our times and seasons (D&C 88:44). However, this honor and obligation of service falls more heavily upon priesthood holders and priesthood leadership respectively. Regardless of who does it, it is only to be done with the permission of the Lord and as directed by His Spirit. It is not an arbitrary practice for accumulating redemption points.
A particular and very instructive example of intercession is presented by the efforts of Alma’s son, Alma the younger, in his mission to the Ammonihahites. These were a people who had been taught the gospel but had mainly dissented into apostasy. Consequently, Alma took a remarkably interesting approach in addressing their re-conversion. To begin he presents to them a discussion about the high priesthood after the order of the Son of God and its purposes and function as an example of the Son of God.
And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward (actually back in time, all the other details are in the past tense) to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people. And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption. (Alma 13:1, italics added)
So, why would this be relevant to the Ammonihahites? What is it about the manner in which these high priests that had been ordained in the past that might be relevant to them? And how might their ordination and function cause or instruct someone to look forward to the Son of God for redemption? He continues:
And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such. (Alma 13:2-3, italics added)
These are persons, leaders, who already proved their valiance in the pre-mortal realm as well as in mortality and, as such, have a holy calling—that is, particular responsibilities to assist and lift their brethren and those within their stewardships, and as empowered through the high priesthood for which they were foreordained and subsequently confirmed. However, we may not yet be clear what is so particular about the manner of their ordination.
So it is that these high priests, those called after the holy order of the Son, have a special mission and its characteristics, or manner, should cause people who know or observe them, and to whom they administer, to see them as servants of Christ and operating in some degree in His image and likeness. Such that they may look forward to their own personal redemption provided through the Atonement of the Son of God. Alma continues:
And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end— (Alma 13:5-9, italics added)
So this holy order of the priesthood is itself a type and a shadow of the Savior and those who have it are to emulate the Savior. It is also eternal in nature. We could safely say that, then, that they are empowered, even obligated, to offer “sacrifices in the similitude of the Only Begotten” in their role of divinely directed intercession for the children of men. (D&C 138:13, italics added) This background about the holy order and its characteristics and powers is grounding for introducing the Ammonihahites to the topic of Melchizedek and his people, one of the most remarkable repentance case studies in all the scriptures. Alma has a purpose for steering the discourse in this direction. He says:
Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever. And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed. Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord. (Alma 13:13, italics added)
So we know that Alma be bringing up Melchizedek for a reason having to do with the holy order. However, why is he talking about entering into the rest of the Lord? The phraseology, rest of the Lord, is the same or a synonym for the term calling and election. To enter into the rest of the Lord is to have arrived at a point in one’s personal progress through application of the Atonement of Jesus Christ such that he/she is no longer tempted by Satan, that is, Satan no longer has any hold on the person. This is tantamount to being redeemed or sealed up unto eternal life. Seems a curious tactic—a little advanced for apostates.
It is clear from the scriptural account that the people of Ammonihah were, for the most part, serious apostates. Yet, it is also clear that they had a knowledge of the gospel acquired prior to their departure from the Lord, such that they had some knowledge of what Alma was talking about. Which fact, still begs the question: why would Alma talk about calling and election right up front, rather than beginning with something like going back to Sunday School? If one brings up this subject with regular members today some become uncomfortable. However, there is a clue to Alma’s strategy in his next statement:
Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness; But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father. Now, there were a many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but b none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention. (Alma 13:14-19, italics added)
Alma introduces the subject of repentance in conjunction with this matter-of-fact description of what miraculous conversion Melchizedek accomplished with his people anciently. Note that before Melchizedek had accomplished his mission of repentance to his people that they “had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination,” had “all gone astray,” and “were full of all manner of wickedness.” Why does Alma bring this up? Because he is carefully addressing the parallel situation with which he is confronted by and among the Ammonihahites. The implication is, and the fact is, that these people are also in a similar state of wickedness as were Melchizedek’s people. Alma continues:
Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God. But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son; Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest. And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest. (Alma 13:32-35, Italics added).
So Alma seems to be focused on, not just the initial steps of repentance, including the necessity of a soft heart and its tempering of the full effects of justice, but rather upon the end game—entering into the rest of the Lord. He also wants them to understand that regardless of where they stand with God they can still be sanctified and redeemed of the Lord, the wicked people of the City of Salem or Melchizedek being an example. Continuing:
And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you…And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us… but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word. (Alma 13:36-37, italics added)
There is likely more here than meets the eye or casual read. Besides avoiding the wrath of God through a soft and repentant heart, this whole discussion of the high priesthood is setting the stage for the principle of intercession. These high priests, such as Melchizedek, are exercised in intercession. And Alma, who is clearly ordained after the holy order of the Son of God, is offering himself and possibly those with him to serve in such a role for the wicked Ammonihahites.
Since the brass plates contained the full account of all the books of Moses, what the people in the Book of Mormon probably understood better than many today, was the fact that Melchizedek’s people, despite having been wicked and full of abominations, they were actually were translated and joined the City of Enoch. We know this now thanks to Joseph Smith’s retranslation of the Bible restoring some details relative to Melchizedek and his people as follows:
Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire. And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God; And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace. And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world; (JST Gen 14:26-29, 33-34, italics added)
Clearly taking the above historical and scriptural facts into account Alma continues on the point he is making:
But Melchizedek, having exercised mighty faith and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father. Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention. Now I need not rehearse the matter; what I have said may suffice. Behold, the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction. Alma 13:18-20, italics added)
So, it is clear that these people had the scriptures (see Alma 14:1, 8) ) and at least some of them understood the full meaning of what he was talking about, such that the stage is set for the direct call to repentance including the following excerpts of Alma’s sermon: “And now it came to pass that when Alma had said these words unto them, he stretched forth his hand unto them and cried with a mighty voice, saying:
Now is the time to repent, for the day of salvation draweth nigh; Yea, and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it unto all nations; yea, doth declare it, that they may have glad tidings of great joy; yea, and he doth sound these glad tidings among all his people, yea, even to them that are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth; wherefore they have come unto us. And they are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err…
And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance; But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest. And may the Lord grant unto you repentance, that ye may not bring down his wrath upon you, that ye may not be a bound down by the chains of hell, that ye may not suffer the second death.” (Alma 13: 21-23, 27-30, italics added)
Alma, like Melchizedek with the people of Salem, is preaching and instructing the people of Ammonihah after the Holy Order of the Son of God after which they were ordained. The point of this emphasis is that when the gospel is taught in this manner, under this order, and with this authority, the focus is necessarily on repentance and calling and election. This type of intercessory ministry is called forth by the Lord at certain times and circumstances. And we will certainly see this again in the days ahead.
In the case of this mission to the Ammonihahites the results of this ministration are both startling and instructive. A sizeable portion of the city’s population resort to their scriptures and whatever other steps are necessary to repent. While the rest of the population not only resist the message but seek after the blood of the missionaries and all of their converts (e.g. neighbors). Many martyrdoms and expulsions of the repentant are the result.
At the time of this writing such ministries range from uncommon to nonexistent. It is not time now. However, the time is not far off when there will be a new emphasis to proclaim the gospel in its fulness to a wicked world—and to all of it. There will be final warnings and conversions to and from every nation, tongue and people. No corner of the planet will be exempt. The world to which we have become accustomed will be transformed by a combination of burgeoning and blatant evil and the balancing power of the Lord’s faithful and His priesthood.
There will emerge in the days ahead a Zion people living all the laws of God, including consecration. In order to achieve the level of spirituality and sanctification necessary for a Zion society the examples of Enoch, Melchizedek, Nephi, Alma and others will need to be studied and incorporated. Personal repentance, intercession, bearing burdens, personal sacrifice will, like was accomplished in the Cities of Enoch and Melchizedek/Salem, be components of the achievement again of a celestial society that will receive the Savior to reign on earth as well as in heaven.
This discussion focuses on the lessons to be learned from Alma the younger’s mission to the people of the City of Ammonihah. The following is a summary of salient details:
The people of Ammonihah were former members.
The Ammonihahites had become wicked and apostate.
Alma understood that the people of this city would be a particular challenge.
Alma chooses to school them in an understanding of the Holy Order of the priesthood.
The manner in which this high priesthood is ordained and functions is a type and shadow of Christ.
This Order requires sacrifice and intersession on the part of those who hold it.
Along with the nature and function of this high priesthood Alma discusses entering into “the rest of the Lord.”
This is an advanced topic tantamount to the concept of .
Alma reminds the Ammonihahites of the case of Melchizedek and his people as being pertinent.
Melchizedek’s people were also wicked “and full of all manner of abomination” like them.
But they repented and were redeemed.
Melchizedek’s people were redeemed through the instrumentality and intercession of a great high priest.
Alma, holding this same priesthood, offered to serve this same role for them, and then called upon them to repent.
The key spiritual elements of the mission are the priesthood offerings of and .
The result was twofold. 1. a large portion of people did repent and, 2. the rest of the people became even more evil and sought to kill Alma, the other missionaries and their converts.
Alma’s mission to the people of Ammonihah is an example of the power and function of the high priesthood after the Holy Order of the Son of God.
Preaching after the Holy Order of the Son of God will always have dramatic effect upon the hearers.
Such ministrations are rare but will increase dramatically as we proceed through the countdown to the return of the Savior to reign on earth and in heaven.
For further reference to the Holy Order of the priesthood see:
1. Alma 31 O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people. 32 O Lord, wilt thou comfort my soul, and give unto me success, and also my fellow laborers who are with me—yea, Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and also a Amulek and Zeezrom, and also my b two sons—yea, even all these wilt thou comfort, O Lord. Yea, wilt thou comfort their souls in Christ. 33 Wilt thou grant unto them that they may have strength, that they may a bear their afflictions which shall come upon them because of the iniquities of this people.34 O Lord, wilt thou grant a unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ. 35 Behold, O Lord, their a souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee. 36 Now it came to pass that when Alma had said these words, that he a clapped his b hands upon all them who were with him. And behold, as he clapped his hands upon them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. 37 And after that they did separate themselves one from another, a taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on. 38 And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of a afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.
The Spirit World and the Gates of Heaven
According to our limited knowledge of the subject we can say that the vast majority of the dead have an average frequency of about log 40, which means they are in outer darkness and preoccupied with negative thoughts, feelings and fears. Things will only change for them if they pray, ask questions of the Lord and want to progress. Most spirits of the dead get stuck here.
A glimpse of this realm of the spirit world is provided by Lehi’s dream that included an aspect of the darkness that is typical of the situation and condition that most spirits of the dead encounter upon passing through the veil of death. Speaking out of a father’s concern to his disobedient sons, Laman and Lemuel, he recounts:
…for behold, methought I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness. And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies. And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious a field. (1 Ne 8:4-9, italics added)
As illustrated by father Lehi, a key to deliverance from the profound darkness and to any available progress there is to pray to the Lord. For those who have sought Light and Truth during their mortal life they will be better off there than those who have not. A person who is exercised in prayer will have much the advantage. The average Christian or person of faith will be initially at around log 50-60 after death and will usually progress to the Light (log 76). Once in the Light spirits will progress according to their righteous desires, willingness to learn and ability to be obedient to what they learn.
If the spirit reaches log 132 it will be given tasks to perform. These will test their obedience to instructions. Because of wanting to do things their own way many get stuck here. If they can learn and be obedient, they will progress and be taught what they need to progress. Their daily tasks will become progressively more service oriented as they reach and exceed the level of perfect integrity (log 172).
Once past this point they may become ministering angels. However, most spirits of the dead never get this far. While those who have achieved perfect integrity (log 172 and above) in mortality will move past this point quite quickly and become ministering angels right away. They will simply continue the nature of the work they were doing as mortals. Ministering angels must have received their temple endowments.
There are seven gates in and to heaven. The initial threshold from darkness to Light, according to the scale we use (e.g. base 10) is log 76. Here is a list of the frequency log values for each gate or level.
1st Gate: 76
2nd Gate: 100
3rd Gate: 129
4th Gate: 140
5th Gate: 165
6th Gate: 190
7th Gate: 224
The last three gates represent the frequency thresholds of the three levels of the Celestial Kingdom. So that if spirits of the dead are to become ministering angels, once past integrity level (actually around log177 to become effective spiritual administers) they still must progress if they seek exaltation. And exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom is the only level of heaven in which worthy family members may be together.
At each of the above gates or levels of heaven there is an entry and exit point with an angel or sentinel standing guard and by whom one may not pass without authorization. And a knowledge of certain symbolic or ceremonial tokens and signs relative to the covenants and obligations associated with each level is not sufficient in itself to enter or pass through. The personal level of Light and Truth, acquired by repentance and obedience as possessed by the individual spirit, is the real key to passage. See also:
Some Broader Implications of Frequency Testing and
Implications of Frequency Testing Pertaining to the Spirit World