Sunday, February 24, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #10 "This is My Voice Unto All"

D&C 25

Today we are studying D&C 25, the personal revelation given to Emma Smith, the wife of the prophet, since verse 16 of it states that this revelation is for everyone.  Three topics from this revelation have been chosen for this lesson:
  1. Marriage
  2. Humility
  3. Joy

MARRIAGE

Whether we are married while on the earth or not, we are all going to be married one day in the Celestial Kingdom.  This life is the time to prepare.  Those who are married are practicing for Celestial marriage in this life; those who are not must prepare for it.

"And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jr., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness."  (D&C 25:5)

Joseph wrote in his journal, regarding a time in 1842 when he was in hiding and Emma had come to visit him, "With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand, on that night, my beloved Emma--she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart...Oh what a co-mingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, again she is here, even in the seventh trouble, undaunted, firm, and unwavering--unchangeable, affectionate Emma!" (History of the Church 5:107)

And Joseph kept this counsel as well, and was a comfort to his wife.  In her portrait she is wearing the string of gold beads that were a gift from Joseph.  After his death, she carried a lock of his hair in a locket she wore the rest of her life.  She lived to the age of 74 and exited this life with her arm extended, calling out, "Joseph!  Yes, yes, I'm coming."  (Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 275)

HUMILITY

The second commandment we will discuss is found in verse 14:

"Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride.  Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him."

Emma was 5 foot 9 inches, with dark hair and brown eyes.  She is always described as having been very beautiful.  (Who's Who, p. 273)  She had a quick wit, as well.  She could manage a canoe (!) and was a skilled horseback rider.  She sang in her church choir as a girl.  She was exceptionally bright and studied for one year at a girls' school.  (Arnold K. Garr, et. al., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, p. 1111)  Emma was outstandingly beautiful, she was refined, she was educated, and she came from a comfortable home.

Joseph was 6 feet tall, weighed 180 lbs, and is always described as having a commanding presence about him, and being well-built and muscular, but seldom or never is he described as having been exceptionally handsome.  His family's financial status was generally along the poverty level.  His education was extremely limited.  Peter Burnett, who was an attorney for Joseph Smith, described him as follows:

His appearance was not prepossessing and his conversational powers were but ordinary.  You could tell at a glance that his education was very limited.  He was an awkward but vehement speaker.  In conversation, he was slow and used to many words to express his ideas and would not generally go directly to a point."  (Peter H. Burnett, Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer, p. 66-67, quoted in Latter-day History, p. 220)  

Mr. Burnett wrote that despite all these drawbacks, "he was much more than an ordinary man," and described the power of his personality, his ideas, his kindness and his influence, but it is possible to see from his words that Emma might well have considered herself Joseph's superior.  Many other of the educated early saints did.  Some begged to see the plates as proof of Joseph's word, but although Emma had them right in her house, right under her bed, right in her wagon, right on her kitchen table, she said, "I never felt at liberty to look at them."  (Who's Who, p. 273)  How many of us could have the controversial golden plates sitting right in front of us with nothing but a cloth covering them, and not sneak a peak?  Emma could be trusted.

My brother, Gary J. Wyatt, gave a talk in his ward in Kansas several years ago on pride.  He prepared a little quiz to check on our state of pride:

  1. How easily are you offended?  Taking offense easily...is a sign of a soul centered on self.
  2. Do you have a difficult time forgiving others?  Expecting forgiveness from God and others while we offer none is the sign of a person who puts himself above others.
  3. Can you freely admit mistakes and confess sins?
  4. How threatened are you by the accomplishments and good fortune of others?  The converse is also telling:  Do you get a feeling of satisfaction and relief when someone else stumbles or has trouble and difficulties?
  5. How important is it to you that you get credit for the good that you do?  Everything we do should be with "an eye single to the glory of God."  There is no limit to what we can accomplish if we are not worried about getting credit for it.
  6. Do you enjoy reveling in self-pity?  Self-pity is simply another manifestation of the self-centeredness that defines the prideful self.  It puts one's needs above those of others.
  7. Do you enjoy gossip?  No behavior could more fully reflect a soul in pride's grip than the one who revels in gossip.
  8. Do you turn everything, from the simplest conversation, to more substantial and elaborate interactions with others, into a competition with winners and losers?  You know what I mean: one-upping, wanting to talk more than listen, etc.
"To paraphrase C.S. Lewis: The person who is looking down on others is one who cannot look up to God.  Our goal should be cooperation, not competition."

JOY

The third commandment to Emma that we must study today is one of the most difficult to obey.

"Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice..."  (D&C 25:13)

We don't have much control over what happens to us, so how can we be expected to be joyful?  Yet rejoicing is a commandment.  By this we can know that it is a choice over which we have control, and that is exciting news!

"Wherefore, be of good cheer and do not fear," the Lord said to the suffering early saints, "for I the Lord am with you."

While Joseph was imprisoned in the Liberty Jail, Emma had to flee with her children and the other saints 200 miles to Illinois, much of that on foot.  The whole way, she carried his manuscripts, including the translation of the Bible, tied under her skirts to keep them safe.  She later wrote to Joseph, "No one but God knows the reflections of my mind and the feelings of my heart when I left our house and home, and almost all of everything that we possessed excepting our little children, and took my journey out of the State of Missouri, leaving you shut up in that lonesome prison."  (Who's Who, p. 275)

Of her eleven children, nine of which she bore and two which she adopted, only five grew to adulthood.  She lost six children in infancy and childhood!  In addition to caring for the five living children, she continually cared for many ill.  She was homeless much of her early married life and had to rely upon the hospitality of others.  When she did get her own home, she returned that hospitality to many homeless Saints.  In fact, in Nauvoo, many sick Saints set up tents as a hospital ward in her front yard, with her as the nurse.

When Christ hung on the cross, he asked his disciple John to care for his mother after his death.  Joseph didn't have the opportunity to arrange for the care of his widowed mother before he died, but he didn't need to; Emma naturally took care of that.  She also cared for many of her relatives, and many of her second husband's relatives, including his mistress and illegitimate 4-year-old son when they became known and were destitute.  (She cared for the boy until her death 11 years later.)  ("Was Emma Smith an Elect Lady?" Deseret News, Nov. 7, 2008) 

Emma saw trials of homelessness, multiple moves, mob action resulting in the death of one of her babies, the deaths of other children, the trials of polygamy, the murder of her beloved husband, poverty, criticism, exile, loss of almost all her earthly possessions, single parenthood (including giving birth after the death of her husband), a second marriage to a nonbeliever, infidelity on the part of her second husband, humiliation, mental illness in her family (the youngest child, David), abandonment after she and the church leadership had a falling out and she remained in Illinois with her mother-in-law, and extreme caregiver responsibilities (including hand feeding Lucy Mack Smith for the last year of her life).

Yet, her mother-in-law wrote of her, "Although her strength was exhausted, still her spirits were the same, which, in fact, was always the case with her, even under the most trying circumstances.  I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience, which she has ever done."  (Lucy Mack Smith, History of the Prophet Joseph Smith by His Mother, p. 190-91)

I am quite certain that Emma Smith was not happy and perky all the time (in fact, her granddaughter commented that she always retained a sadness in her smile), but if the Lord could advise Emma Smith to be of good cheer, He also expects us to be of good cheer in our trials which are almost undoubtedly less than hers.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, "If we can recall the Lord's promise, 'for I the Lord am with you'...we will find the strength to be of good cheer instead of becoming resentful, critical, or defeated."   (April 1986 General Conference)

The great Latter-day Saint parent educator, Glenn Latham, whose lectures we attended and whose books we read many times as my husband and I raised our children, wrote, "The father of a wayward son once told me, 'A parent can be no happier than his most unhappy child.'  After fifteen years of working with Mormon families in crisis, I have concluded that parental guilt, shame, and suffering for the 'sins' of their children have become modern Mormon icons...

"The admonition to 'be of good cheer' is particularly applicable to Mormon parents today who are fearing and distressed by the 'storms' that sweep over their families and threaten the very survival of their children.  'Being of good cheer' is certainly a better, more positive and constructive response than is unwarranted shame, unearned guilt, and useless suffering."  (Glenn I. Latham, "Guilt, Shame and Suffering: Modern Mormon Icons," 1987)

 “We should honor the Savior's declaration to "be of good cheer." (Matthew 14:27) Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!”  (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Created for Greater Things)

(See also Gracia Jones, "My Great-Great-Grandmother, Emma Hale Smith," Ensign, August 1992)

 (The story of Emma's life is depicted beautifully in the docudrama, "Emma Smith: My Story," by Candlelight Media Group.  For you Netflix subscribers, they have it in streaming.)

  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #9 "The Only True and Living Church"



PREPARATION
Get a map of the world, as well as seven strips with the years 1830, 1837, 1843, 1925, 1949, 1976, and 1990 written on them.  You can also project the world map provided within this lesson.

THE ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH
Today we are talking about the organization of the Church, which took place April 6, 1830.  In review from last week, what things had to take place before the Church could be organized?  (Revelation on the nature of God, translation of the Book of Mormon containing the Gospel, Restoration of the Priesthood)

Joseph and Oliver had received an explicit revelation describing the procedures to be followed on this day of organization after praying for direction in the bedroom of the Whitmer cabin.  They had received this revelation 10 months before the Church was organized (June 1829) and the Lord told them to take the time to do it right.  For example, he said to ordain each other elders, but to wait until they assembled and organized the Saints to do it, so that the Saints could vote on whether they would accept Joseph and Oliver as their two leaders.

So Joseph sent to all the Saints to invite them to gather at the Whitmer cabin for the first sacrament meeting in this dispensation, and the event of the organization of the Church.  In a conversation nearly 70 years later, David Whitmer said that there were about 20 saints from Colesville, 15 from Manchester, and 20 from Fayette, in addition to the six who became the official charter members.

THE CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH
At this meeting, Section 20 of the D&C was received.  Section 20 is a handbook of rules, a constitution for the Church of Jesus Christ.  It states that those prerequisites to Church organization had been met.  For example:
Verse 16 and on: God had revealed himself to Joseph Smith and others.
Verses 8-12: The Book of Mormon had been translated, offering additional proof of the nature of God.
Verses 2-4: The Priesthood had been restored and given to Joseph and Oliver.

This constitution also states the basic beliefs of the Church.  You can find all of the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel laid out here.  For example:
Faith in Christ: Verses 14-15, 25-27, 37
Repentance: Verses 5-6, 20-24, 37
Baptism: Verse 37
Holy Ghost: Verses 25-26, 35, 37
as well as guidelines for Priesthood ordinances (Verse 37 on through the end) and record-keeping.

THE INCORPORATION OF THE CHURCH
In addition to following the commandments the Lord gave them, Joseph Smith also wanted the Church to be legally recognized.  Section III of the 1819 New York Act “to provide for the Incorporation of Religious Societies,” specified that, to become incorporated, a church needed to “assemble at the church meetinghouse” (the Whitmer cabin), elect no less than three and no more than nine male members to be trustees (Joseph Smith arbitrarily chose the number six) over the temporal affairs of the church, and two elders were to be elected to preside (Joseph and Oliver).  So the Church was organized according to law (although the original incorporation entry has actually never been found among the court records in Seneca County). (Garr, Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, p.878) The six men were Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Peter Whitmer Jr., Samuel H. Smith, and David Whitmer.  (History of the Church 1:76)

Read aloud Our Heritage, p.14-15 ”With the consent…” to “…priesthood officers.”  Everyone who had already been baptized was rebaptized, now to become Church members, and several new members were baptized that day, among them Joseph Smith’s parents, Martin Harris, and Orrin Porter Rockwell, who was only 16 (HC 1:74-79).

VIDEO SEGMENT
Show 2½ minutes of “Organization of the Church” from the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History video, beginning with the Fayette, New York, subtitle, and ending with the shot of the stacks of Books of Mormon.  (I can't find this video on the church's website, but someone has posted it on YouTube.  It may also be available in your meetinghouse library.)  (One of the readers has posted a link to a new video that is on the church's website.  See the comments at the end of this post for the link.  Thanks!)

I had never thought about children being present until I saw this video, but, of course, they would have been.  Just as when Christ appeared to the Lamanites after His resurrection, the children had front-row seats at this sacred experience.  They witnessed the ordinances and revelations received, and they felt the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.  In fact, there was a little 11-year-old boy named David Lewis who came to the meeting without his parents.  He wanted to line up to be baptized, but Joseph Smith told him he needed to go home and talk it over with his parents.  He did so, and they gave their permission.  Less than a month after the Church was organized, on David’s 12th birthday, Joseph Smith baptized him in a stream.  After the baptism, Joseph tried to persuade him not to go home because a violent thunderstorm had just broken.  But David had promised his mother that he would come straight home, so Joseph honored that obedience and let him go, and he gave him a promise that the Lord would protect him.  On the way, David became lost in the darkness and rain, but, recalling the Prophet’s promise, he exercised his faith and prayed for guidance.  After his prayer, he saw something that looked like a lamp.  He followed it, and it led him to his house (Kelly, Latter-day History, p.49-50).

Anyway, back to the story…

Joseph Smith said, “…after a happy time spent in witnessing and feeling for ourselves the powers and blessings of the Holy Ghost, through the grace of God bestowed upon us, we dismissed with the pleasing knowledge that we were now individually members of, and acknowledged of God, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ,’ organized in accordance with commandments and revelations given by Him to ourselves in these last days, as well as according to the order of the Church as recorded in the New Testament.”  (HC 1:78-79)  The name of the Church was later lengthened out to what we have now.  (See D&C 115:4)

THE WORK SPREADS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
14 years later, just before Joseph Smith’s term as prophet on Earth was over, Sidney Rigdon, his counselor in the First Presidency, reminisced at General Conference about the day the Church was organized.  (Read aloud Our Heritage, p.16)

Let’s talk today about how the Church has spread throughout the world.

Put up map of the world.  Paste dates on areas as they are discussed.  You can also use this map:


I have noted a few details below that interested me about the spread of the church through various areas of the world.  For current statistics and more details about any individual country's history of missionary work, please check out the church's website, MormonNewsRoom, Facts and Statistics page.

If any readers from any of these countries would like to post additional information or personal stories of conversion, that would be fabulous.  Just add them to the comments, and I will link them into the article.

North America – 1830
No time was wasted.  Shortly after the Church was organized, missionaries were called to go forth.  Parley P. Pratt was among them.  He reported, “…we traveled on foot for 300 miles through vast prairies and through trackless wilds of snow – no beaten road; houses few and far between; and the bleak northwest wind always blowing in our faces with a keenness which would almost take the skin off the face.  We traveled for whole days, from morning till night, without a house or fire, wading in snow to the knees at every step, and the cold so intense that the snow did not melt on the south side of the houses, even in the mid-day sun, for nearly six weeks … [During this four-month mission,] we’d preached the Gospel to tens of thousands of Gentiles and two nations of Indians; baptizing, confirming, and organizing many hundreds of people into Churches of Latter-day Saints.”  (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 39-40)  Within the year, missionaries were also preaching in Canada.
Brigham City, Utah Temple
(This photograph taken by my friend,
Debbie Raymond.  She gives permission
to use for teaching purposes.)
Ask if there are any from your ward/branch that have served or are currently serving in North America, or if any members of your ward/branch are originally from North America.

Western Europe – 1837
In July 1837, the first missionaries arrived in England.  In the first 9 months, there were 1,600 converts.  By 1851 (14 years later), there were almost 31,000 members of the Church in the Great Britain Mission, over twice as many as there were in the United States and Canada combined.  Between 1850 and 1888, the missionary work spread to cover the entire continent and its isles: France, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, and Sweden, 1850; Germany, Iceland, and Holland, 1851; Norway and Malta, 1852; Gibraltar, 1858; Austria and Hungary, 1865; Finland, 1875; and Belgium, 1888.  The work in Norway and Sweden was difficult until 1870 when they became religiously free.  After that, the Scandinavian Mission was the second most powerful mission in the Church. Many of these members gathered to the United States. Presently (February 2017) there are half a million members of the Church in Western and Eastern Europe combined (Mormon Newsroom website).

 London, England Temple
This picture from mormonnewsroom.org

Ask if there are any from your ward/branch that have served or are currently serving in Western Europe, ot that are originally from Western Europe.

Pacific Islands – 1843
Joseph Smith called four missionaries to the Pacific Islands, the first foreign language mission.  These missionaries endured extremely difficult circumstances; in fact, one of them died on the voyage there.  But by 1850, 2,000 French Polynesian islanders had been baptized.  The missionary work spread to Hawaii.  The mission (language, disease, culture, starvation) was so difficult that half of the missionaries went home.   But those who remained reaped a great harvest.  Within four years, 3,000 were baptized.  Several Maori priests predicted the coming of the true church. In 1881, Paora Patongaroa, an elder priest of the Maori people in New Zealand, fasted, prayed, and meditated for three days about which of the Christian churches his people should join.  After his fast, he reported to his people that the true church had not yet come to the island, but that they would recognize it when it came because the missionaries would travel in pairs, would come from the rising sun, would visit people in their homes, would learn their language and teach in their own tongue, and would raise their right arms when they officiated. (Brian William Hunt, "History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand," BYU Master's Thesis, p. 28-29, quoting Matthew Cowley, "Maori Chief Predicts Coming of LDS Missionaries," Improvement Era, Sept. 1950, p. 696.)   Within a few years, the missionaries did come, and within eight years there were 70 branches of the Church in New Zealand.  By 1892, 10% of all Maoris were LDS. Presently (February 2017) there are 530,000 members of the Church in the islands of the Pacific Ocean.

Apia Samoa Temple
Picture from lds.org
Ask if there are any from your ward/branch that have or are currently serving in the Pacific Islands, or that are originally from Pacific Islands.

South America – 1925
Standing in Buenos Aires on Christmas Day, 1925, Melvin J. Ballard dedicated the land of South America to missionary work.  There were currently 12 members of the Church in all of South America, and all of them were Europeans.  There was not one native member.  President Ballard prophesied that the growth would start small but then become huge.  He prophesied that South America would be divided into more than one mission.  (Quite an understatement!)  It happened as he said.  After the first nine years of missionary work, there were only 329 members.  Gradually the growth picked up until in 1997, there were over two million members. Today (February 2017) there are 3,905,125 members in South America (Mormon Newsroom website).

Asuncion, Paraguay Temple
From lds.org

Ask if there are any from your ward/branch that have served or are currently serving in South America, or that are originally from South America.

Asia – 1949
Although the first three missionaries went to Hong Kong in 1852, they had no success and returned home. On July 14, 1949, standing on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, church leadership, with Matthew Cowley as voice, re-opened Asia to missionary work, prophesying that there would one day be a temple there (Church News). U.S. servicemen in Japan during WWII and its postwar occupation (including Elder Boyd K. Packer) started the spread of the gospel there. (The same thing happened in Korea.) By August 1949, there were 211 members of the Church in Japan (Encyclopedia of Mormonism).

In 1901, missionaries went to Japan, where they experienced a very slow start to the work, but successfully translated the Book of Mormon (Encyclopedia of Mormonism). By 1951, there were 30 regularly-attending Church members in Hong Kong. By 1960, there were 1700 members. Now (2017) there are 24,000 (Mormon Newsroom, accessed March 2017).

Temples were dedicated in 1980 in Japan, in 1984 in Taiwan, in 1985 in South Korea, and in 1996 in Hong Kong, and in 2000 a second temple was dedicated in Japan.

Missionaries have proselyted in the India subcontinent as early as the 1860s, but only recently has the church had a permanent presence in India.  The India Bangalore Mission was created in January of 1993 (October 1993 Liahona). Now there are nearly 12,700 members in 2 missions in India (MormonNewsRoom, accessed March 2017).

Presently in the 19 countries designated as "Asia" by the Church, there are 42 missions, 8 temples, and 1.1 million members (Mormon Newsroom, accessed March 2017).

(Previous information I posted on Asia from "An Ensign to the Nations" video appears to have been changed with further research.)

Hong Kong, China Temple
Picture from lds.org

Ask the same questions about Asia.

Africa -- 1976

Although the church was established in South Africa in 1853, the gospel was not preached to black Africans until after the revelation on the priesthood (Gospel Pioneers in Africa, August 1990 Ensign).

"Anthony Obinna of Nigeria had a dream in 1965 of a beautiful building. “A personage appeared to me three times,” he said. “He took me to the beautiful building and showed me everything in it.” Anthony never forgot that dream, and later, when he came across a picture of the same building in an old copy of Reader’s Digest magazine, he recognized it. It was the Salt Lake Temple.

"He wrote to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, for information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then continued to correspond. As he and others in his area learned of the gospel, they began to meet together in worship services and tried to live the gospel as best they could. It is no surprise that in 1978, when the first official Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived in West Africa, Anthony Obinna became the first native of Nigeria to be baptized in that country.

"Brother Obinna was only one of hundreds of West Africans who had been previously prepared to receive the gospel. These early converts were readied in a variety of ways. Some West Africans traveled to other countries, learned of the gospel while there, and then brought information back with them. Others learned from West Africans who already believed in the gospel. In these ways, congregations with testimonies of the Book of Mormon gathered in both Nigeria and Ghana. These individuals learned the gospel without the aid of full-time missionaries, and several of the congregations were unknown to each other" (August 1993 Ensign).  Presently there are almost half a million members in Africa, and three temples.

(If you or any class members are troubled by the delay in extending priesthood blessings to Africans, please see my blog lesson Continuing Revelation.)

 Aba, Nigeria Temple
from lds.org

Post-revolution Eastern Europe – 1990 (Russia)
When the Iron Curtain went up in 1945 after World War II, it sealed off a small group of Church members in East Germany and Czechoslovakia.  At peril of their lives, they continued to believe and meet to worship, as atheism became the official position of their countries.  All missionary work ceased, except what came over the airwaves and later satellites, including broadcasts by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

In 1968, in the midst of this time of religious oppression, Thomas S. Monson visited East Germany.  The Spirit of the Lord impressed him to promise those Saints, “If you will remain true and faithful to the commandments of God, every blessing any member of the Church enjoys in any other country will be yours” (May ’89 Ensign, p.51).  It was a stunning promise.  But the Saints did remain true and faithful, binding the Lord to His promise. One elderly woman, for example, when finally visited by Priesthood authority, produced a stocking containing her tithing for the past 25 years. 

The Berlin Wall came down on November 9th, 1989 (Apr.’91 Ensign, p.26). The Saints in Czechoslovakia had spread the Gospel undercover during the 40 years the wall was up.  In 1989, when the missionaries were able to return, they didn’t have to tract because there was a huge group just waiting to be baptized.  As for the Saints in East Germany, within 27 years, everything President Monson (then Elder Monson) had promised had been received, including, in 1985, the dedication of the Freiberg Germany Temple – a temple behind the Berlin Wall!  The Freiberg temple was so busy that patrons had to make appointments to participate in an endowment session (Ibid., p.52).

 Freiburg, Germany Temple
From lds.org

"In 1843, just 13 years after the Church's organization, Church President Joseph Smith called two men to preach in Russia. This assignment was canceled after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in 1844. In 1895, a native of Sweden was sent to St. Petersburg, where he baptized the Johan M. Lindelof family. The family was occasionally visited by Church leaders in the early 1900s. In 1959, Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, simultaneously serving as United States Secretary of Agriculture, visited the Central Baptist Church in Moscow and preached to an attentive congregation.

"In September 1989, Church leaders authorized a United States Embassy worker in Russia to begin holding group meetings in his apartment. Four months later, in January 1990, missionaries arrived in Leningrad. The first convert they baptized also became the first full-time missionary from Russia, who served in the Utah Ogden Mission. In February 1990, a congregation was organized in Vyborg. By mid-summer 1990, the Leningrad congregation, created in December 1989, had 100 members, and the Vyborg congregation had 25 members. In September, the St. Petersburg congregation was recognized by the government and in October a religious freedom law was passed. With membership in Russia at 750 in February 1992, two other Russian missions were organized.

"In June 1991, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir received publicity 'beyond its wildest expectations' as it performed in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). The choir recorded songs later broadcast to a potential audience of 339 million. In May 1991, the Church was officially recognized by Russia."  Currently there are 100 congregations in Russia, with 22,720 members (included in the European number noted above) (MormonNewsGroup).

Ask the same questions about Eastern Europe.

Middle East
And what is left?

In the First Presidency Message delivered by President Spencer W. Kimball in July 1979, he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is brooding over the nations to prepare the way for the preaching of the Gospel.”

In the Middle East there are 4 congregations in Israel with about 30 active members besides BYU students and embassy workers (see reader comment below), 5 in Turkey and a stake center in United Arab Emirates (thanks to reader Carl H for sharing this link! ) which was dedicated in February of 2013.


 The stake center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
has a dome instead of a steeple, to fit
with local architecture.  Services are conducted on
Fridays, the Sabbath observed in that country.

There are 11 congregations and a mission in Armenia.  In great measure, Armenia was opened to the church because of the great efforts of LDS member Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., who built a concrete factory there which was staffed with LDS service missionaries and local Armenians to build safe homes after the devastating earthquake of 1988 which killed 50,000 people and left half a million homeless.  The first member of the church was baptized in 1992, and the church was registered in Armenia in 1995 (MormonNewsRoom).

 BYU Jerusalem Center
Picture from Wikipedia

LDS military members also create a church presence in the Middle East.  The Afghan Military District of the church was created in 2008.  I don't have current statistics, but in 2009, there were more than 400 members in 4 branches serving across Afghanistan.

Bagram Military Branch Members
at Interdenominational Chapel at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan
from FreeRepublic website.


Music Video Finale
Before many of these members in our ward/branch left on their missions, they memorized the fourth section of the Doctrine & Covenants.  Read aloud D&C 4:1-2.

Show the last 4½ minutes of the video “An Ensign to the Nations, part 6” beginning at minute 3:46 with President Gordon B. Hinckley saying, “As I have looked in the faces of members of the church…”  Although it's an older video, it's very inspiring, particularly this closing music video segment.  Here is the YouTube link, or maybe you can find it on the church website.  (I have terrible luck finding videos there...)  It may also still be available in your meetinghouse library. 

(Some of the information about missionary work around the world came from “An Ensign to the Nations.”)


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #8 The Restoration of the Priesthood



INTRODUCTION

(Have a display of various items [tools] on the table: a magnifying glass, wire whisk, calculator, trowel, tuning fork, wrench, comb, thermometer, toothbrush, and a Swiss Army knife.)

What do all these items have in common? (They are all tools.)  We can use each of these tools to accomplish a specific purpose, if we have the understanding of how they are to be used.  The Swiss Army knife is unique on this table in that it can be used for many different purposes.  The Priesthood of God is even better than a Swiss Army knife because it can be used to accomplish every good purpose, if we have the authority to use it, and the ability to understand how.  It is the greatest all-purpose tool there ever was or will be.

(Ask the class to finish this sentence.)  The Priesthood is the power and authority (or the tool) by which:
(And here are some possible answers.)

  • All things exist
  • All things are governed
  • The Plan of Salvation operates
  • The Gospel is preached
  • The ordinances of Salvation are performed
  • We are sealed up unto eternal life
  • The Lord will govern all nations of the earth.

The Priesthood operates by love.  It exists for the purpose of blessing and serving others.  By serving others, we are also blessed. We have another lesson coming up on the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, and how we should exercise Priesthood power, but the basic summary is that it must be done in love.

THE RESTORATION OF THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD

Before the Book of Mormon was published, before the Church was organized and named, the priesthood was restored.  This had to come first, as the Priesthood was the tool for building the entire kingdom.  Only the First Vision, the tutoring by Angel Moroni, and most of the translation of the plates preceded the Priesthood chronologically.  All three of these things were necessary to prepare Joseph to receive the Priesthood.  Read D&C 84:18-21.

Joseph Smith wrote a simple factual account of the restoration of the Priesthood found in Joseph Smith-History 1:68-73, but let’s read Oliver Cowdery’s very poetic and emotional account of it.  You can find this in the very back of your Joseph Smith-History as a footnote.  (Read the last 3 paragraphs.)  This took place May 15, 1829.

INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE

Now, as the lesson progresses, I want each of you to think of your experiences with the Priesthood.  How have you seen the power of the Priesthood manifested in your life?  As a priesthood holder, what have your feelings been when baptizing someone, or performing another sacred ordinance?  What experiences have you had receiving blessings through priesthood leaders who do not live in your home?

THE HISTORY OF THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD

Aaronic Priesthood history has passed through four distinct periods in this dispensation:

  1. 1829-1845: There were no age guidelines, but Aaronic Priesthood bearers were mostly adults.  Their primary duty was to visit members in their homes, to remember and nourish them as the Book of Mormon states.
  2. 1846-1877: After the temple endowment was broadly available, more men were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood in order to be sealed in the temple and to serve missions.  There were few men left in the Aaronic Priesthood.  So a lot of times men were called to be “acting” priests, teachers, and deacons, even though they held the Melchizedek Priesthood.  Deacons served as the meetinghouse custodians.
  3. 1877-1908: By now the quorums were on a ward level, and the First Presidency instructed that all worthy young men be ordained to the Priesthood, and schooled in its use as teens.  Boys from 11-18 received the priesthood, and generally stayed as deacons until they received the Melchizedek Priesthood.  The deacons were still custodians, not involved in the sacrament.
  4. 1908-present.  The Aaronic Priesthood was restructured to be a preparatory priesthood for boys.  A worthy boy was ordained a deacon at age 12, teacher at 15, priest at 18, and elder at 21.  Teachers and priests began to serve as junior home teachers, an apprentice to the Melchizedek Priesthood.  In the 1930s, an adult Aaronic Priesthood program was begun for converts and those returning to activity.  The ages of advancement changed back and forth a little over the years, until they settled on the present guidelines of 12, 14, 16, and 18.  (Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, Garr, et.al., p.1)

Our youth have tremendous priesthood opportunities and responsibilities that the youth of Joseph Smith’s day generally did not have.  As the youth have become more valiant, the priesthood ages have been reduced.  Or is it the other way around?  Elder James E. Talmage was in the early group of boys who were ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood.  His recollection of his ordination as a deacon was printed in the 1914 deacons’ instruction manual: 

“It seemed scarcely possible that I, a little boy, could be so honored of God as to be called to the Priesthood … The effect of my ordination … entered into all the affairs of my boyish life … When at play on the school grounds, and perhaps tempted to take unfair advantage in the game … I would remember … 'I am a deacon, and it is not right that a deacon should act in this way.'  On examination days, when it seemed easy for me to copy some other boy’s work … I would say in my mind, 'It would be more wicked for me to do that than it is for them, because I am a deacon.'”  (Incidents from the Lives of our Church Leaders [deacons’ instruction manual, 1914], pp.135-36, quoted in Gospel Doctrine manual)

And so the priesthood offers a great opportunity to our young men to begin to become godly at a young age.  (Read aloud D&C 20:46-47.)  

THE RESTORATION OF THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD

The Melchizedek Priesthood was restored the same spring that the Aaronic Priesthood was.  They are actually the same priesthood; the Aaronic is just a part of the Melchizedek.

LYMAN WIGHT, THE FIRST HIGH PRIEST

Last week, we talked about the first man (after Joseph and Oliver) to be baptized in this dispensation.  Now, in keeping with my desire to acquaint us all better with some of the early Saints, let me tell you about the first man ordained as a high priest, after Joseph and Oliver received the priesthood.  This took place at the fourth general conference of the Church, June 3, 1831, one year after the church was organized.  There were 2,000 members in attendance. (In just one year!)  John Whitmer, the newly appointed Church historian, recorded: 

“[Joseph] laid his hands upon Lyman Wight and ordained him [a high priest] after the holy order of God.  And the Spirit fell upon Lyman, and he prophesied concerning the coming of Christ … He said the coming of the Savior should be like the sun rising in the east, and will cover the whole earth.  So with the coming of the Son of Man; yea, He will appear in His brightness and consume all [the wicked] before Him; and the hills will be laid low, and the valleys be exalted, and the crooked be made straight, and the rough smooth.   And some of my brethren shall suffer martyrdom for the sake of the religion of Jesus Christ, and seal their testimony of Jesus with their blood.  He saw the heavens opened and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father, making intercession for his brethren, the Saints.  He said that God would work a work in these last days that tongue cannot express and the mind is not capable to conceive.  The glory of the Lord shone around.”  (HC 1:175-176)



Lyman, at times, was an excellent example of a priesthood bearer, and at other times he was a very poor example.  Let’s look at excellent first.  Read section heading to D&C 103.  Brother Wight had volunteered for this journey as a messenger, even though he only had three day’s provisions for the journey.  He knew the Saints needed the guidance of their Priesthood leader.  When he got to Joseph Smith, this is what the Lord told him to do.  Read D&C 103:30-34.  He then journeyed through Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan – everywhere that there was a little pocket of Latter-day Saints – mustering volunteers for Zion’s Camp.  Then he marched in the camp himself, second in command to Joseph Smith, walking from Michigan to Clay County, Missouri, without stockings on his feet.



Photograph of Lyman Wight's second cabin 
at Adam-Ondi-Ahman (BYU archives)


Lyman Wight was a powerful example of bravery in defense of the faith and the prophet:

"While Brother Wight served in the Adam-Ondi-Ahman stake presidency, he was taken captive by the mob militia and charged with treason and murder.  The leader of the mob, General Wilson, said to him, 'Colonel Wight, we have nothing against you, only that you are associated with Joe Smith.  He is our enemy and a damned rascal.  If you will come out and swear against him, we will spare your life.'


"Lyman defiantly replied, 'Joseph Smith is not an enemy to mankind, he is not your enemy, and is as good a friend as you have got.  Had it not been for him, you would have been in hell long ago, for I should have sent you there, by cutting your throat, and no other man but Joseph Smith could have prevented me, and you may thank him for your life.'

"Wilson responded, 'Wight, you are a strange man; but if you will not accept my proposal, you will be shot tomorrow morning at 8.' 

"Lyman said, 'Shoot and be damned.'”  (Who’s Who in the Doctrine & Covenants, p.342-3)

He was not killed, but he was imprisoned for about a year, first chained to the prophet in the squalor of Richmond Jail, and also present in the horrible confinement of Liberty Jail.

In 1841, he was ordained an apostle.  In this capacity, his assignments were to help build the Nauvoo Temple and the Nauvoo House hotel.  He successfully carried out these assignments, and in the process, baptized 200 individuals in Kirtland and brought them to Nauvoo.

10 years earlier, when Brother Wight was called on a mission, the Lord gave him some counsel.  Read D&C 52:7-9.  The Lord knew this would be an especial problem for Brother Wight, for he underlined his statement in verse 12.  Read D&C 52:12.  Brother Wight had a lot of difficulty with false doctrine, especially later in his life.  He tended to be extremely outspoken, as we have seen illustrated in the story above, and sometimes caused great difficulties for the Saints with the opposition because of his outbursts. After the death of the prophet, he lead a splinter group of the Church (150 people) to Texas where he expected to convert many Lamanites and establish Zion.  Eventually, his fellowship was withdrawn from the Church in order to stop what was being called “The Texas Epidemic.”  He ended up aligning himself with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (now known as the Community of Christ), believing Joseph Smith III to be the proper successor to his father.  He died of a sudden epileptic seizure in 1858.

Fortunately, Brother Wight is still alive on the other side of the veil, with more opportunities to learn about the power of godliness, and may well have advanced beyond any of us here.  The difficulties that those early Saints went through are impossible for us to imagine, but we might do well to learn from Brother Wight’s mistakes, as well as from his good works.

CLASS SHARING
Ask the questions in “Invitation to Participate” again, and let class members share their feelings and stories.  If they do not take all the time, you can share the following story.

CHUCK ALLEN, A PRESENT-DAY HIGH PRIEST

Let me tell you about a modern-day Priesthood holder, Brother Chuck Allen, who lives in Nauvoo, Illinois.  Brother Allen’s trade is woodworking, and his specialty is antique reproduction.  He has worked on Mark Twain’s boyhood home, among other places.  He was once working to build the 126 windows and the doors for the Nauvoo Temple.

When he was asked to do this, he was overjoyed; tears filled his eyes, and he rushed home to tell his family.  But the task was incredible.  He had to create windows that look historic, with the wavy glass and the square wooden pegs, while at the same time meeting the present-day building code.  There was no one for Brother Allen to ask for advice.  As he worked, he was enlightened, taught, and moved upon in so many small ways that he has come to declare, “The Spirit knows woodworking.”

An example: One day, so overburdened and exhausted he had to clear his mind – he left the wood shop to drive to Keokuk to get some dog food.  He had been mulling over how to create the star-patterned windows at the top of the temple.  “And suddenly, in 1/100th of a second, I saw it,” he said, “the picture of a poly wood ring about four inches wide that slips over five posts that I could use to mark the ends of my star points.”



To do this awesome task, building these windows, Brother Allen used the experience he has gained throughout his life as a woodworker, and even more so, the experience he has gained in life listening to the Spirit and relying upon God.

When Brother Allen and his wife were a young married couple with two babies, they discovered that their oldest, their first-born son who was 18 months old, had cystic fibrosis.  This is a horrible disease which coats the lungs in fibers.  The suffering is intense, and the expectation was that the baby would not live to see his fourth birthday.  It is a genetically-transmitted disease which Brother and Sister Allen had not been aware they carried.  They immediately made a decision not to have any more children, since there was the distinct possibility that they might pass on to them suffering and early death.

Brother Allen says, “Yet, as time passed, I came to realize that this mortal life is the time that my wife and I have been given to organize our eternal family, and we needed to reconsider our initial feelings and decision.  I felt that we needed to go forward with trust and accept whatever challenges the Lord had in store for us … I presented this priesthood understanding to my sweetheart and she readily agreed.”

Over the years, they had a total of six children.  The fifth one, a daughter, also was born with the disease.  For a 30-year period, they cared for and prepared their two terminally ill children for their passing.  (More details of this story are found in Charles W. Allen, Children of Promise, Allyn House Publishing.)

 “That responsibility created an environment in our home that was unlike any I had ever known or been acquainted with.  Your normal and petty concerns don’t seem important … Every day in those thirty years that I left home for work, I wondered if a child would be gone by the time I returned that evening.  These experiences tend to get your attention…

“Our son progressed long past his fourth year with the blessings of new techniques and medication and passed away a few days short of his sixteenth birthday … Not long after my son’s passing, I was fearful that our sweet little six-year-old daughter would be passing away soon, so I felt that our family would be better off moving from Missouri, where we lived at the time, to the valley east of Spokane where I was raised and had numerous long-time family friends.  I made the trip to my boyhood area to check things out and felt convinced that we needed to make the move … Our [family] decision was unanimous [to move at the end of the school year].

“A little more than a month later, the stake president, Dell E. Johnson, called to say he wanted to meet with me after church the following Sunday … [He told me that he had heard about the pending move and thought it would be a mistake.  I replied that I was confident in my family’s decision, that I knew that I could serve the Lord wherever he lived.  President Johnson] hesitated and looked down at the floor momentarily as I sat there with my arms folded, feeling good about the firmness of my stand and decision.  He then looked up and into my eyes and said, ‘Sometimes we make decisions that remove us from the blessings of our foreordination.’  I instantly realized that this visit went to a different level and it was a shock to my understanding.  I asked him, ‘Are you telling me by the authority you hold as the stake president and my High Priest Quorum president that it is the Lord’s will that I not move?’

“He softly answered, ‘Yes, I am.’  When he said that, I knew immediately there was no room for questions.”

The early Saints were often told where to move and what to do by their Priesthood leaders.  This seldom happens to us in the 21st century.  I just wonder how we would handle that.

To continue in Brother Allen’s words, “I have my free agency, that is true, but the greatest thing I can do with my free agency is to make choices that will place me and my family in line for the greater blessings and to conform with the will of the Lord.”

Brother Allen was called as branch president, and later as bishop, and was able to help members with terminal conditions because of his experiences.  But he left his career of woodworking, because his memories of working in the shop together with his son were more than he could bear.  He tried some other jobs, and also spent some time disabled until he had used up all his disability insurance.  When the family had $51.69 in their checking account, he withdrew $50 to make a trip to Bolivia.  His wife made do with garage sales and food supply during the three-week trip.  To make a long story short, through the workings of the Spirit, this trip to Bolivia prompted him to return to his proper place as a window and door maker.  He was concerned about what his wife would think, but when he returned home, she had been directed by the Spirit to encourage him in that same area.

The Allens’ daughter had the advantage of additional research, and lived to the age of 19.  Although it was difficult, Brother Allen chose to speak at her funeral so that he could teach his remaining children.  “I wanted them to know that when they are confronted with a choice, that they could not consider taking the path of least resistance, for there are no character-building opportunities and celestial rewards down that road.”

On the wall of his wood shop hang the many patterns he has made for the windows of the Nauvoo temple.  For the one interior and 126 exterior windows, 16,000 pieces were required with each piece taking an average of 25 steps.  These steps had to be accomplished in a tight, unyielding time frame.

One day, as he entered his wood shop, the enormity of the task hit him.  “Can I pull this thing off?”  he asked himself.  The Spirit answered, “You’re not pulling anything off.  You’re just a tool in the process.  This is the Lord’s program.” (Meridian Magazine at ldsmag.com. The original article is no longer online.

CONCLUSION

Joseph Smith might have been the only one of his day who actually viewed the enormity of the task that faced the early church.  He saw the vision, the whole scope of the project.  But he also saw the majesty of the Priesthood, the greatest tool that ever was.

It doesn’t matter whether we are men or women, because the entire church functions under the power of the Priesthood.  Through the Priesthood, all of us have the opportunity to be forgiven, all of us have access to the Holy Ghost, all of us fulfill our callings, all of us can make temple covenants.  All the blessings of the Priesthood are available to all of us, and as the Priesthood enhances our efforts, we become the most powerful tools in the Lord’s hands, able to accomplish anything, if we only remember, as Brother Allen stated, “This is the Lord’s program.”

(If you are interested in my talk on women's role in relation to the priesthood, follow this  link.)