Sunday, September 5, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #35 "God Reveals His Secrets to His Prophets"

Amos 3; 7-9; Joel 2-3


"Prophecy is not designed just so we can build our time lines and figure out what is going to happen. Prophecy is designed to show us the character of God (His justice, mercy, sovereignty, etc.) and cause us to turn to Him." --Hampton Keathley IV,

There is a fabulous treatis on the book of Amos at  Rather than just quote it or paraphrase it, I'm sharing the link so you can read it word-for-word and not miss anything.  The only changes for Latter-day Saints would be that when the author asks, "How does this relate to us since we are not under the covenant blessings and curses?" we can answer, "It completely relates to us because we are of the House of Israel and under the covenant blessings and curses."

And, for those who may not know, Yahweh (referred to in the article) is Jehovah, the premortal Jesus Christ (Bible Dictionary).

THE BOOK OF JOEL also has a helpful article on the book of Joel.  It is interesting to note, however, that the author is not entirely sure of the meaning and fulfillment of the prophecy in chapter 2.  That's because he is not a Latter-day Saint.

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:  And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

"And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.

"And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call" (Joel 2:28-32).

What is mount Zion referred to here? It is the New Jerusalem (D&C 84:2), to be built upon the American continent (Article of Faith 10).

Interestingly, although Peter quoted this scripture at Pentecost (Acts 2:17), and many scholars feel it was fulfilled at that time, the author of the article does not.  Pentecost was missing several of the elements, he says:  signs, wonders, dreams, and visions.  In fact, the only element he thinks happened at Pentecost was the pouring out of the Spirit of the Lord upon the people.

Of course, he is right.  The full prophecy was to occur in the dispensation of the fullness of times.  The signs and wonders in heaven have not yet come, but the dreams and the visions and the outpouring of the Spirit are abundant.  This very scripture was quoted to Joseph Smith by the Angel Moroni in a vision.  The fulfillment of verses 28 and 29 began when Joseph Smith had his first vision, was shared among many of the Saints in the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, and continues to spread over the earth to this day.  Dreams and visions were not infrequent occurences in the lives of the early saints, and although sacred and therefore safeguarded, they are not highly unusual among the Church members today.  Elder Scott has said, "One of the most memorable and powerful patterns of communication by the Spirit is through dreams" ("To Learn and to Teach More Effectively", BYU Education Week, 2007, paragraph 50).  The outpouring of the Spirit blesses the lives of Latter-day Saints daily.  Every month miracles are chronicled in The Ensign.  

Note that the scripture does not discriminate between the sexes:  both sons and daughters shall prophecy.  This occurs daily in our missionary force, in our Priesthood and Relief Society, in our family home evenings, and in our General Conference sessions, since "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10). 

The prophecy does not discriminate against the youth or the aged:  "old men shall dream dreams, and young men shall see visions."  Not only do those of all physical ages receive such manifestations, but also those of all spiritual "ages:" investigators to the Church as well as fourth-generation members have full access to the Spirit of the Lord as they exercise righteousness. 

And it does not discriminate by hierarchy of the Church:  even the "servants" and the "handmaids" will receiving an outpouring of the spirit.  That sentence could also refer to the fact that anyone who is a servant or handmaid of the Lord is qualified for this blessing.

Elder Scott gives us counsel on how to receive the outpouring of the Spirit to guide us in our lives.  "Spiritual guidance," he says, "is direction, enlightenment, knowledge, and motivation you receive from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  It is personalized instruction adapted to your individual needs by One who understands them perfectly.  Spiritual guidance is a gift of incomparable worth bestowed upon those who seek it, live worthy of it, and express gratitude for it...

"To acquire spiritual guidance and to obey it with wisdom, one must:
  • Seek divine light in humility
  • Exercise faith, especially in Jesus Christ
  • Strive diligently to keep his commandments
  • Repent constantly
  • Pray continually
  • Hearken to spiritual guidance
  • Express gratitude for guidance received."
(ibid., paragraphs 14, 17)

We in the latter days are blessed beyond measure with the gift of prophecy, both through the individual revelation available to guide us in our personal lives, and through the revelations our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, receives for the Church and for the world.

Quick quiz:  What was the last counsel President Monson personally gave to the Church members? 

Here is the answer.

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