Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 93

The revelation received on May 6, 1833, is a deep, deep dive into doctrine. We don't know what the context of this revelation was--what question may have been asked, what circumstances led up to it--but it picks up and expounds upon doctrine in the New Testament.
The first verse is a general outline of the doctrine of Christ.
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who aforsaketh his bsins and cometh unto me, and ccalleth on my name, and dobeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall esee my fface and gknow that I am;
This May 6 revelation helps us see who Jesus Christ is, who God the Father is, and who we are. It follows up on the truths taught in Section 88 about the Light. (Please see a previous lesson on Section 88.)
The Record of John: Learning of Christ
Since Section 93 contains the record of John (presumably John the Baptist) it is really helpful to first read John the Beloved's record of John the Baptist's testimony in the New Testament alongside it. (I hope that didn't confuse you...) I'm mixing the order up a little bit in order to align between the two.
John 1:
aIn the bbeginning was the Word, and the cWord was with God, and the dWord was eGod.
I was always so confused by this. Why was Christ called "the Word?" 
D&C 93 clarifies:
Therefore, in the beginning the aWord was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation.
Words are communication. Christ was the communicating link between God the Father and His children. He was the message, the connection from God to us. And with God, words are the same as actions because he has complete integrity. So He spoke and the world was created. Christ was the Word God spoke that saved us.
John 1:
The same was in the abeginning with God.
All things were amade by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was alife; and the life was the blight of men.
And the alight shineth in bdarkness; and the darkness ccomprehended it not.
D&C 93:
The alight and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.

10 The worlds were amade by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.
John 1:
¶ There was a man sent from God, whose name was aJohn.
The same came for a awitness, to bear bwitness of the Light, that all men through him might cbelieve.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true aLight, which blighteth cevery man that cometh into the world.

D&C 93 adds clarification upon the New Testament doctrine that Jesus Christ is both divine and human. It also makes it clear that John saw the premortal Christ:
2 [Every soul that sees my face will know] ...that I am the true alight that lighteth every man that cometh into the world;
And that I am ain the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one—
The Father abecause he bgave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made cflesh my dtabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men.
I was in the world and received of my Father, and the aworks of him were plainly manifest.
And aJohn saw and bore record of the fulness of my bglory, and the fulness of cJohn’s record is hereafter to be revealed.
And he bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the abeginning, before the world was;
John 1:

10 He was in the aworld, and the bworld was cmade by him, and the world dknew him not.

11 He came unto his own, and his own areceived him not.

1But as many as areceived him, to them gave he bpower to become the csons of God, even to them that believe on his dname:
13 Which were aborn, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word was made aflesh, and bdwelt among us, (and we cbeheld his dglory, the glory as of the eonly fbegotten of the Father,) full of ggrace and truth.
This verse has left a huge doctrinal question that has confused theologians for centuries: How could a God be born as a baby that has physical needs, that cries and fusses and grows into a child that skins his knees and maybe has a tantrum occasionally, if he is a God, full of grace and truth?
Section 93 teaches that Christ received "grace for grace," or in other words, in his earthly experience He developed His godly characteristics as He practiced them, through the grace of His Father in Heaven. He was not born fully formed, and even He had to exercise patience and practice and take time to grow into His role. 

D&C 93:
11 And I, John, abear record that I beheld his bglory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the afulness at the first, but received bgrace for grace;
13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from agrace to grace, until he received a fulness;
14 And thus he was called the aSon of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.
John 1:
15 ¶ John bare awitness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
D&C 93:
15 And I, aJohn, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my bbeloved Son.
John's Record: Becoming Like Christ
John then tells us that we, as Christ's followers, have received part of his fullness of grace. We also are growing, grace for grace.
John 1:
16 And of his afulness have all we received, and bgrace for grace.
17 aFor the blaw was given by Moses, but cgrace and dtruth came by Jesus Christ.
18 No aman hath bseen God cat any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath ddeclared him.
And the Joseph Smith Translation adds an important verse:
19 And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved.

D&C 93 tells us that John also saw the resurrected and glorified Christ who had a fullness of glory, and that we also can obtain a fullness of glory, through Him.
16 And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
17 And he received aall bpower, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.
18 And it shall come to pass, that if you are faithful you shall receive the afulness of the record of John.

19 I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and aknow what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.

Notice the word "that" in the middle of this verse. "That" is a key word in scripture connecting cause and effect. It is important to know God and how to worship Him, so that we can be united with Him and become like Him.
20 For if you keep my acommandments you shall receive of his bfulness, and be cglorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive dgrace for grace.
This astounding new doctrine (or clarification of lost or misunderstood doctrine) teaches, far beyond what the religions of the past 2,000 years ever taught, that we also can grow grace for grace until we are divine through Christ. Keeping His commandments will bring more grace upon us as we progress through life.  
Grace Upon Grace
It is hard for us to remember in our instant-gratification world, that God sends grace upon grace. He also sends knowledge "line upon line, here a little and there a little." This concept is so important, we find it multiple times in the scriptures. (See Isaiah 28:10; 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 98:12.) Here is how it is expressed in D&C 93:

21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the abeginning with the Father, and am the bFirstborn;

22 And all those who are begotten through me are apartakers of the bglory of the same, and are the cchurch of the Firstborn.

23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is aSpirit, even the Spirit of truth;

24 And atruth is bknowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;

25 And whatsoever is amore or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a bliar from the beginning.

26 The Spirit of atruth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He breceived a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;

27 And no man receiveth a afulness unless he keepeth his commandments.

28 He that akeepeth his commandments receiveth btruth and clight, until he is glorified in truth and dknoweth all things... (italics added)

Skipping down to verse 36, we find a truth that defines our theology:

36 The aglory of God is bintelligence, or, in other words, clight and truth.

In Section 88 we learned that truth, light, knowledge, power, glory, and joy are all expressions of the same thing: being one with God. (Here's that link again.) This is what we will experience in heaven: a fullness of glory, intelligence, light, truth, joy. It's going to be awesome!

Learn and Grow, While Living By Faith

Walter Scott
Walter Scott, one of the leaders of the Campbellite movement had outlined the essential elements of the gospel as "faith, repentance, baptism, remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life" and labeled them "the plan of salvation" before Joseph Smith used that term (Mark Lyman Staker, Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith's Ohio Revelations, 320-321). Scott taught wonderful gospel truths as a founder of the Disciples of Christ or Campbellite Church. He and his colleagues moved their followers away from the Calvinistic belief in a God of hellfire and damnation, ready to strike down any soul who committed the slightest sin, and back toward a belief in a loving Heavenly Father who wants His children to return to His embrace and will do all He can to aid them.
Sidney Rigdon had been a preacher of the Campbellite theology before the first missionaries came to Kirtland. The Lord said Brother Rigdon had been "sent for even as John, to prepare the way before me" (D&C 35:4). When Rigdon learned more truth from Joseph Smith, he accepted it joyfully, bringing many of his congregants with him. Those who had been in his Campbellite congregation found the first principles and ordinances of the gospel very familiar. (See Article of Faith 4.) In fact, Walter Scott complained that "Rigdon filched from us that elementary method of stating the gospel which has so completely brought it within the grasp of every one who hears it" (Staker, 331). 
The Lord had more to reveal than Scott wanted, however. The Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory (D&C 76), which Rigdon witnessed along with Joseph Smith, was abominable to him. He became very antagonistic toward the Church, rejecting expansion of knowledge beyond his own. Quite a few members of the Church had difficulty accepting that Vision as well, since it went beyond knowledge they previously held. Some even left the Church. Brigham Young was initially repulsed by the doctrine taught in the Vision because of his own religious background. He later said, "My traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was so directly contrary and opposed to my former education, I said, wait a little; I did not reject it, but I could not understand it" (Staker, 332). 
And yet today, the knowledge brought by this vision is cherished by Latter-day Saints: that Heaven is huge and that a merciful Heavenly Father plans to save everyone in the degree of glory in which they will be comfortable.
D&C 93 teaches us that "the glory of God is intelligence." God wants us to keep learning through our entire lives, and will bestow upon us knowledge, line upon line. This means, by definition, that no matter how old or how educated we are, we don't know everything right now. So if we hear something jarring about Church history, if we find a doctrine in the scriptures that doesn't make sense to us, if we don't understand the temple ceremony, if we miss receiving a blessing that we desperately want, if we disagree with a Church policy, we should just keep learning and living the gospel. We don't even need to put it (whatever it is) "on a shelf." We can keep studying it, while we realize we don't know everything yet, and trust that when we do, it will make sense. We hang on to what we do know--that God loves us and His love motivates everything He does. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, it is true, but asking questions, studying and learning, asking more questions, studying and learning more--this is the way to knowledge, light, truth, power, and ultimately joy.
It is important for us to remember that, just as we are learning "line upon line," so the Restoration unfolds and is still unfolding, "here a little and there a little." Even as a Church, we don't have all the knowledge yet. (I invite you to check out Anthony Sweat's YouTube video series, "The Unfolding Restoration," on the Doctrine and Covenants Central channel.)
Hugh Nibley

There can be few people in this dispensation who studied the gospel, Church history, and world religions more thoroughly than did BYU professor Hugh Nibley. Hugh Nibley's book, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, was actually the Melchizedek Priesthood manual in the 1950s.  My father loved this book and loved the other writings of Hugh Nibley. My own testimony has been strengthened by reading Nibley's books and watching his rambling lectures on YouTube. 

A few days prior to his death at age 94, Brother Nibley "visited the other side" or had a near-death experience. His colleague, Brent Hall, asked if he would share what he saw there. 

Brother Nibley responded, 

"Well, it's really very simple. It comes down to two scriptures: One is that 'The glory of God is intelligence' and the next one is that 'Man is that he might have joy.' When I was there, I knew everything. Because of that, I was really happy." 

We must all keep learning and keep growing in grace. In this life, we will never know the last thing, however, even if we are Walter Scott, Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young, or Hugh Nibley, because as we are we required to learn, we are also required to live by faith. And thus we grow in grace.

(You can watch Brother Hall tell the story here.)

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