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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Superfaith

Don't Worry! Be Happy!


Every day, I grow more and more concerned. And you should, too.

Many Latter-day Saints forget, conveniently ignore or are tranquilized to the fact that we live in the last days preceding Christ's second coming.

It's easy to discount all that "future negative stuff" when the economy seems to be doing fine. My real estate friends say that sales are doing well, unemployment is (reportedly -- cough cough) hovering around 5% and the inflation rate is low.

So why worry, RIGHT?!

I imagine circumstances weren't much different around 600BC Judaea. I mean, back then, Lehi and his family had a house, gold, silver and precious things (1 Nephi 2:4,11). Geopolitically, it was probably commonplace that people didn't believe that Jerusalem could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets (1 Nephi 1:19-20). No wonder Laman and Lemuel thought their dad was crazy; everything was fine!

Yet we know that on 2 Adar (March 16) 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and took the king (Jehoiachin) prisoner. He installed in his place a new king (Zedekiah) of his own choice. Nebuchadnezzar pillaged the city and its Temple. Jehoiachin, his court, other prominent citizens, craftsmen, and much of the Jewish population of Judah were deported to Babylon. Biblical texts report that the treasures and furnishings of the Temple, including golden vessels dedicated by King Solomon, were also taken to Babylon. (2 Kings 24:13–14)

In warning Israel of its impending doom, Isaiah described a nation that:
  • Had forsaken the Lord and whose children were corrupters (Isaiah 1:4)
  • Had political leaders who were rebellious and companions of thieves (Isaiah 1:23)
  • Called evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20)
  • Justified the wicked for reward, and took away the righteousness of the righteous (Isaiah 5:23)
  • Decreed unrighteous decrees (Isaiah 10:1)
  • Was a hypocritical nation (Isaiah 10:6)
Are these characteristics not evident today? If the Book of Mormon was "written for our day" as of 1986 (President Ezra Taft Benson, October 1986 General Conference), how much more applicable is it to us today?

On the surface, by what the government and mass media tells us, our economy is just chugging along and doing just fine. Yet underneath lies a lot of facts neither dares to mention: that our country is economically insolvent, and "the inevitable collapse could usher in an economic catastrophe dwarfing the Great Depression."

A Preview of Coming Events


When will it hit? Who knows. We don't know when any of the last days calamities and troubles will fall upon any of us, personally or collectively. We have no guarantees that we'll be spared from personally witnessing these destructions.
"But we do say there is no promise of safety and no promise of security except for those who love the Lord and who are seeking to do all that he commands.
It may be, for instance, that nothing except the power of faith and the authority of the priesthood can save individuals and congregations from the atomic holocausts that surely shall be." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "Stand Independent above All Other Creatures", April 1979 General Conference)
These "atomic holocausts" may be what Isaiah is referring to as part of a twofold calamity: "famine, and the sword" (Isaiah 51:19; also see Isaiah 5:13). Indeed, "For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many." (Isaiah 66:16) Combined with the fact that "the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine" (Isaiah 13:10), it's no wonder the Lord said that He "will make a man more precious than fine gold" (Isaiah 13:12).

I'd like to return to something in Elder McConkie's talk we just read:
"It may be, for instance, that nothing except the power of faith and the authority of the priesthood can save individuals and congregations from the atomic holocausts that surely shall be."
I think Elder McConkie is doctrinally correct here. Scripture tells us that "the just shall live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). Surviving these calamities may (likely) require the power of faith and the authority of the priesthood. That's an interesting combination of requirements, because (contrary to popular belief), not everyone with priesthood authority has power (Elder Boyd K. Packer, "Priesthood", April 2010 General Conference). And, in my opinion, not everyone with priesthood authority has the power of faith.

In my personal opinion, the degree of faith you'll need to even have a chance of surviving what's coming will need to surpass anything we have now. The survivors of tomorrow will not be those who today are self-absorbed, exhibiting apathy towards God, ignorance of His promises and denial of His gifts.

Again, this is my personal opinion, but I believe that in direct proportion to the ugliness and despair of these destructions, there will be a counterweight of goodness (perhaps not in the quantity of people exhibiting goodness, but definitely in quality). I can imagine these people who are armed with faith and authority easily implementing a variety of God-given gifts at any given time, including healing people of radiation sickness or biological/chemical agents, and even raising the dead. But again, this is my personal opinion.

Regardless of my opinions, one thing is for sure: It will definitely be a time of darkness. A time when common, ordinary, everyday faith will require something else -- "exceeding faith", or what I call "superfaith".
"Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." (Revelation 14:12)

About Superfaith


I believe the Brother of Jared was a classic example of one who exhibited superfaith. In his experience with the Lord, the Lord made a very interesting admission about the usage of faith up until that point in world history:
"Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast" (Ether 3:9)
Was the Brother of Jared blessed with the Gift of Faith? Unquestionably so -- to such an extent that it was powerful enough to part the veil!

Because God is no respecter of persons, He affords you with the very same, exact blessings as was given to the Brother of Jared. In fact, He's so desirous that we have this kind of experience, that He gave us further light and knowledge on the subject of faith, and how to develop it into "exceeding faith" or "superfaith" -- the same kind of active (not passive, not reactive) faith that holds armies at bay, raises the dead, causes the sun to stand still, calls down fire from the heavens, parts a sea, changes the course of rivers and creates food in just-empty baskets.

Now here's the real interesting fact:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." (John 14:12)
Like I said in my previous post: Very few people have at best a very basic, fundamental level of understanding regarding spiritual gifts (and quite likely regarding faith, as a universal, spiritual force itself).

Still, I believe that the first step in truly understanding faith is to acquire God-given knowledge on the subject. Luckily, we latter-day saints have it.

The Greatest (Mortal) Expositions Ever Given on Faith


The Lectures on Faith are a series of seven theological presentations made to the School of the Prophets in the winter of 1834-35 in Kirtland, OH. (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 2nd ed). 

That Joseph Smith intended their inclusion in the D&C is clear:
"During the month of January, I was engaged in the school of the Elders, and in preparing the lectures on theology for publication in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, which the committee appointed last September were now compiling" (History of the Church, 2:180).
The Lectures were published in 1835 as the Doctrine portion of the volume entitled "Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God (better known simply as the Doctrine and Covenants)". The Lectures were selected for that volume by a committee appointed on September 24, 1834 by a general assembly of the church to arrange the doctrines and revelations of the church into a single volume. That committee of Presiding Elders (consisting of Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams) stated that the Lectures were included "in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation," and that the Lectures, together with the church-regulatory sections that followed, represent "our belief, and when we say this, humbly trust, the faith and principles of this society as a body." (Preface, D&C, 1835 edition, p. iii)

The book was presented at the August 17, 1835 General Conference. Records indicate that "several priesthood leaders were apparently given unbound copies to read ahead of time. They were then able to testify at the conference to the truthfulness of the revelations. After hearing the testimonies, the whole conference voted, first as quorums, then as a congregation, to accept the book as arranged" (Robert J. Woodford, "The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants", Ensign, Dec. 1984).  The body of the church accepted the committee's compilation as "the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote." (History of the Church, 2:243-6, emphasis mine).

The record is crystal clear: Joseph intended the Lectures' inclusion in the D&C, and they were properly sustained into the D&C by a valid, recorded and unanimous vote of the Church collectively (see D&C 28:13).

The Lectures on Faith were included in subsequent 1844 and 1876 editions (source).

44 years after their original publication, they were included in a new 1879 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.  However, this time, Apostle Orson Pratt questioned the Lectures' inclusion in the new publication, which he was preparing.  Quorum of the Twelve President John Taylor responded:
"The Lectures on Faith were published with the sanction and approval of the Prophet Joseph Smith and we do not feel that it is desirable to make any alteration in that regard at any rate not at the present" (John Taylor to Orson Pratt, 25 April 1879, retained copy in John Taylor letter book, 16 August 1878 to 27 May 1879, pp. 710– 13, at the LDS Church Archives, cited in Robert J. Woodford, "Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants" (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 1:87–88).
(Wow, "published with the sanction and approval" of the head of this dispensation.  Talk about validation!)

Yet in late 1921, the Church printed the Doctrine and Covenants without the Lectures.  An interesting explanation was given: the Lectures "were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons." (See Introduction, 1921 edition).

It's not my desire to scrutinize the debate regarding the canonization/decanonization of the Lectures.  Still, one fact remains untarnished: even modern-day theologians and church leaders find tremendous value in the Lectures on Faith.  In addition to Pres. Taylor's comment above, we learn that:
"They were considered to be very excellent expositions of the doctrines contained therein" (Pres. Charles W. Penrose, Member of the First Presidency, 1921; emphasis mine).

"In my own judgment these Lectures on Faith are of great value and should be studied...I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ" (Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith, "Seek Ye Earnestly", p 194; emphasis mine).

"In them is to be found some of the best lesson material ever prepared on the Godhead; on the character perfections and attributes of God; on faith, miracles and sacrifice.  They can be studied with great profit by all gospel scholars"  (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 439; emphasis mine).

"In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language - that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, lecture at Brigham Young University, Jan. 4, 1972; emphasis mine).
"Joseph Smith said that “faith [is] the principle of action and of power” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 72)" (Elder Richard G. Scott, "The Transforming Power of Faith and Character", October 2010 General Conference).
"The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that 'faith [is] the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness' and that it is also 'the principle of action in all intelligent beings' (Lectures on Faith [1985], 1)" (Elder David A. Bednar, "Ask in Faith", April 2008 General Conference).

Read the Lectures on Faith...Today!


I believe no meaningful discussion regarding the Gift of Faith can occur without at least having invested time and deep, ponderous thought regarding faith...including the doctrines elaborated in the Lectures on Faith.

So, I invite you to read the Lectures on Faith.  What do you have to lose?  They're a fairly quick read, and you'll never look at the doctrine of faith the same way ever again (because you'll understand it better).

To facilitate this, I offer you the links below, and look forward to hearing your comments regarding the Lectures on Faith.

Free Download/View of the Lectures on Faith

HTML
HTML (Hint: This can easily be copied and pasted into a Word or Google doc)
The 1835 Doctrine & Covenants (which includes all the LoF) 
The 1835 Doctrine & Covenants
PDF (Based on original photos; 8.5 MB)

History of the Lectures on Faith


What of the Lectures on Faith?
The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective

In my next post, we'll dive into the Lectures on Faith and cast a magnifying glass on them.

We're going to examine, explore, scrutinize and discuss the contents of the Lectures with one objective in mind: knowing about, and implementing, the Gift of Faith in your life to such a degree, that you, too, will be able to match the Lord's expectations of you.

3 comments:

  1. I enjoy reading your blog. Yours is building, while so many other blogs tear town. Good for you on a job well done.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a delight to see you write about this. I had felt quite strongly to revisit Lectures on Faith in the past couple of weeks and was able to do so via iPhone app. I am glad you will delve in to it a bit deeper
    I've been looking for an audio version of it as it is clearly written in a speaking style.

    ReplyDelete
  3. LoF is free on your Kindle app if that's your thing.

    ReplyDelete