I am in Mesa Arizona as I write this. Carol and I are here for the last lecture of the “Forty Years in Mormonism” series, which will be delivered on Tuesday. As Denver wrote on July 31st, “The final talk in Phoenix will mean more if you have read or listened to the first nine talks. All ten are one talk, delivered in installments. The conclusion will presume the audience is already acquainted with what went before.” He also noted his Sunstone lecture would be helpful to read.
With that spirit in mind, I went back and re-read or listened to each of the previous lectures over the past few weeks. I thought maybe a few summary notes would be helpful to present here as my own way of feeling prepared for what we will hear on Tuesday morning. I’ll include a few opening and closing paragraphs in hopes of enticing you to read each of the lectures again if you haven’t already. Like the Lectures on Faith they are worth reviewing until we understand them.
You can read copies of the talks on Scribd. I have PDF copies of the talks that I have printed, studied and pondered. Each talk is also available on CD from Doug Mendenhall at Publishing Hope. I realize it’s a little late and most of you have either attended the lectures or already studied them. Like you, I am wondering what will be presented tomorrow. I’ll include links to the lectures from a couple of sites that will allow you to read them in PDF format.
This is part one of three. You can read the other parts in the links below:
Boise – Be of Good Cheer: 9-10-13
Opening Remarks from Boise:
“I know of no more cheerful being in the universe than Christ. When he says: “Be of good cheer,” we ought to all accept that as our own mantra. There is nothing that any of us will ever go through that he hasn’t gone through, with a considerable greater degree of difficulty. He lived with a higher ‘specific gravity’ than any of us have ever had to fight against. And he won for each of us a prize that is potentially eternal. It will be eternal one, way or the other. But if you take full measure of what he offers it will be delightfully eternal.
“Cowardice is largely predicated upon fear. Don’t be cowardly. Don’t be fearful. Fear is the opposite of faith. For goodness sake, you’re already in the battle! You’re already going to be overtaken. The fact of the matter is no one gets out of here alive. Live this life nobly, fearlessly. When you take the wounds that come your way make sure that they come to your front! Don’t let them shoot you in the back. Go about your life boldly, nobly, valiantly. Because it is only through valiance in the testimony of Jesus Christ that you can hope to secure anything. Not valiance in your fidelity to anything other than Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is that faith must be based in Him, and in Him alone. We’ll get to that in Idaho Falls. Tonight I want to introduce some ideas that are essential to salvation coming through the prophet Joseph Smith, which we really need to become reacquainted with.”
Closing remarks from Boise:
“It’s been 40 years. This is going to be a year in which I put on display my gratitude for the opportunity afforded to me to be baptized for the remission of sins. And it will allow me to testify about those things which I know to be true. And to speak about the work remaining undone devolving upon you to accomplish. This restoration merely got its toe in the door in the day of Joseph Smith. And hardly even that. The prophecies and the promises and the time and the opportunity are upon us.
“The question is, will this generation be just as careless, just as indifferent, as the one when the last, real prophet’s voice was heard among us? When Joseph Smith could tell you, ‘I know He lives because I’ve seen Him.’ When Joseph Smith could say, ‘God commanded me that I should bear record of Him because I have seen Him.’ It has been too long, too long, between that moment and today. And it’s time now we stop running away from the conflict. It’s time for us to be valiant once again. Do not be fearful. Cowardice and fear are the opposite of faith.
“If Joseph Smith in the ruins of 1838, can write the testimony that we find in the history of Joseph Smith as an act of audacious courage and faith and confidence in the work of God that he was pursuing, despite the ruin that he saw the church existed in at that moment; if Joseph could do that, why can’t you have faith?
“I don’t care what a tattered ruin that you see around you today. Zion can come. We’re still a few sessions away from encountering important parts of that religion Joseph was attempting to restore which are really most interesting. But I’m telling you that if you stay with this over the course of the next year you are going to realize just how much of the restoration is left undone.
“There is nothing more delightful, there is nothing more delicious, there is nothing more exciting than the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. … I’m simply going to talk. But I will tell you that I know what I’m talking about. If you will ask of God and listen to the Spirit you will be able to determine whether I speak His words. I don’t think it matters if I could reveal to you all things. If you won’t believe the things I can tell you, you certainly won’t believe things I’m not telling you.
But I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t believe me. I really wouldn’t. It is so hard to be believing. This world is so acidic and this environment is so toxic. It’s very hard to believe. I think that’s one of the reasons why Christ’s account said it is a greater righteousness to believe than it is to know and to say. I bear testimony to you that Jesus Christ lives, He matters. I don’t. He can save you. I can’t. I can report on the glory of this Lord of ours but only He can dispense it. Of that I bear testimony intending to be held to account for the testimony I bear.
Idaho Falls – Lectures on Faith: 9-22-13
Opening Remarks from Idaho Falls:
“A friend reminded me of something this week. I coined a term, he suggested the idea. It’s important that you don’t think that before you wind up in the presence of the Lord you have the responsibility of making yourself absolutely spic and span. In terms of connecting with the Lord, it is essentially a “come as you are party.” You are never going to be able to do the heavy lifting required to be clean in his presence. He does that, you don’t. He extends the invitation, you accept it. It’s a come as you are party.
“There are two parables that the Lord told, and I want to put them together to help illustrate the point. One is in Matthew chapter 22. It’s a parable about a wedding feast. The Lord in that parable talks about how the folks who were invited wouldn’t show up. Because the folks who were invited wouldn’t show up, in invitation was extended to essentially whoever was out on the streets. The folks who were out on the streets were brought in. Let’s begin at verse 8 of chapter 22, “Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.” He is telling a story, largely about a condition that persists whenever you find a functioning religious organization. Institutions have a way of having their own cares.
“Joseph Smith was a disastrous businessman. He created financial debacle after financial debacle. The notorious one was the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-banking Association. Anti, because they couldn’t get the bank charter. If you file for bankruptcy in the state of Utah, one of the things that one of the local bankruptcy judges has done at the discharge hearings, in order to help people feel better about themselves, is to remind people that at the time of his death Joseph Smith had a pending petition in bankruptcy. That is supposed to salve the conscience of those who find themselves in that extremity.
“The fact is Joseph was not a particularly good businessman because he didn’t care for business. He wound up giving away his inventory to needy folks, rather than trying to profit off the needs of the Saints. There was some exasperation about that in his family, among his peers, and among LDS historians. Well, we fixed that. We have managing the church, and attending to the financial interests of the kingdom (as we call it now), those that are more than qualified financially. I suspect a profligate like Joseph Smith would be unsuitable for church management today.”
Closing Remarks from Idaho Falls:
I don’t know if it’s important that anyone from Idaho Falls comes here. I don’t know if it’s important if anybody from Idaho Falls hears one word. But I do know that a testimony needs to be spoken on this ground, in this place. I know that everyone will be accountable for that. Not just those who happen to stumble upon this. I know that the Lord knows a great deal more than do I, and that very often I only figure out later what He has had in mind all along. God is moving systematically. He is taking the measure of the Latter-day Saints. His hand is about to move again in the affairs of men. We have a window. This is your dispensation. You are accountable.
Those prophecies spoken to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni in his room aren’t going to fulfill themselves. There has to be someone who has faith. There has to be someone who rises up. And when he set His hand and He invites you to join in, He wants you to know Him. When He sets that in motion, then you need to respond. Not to me, not to any man. You need to respond to Him. This is His work. He and only He will organize it. He and only He will roll it forth. But as one of the verses that we read tonight recited, there has to be a people prepared. And that requires that faith return to the earth again.
And if what has happened with The Lectures on Faith in 1921, prevented people from acquiring faith, because they misapprehend the character and nature and attributes of God from that date until today, then it’s time for you to shake that off. Rise up and lay hold upon faith again. Joseph saw the Father and the Son, he testified about them, and he described them. I’ve seen the Father and I’ve seen the Son, and they both have spoken with me. The only reason I mentioned that is to give you confidence that it can happen. It should happen to you. You should be talking to them. They can tell you what you need to know.
Do not be at all surprised if the subject about which you need to converse with the Lord consists almost entirely of a discussion about the scriptures. Do not be surprised if an angel comes to minister to you and the topic upon which the angel would like to converse involves the scriptures. Do not be surprised if the Lord authorizes someone to deliver a message and the message consists of expounding the scriptures.
On the road to Emmaus, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, what Christ did was open up to them how all things testified of Him. What all things testified of what is currently underway. Make no mistake about it, it is getting underway. I don’t care where you look. I don’t care what society you look at. I don’t care what economy you observe, what culture you observe. The earth and all of the people on her are waxing old like a garment. And do you know what they do with garments that are old? They are burned.
The way to preserve yourself consists in having faith in God. And the conditions upon which faith in God are obtained are exactly the same for you as they were for Moses, and Abraham, and all of those who have ever had faith. Joseph Smith is the latest, great example of that.
Well, it would be incomplete, and I would be remiss if I didn’t close in the name of Jesus Christ. I intend always to be accountable to Christ for the words that I deliver. I don’t set the agenda. I don’t choose the topic. I do what I’m asked to do. I say what I’ve been told to say. I hope you understand how little I matter and how much your relationship to Christ and the Father do matter. I hope you understand that His words should be clear and distinct when you hear them spoken. And you should be able to judge and you should be able to judge the matter correctly. I testify of Him because I have seen Him. I have faith in Him because I know that every word He has spoken has been vindicated in His Gospel. And the only reason we are unable to lay hold upon those blessings is because we simply do not have the faith required to do so.
Hence, at the beginning of this process this year it is necessary to spend a night in Idaho Falls on the subject of faith, using The Lectures on Faith, which I regard as binding Scripture. These were vouched for by the Prophet Joseph Smith. These are every bit as, if not more important than the revelations that follow in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. We can’t spend all the time necessary, and you can’t endure those chairs another five minutes, but pick up The Lectures on Faith. They don’t take long to read. Forget all those footnotes that have been interlineated by folks after 1921. Forget all the articles that are there in order to prop up a different definition of what the Holy Ghost is. Forget about all the drivel. In fact, go photocopy the edition that you find in the Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Transcriptions, volume 2 in 1835 and read it there. It is an astonishingly, wonderful, light filled document. As Bruce R. McConkie said, “It is scripture, it is true. “
Logan – Repentance: 9-29-13
Opening Remarks from Logan Lecture:
When I became a Latter-day Saint, one of the things that typified, in those days, the Latter-day Saint, was the libraries every member had in their homes. In Exeter, which is another town in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire ward boundaries, there was an elderly woman named Sister Long. She ran, what was back then (we don’t have them anymore), The Seventies Bookstore. These were a chain of bookstores where you could purchase LDS materials. Sister Long was the proprietor of the bookstore, which consisted of her covered back porch where her inventory of LDS books was displayed. Since she was an avid reader, Sister Long read her inventory. So whenever you bought from her, you were actually buying a book she had already read, but fortunately had not marked up.
It was my understanding back then that if you were going to be a Latter-day Saint, you needed to acquaint yourself with all kinds of doctrinal and historical information about the faith. As a consequence of that, I began by reading everything I could get my hands on. In those days LeGrand Richards was still alive. The missionary discussions were largely based upon A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. LeGrand Richards had been the Presiding Bishop of the Church, and was then called into the Quorum of the Twelve. His book, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder was one of the first things I read to better acquaint myself with the doctrine the missionaries had been teaching.
I also read all of those early biographies about Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, and John Taylor. The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which I bought from Sister Long, got entirely used up. I recently had to buy a new one because the one I bought from Sister Long just fell apart. Now I still have it, but if you aren’t careful when you open it, it just falls to pieces in your hands. Mormons were by definition in those days, studious, careful, well read, well considered, doctrinally prepared folks who would defend the faith. Therefore, if you were going to run with them, you needed to have a religious education of your own. As a consequence of that, I began at that early stage to acquire a library, because you were not a legitimate believing Latter-day Saint without one back then.
Closing Remarks From Logan lecture:
Let me end by affirming that I have loved, loved every minute, from the moment I found the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have loved it above all else. I have learned more in the last 90 days – information flows geometrically, light grows constantly.
Nephi pondered about the things that he had seen and heard. He constantly meditated upon that, and wrote some 40 years after the fact. The revelations that Joseph Smith received, including that one that he received in the sacred grove was not all to be comprehended in the first pass through.
The things of God are of deep import. Why did God reveal what He revealed when He revealed it? Why did He reveal it in the order in which He revealed it? What was He building upon? Why in the first revelation did He go there? Why in the next did He go to that point?
“If you think Joseph’s mind wasn’t caught up in the things that he had seen and heard, just as yours should be about the things that you’ve seen and heard, then you need to think again, because the things of God are of deep import, and time and care and careful and solemn and ponderous thoughts are the only way in which you, or anyone can find them out. That applies especially to you because you control you.
“You determine how much light and truth you will receive. And it is predicated upon a law that was ordained before the foundation of the world. Anyone of you can obey it. God is no respecter of persons, and you are authorized to exercise faith in Him unto salvation. You are authorized to exercise faith in Him, until you know Him. You are authorized to see His face and know that He is; every one of you.
“If you intend to survive His return, you are going to have to be able to bear His presence. Hence, the need to talk about this material in the agenda that we are on in these series of talks. We introduced it. We talked about faith, we talked about repentance and we are going to talk about covenants next.
“I know not everybody comes to all of these. I don’t expect people to. I don’t even expect you to get the disks and listen to them. I’m trying to transcribe them and fill in with the things that I’m thinking about even if I do not give you the scriptures. They will be up on the Internet and available for you to read.
“I am introducing things. I am trying to provoke you to study. I am trying to provoke you to look into this stuff. But I cannot babysit you, and shouldn’t. I would only make you weak if I attempt to do that. You need to take this as the beginning point and go on and discover for yourself, how great things the Lord intends to do. One of the neglected volumes of scripture you need to spend some time with is The Lectures on Faith. They remain Scripture.
“I told you how the Lord vouched for Joseph Smith. The Lord vouches for Joseph Smith again. If nobody will say it, I will declare to you. If you ignore Joseph words, you ignore them at your peril. If you allow any man, or men, if you allow any committee, any institution, or organization to claim that they have the right to alter, neglect, or discard the words of revelation given by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith, they will damn you if you listen to them. And they will surely be damned for doing so. No one has the right to do that.
“God’s work is the same yesterday, today and forever. Those who would like to throw you about by every wind of doctrine are teaching you merely the commandments of men, as if they were doctrine and they aren’t! When God spoke through Joseph and we forget him, then we have no right to expect collectively, that He’s going to move anything forward for us. The first order of repentance is to remember what God gave to us through Joseph. You do that, and then you find God is perfectly willing to pick it up and move it forward. You don’t do that, and God will simply wait for you to get around to discharge the duty that is devolving upon you.
“God vouched for Joseph Smith. God spoke through him. I don’t have the right to move one of his words. But I do have the right to listen to him, to follow what came through him, and to lay hold upon the blessings that were promised as a consequence of remembering him. To remember the words of Joseph is to remember your Lord. Remember Him. And do not let anyone tell you that they hold some authority that allows them to neglect, change, discard, veto, forget, or contradict what God told you through the voice of the Prophet.
Continue on to part Two: https://latterdaycommentary.com/2014/09/08/preparing-for-the-final-lecture-part-two