Death Masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, June 28, 1844
I first learned about the Prophet Joseph Smith when I was 17 years old. I knew nothing about him, I mean nothing, until I read by chance his testimony in a missionary edition of the Book of Mormon. Those few paragraphs left a powerful impression, but I was not ready to grasp the full meaning of it until about nine months later. Then I had my pillar of fire experience.
That’s what I call it—a pillar of fire. I’d never felt anything like it, the most real experience I’d ever had. I was filled with light and hope and peace. It was the purest, holiest, most encouraging and redemptive feeling I had ever experienced.
On that fall evening, a friend testified to me of the divinity of Christ and His restored Church. It shook me to the core and filled me with a desire to draw closer to Jesus Christ and to learn more about the prophet Joseph, the Book of Mormon, and restored Church of Jesus Christ. I have never turned away from that moment. How could I deny the pure power I experienced?
Today I’ve been thinking a lot about Joseph. He was martyred with his brother Hyrum 175 years ago today, in Carthage, Illinois. I’ve been in the room where he was shot. I’ve stood at the window where he fell dead. I felt the pillar of fire there too.
I’ve lived in a home where the prophet lived with his wife Emma. I’ve walked the very floors he walked. I’ve have experienced the pillar of fire there and 1,000 other ways and days.
From the very beginning, I’ve heard mockery and criticism of Joseph. In the beginning, it shocked me. I’d never known anyone to be the object of so many bitter accusations. But that helped me understand that I was onto something.
The Angel Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith, by Tom Lovell (Courtesy Intellectual Reserve, Inc.)
Today, he is mocked and derided and denigrated, maybe now more than ever. This is no surprise. When he was 17, the angel Moroni appeared to him and gave a prophetic message:
He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people. (Joseph Smith-History 1:33; emphasis added.)
People have the freedom to believe whatever they want to believe. From my first encounter with Joseph over 40 years ago until now, I’ve chosen to trust the light.
I’ve sifted through the rubble and let it fall from my fingers. You say Joseph was a sinner, a charlatan, a seducer, a miscreant. I’ve looked at the claims against him and I say . . . suspicion is not evidence, evidence is not proof, and proof does not tell the entire story. It never does. That leaves a gap, a gap I’ve turned to God to fill. I’ve gotten faithful, stirring answers to my questions that contradict the world’s views on the matter. I decided at a young age to trust God and His Holy Spirit.
Joseph Smith was a latter-day witness of Jesus Christ. Let men and devils rail against him and his legacy. Here I stand, and by God’s grace, here I remain.
Then . . . the Lord hearkened . . . and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels. . . . Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. (Malachi 3:16–18.)
Last year, I wrote a blog post called “Diving through the Waves of Uncertainty.” It’s a personal story of from when I was 17. I was faced with a barrage of persecution, contradiction, and what I now call “scornography.” Fortunately, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I was able to find my way. I’m sharing this story here because I feel prompted to share it. It might help someone who’s passing through the same fire.
I see scornography—media that blames, mocks, belittles, slams, and tears down—the same way I see pornography. If you spend any time with it, it’s venom will spread like a black spider web across your mind. It will bind you and block your ability to see and understand God’s hand in your life. In my mind, there’s not much difference between the two when you consider the damage they can cause.
A Mountain to Climb
We all have the same mountain to climb. We’ll climb different faces, hike trails of our choosing, meander from camp to camp at the base. That doesn’t matter very much. What matters is that God our Father stands at the peak, offering His help with an outstretched hand. If we can manage to lift our eyes from the trail we’re on at the moment, we might just see Him there. He is always willing to help when we ask for it with all our hearts. I know that for certain.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11–13.)
In spite of my grinding weaknesses, I keep looking for the top of that mountain. With tattered togs, bloodied knees, and a broken spirit, I intend to keep climbing. I don’t know if I’ll reach it in one piece or not, but for now, I’m taking one step, one confession, one apology, and one prayer at a time.
In the spring of 2005, I had a dream. It startled me awake at 4:30 a.m. I wrote down everything I could remember in my journal. It was a dream about the apostasy of the Church of Jesus Christ before the Second Coming. I also saw the desecration and desolation of one of our temples. It was one that had not yet been built, but now stands overlooking a valley.
I only speak for myself, but I believe the apostasy I saw in my dream 14 years ago is starting to happen.
If you believe the scriptures are of value, this post may help you. That’s my intent.
The Great and Spacious Building
We’re passing through a difficult season for people of faith. Doubts and dissensions are edging friends, family, and other loved ones closer to and into the “great and spacious building,” the building Nephi saw in his dream many centuries ago (1 Nephi 8:26; 11:36).
Don’t get me wrong. Those doubts are normal and valuable. They’re healthy and part of the plan. They help us to find our way when we seek to turn them over and resolve them. They help us discover who we are.
We don’t enter the doors of the great and spacious Airbnb because of doubts. We enter it because of the way we handle our doubts.
Please take a moment to consider these questions.
1. Have we humbled themselves as little children?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2–4; emphasis added.)
Unless we’re open, genuine, sincere, present, and guileless like children, or at least trying to be, the doors of the kingdom can seem shut against us when we’re the ones actually shutting those doors.
2. Do we have a broken heart and a contrite spirit?
Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. (2 Nephi 2:6–7; emphasis added.)
The grace of Christ’s Atonement are for those who have offered broken hearts to Him. The “ends of the law,” the gifts of forgiveness and redemption, can’t be offered to us unless we have a contrite, repentant, willing spirit.
3. Do we bear the fruits of Spirit?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23.)
The qualities of God’s Spirit show us God’s nature and qualities. If we’re not in love with these qualities, we’re probably not in love with God.
Different Motives than Advertised
If we don’t have or have lost these Christ-like qualities, there’s a chance are we have different motivations than advertised or we may have hidden desires to set aside the truth so we can pursue other paths. I’m not talking about the struggling, sincere, open questioner. I’m speaking of a different ilk.
If there’s a commandment we don’t want to obey, we sometimes find a way to make it okay to not obey, if we’re not resolving your doubts with humility, with a willing, open heart, with heaven-searching eyes, and with the guidance of the Spirit. Yes, it take time. Yes, it’s a struggle. But God’s promises are absolutely reliable. The answers are already there. We just have to find out for ourselves how to find and understand them.
Willful disobedience makes it really touch to discern the truth. Willful disobedience leads to darkness of mind and can turn us toward trouble.
The Spirit of the Accuser
You may know this already: The word devil comes from the Greek diablos which means “slanderer” or “accuser.” The apostle John calls Satan “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). He’s the attorney for the spirit of darkness. What a career path.
If anyone is coming after you and your faith with a pointed finger, accusations, mockery, and is belittling you and your beliefs, please consider the previous paragraph as a possible source for those behaviors, conscious or not.
Back Pocket Scriptures
Throughout my adult life, I’ve kept a couple of scriptures close at hand. I’ll call them back pocket scriptures. They help me clear my mind and remain in the light.
And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23.)
God says, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), not “let there be darkness.” He uses light to destroy darkness. Darkness can never overcome light. It never will. Darkness can only creep into places where light is absent.
Here’s another few verses that have stuck with me since I was first assailed in my youth. They’re from our Savior:
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 11:29–30.)
I try to steer clear of contention because Christ has asked us to to steer clear of it, for “only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10; emphasis added).
I’ve treasured these words since I memorized them when I was teenager:
When I remember these words, I know what I need to do to get answers. The Savior will never fail us if we approach in the the way He’s asked us to approach Him, looking to HI always and setting aside our doubts and fears aside.
Finally, let’s end with a few words from Moroni:
And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness. (Ether 12:26; emphasis added.)
If you have mockers on every side but you still seek the meekness of Christ, you’ll have God’s unfailing grace to help you—
You’ll know what to do.
You’ll know what to say.
You’ll have remarkably clear answers.
You’ll have peace of mind and heart, in spite of earth and hell.
Here’s what the book is about from the back cover of the paperback edition:
“The Passion of Jesus Christ is the greatest tragedy and triumph in history. I have never found anything to compare with it. This book began over three decades ago as a study of the events surrounding the Passion—the last week of the mortal life of Jesus Christ, as found in the New Testament.
“In 1986, I began to piece together the enormous puzzle of the Passion as told in the gospels. The testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each provide unique details about the events leading to Jesus’ death. My goal in writing this book was to: (1) identify the unique details from each of the accounts relating to the Passion; (2) to unify that material; and (3) to present it in an easy-to-read, narrative or story format.
“The source for this book is simply the Authorized King James Version of the New Testament. While completely based on scripture, I have updated the punctuation and paragraphing in the text, altered some capitalization and pronouns, and added quotation marks where appropriate. I have also added conjunctive or transitional words, without setting them off in brackets, and deleted some words, to help the flow of the narrative.”
“The Whore of Babylon.” Woodcut by Hans Burgkmair the Elder, AD 1523 (1473–1531).In the the book of Revelation, an angel shows the apostle John a rather disturbing vision of a woman:
Arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. (Revelation 17:4–5.)
She’s riding a beast with seven heads and ten horns, sitting upon many waters.
What does all this mean? If you do homework on this, you’ll find many possible interpretations, but by now you’ve probably come to understand that I am not a big fan of controversial interpretations. When things get confusing and complicated, that’s when the Holy Spirit steps out of the picture and I don’t want that.
I’ll do my best to lean on what the scriptures have to say, and you can draw your own conclusions. If you know my other writings on this topic, I make an effort to not draw conclusions, but simply and straightforwardly to be familiar with what the Lord has said on the subject. I want to be ready to finally learn the meaning of the scriptures from Him, when the time is right, when the true meaning is evident. My motto: let’s not get wrapped around an axle of contention.
The Beast, the Horns, and the Waters
The woman is riding on a scarlet-colored beast with seven heads and ten horns. We find similar beasts in chapters 12 (a red dragon) and 13 (a beast with seven heads and ten horns; see Revelation 17:3 and compare Revelation 12:3; 13:1.)
We also hear from the angel that “the seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” (see Revelation 17:9), and that the ten horns are ten kings who, at the time of John’s writing, had not yet reigned (see Revelation 17:12).
The seven mountains are commonly attributed to the seven hills of Rome, but we don’t know that the seven mountains are located there. Many cities rest on seven hills. Just a thought: the world has seven continents, each in essence a mountain rising out of an ocean floor.
To me, speculation on who these kings are is not as valuable as just knowing that a succession of political leaders and nations will serve the “great whore,” Babylon the not-so-great.
The water that the woman sits upon represents “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (see Revelation 17:15).
Let me also point out that Daniel had a similar vision. He saw four beasts in Daniel 7, the fourth, having ten horns, was “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly” (see Daniel 7:7). There are many interpretations about what this beast represents. I’ll just point out that it seems related to our beast in Revelation 17, though not strictly so.
Who or What Is the Mother of Harlots and Abominations?
Nephi also saw a similar vision recorded in chapter 14 of 1 Nephi that identifies the mother of harlots as the “great and abominable church” founded by the devil:
The day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil. . . .(1 Nephi 14:17; see also 1 Nephi 14:9, 10, 13, 16.)
It’s more than just a city in ancient Iraq. It’s not just a place or a congregation of worshipers or a group of citizens. It’s a pervasive socioeconomic, political, governmental, and religious system, founded and supported by and inspired by the devil, that is designed to undermine and destroy souls and the future of God’s kingdom.
In closing, let’s think through the harlot angle for a bit. What does a harlot or prostitute do? (I know, ew, but bear with me.) She or he sells for money one of the most precious gifts we can offer to another human being: our fully trusting, unguarded soul. When we give that away or sell it for money, we in effect deny an ultimate truth of our divinity. (This, of course, doesn’t have a bearing on someone sold into sex slavery.)
Maybe that’s the main business interest of the mother of abominations, the great, abominable church: to steal and destroy the identity of men, women, and children, the essence of their direct connection with God.
I haven’t got adequate words to describe what I think of this deplorable enterprise.
The day before Valentines Day in 1969, I went to our local Albertsons and got a box of Valentines cards. Our nanny Agnes took me. We had a nanny and housekeeper because my mother, who had multiple sclerosis, could not walk or cook or drive.
When we got back, I set up the card table in our family room and filled out a card for everyone in my class. I was 11 years old. (By the way, I still have that card table. I inherited it after my parents died. It’s old and worn out, but I can’t seem to let it go.)
The next morning at school, however, I noticed that no one in my fifth grade class was giving out Valentine cards. My school bag was secretly full of them, but they never would see the light of day.
Somehow, I had missed the memo on Valentines Day.
When the chance presented itself, I slipped into the boys bathroom across the hall and threw all my cards in the garbage can. That day, I believe, marked the official end of my childhood.
In retrospect, this experience is funny and a little sad, but at the same time, it was traumatic. That’s why I remember the details so clearly.
It’s been on my mind for several years, and as I’ve thought about it, I’ve wondered about the love and kindness that we all give out that seems to be discarded or falls to the ground unnoticed.
I am sure you can instantly think of experiences in your life when you have shown the tender part of yourself, only to find your kindness unrequited, or worse, rejected and then strewn across your memory like shrapnel from a bomb. It is one of the unavoidable disasters of human life. Everyone seems to go through it, and most of us get over it to a degree. Some of us hold onto those sad feelings and they haunt us throughout our lives.
But we have promises from our Heavenly Father. Here is one that is very powerful:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7.)
Doesn’t that mean that if you sow seeds of kindness and love that you will reap kindness and love again? But notice the analogy of planting and reaping. The harvest takes time. It doesn’t happen immediately. Seeds planted in the spring pass through two or three seasons before they are harvested. And for every seed you plant, you get 50 to 100 seeds back. That is the law of the harvest.
No wonder the Lord says:
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12.)
If we will always reap what we sow, we would be wise to do to others what we would like done to us or for us.
Earlier in that same sermon, Jesus said something similar:
With what measure ye mete [give out], it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:2.)
One of my favorite promises of returned blessings is from the apostle Paul:
..Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord. . . . (Ephesians 6:8.)
The Lord’s promises are sure. Whatever good you do, whatever love you show, will come back to you, though the harvest will likely take many seasons to deliver its bounty.
All really good things take time. Fruit takes four or five months before it is ready to harvest. Babies still need nine months to be born. Love may sprout in a few days, but may take many years to reap. Just wait in faith. God will not fail you. The end will be worth the waiting.
Those little Valentine cards will come back to me, though probably not in the same shape or form. I’ll take them in the form of hugs and kisses from my loved ones. That will be payment enough for whatever sorrow lingers from February 14, 1969.
Tonight and tomorrow morning, Sunday, January 20 and Monday, January 21, 2019, we’ll enjoy yet another sign in the heavens (see Genesis 1:14), the blood moon. A blood moon is a backdrop for the earth’s sunrises and sunsets when it falls within the shadow of the earth.
I’ve written here before about signs in the heaven, noting where Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, and the Savior, during his mortal life and in modern times, have spoken of this phenomena occurring before the great day of Lord’s Second Coming. For example, after the opening of the sixth seal in the Book of Revelation, we read that:
. . . Lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood . . . (Revelation 6:12).
At this same time, the planet Venus is approaching Jupiter and will be the closest on the day following the blood moon, Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Some believe that Venus, the morning and evening star, as it is sometime called, is a symbol of Jesus Christ, as He says of Himself: “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (see Revelation 22:16). Jupiter, it is said by some, represents the body or the church of Christ.
Symbolically, the bright, morning Star or the Bridegroom (Venus) has left His throne room (the constellation Libra) and is approaching His church or His Bride (Jupiter).
Finally, consider this verse from Matthew in light of the blood moon reaching its greatest point at midnight (at 12:12 p.m. EST).
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. (Matthew 25:6.)
Truly a wonder in heaven worth wondering about.
The blood moon eclipse begins 8:34 p.m. MST or 10:34 p.m. EST, and and it will reach its greatest point at 10:12 p.m. MST or 12:12 p.m. EST. You can also see this lunar eclipse from Europe, Greenland, Iceland, northern and western Africa, and in the Arctic. If you aren’t in one of these areas, or you’re socked in by clouds, you can watch the eclipse on the Griffin Observatory YouTube channel.
This is the first full moon of 2019 and is also called a wolf and a super moon. The term wolf moon comes from Native Americans who listened to wolves howling near their camps on winter nights when the moon was full. A super moon is when the moon reaches perigee, that is, when it is closest to the earth, increasing its brightness and apparent size by over 10 percent.
A child of frustration,
born in exhaustion,
sibling of expectation
cousin to resentment,
exploding with judgment
fanned by blame,
cheated by secret shame,
conceived in pride,
in lust and self-deception,
by a careless,
family of lies.
On the other hand.
A child of patience,
protected by sacrifice,
sibling of a warm,
cousin to contentment,
fostered by forgiveness,
nurtured kindly and openly,
held with tenderness
conceived in truth,
in virtue and honesty—
welcome to the reliable
family of unconditional love.