Why was Oliver Cowdery chastened by the Lord?

Why was Oliver Cowdery chastened by the Lord?

Question

 

Dear Gramps,

In D&C 8, the Lord gives Oliver Cowdery the power to translate the Gold Plates.  The Lord directs him four separate times in verses 1, 9, 10 and 11 to ask Him for the translation he needs.  In D&C 9, we find out that Oliver was perfectly obedient to these directions to ask, yet he failed and is chastened by the Lord because he did not “study it out in his mind”.  Why would the Lord tell him four times in section 8 to ask, and yet say nothing about studying it out in his mind?

Robert

 

Answer

 

Robert,

The answer to your question is found in Section 9:

5 And, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you.

Now it seems very likely that before Oliver Cowdery asked for permission, he did ponder it and study it.  When he asked, the Lord gave him the missing pieces; permission and instructions to ask in faith.

Apparently Oliver, like many of us focused on the new stuff and neglected the actions and behaviors that got him there in the first place.  This can be an all too common failing.

Of course God, being God, knew that this would happen, so why didn’t He intervene to correct it?  That is simply another form of the question of ‘Why does God not stop bad things from happening?’  We simply have to have faith that God knows what He is doing, and what He is doing is for the best.

That leaves us with speculation.  In this case I would speculate that God did not need Oliver to translate (Joseph was called for that), but he did need to teach Oliver how to receive answers from God.  Now, God is a master teacher, and I know that sometimes I learn the most from my failures, and not necessarily as much from my successes.  Maybe that is what Oliver needed in order to to learn?

Also Oliver was a School Master by trade who shouldn’t have needed to be advised that some measure of intellectual rigor would be necessary to undertake the work of translation. Hence the absence of any “study-it-out-in-your-mind” injunction in D&C 8.  It’s what I perceive to be a general, gentle tone of “you-should-have-known-better.” In D&C 9 it becomes clear that whatever process Oliver used lacked any real intellectual effort on his part.

I do know that because of Oliver’s request and struggles we have Doctrine and Covenants sections 8 and 9.  This allows all of us who read and ponder the words and instructions to also learn the lessons that God was teaching Oliver.  How many hundreds or thousands of people have also been taught because of these events?  While my thoughts are speculative it is not really that hard for me to think of some very good reasons that God might have had to let this happen.

Anyway, for those interested, the Church has posted an article covering the events in question here.  You can read here.

 

Gramps

 

 

Is it possible for a person to be born into the wrong gender body?

Is it possible for a person to be born into the wrong gender body?

Question

 

Gramps,

I have been a member of the LDS church all my life and believe the doctrine stating that our spirits had a gender before we became mortal.  I find myself pondering the possibility of an imperfectly gendered body.  Hermaphrodites exist, and there are any number of possible things that go wrong in forming a human body.  Is it, or could it at all be possible for someone really to be born into the wrong gender of body versus their spirit gender?  I honestly don’t know for sure. Thanks.

Lisa

 

Answer

 

Lisa,

It is hard not to ponder such a question given the current events going on around us.  The Church has clearly proclaimed that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” in the Proclamation on the Family.

There are some who state simply that “God does not make mistakes” as if that ended the discussion.  While I agree God does not make mistakes, I don’t agree that ends the discussion. God’s perfect plan is to test us imperfect people with imperfect bodies living in an imperfect word to see if we will overcome our challenges and do his will.

This plan with its imperfect bodies is not a mistake.  Many of us have to deal with physical, mental, and/or emotional problems whose root cause might be caused by something going wrong in these imperfect bodies.  There is no reason to believe that the apparent gender of our physical form is an exception to these kind of potential problems.  You mentioned one such problem (Hermaphrodites).  Medical science is full of such cases; even our chromosomes can be messed up.  Instead of the standard XX for female and XY for males, one might have Turner Syndrome (XO) Klinefelter Syndrome (XXY), Triple X Syndrome (XXX) and XYY Syndrome.

Given what we are still learning about how our physical bodies develop, I think it is also way too soon to rule out the idea that some kinds of imperfections could alter the brain structure and brain chemistry that effect a persons thoughts about their gender identity.

While there is a lot we don’t know, we do know some very important things.  We are here to see if we will follow God’s commands.  Whatever challenges we face, no matter the reason we face them, we still need to seek out and follow God as best we can.  We need to love our brothers and sisters (everyone) and try to help them also seek out and follow God the best that they can, no matter what trial they might be facing.  All of us need to seek the Spirit of God, ponder the scriptures, and have the support and guidance of trusted leaders, families, and friends as we struggle to overcome all our imperfections and follow God.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

Why is there a one year waiting period to do a baptism for one who has died?

Why is there a one year waiting period to do a baptism for one who has died?

Question

 

Gramps,

Can you explain why it takes one year after death to be baptized in the temple?

Raja

 

Answer

 

Raja,

The simple and most direct answer is… Because the LDS Church has created a policy to that effect.

The Church has many policies that they use to guide the Church and its members along the right path.  These policies can come into place to try to combat errors or misunderstandings.  Over time, as things change the Church can change, adjust or remove these policies as the circumstances dictate.

The origin of the one year wait after death is an interesting one.  During the last part of President Joseph F. Smith’s leadership and the first few years of President Grant’s leadership, a trend developed among the members.  This trend took the form of urgent requests to do temple work, and to do it quickly enough so that the person who passed on could be buried in temple robes.

The church leaders found this to be a disturbing trend.  They did not want the members to ascribe to the temple robes some kind of “magical” qualities bestowed on the one who passed on, nor did they want the temple ordinances to be seen as a simple check box on the path to salvation.  Neither did they want to encourage the idea that some might neglect to get themselves to the temple their entire life and then have all done right at death.

So the Church leaders created the policy of waiting a year after death before any proxy temple work can be done.  This policy seems to have accomplished these goals to various degrees.  The Church also can grant exceptions to the policy or remove it entirely at a future date.  Exceptions might be granted in the cases of people who were actively preparing and seeking the temple but didn’t make it, because they died before it could happen.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

Will I be healed so I can kneel when Christ returns?

Will I be healed so I can kneel when Christ returns?

Question

 

Gramps,

I will gladly bow before Christ and praise Him. The only problem I have is that at age 14 I injured my knees. Time and age have taken a toll on my knees and it is really hard to bend my knees. When Christ comes, will He heal my knees so I can bow before Him and do it painlessly?

Susan

 

Answer

 

Dear Susan,

I am so sorry to hear about your knees, and admire your dedication to Christ.

The prophecy that “every knee shall bow” can be found in all four books of scripture. There’s a few things you should consider about the prophecy.

The first is the metaphorical nature of the phrase. In the Old Testament, where the phrase is first used, bowing often referred specifically to kings. Eventually the word was used among the Hebrews to mean both physically bowing, and the attitude of submitting yourself to your king.

Another thing you should consider is the timing of the prophecy. Most references to “every knee shall bow” only refer to an unspecified future time. But D&C 88:104, puts the prophecy in its chronological context, not only after the Second Coming, but also after the first resurrection, when Alma teaches “limb and joint shall be restored to their proper frame.”

It is likely, then, that you won’t have to meet the prophecy of bowing before the Savior until after your body has been resurrected.

But perhaps that misses the point of your question. If you are like me, you look forward to the Second Coming of Christ and worshiping Him as He arrives. Rest assured, if you are alive, your bodily ills will not rob you of that opportunity.

When Jesus appeared to the Nephites, every one of them fell to the Earth in worship even though many of them were sick and injured. And though Christ healed them eventually, He did not have to do so before they could bow before Him.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

What is the policy if someone becomes disruptive at a church meeting?

What is the policy if someone becomes disruptive at a church meeting?

Question

 

Gramps,

The church allows all to attend meetings, even nonmembers and ex members.  What if a non, ex, or member began outright speaking against the church and its doctrines, to the point that they were a heckler? Would they be banned from the building? Would legal action be taken? Just curious..

Brian

 

Answer

 

Brian,

As you noted the scriptures are clear that we are to allow non-members and even excommunicated members to attend.  This is found in D&C 46:5-6:

5 And again I say unto you, ye shall not cast any out of your sacrament meetings who are earnestly seeking the kingdom—I speak this concerning those who are not of the church.

 6 And again I say unto you, concerning your confirmation meetings, that if there be any that are not of the church, that are earnestly seeking after the kingdom, ye shall not cast them out.

The condition of admittance is that the person is earnestly seeking after the kingdom.  That can sometimes be hard to tell. In practice, as long as the person is reasonably well behaved, they can stay.

However if someone heckles, or attacks, or actively tries to lead others astray, then they show they are not “earnestly seeking after the kingdom”, and the local leader can take steps.

The local leader should follow the guidance of the Spirit and the local laws in dealing with such disruptive people.  This can range from being asked to stop and/or leave, to court orders, police, and other legal processes.

Gramps

 

Why must we be sealed to our families?

Why must we be sealed to our families?

Question

 

Gramps,

Why do we need to be sealed to our family? I understand why we need to be sealed to our spouse. But why is it necessary to be sealed to our siblings or parents? If we all make it to the same kingdom of glory won’t we be able to visit them? Why is the sealing necessary? When our children grow up they will be adults in heaven and have their own spouse. Couldn’t we visit them even if we weren’t sealed to them. Guess I just don’t know why it’s necessary

Thomas

 

Answer

 

Dear Thomas,

While we affirm in the Church that “families can be together forever”, we often forget precisely how this process works or what, specifically, it means.  For example:  We assume that siblings are sealed to each other when, in fact they aren’t.  It is the link between man and wife, and between parents and children, that temple sealings formalize.  This is because temple sealings are rooted in the concept of the patriarchal order.  The Encyclopedia of Mormonism has an excellent entry on the topic, an excerpt of which reads as follows:

Three principles underlie the patriarchal order. First, the primal parents of the race were in their paradisiacal state in Eden united in eternal bonds before death entered their lives. Second, the fall of man and the continual source of degeneration in this world have resulted in the estrangement of parents from God, from each other, and from their children. Third, the healing of this broken harmony is the essence of eternal life, as is the perpetuation of powers of creation and procreation-eternal increase.

 

The patriarchal order is, in the words of Elder James E. Talmage, a condition where “woman shares with man the blessings of the Priesthood,” where husband and wife minister, “seeing and understanding alike, and cooperating to the full in the government of their family kingdom” (Young Woman’s Journal 25 [Oct. 1914]:602-603). A man cannot hold this priesthood without a wife, and a woman cannot share the blessings of this priesthood without a husband, sealed in the temple.

 

While the union of children to the same parents cannot help but strengthen their ties to each other, the patriarchal order–and the temple sealing–is primarily about welding past, present and future generations to each other.  There are many, many ways that this link affects us.  I will give two examples:

First, Doctrine and Covenants 132:19 tells us that we may “inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths”.  To inherit a throne, one needs to have a legitimate place in the line of royal succession.  That’s a big part of what the patriarchal order does; and it’s why–when the ordinance of sealing a parent to a child was introduced–it was originally called adoption.  This divinely instituted ordinance gives each of us rightful chain of biological or adopted ancestors through which we may claim a legacy of covenants and righteousness that stretches back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and from them back to Adam.

A second application of these “welding links”, as Joseph Smith called them, has to do with our progeny–our “dominions”, if you will.  Our temple sealings define, and formally bind us to, the group of people to whom we have a special responsibility to bless through our own lives.  These are the people who, we hope, will throughout all eternity look back with respect and gratitude for the legacy of righteous traditions, correct teachings, and overall good living that we hope to have provided to them.  As Elder Orson F. Whitney taught (attributing the concept to Joseph Smith):

[T]he eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110).

Elder David Bednar has been quick to explain, in his recent article “Faithful Parents and Wayward Children” in the March 2014 Ensign, that this does not provide an unconditional promise of salvation or exaltation to otherwise disobedient children.  But he agrees that:

. . . parents who honor temple covenants are in a position to exert great spiritual influence over time on their children. Faithful members of the Church can find comfort in knowing that they can lay claim to the promises of divine guidance and power, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and the privileges of the priesthood, in their efforts to help family members receive the blessings of salvation and exaltation.

So, to answer your question:  We are not sealed to our siblings at all; and we are not sealed to our parents or our children merely as a guarantee of physical proximity so that we can all “be together”.  The sealing entails something much, much bigger.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

How do we know when a prophet is speaking as a prophet or giving his opinion?

How do we know when a prophet is speaking as a prophet or giving his opinion?

Question

 

Gramps,

Last week in priesthood class a member asked, “How can one tell when a man, whom we sustain as prophet, is speaking as a prophet or giving his own opinion?”

Don

 

Answer

 

Dear Don,

President Brigham Young taught that

What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.  Journal of Discourses 9:150.

So, in other words:  we know when the prophet is speaking as a prophet, because the Holy Spirit confirms the truth of those words into our hearts.  This is the same principle we should apply when we have questions about something said by anyone in the Church, from a primary teacher up to an apostle:

And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.  Doctrine and Covenants 68:4, emphasis added.

 

and

Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?

 

Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.  Doctrine and Covenants 50:21-22.

Now, a caveat:  A major reason that we need prophets and apostles is because the whisperings of the Spirit are so easily missed, ignored, or misinterpreted.  Prophets and apostles are intended to serve as a separate line of revelation that is not easily ignored, or rationalized away by our own prejudices or predispositions.  In a revelation that was intended to warn Hiram Page and his followers that Page’s own individual ability to receive revelation had become obscured, the Lord advised the Church that “I have given him [Joseph Smith] the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead.”  Doctrine and Covenants 28:7.

Of course, this does not mean that we must blindly accept everything a prophet says as completely doctrinal.  However, it suggests to me that I can approach most statements by apostles and prophets, with the presumption that they probably know more than I do about any given Gospel topic.  And we do have a promise from President Woodruff that the Lord will never permit the head of the Church “to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty”.  Official Declaration 1, explanatory material.  It was in this sense, I believe, that Brigham Young observed,

I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within themJournal of Discourses 3:45

 

Thus, while we do not need to slavishly change our opinions to conform to every little thing a Church leader says; a conflict between what Elder Oaks calls the “priesthood line” of revelation versus our individual “personal line” of revelation should be a cause for serious introspection and soul-searching before we dismiss what we think we have received through either line.  As Elder Oaks teaches in his Conference address entitled “Two Lines of Communication“,

We must use both the personal line and the priesthood line in proper balance to achieve the growth that is the purpose of mortal life. If personal religious practice relies too much on the personal line, individualism erases the importance of divine authority. If personal religious practice relies too much on the priesthood line, individual growth suffers. The children of God need both lines to achieve their eternal destiny. The restored gospel teaches both, and the restored Church provides both.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

How do we know if the prophet is false by the words they speak?

How do we know if the prophet is false by the words they speak?

Question

 

Gramps,

Brigham Young has said multiple times and it is written in the Journal of Discourses that he said people lived on the moon dressed as Quakers. He also said, “Is their life on the sun? Without question, for it was not created in vain.” Since those could not be true what is your stance on this because in Deuteronomy it says the way to know a prophet was false is if they speak in the Lord’s name and that doesn’t come to pass or isn’t true. (Paraphrased) What are your thoughts on this?

Michael

 

Answer

 

Dear Michael,

You are correct that the Lord warned, through Moses, that

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

 

And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?

 

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22.

In fact, I believe that this is why Jonah demanded the Lord kill him when the Lord did not destroy Nineveh as Jonah had prophesied that He would–Jonah knew Moses’ warning, assumed due to the “failed” prophecy that he himself had spoken presumptuously, and was therefore prepared to pay the scriptural penalty.  As it turned out, of course, the Lord had other plans for Jonah.  (See Jonah 3-4.)

It is not Church doctrine that prophets of God are infallible in every statement they make.  We understand that, as Joseph Smith taught, “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such”; and that his opinions and even teachings about nonessential issues may be subject to human error.

Notwithstanding the Lord’s instructions to the Israelites as to how to identify and punish false prophets; in our day, to the extent that prophets make erroneous statements, the Lord forgives them and sustains them in their calling–up to a point.  If a prophet goes so far as “to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty”, President Woodruff taught that it would then become incumbent on the Lord to remove that prophet from his office (see explanatory text appended to Official Declaration 1).  Procedurally this would happen through the convening of a bishop’s court, which would have authority to take the appropriate action (D&C 107:76); although it would remain the prerogative of a departing prophet to name his legitimate successor (D&C 43:4).

 

Gramps

 

 

 

How do you explain a Priesthood holder not giving a blessing?

How do you explain a Priesthood holder not giving a blessing?

Question

 

Gramps,

My sibling-in-law fell on humbling hard times, began to return to the church, went through a painful and litigious break-up, then asked their Home Teacher for a blessing of comfort.  He came, lectured, announced that he wasn’t inclined to give a blessing, and abruptly excused himself.  How do we explain this behavior to someone who may never have understood the gospel before leaving the church 20 years ago?  I don’t even know that it’s discouraged.  I can only say that it feels very wrong.

Jenny

 

Answer

 

Jenny,

I’m sorry, that sounds very wrong to me too.  To be fair, though, we weren’t there, and there may have been some sort of misunderstanding.  I see two main possibilities, though there could be others as well.

Scenario One: It happened just as was described to you.  In that case the priesthood holder was out of line.  We are counseled to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down and strengthen the feeble knees”.  D&C 81:5  A righteous priesthood holder should exemplify this scripture and thus he should have given your sibling-in-law kindness and support in addition to the blessing requested.  I can’t think of any scenario where what you describe should have happened.

Scenario Two:  In psychology there is a theory called “projection”.  The Encyclopedia Britannica explains it this way: “Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world.”  Projection in Psychology

It is possible that your sibling-in-law, who had been through a “painful and litigious break-up”, unconsciously projected feelings of anger and rejection (which were likely abundant in the break-up) onto the Priesthood holder without recognizing it.

However, trying to explain that to your family member could cause further hurt feelings (especially since scenario one may be the correct one, we just don’t know.)  Either way, there is something you can do for your family member.  Listen to him/her without judging.  Pain needs a witness.  Validate the feelings shared by saying “that must have felt terrible” (or something like that.) Then explain that you are sorry and offer to introduce him/her to a priesthood holder who will give a blessing with love and kindness.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

What kind of a god do Muslims consider Allah to be?

What kind of a god do Muslims consider Allah to be?

Question

 

Gramps,

What kind of a god do Muslims consider Allah to be?  A person like Heavenly Father?  Does he have a wife?  Is he considered the father of the spirits of people?

Bobbi

 

Answer

 

Dear Bobbi,

For a moment I considered telling you that it isn’t my place to explain the doctrines of other religions.  But I changed my mind, because interfaith dialogue is important. More about that in a moment. First the answer to your question:

It is my understanding that the Muslims believe in a God much like the Jewish God, an incorporeal being of perfection. They believe in ex nihilo creation, and that we are the created beings (and thus children) of God. They do not attribute to him things they consider to be purely human, such as having a wife. They would doubtless see such a belief as blasphemous.

 

Recently the Deseret News published an article called A Mormon, A Muslim and A Hindu sit down together on a plane.  In that article Tiffany Gee Lewis says:

“A Muslim, a Hindu and a Mormon sit down together on a plane.  It sounds like the beginning of a bad religious joke, but this is what happened to me recently on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta. The next three hours included some of the best discussion of my life.”

And while I have answered your initial question, I think that if you had the opportunity to sit down and talk to a Muslim, you would find that experience more beneficial as Lewis says:

“Thanks to a wonderful undergraduate religious education, I had a solid understanding of both Hinduism and Islam. This helped me in the context of our dialogue. However, my encounter with my fellow passengers broadened my understanding of their faith as practiced and applied on a day-to-day basis. It reminded me that textual understanding, while useful, is never as powerful as face-to-face understanding.”

So Bobbi, thanks for your question, and if you do make some new Muslim friends, send them my way.

 

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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