Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Doctrine of Christ and Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost (part 4)

Christ's doctrine includes receiving the Holy Ghost, not just a temporary influence, but the reception of the Holy Ghost.  A Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost.

3 Nephi 11: 35
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

D&C 33: 10-12
Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel;

D&C 39: 5-6
And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.

2 Nephi 31: 14, 17-18

But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

Note the words that begin that last paragraph quoted: "And then".  Meaning after the aforementioned, including the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost.  "then ye are in this straight and narrow path".

As a side note, as mentioned last post on baptism, you can be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost and never be a member of an earthly church organization. The two concepts can be separate from organized religion, although the potential separation is not taught or really entertained in LDS settings.

Commenting on John 3:5 Joseph Smith remarked, "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half-that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.314

Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles during Oct 2010 conference taught that the confirmation ordinance in the LDS church is not a passive pronouncement, or automatic bestowal of the Holy Ghost.  Here are Elder Bednar's words from his talk "Receive the Holy Ghost" Oct 2010. Underlining and italics are mine. 

The ordinance of confirming a new member of the Church and bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost is both simple and profound. Worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders place their hands upon the head of an individual and call him or her by name. Then, by the authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of the Savior, the individual is confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this important phrase is uttered: “Receive the Holy Ghost.”

The simplicity of this ordinance may cause us to overlook its significance. These four words—“Receive the Holy Ghost”—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed “receive the Holy Ghost” and its attendant spiritual gifts..

This may explain why not many members report experiencing the baptism of fire, or are unsure if it has happened to them.  If people think it's automatic, they are not likely to go seeking after it.  Also if the presumption is that it's automatic, they may presume receiving the Holy Ghost is unremarkable if nothing remarkable happened during their confirmation.  The LDS confirmation per Elder Bednar is an admonition.  It's not an a guarantee.  He says this ordinance as administered by the Church requires action, not just someone's hands laid upon your head.

There's a 5 part series on the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost that's worth reading.  Link here. Series link here.  And a related and important series on the laying on of hands here and here.  You may have to scroll to find the first post in the series, but I believe all those should be read and studied.  I have done so many times and can attest to the truth spoken there on the subject.

I thought I'd write about some other ideas, pose some questions, and then share my testimony at the end as part of finishing up this series of posts on the Doctrine of Christ that has been part of my prep for a class in Church I'm scheduled to teach.  Much of what has been in these posts won't be shared at church, but instead have been part of my own search and personal experience. 

3 Nephi 11: 37-38: And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

I've always wondered why in the statement quoted above Christ repeats the words but switches up the order of baptism and becoming as a little child.  Why do that?  Are there two baptisms? Two types of becoming as a little child?  Do you become as a little child all over again?  Is receiving "these things" different from "inheriting the kingdom of God"?  What are "these things" that Christ says you can't receive without living his doctrine?  What's the Kingdom of God?  Is one prep for the other?

When Jesus was talking with Nicodemus similar phrasing occurs connecting rebirth and "the kingdom of God".

John 3:3-5 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 

Again in Mosiah 27:25-26.  Another connection between spiritual rebirth and the kingdom of God.

And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Many believe the current LDS church IS the kingdom of God. The Official Guide to the Scriptures says:  The kingdom of God on earth is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D&C 65).  (Full link).  Since the name and spelling/punctuation of the Church organization has changed various times over the years that is why I began this paragraph by saying "current" LDS church. 
D&C 65 has little backing for the statement and doesn't contain the word "church" or even a reference to a church let alone identify the current LDS corporate entity as the Kingdom of God.  The guide to the scriptures goes on to also say this, but cites no source.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, but it is at present limited to an ecclesiastical kingdom. During the Millennium, the kingdom of God will be both political and ecclesiastical.

The guide to the scriptures is sort of viewed as an authority of it's own. It's not scripture, but since it's published in scripture it piggybacks as if held the same status and authority as scripture.  In fact the official LDS website has the below pictured fine print on the guide to the scriptures page.  So I guess the church does consider the guide actual "Official Scripture".  Link here to see the fine print yourself.

The best research I can find shows Bruce R McConkie as one of the main contributors to The Guide to the Scriptures.  In any event, that is what "the guide" says. And what most accept as true about the definition of the "Kingdom of God".  Hundreds of years of Church leaders have and continue to be raised with the unquestioned belief/assumption that the Kingdom of God and the Church are synonyms.  So it's easy to see how and why the idea is so common and persistent and most people innocently just accept it since that is how they were raised.  But not everything we are raised with is correct.

Here's another point of view, from the Joseph Smith Papers Project:

April 1844: “There is a distinction between the Church of God and kingdom of God [or Council of Fifty]. The laws of the kingdom are not designed to effect our salvation hereafter. It is an entire, distinct and separate government. The church is a spiritual matter and a spiritual kingdom; but the kingdom which Daniel saw was not a spiritual kingdom, but was designed to be got up for the safety and salvation of the saints by protecting them in their religious rights and worship.

Council of Fifty, Minutes, Apr. 18, 1844, in JSP,

The Church and the Kingdom of God are distinct and separate according to Joseph.  A very thought provoking topic.  The sources the Church uses as evidence for them being the same simply do not support the claim.  D&C 65 is one.  But moving on.

Moses 6: 60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified; 

Some say this could be three baptisms being referenced.  Water, Spirit, and Blood.  All three present at physical birth, and all three also referencing a form of rebirth or baptism.

The words "Born Again" I think inspire more meaning than can be put into words.  We know what birth is.  The baby may not know what it is as it's happening but with time the individual will grow and have words for the event.  The analogy is one Christ himself used.  Of all the things that Christ could have said about following Him, and how to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God he chose the concept of birth, something every single one of us has experienced.  No one got to earth without experiencing birth.  According to the verse quoted above in Alma, no one will enter the kingdom of God without rebirth and becoming a new creature.  The course of the Lord is one Eternal Round.  We receive from God not by whimsy, or randomness, but by obedience, see D&C 130:19-21.

I believe Alma, and think he is speaking the truth.  I don't think rebirth is something you can force, or earn with your own merit.  Nephi says during his discourse on the Doctrine of Christ: "Relying wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save" 2 Nephi 31:19.  The words "yield" "surrender" "grace" "submission to God" "Mercy" "Meekness" "Humility" "repentant" come to my mind.

On that note I'll end by referencing something any temple attending Latter-Day-Saint would find familiar.  To anyone who's ever watched Cops on TV, it's common knowledge that the universal sign of surrender and yielding is to raise ones hands above their head.  The universal gesture is not hidden.  In fact is extremely commonplace.  Raising your hands shows you are not hiding anything, and it also exposes your vital organs.  It puts you in a humble, vulnerable position of submission.  It's a simple symbol with profound meaning in the context of God and an individual.  As one "yields to the enticing of the holy spirit" (Mosiah 3:19) and surrenders their pride, false beliefs, sin, and everything else on the alter, one is drawn to reach up to God.  When humble, contrite, broken hearted and aware of their vulnerable awful situation this upward reach is almost natural.  We all deep down yearn for God.    

There's another place this symbol occurs that everyone has seen, but most do not make any meaningful connection due to it's commonality.  Hidden in plain sight.  I saw it today.  I see it every day of my life.  Thanks to my 2 year old, this symbol is forever ingrained in my mind and heart.  She will come up to me, raise her hands above her head, reach up to me, look at my face, and..... well.... we all know what that means.  She wants to be picked up.

What a beautiful symbol.  Here we have everyday common examples in everything from law enforcement to a little child who wants to be raised up and held.  We too can reach up to God, with surrender, meekness, humility, and trust, as a little child, and be raised up by His light, love, intelligence, and desire to redeem us.  This is my testimony.  This Doctrine of Christ I've been writing about found in the Book of Mormon is true, I know it by my own direct experience independent of anyone else.  It weaves together profound yet simple ideas about Christ's Gospel, and brings you into contact with Him.  The Doctrine is true.  It came from God.



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