January 4, 2008

Faith like the Brother of Jared, Revelation, Concentration

Part 1 Orson Pratt April 13, 1856 Elder Pratt began his discourse by reading a selection from the Book of Ether, where the brother of Jared sees Jesus Christ. He then explained:[1]

I have read, from the Book of Ether, a portion of what is written concerning that great and wonderful vision, shown to a man in all respects just like unto ourselves, so far as his nature was concerned, all men being subjected to certain evil influences, through the transgression of our first parents... There is a great lesson of instruction given in the short history which I have read before you; it shows the privileges pertaining to our religion in some respects, and it shows how much there is to be received, and how much we have not received in mortality. We also learn from the history we have read, the principle upon which these blessings are to be received, viz. by faith in Jesus Christ. The brother of Jared did not receive these blessings without faith; he exercised faith in the Lord, in the revelations previously received, or which the Prophets had spoken in former days; he exercised faith in the promises given to the fathers.
Orson describes the great faith Jared had in his brother, their trials and travels in the wilderness, their experiences calculated to create faith in God. He described the marvelous stones the Lord touched to provide light for the Jaredite barges:
This was a miracle to those that beheld it, and why so? Because it was contrary to the general laws with which they were acquainted, though in fact it was no more of a miracle for the Lord to show His finger than to do anything else, or than the falling of a stone to the ground. The same Supreme power that causes the fall of a stone, can cause a stone to give light, and in this instance did perform that operation, and they beheld it, and had constant day until they had crossed the sea. One may inquire, “Brother Pratt, why do you refer to those old historical events, why don't you refer to that which belongs to our everyday duties?” Because there are those around me here who are better qualified to teach you in relation to your everyday duties; they are able to instruct you from Sabbath to Sabbath, and are constantly pouring forth instructions for your edification and benefit.
Orson wanted the Saints to understand they could live by the same principles and achieve the same results:
These ideas came into my mind, and are calculated, if properly understood, to be used as examples for our good; they are written for our edification and that of our children. The heed that we give to the everyday duties which are pointed out to us, will determine in a great measure our reward. It may be asked, “Do you think that it is really our privilege, as the children of God in this dispensation, to attain to the same blessings which were received by those ancient people of God?” Yes, and far greater; for you will find in this same history, in a part which I have not read, that a portion of the same things should be given to the Latter-day Saints through their faith. The Lord says, “Then will I show the great and marvelous things of my kingdom unto them, as I did to him.” But it all depends, recollect, upon the great principle of faith, and you are to obtain these things upon condition of practicing those everyday duties which you are hearing proclaimed from day to day. With such wisdom, and by continuing steadfast therein, your faith will increase in those great and heavenly principles, until you can lay hold by faith upon all the great and marvelous things that were communicated to him.
Before Orson continued on, he reminded the Saints they had a responsibility to read the scriptures, and that by so doing they would have the Spirit in greater abundance, and would better understand the counsel of the living prophets:
If you would read these things in the Spirit, and call upon God to give you His Spirit to fix the sayings of the Prophets upon your minds, you would do good and derive benefit therefrom. If the Saints will give most earnest and diligent heed unto the instructions given in those books which have been preserved, and especially to the instructions which are given by our President, they will prosper and be blessed in all things.
Orson returned to the theme of faith:
I will again read, “And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil.” Says one, “That is a curious saying; I thought the Lord could do whatever He pleased.” This was because the Lord had given His word that He would do according to the faith of the Saints—righteous sons and daughters of Adam—hence He could not restrain the brother of Jared from looking within the veil. When there is sufficient faith in the hearts of the children of men, it is impossible to withhold blessings from them, if that faith is exercised, for if the Lord should do so, He would forfeit His own word, and we read that it is impossible for God to lie.
Because of his faith, the Lord showed the brother of Jared a vision of eternity, and gave him the "holy interpreters," (which, according to Orson, were given to the prophet Joseph Smith). Moroni informs us an account of that vision was sealed up in the plates. Orson then quotes the end of Ether chapter 4:
Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.
And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed.
Therefore, when ye shall receive this record ye may know that the work of the Father has commenced upon all the face of the land.
Therefore, repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name; for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned; and signs shall follow them that believe in my name.
And blessed is he that is found faithful unto my name at the last day, for he shall be lifted up to dwell in the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world. And behold it is I that hath spoken it. Amen (Ether 4:13-19).
Orson saw the great promises in these verses, and continued:
I have felt disposed to read these paragraphs, for I highly esteem the Book of Mormon, as I presume do all the Latter-day Saints. But many lay it upon the shelf and let it remain there for a year or two, consequently they become careless concerning the dealings of the Lord with the Former-day Saints.
Orson believed being careless would suppress the type of faith exhibited by the brother of Jared. We tend to be very impatient with the things of God. This might be warranted by hearing the experience of Joseph Smith. Not much is known of him until he considered his unworthiness and knelt in a grove of trees to pray for forgiveness, and to learn which Church he should join. We tend to want it all now:
You are not to suppose that you are going to be jumped into the midst of revelations, and by one great and grand step are to burst the veil, and to rend it from your eyes, do you think that you are to step into the celestial kingdom and see it all at once? No, these blessings are by far too precious to be attained in such a way; they are to be attained by diligence and faith from day to day, and from night to night. Hence you are to become habituated to do good in your thoughts and conduct, in all that you do, until you become perfectly initiated into the great principles of righteousness, and continue to live uprightly until it becomes a kind of second nature to be honest, to be prudent, to govern all your passions, and bring all of the influences of the flesh, of the fallen nature, into the most perfect subjection to the law of God. I know that it is necessary for you to keep the commandments of the Lord, and not only to keep those found in the written revelations, but to strictly observe all the words of wisdom, counsel, and advice that He has given through His Spirit and His servants. And when you have given diligent heed to counsel, it becomes a second nature to pay the strictest attention to the covenants made and the counsel given by the Living Oracles of God.[2]
As we seek to follow the Holy Ghost, our natures are changed, it becomes second nature to walk in obedience to God. This is not talking about salvation or redemption, but the process beyond those- sanctification:
These principles are not to be learned by one or two days', or one or two months' humility and obedience, for that would be like a child's going to school a week and being kept six weeks at home, where there is no one to instruct him. It is obvious that a person keeps retrograding, if he does not progress; you are called upon to increase and progress in knowledge and truth until they influence all your actions and doings, until your conduct is rightly influenced, not only in relation to your neighbors, but in relation to all that belongs to your neighbors. When you have learned righteous principles be careful that they never escape your minds, and that your conduct never severs you from them. This is the time and this is the day that your faith should lay hold of this great and good Spirit, and that you should strive for the rich blessings of heaven, concerning which I have read in your hearing this morning. Latter-day Saints, are not these things worthy of living for?
Orson encouraged the Saints to live for the blessings of the ancients. He cautioned the Saints to take time for the higher things, not to be too caught up in the temporal business:
You are to claim blessings by your conduct, you are so instructed; some are apt to be so neglectful and remiss in their duties that they are not able to claim them. They forget what is in store for them, and do not pray for the Spirit to impress those blessings upon their minds, but suffer their minds to be drawn out too much upon temporal business instead of the things of God, and become weary in mind and body, so that they feel like neglecting the more prominent duties, such as family prayer and many others. This is because they do not enjoy sufficient of the Spirit of the Lord, for it is able to strengthen every one of you.
We'll need that strength to fulfill what Orson called our "mission" as Latter-day Saints; to become of one heart and one mind. He told the Saints to pay attention to the things of the Spirit, pay attention in Church, set their houses in order, that they might receive the blessings God promised:
If you come to this house with your minds upon the things of this world, and hear the servants of God speak upon the great things of the kingdom, their words will go in at one ear and out at the other, your minds will be darkened, the devil will step in and tempt you, and you are liable to be prostrated in body and mind by his power, because you have given way. While we are here there is a chance for every Latter-day Saint, and I feel to say, set yourselves in order, ye heads of families, and then set your families in order; regulate your lives one towards another in your families, in your neighborhoods, and in all your communications and dealings one with another. In this way the enemy will not have power over you, and all your works of light and righteousness will be regulated by the principles which you have received, and by the order which should govern the Saints of God; showing that you are sick of your old traditions, confusion, and discord, and that you are contending for the faith once delivered to the Saints; believing that the same blessings which they enjoyed may be poured out upon your heads.
Are you prepared to see the face of God? Perhaps like ancient Israel, we tremble at the thought.
You cannot expect to live as many have lived, and then be able by one tremendous great effort to at once call down the powers of heaven into your midst. All, who will enjoy the privileges which it is the prerogative of the Latter-day Saints to enjoy, must live for them. Why not Saints have these blessings? Is it because God is partial, and willing to bestow greater blessings upon some than upon others? No, it is because you do not sufficiently prepare yourselves before Him, for you have to become sanctified; hence it is said in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, speaking of the Temple which shall be built in Jackson County, "That those that enter therein shall behold the face of God." The promise was not made to the impure, to those who had not sanctified themselves before the Lord, but to the pure in heart. It naturally follows that similar blessings are prepared to be poured out by the Most High upon the Temple that shall be built upon this Block, and upon the people who shall go therein. How many of this congregation would be prepared to receive such blessings? (JD 3:344-351).
Orson spoke of seeing angels in the temple, of having miraculous experiences, explaining "I feel anxious upon this point, my brethren and sisters, not only for your sakes but for my own." With the faith of the brother of Jared, Orson believed one could rend the veil; the opportunity is there for us as well as them. (He did not advance the idea that it is necessary, only that it is possible.) Why doesn't this happen for all of us now? Orson had some interesting things on that subject, as well, which I will post next time. Footnotes: [1] This was a rare discourse, in that it quoted extensively from the Book of Mormon. For more on Book of Mormon usage, see "The joy which filled my bosom in reading that sacred record." [2] As a boy, David O. McKay knelt in prayer on a hillside in Huntsville expecting something akin to Joseph Smith's experience in the grove. When he stood from the prayer, he said "no sir, there is no change." He still had doubts. It wasn't until several years later, while serving a mission, that assurance came, while grappling with a problem between members of a branch in Glascow, Scotland.
I heard the voice that I had prayed for on the hillside. It was not so loud as I had anticipated. The inspiration came what to do to settle those [disputes]...I heard the voice, got in touch with the Spirit, as never before, the prayer on the hillside was answered, not the way I had anticipated, but the way the Lord intended it to be answered. That was the beginning of the revelation of the Spirit to my soul.
(David O. McKay, "Great Power of Personal Influence in Missionary Work," address to the missionaries of the North British Mission, Manchester, England, March 1, 1961; as found in David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, by Greg Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, pg. 33.)