Thoughts on Priesthood, Gathering, and Faith

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There is a rising tide of apostasy, personal and institutional, as well as confusion and wickedness among the Latter Day Saints. I fear most are too complacent. It reminds me of a story of misplaced faith: Once there was a faithful man, endowed with a measure of the spirit, and who had the gifts of the spirit active in his life. He prayed to the Lord for safety for his family and was blessed with a revelation from God that his family would be protected by God from the coming tribulation. And he did what he thought he could to prepare. The tribulation in his life came when his neighborhood was flooded. His faith helped keep him calm and he led his family up on the roof. He told them what God had revealed to him, that they would be saved, and his family rejoiced. Soon a neighbor came by in his canoe and asked if anyone wanted to try and come aboard to escape the flood, but the man refused. He said he knew he could trust in God to save them, and that he was not going to deny his faith and trust in a little canoe. Later as the flood worsened a riverboat came by and asked if anyone would come aboard and try and escape the flood. Again the man refused and his family stayed where they were. He said God had promised him that HE would save them and they would trust in God and not rely on a riverboat to save them. Last a rescue helicopter came overhead and said “climb up, we can save you!” but the man and his family would not climb up to the helicopter, for they knew that God himself would save them. God does not need us to do his work, we are the one’s who need him. Sadly the family was then washed away and drowned. Once on the other side of the veil they were met by Jesus, and the man was disappointed. He said “I thought when you promised us you would save us that you would not let us drown, I trusted you, and you let me down.” Jesus answered: “I did everything I could to save you. I sent you two boats and a helicopter! wasn’t that good enough for you? What did you expect me to do?”
     The reason I think of this story is because of the many people I have met who believe that God will do the gathering of Israel. Actually I agree with this teaching 100% It is only God that can do this work, only God who can convert us to his gospel, and only God that will be worthy of praise when Zion is at last built. But that does not mean in the least that he will do it without using human beings, or including them in any way. Many otherwise faithful latter-day saints believe that Jesus himself will miraculously descend from heaven to tell them when to gather and where, and that when he does so, they will either be the first to hear, or that all will hear it at the same time. That way no one will ever have to join a “group” or leave the church, God himself will do everything. This is a misplaced faith. God has never operated in such a manner and never will because it is against the principles of godliness. It goes against free agency, and does not require any real faith at all. It is a deception of the adversary meant to lull us into a sense of carnal security. Rather God has always sent prophets, and missionaries who do their best to teach in their own imperfect ways, and the Holy Spirit overcomes these weaknesses and teaches the truth to every heart. Then they have to do all the labor of starting from scratch to subdue their passions and build brick by brick the temple. God does not do the work for us in this sense, because it is his work to so change our hearts and souls as to make us like him. He cannot do that without any effort on our part. If we do not begin to labor, we cannot be transformed by his grace. We will have in essence rejected the grace of Christ by being unwilling to obey. God’s work is to raise his children to be like him, as taught in another parable:
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     There was a man who was in the business of raising and training horses. He wanted his sons to carry on the family business when he was gone, so he hired a trainer to teach his sons, and let them do the work of running the ranch. In frustration the trainer came to the father and said: “Your sons do not know what they are doing, they will ruin the horses and train them wrong. I may be able to teach them a few things but this first batch of horses will be ruined if you don’t take over and do the work for them.” In response the father simply said: “You misunderstand. I’m in the business of raising sons, not horses.”
     Our father in heaven is in the business of raising us to become like him, and he is not as concerned if we don’t get everything right the first time. So what does that make the final gathering of Israel? A small imperfect bunch of imperfect people who want to try and learn to do the perfect will of God, but we are not there yet. You cannot expect Zion to be built by perfect people, for they will be perfected by the effort they put in to build Zion! We cannot mistake the cause for its effect.10830249_10152753261009270_1101794651932757719_o
     So I would say that the reason the people were successful in Salem, the city of Enoch, and in 4th Nephi, was because they were all partakers of the heavenly gift. We cannot succeed without each person obtaining this for themselves, but we can also lift and teach one another, to help us all obtain the second comforter. this is the reason for gathering the people in any dispensation: To build temples and prepare the people to enter the presence of the Lord. So if obtaining the heavenly gift is a prerequisite to living in a consecrated community, the gathering of the people and building of temples is often a prerequisite to receiving this witness. Thus we need to gather first, build and use temples next, and then we will have the knowledge of how to part the veil and can obtain the second comforter. Only then will we have celestial people with which to build a celestial society, but we arrive there line upon line, one step at a time.
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Joseph Smith said: “What was the object of gathering the … people of God in any age of the world? … The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.”
By obedience to these principles little by little we become sanctified, and then are able to obtain the second comforter. But we cannot do that in our scattered and ignorant condition as a people. First we must gather and learn what is required to obtain the blessing. many simply do not know what to ask, or seek for.
      The final gathering of Israel was prophesied by Jesus in scripture in these words: “And now I show unto you a parable. Behold, wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together; so likewise shall mine elect be gathered from the four quarters of the earth.” (JS-Matt. 1:27) This means that the gathering will appear to many like a spontaneous event, they will see the eagles before they see what it is they have gathered for. This demonstrates that God will do his own work, calling to those who know his voice to gather. I testify that this has begun. But to the eagles, the elect of God, what does it look like? Do they refuse to gather where other eagles have gathered? do they reject the gathering as just another “group” because they expect God to lead them to their own personal quarry?  No. To the elect they see the signs and the fruits of the spirit in other imperfect mortals much like themselves and then they gather together first. Then they assist one another in finding the ultimate goal so that they can all enjoy it together.
     I have faith in God to lead us to him, but I also fear that having been betrayed by imperfect leaders in the past many loose their ability to trust anyone ever again. As such they reject the prophets of God, even while trying to find salvation for themselves. I think that many who have realized the problems among the latter-day saints today have misplaced their faith and think that God will not let the church leaders have their free agency to lead people astray, or that God will somehow set it all in order for them, without any serious study and effort on their own part. God will never “correct” anyone by forcing them to do what is right, or “removing” a leader out of their place. That type of force was the devil’s plan in the beginning. He will never so destroy the souls of his children by personally appearing to give all his own messages, without sending a messenger. If he did so no one would be tried or tested, but more importantly no one would have free agency to do what they want, or become what they want. They would be forced to choose exaltation or damnation, with no middle ground. This is not the plan of salvation! There are three kingdoms for a reason, and God rejoices that every soul is free to choose what they will be and find joy therein. In the light of direct knowledge and the commandment to gather who would be free to choose otherwise? And how could God force himself on such unprepared souls anyway. It would destroy them, and God is in the business of saving souls, not damning them. Therefore God will not ever set the church in order in any public way, and he will not tell anyone that they must now gather and build Zion. He has given us his ordinances and scriptures which point the way, and it is up to us to walk therein of our own free will and choice. He also sends us messengers, usually from outside the recognized church hierarchy, to call us to repentance, just like abinadi came among the people of King noah and called the church leaders to repentnce.
     There are two to whom I could easily refer who played the role of Abinadi of calling out an “Alma” from among the churches who were going astray. They would be Gerald Peterson Sr., Rulon Allred, and maybe even a third in Joseph Musser. Each of these men tried and failed to call the members of the church, and even the leaders, to repentance. Two of them were once leaders in the church, but were rejected by the corrupt priests, and martyred. Joseph W. Musser was first, he was incarcerated falsely, and died of illness, so not a traditional martyr, Rulon C. Allred was shot by a hired gun, who later confessed that she had been paid to arrange the deed by Church leaders who worked through the CIA to hire them. She was never punished and after being acquitted she admitted to the murder and wrote about these details. Gerald Peterson Sr. was also martyred a few years later. He was found in a ditch, still alive for a few hours with his head bashed in. Each of these men delivered powerful testimonies, and tried to set the people on a better path. Sadly the church, and the FLDS would not listen to Musser, and the AUB would not listen to Allred, neither would listen to Peterson.
     There are also many others who were like Abinadi and Samuel the Lamanite, Denver Snuffer could be one of these, he tried to call repentance and was cast out. Francis Darter could be one as well, Byron Allred and many others.
    If that were however the end of the story, then we would just be another little Mormon group of no significance. Alma’s people would also have been of no consequence if God had not used them to maintain the fullness of his gospel, and his priesthood. He used them to reorganize his church, and the fruits of the spirit and the fruits of revelation showed that they were not just some little group who broke off the king Noah church, they were in fact the church of God!
     In our day we are in the middle of the transition from the times of the Gentiles to the final gathering of the literal blood of Israel. This is significant because it means a total transformation away from the gentile church, and to a gathering out of the elect. This cannot happen in the church, but must form a gathering out from all the churches, and from the four corners of the earth, the literal descendants of Israel to build the Old and the New Jerusalem. Many of the blood of Israel have been gathering to the old Jerusalem, and now some few are beginning to gather in preparation to build the New Jerusalem.  We are not perfected before we begin the work, we are perfected by doing the work. We become qualified by faith on the Lord and repentance made possible by his atonement.
      This transition from the times of the gentiles to the final gathering of Israel, has been and will yet be accompanied by further light and knowledge from heaven, and authority from God. Again it is God who will gather his people. This began in 1978. Gerald Peterson Sr. was directed by revelation to begin construction on a new temple. Then he was visited by many of the apostles and prophets who had gone before, and even by the Father and the Son. these all confirmed their keys and priesthoods upon him, as well as called others to form a first presidency and quorum of 12, together will all other offices of the church, and order of the priesthood. This was done April 6th 1978, and due notice was sent to all the leaders of the various LDS sects. This first temple was completed and the original and complete ordinances of the lord’s house were again administered for the living and the dead.
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    So where can we find the priesthood today? There are many ways I could answer, depending on what you mean by “priesthood.” Most LDS people would be asking who ordained who, and who ordained them, etc. Even this is more a web than a line. With myself as an example, I have received more than one ordination to more than one office, and so have all those who ordained me, and those who ordained them. Every line goes back to Christ, some are shorter than others. One goes through my father and Spencer W. Kimball, but I have my reasons for thinking this line may be suspect. I have been ordained through two lineages that go through Gerald Peterson Sr. and he has claim from ordinations that go back to Joseph Smith, and therefore Christ, through two apostolic lines, as well as the confirmations received and additional keys brought to light in 1978-1981. One line is sometimes argued about as through Lorin Woolley by John Taylor in 1886, the other goes through Joseph W. Musser through Lorenzo Snow. There are also Melchizedek ordinations but without apostolic level keys transferred that go through others for each of these men. Truly volumes could be written, and have been written, about these histories. But none of these is any kind of proof.
     The conferral of the priesthood by ordinations does not depend for their legitimacy only on the chain of historical transmission, for they have been approved of God. The blessings promised to the saints if the Nauvoo temple had been completed are now coming forth. A more perfect and complete understanding is now available than Brigham even had access to. This is because the times of the gentiles are now fulfilled and with that fulfillment comes new blessings to Israel. This does not mean that we are changing the ordinances, but rather that we have had the power and authority of the priesthood confirmed, and our understanding increased.
     The other reason I know these ordinations were successful is the simple principle that by their fruits all things can be tested and known. For example if you find an apple tree you can know it because of the apples. Any question then about which apple the seed came from that made this tree, and the question of who planted it, and who watered it, is mere trivia. The Priesthood is clearly operating here because it is literally leading people into the presence of the Lord.
     The same can no longer be said of the ordinances and priesthood in the church. It is impossible to tell a priesthood holder in the church from any other man of faith. Both may at times heal, direct, or comfort, but where then is the distinction? where is the power? It is not the same in this work. Here there are signs that follow those that believe. (Mark 16:17, D&C 63:9)
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But this is the most elementary way to view priesthood, there is so much more to it! Too often latter-day saints stop at this level, thinking that priesthood is nothing more than some kind of authority given to man by ordination. So: “what is priesthood?” and “what are the keys?”. The answer to that question is the study of a lifetime. No, more than this, it is the study of eternal lives and will never end. As such I cannot hope to fully explain it. But I will offer a  few hints, types and shadows, that will point to greater truths about this topic.
     D&C 121 speaks of the priesthood as a principle which is activated or neutralized by our spiritual potency. It speaks of the priesthood distilling upon our souls, and flowing to us by right principles, and as ending abruptly due to sin, even without our being aware. As such the priesthood is something we receive directly from God, and by principles of Godliness, not by ordination. It is like the relationship between the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and actually receiving the gifts of the spirit. Many people have had hands laid on their head, but few have actually received the gifts that come when the Holy Ghost actually is received. The same is true of priesthood, many have been ordained who have no priesthood at all. That is because the ordination no more gives the recipient the priesthood than, laying on of hands ensures the gifts of the spirit will be received. To obtain actual priesthood power we must seek it, ask for it, and activate it by true principles. The ordinance gives us the command and commission to seek and receive the gift, it does not give the gift itself.
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     One way of looking at different levels of priesthood is from the perspective of obedience to telestial, terrestrial and celestial laws.  If one wishes to command the elements by the power of the priesthood he must first understand which law he wishes to invoke. Then he must be obedient to that law in order to activate it. This is why God is God. he is obedient to the eternal laws, he embodies them, thus they are obedient to him.
     But why it is that priesthood power is often manifest in places we would normally think impossible. How can there be priesthood holders in all the different LDS sects, and why do some who appear to have been ordained properly seem to have no priesthood? The key in my mind lies in learning the distinction between authority and power. The difference between principle and authorization. Further there are important doctrines relating to the priesthood ordinations we received before birth, and our patriarchal authorities, none of which are conferred by the laying on of hands here on earth. So proper priesthood exercise is the combination of proper authority and proper faith, resulting in a manifestation of power that is approved of by God. All these elements must be present in ordinance work for example, but each of these principles is also independent as truth in that sphere in which it operates. Witchcraft, and the power and even “priesthoods” of the devil, are then still quite real, they simply employ these principles wrongly or in isolation. Priesthood is also rightly exercised in certain circumstances which seem to be outside our traditions as well. We tend to see priesthood authority in the myopic way of this life only, and based on conferral during this life only. We also tend to see priesthood power as the simple result of the receiving of the authority by ordination. These things are actually distinct.
     The only real question that arises then in regard to how the priesthood is organized on earth, whether in Christ’s Church, the mainstream LDS, the AUB, or somewhere else, is a question of the scope and nature of the authority used in certain circumstances.  If “No man taketh this honor unto himself but he who is called of God as was Aaron.” (Heb 5:4) then we must be cognizant of the origins and limits of the authorities we receive or risk damning disobedience. Does this mean that no power can be manifested outside proper authority? No. The power is still manifested by application of principles by faith, but the resulting actions are unauthorized and as such can be harmful. The Lord’s priesthood can never be harmful, or lead you astray, but for this to be true that means the the word “priesthood” means not men who have been ordained, or what they do, but obedience to the order of God in each exercise of that power which is within every soul. Every time the power of godliness is manifested the priesthood was there in some form, for without the priesthood and the ordinances thereof the power of godliness is not manifested unto men in the flesh. (D&C 84:21) These blessed manifestations are daily occurring all over the earth to every people, and are apparent to those who have eyes to see them.
    I could go on, but the point I want to make is that no manifestation of power, or even your own authority as a patriarch, or perhaps even as an elder, is compromised in the least by accepting and entering the true order of the priesthood in Christ’s Church. It is not a denial of your authority to accept additional authority, it is an expansion and magnification. That said I also do not want to minimize the significance and importance of this authority. If men desire to be exalted they must be obedient to the full order of the priesthood. To be content with any level of authority currently held is damning to the level at which one stops seeking. Further, we can even loose our priesthood unconsciously whenever we are not organized in the exact way the Lord has commanded. Let me compare exercise of the priesthood power to an electrical switch. A switch is not the power, it only activates power that is already present. It is however a principle that must be handled correctly. If any part of a circuit is not complete, there will be no electricity or priesthood power. If power is still present it may short circuit and still produce results, but these results can be harmful. This is true both for individuals as well as quorums, families, churches, and any group.
     One important key to recognizing if the priesthood is complete and effective is in the ordinances. Joseph Smith explained: “If there is no change of ordinances, there is no change of Priesthood. Wherever the ordinances of the Gospel are administered, there is the Priesthood.” I testify simply that the fullness of the ordinances and thereby the priesthood to administer them exists in its fullness only in Christ’s Church, at least as far as I am aware. For it does exist there in the sense of organized quorums and priesthood file leadership, and also patriarchal order etc. This is also the only church which builds and operates temples where the ordinances are administered according to their original and complete form, as God commanded. Further the blessings, of which these ordinances are but a type and preparation, are manifest in the lives of many who have received these ordinances.
     I have only seen ordinances exist in limited forms elsewhere, a piece here and a piece there. As such the fullness can only be obtained in a temple where ALL are manifested at once. I rejoice in the miracles and work God is doing and has done in the mainstream church, the AUB and even the world at large. There are examples of partial priesthood manifested in all these places, even outside Mormondom and Christianity altogether, but these authorities are limited in scope to matters that cannot part the veil and bring us into exaltation. If one wishes to obtain this inheritance he must come in by the gate, which is obedience to all the laws rights and ordinances. If any one of them is missing, whether it is being organized in your family, your quorums according to the D&C, your consecration, your temple ordinances for the living and the dead, or any other thing the gate will remain closed. This is not meant to be overwhelming but informative about what to look for so that you can obtain line upon line. The fullness of priesthood authority is only administered according to these revealed principles, and I have seen it in action.
     I hope this brief explanation is useful and that you can glean truth from it.
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     So, what are the keys of the priesthood? This is not simple to answer. The basic notion most Latter-day Saints have is that in order for the priesthood to be organized the way the Lord commanded us to be organized is by having certain men be key holders. In this interpretation the word “keys” has a meaning like “key” positions and offices, that help to administer to others. This is not wholly wrong, but it is a limited understanding. Keys are more like “keys of knowledge” the key to any principle is the understanding necessary to invoke that principle and allow it to result in effective action. So the keys are not so much held by men who hold certain positions, as much as the knowledge of the order of the principles of Godliness employed by conforming to certain principles. Thus D&C 107 is not just a direction about who holds the keys, rather it is the knowledge of how to organize the priesthood into quorums that is the Key to being united in the work. This understanding could relate to the term “key words” for knowing the principles they represent and how to invoke them teaches us how to invoke the power of the priesthood. Those who do not exercise the keys, do not have them. The keys are active principles, not passive offices, and as such if they are not being used they are absent, there is no such thing as a passive key in this sense.
     These keys, just like the power of the priesthood in general, must only be used according to the will of God, and the order of his house. Otherwise we can bring about disastrous results. We are like children whom God is teaching how to use fire. If we start playing with matches, the power is all too real and we could burn ourselves or others. So the priesthood is the match, and the knowledge of how to strike it is the key, and the wisdom to know when to use it is the basis for receiving the authority to do so. So when I speak of the presiding key holder, I am referring to him simultaneously as a person who has the knowledge, wisdom and authority, but also of someone who occupies a position where he can exercise this knowledge under the direction of God, not only a person who occupies an office. Further I am also referring to him as a person in whose life the principle is currently active, just as I would not say that you have a fire in your fire place if all you have is the knowledge how to light it but have never done so.

The Good news is that there are still priesthood holders in the world in spite of apostasy within and without the church. There are still true temples where the ordinances are administered. The challenge for all of us now is whether we will be willing to seek the spirit and find the final gathering of Israel. Zion is waiting for you, will you not come and partake?

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