Not My Will, But Thine: The Calling and Election

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this 
 world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:20-21).

“Law(s) Upon Which It Is Predicated”

It should come as no surprise to the observant mortal that the safe conveyance of a person by an automobile is predicated on the concurrent obedience of multiple laws or principles, two of the most important being: (1) keeping one’s hands affixed to the steering wheel, and (2) keeping one’s eyes open. Though both of these conditions are crucial to safely operating a vehicle, it could be argued that the second law, to keep one’s eyes open, may supersede any other as obedience to it allows the driver to know whether to turn the steering wheel left or right, let alone apply gas or brake.

The point of this simple illustration is to demonstrate that it is safe to assume that Heavenly blessings may also be predicated on the successful compliance to multiple, concurrent laws. As Paul said, “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2). The possession of charity is one of those superseding laws whose negligence is often at the head of a person’s not receiving many of the greatest blessings because it is not understood that they are predicated on multiple laws including having charity. But there is one law that may be considered to supersede them all, even above that of the possession of charity, which law is alignment with the will of God.

Put simply, if it is not the will of God that a blessing should be given, that is the end of the story no matter what else is done by the person seeking the blessing. But the inverse is not a direct antithesis: if it is the will of God that some blessing should be bestowed, there is usually more for the person who desires to obtain that blessing to do. As Moroni outlined, “God…worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men” (Moroni 10:7, emphasis added); in other words, where there is no faith, there is no blessing; or, as Mormon annotated, revelation or divine confirmation seldom precedes belief: “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6).

Whether revelation or mighty miracle, this then becomes the key to any blessing: the will of God. The scriptures give this injunction in a number of ways, as a few examples show (note the multiple prerequisites to the desired outcome: faith and God’s will):

Moroni 7:33

And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.

Moroni 10:23

And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me.

Matthew 26:39

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

1 Nephi 7:12

Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him?

Jacob 4:6-7

We truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea. Nevertheless…it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.

Ether 12:12

If there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them.

D&C 63:10-11

Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God. Yea, signs come by faith, unto mighty works, for without faith no man pleaseth God.

Hebrews 6:1,3

Let us go on unto perfection…. And this will we do, if God permit.

Obtaining His Will

In a modern account of an attempt to gain a blessing through the gift of revelation, the Lord taught in relatively plain instruction that it is not sufficient simply “to ask” for such things; instead, one must “ask…if it be right” (D&C 9:7-8). The difference between simply asking for something and asking if that something be right seems negligible at first glance, but the difference is critical to comprehend. In the case of Oliver Cowdery, who wanted to attempt to translate the Book of Mormon and other ancient texts by means of his divining rod, the Lord instructed that he ascertain whether “the opportunity to translate…be right”1 for him at that time—in other words, whether it was expedient or the will of God that he should do so.

Why should this be important? Why should God want His children to first know if something be His will before they attempt an act of great faith? Simply put, it is so that one may act in harmony with God’s will not merely hoping that the act is right. Asking if a certain act ‘be right’ turns what would have merely been hope into faith by the revelation that something is true,2 which faith is necessary to the intended act.

In a deeper sense, it is because faith must be built upon knowledge—which is always obtained through revelation—or in other words, every layer of faith eventually turns to a layer of knowledge, upon which a higher layer of faith may be laid, until the tower of revealed knowledge reaches the summit of all mysteries.3

“It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God…according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore,…he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full” (Alma 12:9-10, emphasis added).

Faith from Knowledge

Thus it can be clearly shown that greater degrees of faith can only be produced in the light of greater degrees of knowledge, or, in other words, faith cannot exist without knowledge. The pathway of faith and knowledge is laid for mankind in the scriptures because they contain God’s commandments, which, when observed, leads to a knowledge of their truth and an increased capacity for faith by the keeper of the commandment. This is clearly taught in a modern revelation:

“[The Son of God]…received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.… I[, the Son of God,] give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness. For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness,…therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace…. And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:12-14,19-20,27-28, emphasis added).

The principle that all beings who exercise faith (including ourselves) do so only by revelation, receiving a witness of knowledge—or the testimony—of another, which leads to the logical conclusion that faith was introduced to humanity by God Himself or His angels, as the Lectures on Faith detail:

“Adam…being made acquainted with God, communicated the knowledge which he had unto his posterity; and it was through this means that the thought was first suggested to their minds that there was a God. Which [knowledge or testimony] laid the foundation for the exercise of their faith, through which they could obtain a knowledge of his character and also of his glory…. The testimony which [the descendants of Adam] had of the existence of a God, was the testimony of man; for previous to the time that any of Adam’s posterity had obtained a manifestation of God to themselves, Adam their common father had testified unto them of the existence of God, and of his eternal power and Godhead” (Lectures on Faith 2:31,35, emphasis added).

This revelation, or knowledge, was occasionally lost to mankind due to transgression, which fallout is called apostasy, and whose only remedy is God’s personal revelation again to man on the earth, as with Joseph Smith’s first vision. Through Joseph Smith’s testimony of God’s true character, mankind is again able to exercise faith as opposed to a vain hope.

Knowledge from Works

With the foregoing principles explicitly presented, the reader should understand this one thing in particular to continue reading this document: new faith can only be mustered on the basis of previously revealed knowledge. Hence the Lectures on Faith state the following:

“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation…. It is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God…. It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him” (Lectures on Faith 6:7-8, emphasis added).

As can be surmised from this quotation, the production of ‘faith necessary’ for salvation cannot be arbitrarily produced; it can only be generated following a knowledge, given of God, that He has personally accepted of one’s sacrifices—one’s works. Hence, despite all of one’s efforts to “have faith to be saved,” “it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:6). As faith and knowledge function together unto this end, they likewise are necessary for the working of any spiritual work, such as praying for the sick or moving mountains. A formula may be derived from the foregoing principles:

A. Works of Faith
Lead to
B. Spiritual Knowledge
Leads to
C. Faith Necessary for Greater Works
Repeat

Note how step C seamlessly translates back to step A: a person learns of God’s true character from the missionaries and decides to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true (step A: a work of faith); God answers the person’s prayer (step B: spiritual knowledge); the person makes the decision to be baptized (step C: faith for a greater work); the person is baptized (step A: a work of faith); the Holy Ghost testifies of a remission of sins (step B: spiritual knowledge); the person wants to keep the Holy Ghost near (step C: faith for a greater work); etc., until he comes to know the mysteries in full.

A few examples using the above formula may suffice to demonstrate its truthful application:

Steps Alma’s Preaching Translating by Seer Staff Salvation Nephi Obtaining the Sealing Power Peter walking on the Water
A. Works Plant the seed (experiment on Alma’s word); Ask God if “the opportunity to translate” be right; Sacrifice of all things; Kept all of God’s commands without seeking his “own life;” Asked the Lord, “Bid me come unto thee on the water;”
B. Knowledge It “enlighteneth” understanding (therefore, a knowledge it is good); God says, by the “burning of the bosom,” it is right; God accepts of your works and agrees to extend salvation to you personally; God says, “all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word;” The Lord replied, “Come;”
C. Faith/Action Nourish more of Alma’s teachings (receive the greater portion of God’s word). Confidence that God will do what He said He will do, providing Oliver with power to translate. Enduring to the end without becoming wearied in mind. Do or say anything and it will be so. Peter walked on the water.

It may here be observed how it is that faith is the foundation of all action in the universe, even according to the cyclical formula derived above. Joseph Smith, in the Lectures on Faith, affirms:

“If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action, in them; that without it, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental” (Lectures on Faith 1:10, emphasis added).

A rudimentary example of the universality of this formula can even be shown with the act of walking: a person decides to take a step forward (step A: a work of faith); as he does so he finds his foot plants firmly on the ground before him (step B: spiritual knowledge); he decides to move the other foot forward as well (step C: faith for a greater work). Thus even ‘exertions…physical’ fall under the domain of acts of faith! All people who walk upon the face of the earth exercise faith when undertaking a new experience (though typically limited to small acts informed only of their limited, often faulty knowledge of the physical world4).

Ask, and It Shall Be Given

They Key to all acts of faith then is knowledge born of works—and the most fundamental work is this:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

President Henry B. Eyring testified of the same when he taught:

“The power to speak and act in God’s name requires revelation and that to have it when we need it requires praying and working in faith for the companionship of the Holy Ghost…. With a prayer of faith, God can grant us power…for whatever circumstance we may be in. It simply requires that we ask in humility for the Spirit to show us what God would have us say and do, do it, and continue to live worthy of that gift” (Henry B. Eyring, “Priesthood and Personal Prayer,” Conference Report, April 2015, emphasis added).

To ask is the key. And by this key comes revelation (knowledge) to act in all righteousness. Furthermore, it can be shown in scripture that this pattern or formula is always in effect when great miracles have been performed or a greater portion of the word of God received (often the key of asking is inferred in that God speaks in return to an assumed plea):

Steps

Raising the Dead Deliverance of a People Understanding Doctrine/Teachings
A. Works

(Ask, Seek, Knock)

“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord…whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (John 11:21-22)

“And Ammon said: I will go and inquire of the Lord, and if he say unto us, go down unto our brethren, will ye go? And the king said unto him: Yea” (Alma 27:7-8).

“[Laman and Lemuel] said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken…. And [Nephi] said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord? And they said…: We have not” (1 Ne 15:7-9).

B. Knowledge

(Revelation)

“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me” (John 11:41).

“And it came to pass that Ammon went and inquired of the Lord, and the Lord said unto him: Get this people out of this land” (Alma 27:11-12).

“The Lord…said…—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments…”

C. Faith to do

(Miracle)

“And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth” (John 11:43-44).

“And it came to pass that it did cause great joy among them. And they went down into the land of Jershon…and they were called by the Nephites the people of Ammon” (Alma 27:26).

“…[Then] surely these things shall be made known unto you” (1 Nephi 11:15).

Asking the Father is such an obvious key to receiving all things from the Father, including power to work mighty miracles, that it brings forcefully to the mind a new emphasis to the instruction given by Jesus, “Except ye…become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” for as little children “ask bread” or ”ask a fish” to receive those things of their earthly parents, “how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 18:3; 7:9-11, emphasis added). And when answered, the trusting, petitioning child must obey, being “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19, emphasis added). As the Bible Dictionary states:

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part…. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other” (“Prayer,” Bible Dictionary).

Thus it may be stated that a principle component of God’s true character is his station as a father in relation to us, His children. This understanding, when it is seated deep within our hearts, unlocks the windows of Heaven and revelation to us. As Joseph Smith said:

Looking Up

“Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and how to come to him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us” (Joseph Smith, Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [STPJS], 350).

God’s Still and Small Voice

In the last scriptural example used above, wherein Laman and Lemuel admit that they have not attempted to ask of God for knowledge, Nephi stood in contrast to the two unbelieving brothers in that he had made a righteous habit of turning to the Lord constantly and repeatedly for knowledge and was thus familiar with the voice of the spirit. Laman and Lemuel, though having spoken face-to-face with angels, had seldom if ever communed spirit-to-spirit with God. Their lack of diligence in seeking God had resulted in their habitual unbelief, or belief that God did not speak to them; they considered that it was “The Lord [who] maketh no such thing known unto us,” so Nephi corrected their misunderstanding and faithless fault finding, saying, “[No,] he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Nephi 15:7; 17:45). The importance of not beclouding one’s attention to the minute whisperings of God’s spirit involves expectations on the part of the inquiring child of God whether wicked or righteous; there was once a large group of righteous Lamanites who were actually baptized by fire but who did not realize it (see 3 Nephi 9:205), and though sometimes miraculous displays have accompanied such spiritual actions, it is the expectation of something outward that often times causes something inward to be missed. As with Laman and Lemuel, if one is always waiting to see angels, one will never obtain the innumerable ministrations of angels unseen (See D&C 76:50,67).

Therefore the key to accessing Heaven lies in developing what Nephi possessed: a child-like trust that—by frequently asking and listening, expecting to ‘feel’ God’s words inwardly—engenders a familiarity with the voice of God, a voice that has been scripturally described as “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). This basic pattern of asking as a child and receiving from the parent can very simply be superimposed upon the previous formula:

A. Works: Inquiring of Father
Leads to
B. Knowledge: Revelation for Child
Leads to
C. Faith: Power to do God’s Will
Repeat

The More Sure Word of Prophecy and The Father’s Spirit of Revelation

The above pattern is no where more true than in obtaining the revelation of one’s calling and election being made sure. There are differences between various forms of revelation that can come to the child of God, which differences naturally arise from the chosen mode or messenger of the light and truth imparted. In most cases, the messenger dispatched from the Father is the First Comforter, or the Holy Ghost, whose ministry is greatest among those baptized of him (see 3 Nephi 9:20 and footnote 5); also angels, invisibly, speak to our hearts by this same power. Another messenger may be the Second Comforter, or Jesus Christ, who is capable of communicating all knowledge to those whom He instructs face to face.6

One of the greatest revelations a child of God can obtain from the Father is the knowledge that one’s calling and election have been made sure—that the child, on condition of not committing the unpardonable sin, “is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation” (D&C 131:5). A key: this revelation is not the exclusive domain of the Second Comforter, though entering His presence may undoubtedly bring with it this knowledge, but the First Comforter, as the Holy Spirit of Promise, most frequently is the messenger by whom this ordinance is bestowed.7 Though true it is that only the voice of God could provide such an “anchor to the soul”8 by which the endurance to suffer all things9 could be mustered, it must be remembered that as a member of the Godhead, God the Third, the Testator, can speak the Father’s very words to our hearts and cannot lie.10

Another name for having one’s calling and election made sure is to receive the “more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19; βεβαιότερον τὸν προφητικὸν λόγον bebaioteron ton prophētikon logon, “the enduring prophetic word”). Because “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10), many saints who profess to believe in Jesus yet deny the workings of the gift of prophecy deny it because of unbelief.11 But the spirit of revelation—any revelation—is connected with the gift of prophecy, and when one obtains the more sure word of prophecy it is by the spirit of revelation (the First Comforter). Let us examine the words of Joseph Smith on this subject. Note first the prerequisites:

“After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted” (Joseph Smith, Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [STPJS], 151, emphasis added)

For those saints who are actively striving to live their lives simply by the principles God has revealed, living by every word of God (the Law of the Gospel), and, as the scriptures say, “deny[ing them]selves of all ungodliness…lov[ing] God with all [their] might, mind and strength, then is [Christ’s] grace sufficient” for them (Moroni 10:32, emphasis added). This same lifestyle of consecration, this ceaseless ‘hungering and thirsting’ after ever increasing righteousness, is all that the Lord asks before he will ‘soon say’ that their calling and election is made sure. Note again: the requirements are simply the first principles of the Gospel followed by continued discipleship, which is marked by sacrifice.12 It is as Nephi instructed in his plain language:

“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…. After ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay…. Press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end13, [then] behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:17,19-20, emphasis added).

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints…. Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself” (Joseph Smith, STPJS, 151-52).

Note that the calling and election of the individual precedes the ‘privilege’ of receiving the Second Comforter; the one does not necessarily equate to the other, and to assert otherwise, according to the Prophet, is a non sequitur argument. The Prophet continues by giving some instruction relative to how the calling and election will ultimately be recognized:

The Spirit of Revelation is in connection with these blessings. A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus” (Ibid., emphasis added).

By recognizing the voice of the Good Shepherd14 that comes through the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost—by enhancing one’s acquaintance with the Word and one’s familiarity with the spirit of revelation and of prophecy—the disciple is ultimately lead to the revelation that their calling and election will be made sure. Hearing this by the spirit, who cannot lie, leads to the faith needed to receive the Second Comforter. And how is this revelation—as with any other—received? By works, which leads to knowledge, which leads to faith; or in other words, by inquiring of the Father, who instructs the child, which instruction—if it is the more sure word of prophecy—provides faith for the miracle of enduring to the end.6

Conclusion

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark” (2 Nephi 32:4).

“When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:22), and in many instances more than one law must be observed concurrently to unlock greater blessings. The greatest of these coincident laws, that which supersedes all others, is obtaining the will of the Father—this must come first. As His children, we are commanded to ask for that which we desire, but as with an earthly father whom we would not disrespect by assuming upon His desire, we must first ask if the thing we desire be right that we do not haply ask for that which is not expedient and offend Him.15 The only questions laid upon us, His children, are these: Will we prepare now to hear Him when He speaks? Are we really sacrificing whatever God asks for? Will we submit ourselves if we do not like what He has to say?

Of course, it should go without saying, that we “need not suppose that [God] cannot speak” without first being spoken to (2 Nephi 29:9). God may certainly whisper to you without first asking Him a question, if it is His will; many promptings come “out of the blue.” The caution is, if God has spoken in your life, did you raise your head and say, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:9-10), or was the word rejected because of unbelief or, worse, unwillingness to sacrifice to hear more clearly? For those who receive the greater portion of God’s word16 there is a greater condemnation awaiting if they list to follow a different master—their fate is sealed and cannot be broken without the severest penalty, but if unbroken can only lead to the greatest glory:

“Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power…I say that it had been better for them never to have been born….[But those] who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true…they are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—they are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory” (D&C 76:31-32,53-56).


Appendix:

Questions for the Petitioning Child

Following is a list of questions that the saint desirous of greater light and truth may find useful, all of which are based on scriptures that guide toward making one’s calling and election sure. Ask these questions to yourself and then ask the Father:

Principle:

Question:
Faith

Do I need to add to my faith?

Virtue

Do I need to add to my virtue?

Knowledge

Do I need to add to my knowledge?

Temperance

Do I need to add to my temperance (self-control/mastery)?

Patience

Do I need to add to my patience?

Brotherly Kindness

Do I need to add to my brotherly kindness?

Godliness

Do I need to add to my godliness?

Charity

Do I need to add to my charity?

Humility

Do I need to add to my humility?

Diligence

Do I need to add to my diligence?

Baptism by Fire

Have I been baptized by fire?

Feast upon the Word

Do I feast fully upon God’s word?

Do I need to feast more fully?

Am I familiar with the voice of the good shepherd?

The Law of God

As a man, have I submitted myself fully to God and to no one else?

The Lord

As a wife, have I ensured that my Head is submitting fully to God?

Sacrifice

Have I or am I truly willing to sacrifice all worldly things forever?

The Gospel

What incorrect traditions/examples keep me from living the Gospel fully?

Chastity

Do I need to add to my chastity? Am I chaste in marriage?

Consecration

Have I consecrated anything I have been blessed with to the devil (debt)?

Ordinances

Have I completed all the revealed ordinances for myself, including sealing?

Endure to the End

Have I or am I approaching “the end” of the required probation/testing?

Thou Shalt be Exalted

Am I assured a place in the Highest Third Heaven by the Savior?

If not, may I have that promise now?

If not, what lack I yet?


Footnotes:

  1.  Readers often misinterpret the “it” of the verses, “study it out in your mind… ask if it be right” (verses 5, 7-9). The pronoun-antecedent is typically considered to be the words of the text to be translated, i.e. the way Joseph Smith translated was by either studying out the characters on the plates in his mind before giving a translation or perhaps studying out the phrase in English and asking if it be right. However, forensic analysis of the manuscripts, along with eyewitness accounts of the translation process, reveal that Joseph did not consult the physical characters on the plates and dictated a translation as quickly as the scribe was able to write! Joseph Smith did not study out the translation ‘in his mind’ and then asked if the translation ‘be right.’ Grammatically speaking, the pronoun “it” could not refer to something that had not been stated previously, i.e. there must be an identifiable antecedent, and the only thing logically presented in a previous verse is “the opportunity to translate.” This is what Oliver Cowdery, and previously Joseph Smith, had to ascertain as being the will of God or not.
  2. “If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21, emphasis added; see also the blog post By the Light of Truth under heading “Hope and Faith”).
  3. “[As the seed of truth] swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith [in that thing] is dormant.… is your knowledge perfect [in all things]? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith” (Alma 32:33-34,36, emphasis added).
  4. However, for the saints of God there lies in wait for all a realm of experience reserved for the spiritually minded (see 2 Ne 9:39). “As all have not faith,” the Lord instructs to the carnally-minded, “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study” (Doctrine and Covenants 109:7). In the same verse the Lord explains that there is a high road and a low road to learning: study or faith. According to Joseph Smith, the latter is the superior: “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching” (Joseph Smith, Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [STPJS], 191).
  5. Note in this verse who it is that baptizes with the Holy Ghost.
  6. “When any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions—Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn” (Joseph Smith, STPJS, 152).
  7. See the blog post Classic Truth: The Light of Christ, wherein one’s calling and election being made sure is referred to as the third of “three phases of the light of Christ.” The scriptures indicate that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 3:17). The implication would appear at first glance to be that one must physically be introduced to the Father and the Son to obtain the “unconditional guarantee” of eternal life (see the blog post Classic Truth: Accepted of the Lord; also see D&C 131:5), yet the scriptures show how that Peter received his most true knowledge of the Savior’s identity by the Holy Ghost, and this despite sitting at Jesus’ feet at the very time the knowledge came: “Simon Peter…said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17, emphasis added). This adds a new depth of meaning to why the Holy Ghost “beareth record of the Father and the Son” (2 Nephi 31:18; see Moses 7:11). Perhaps hence the grievance of turning his witness aside: “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven” (Luke 12:10).
  8. “Now for the secret and grand key. Though [the saints] might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint heirs with Him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promise sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation” (Joseph Smith, STPJS, 298, emphasis added; see 2 Peter 1).
  9. “Such was and always will be the situation of the saints of God, that unless they have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; for such has been and always will be the opposition in the hearts of unbelievers and those that know not God” (Lectures on Faith 4:6).
  10. “And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away” (Enos 1:5-6, emphasis added; also see the blog post Classic Truth: The Light of Christ).
  11. Moroni states that if miracles cease “it is because of unbelief” (Moroni 7:37). Unbelief may manifest in many ways, but the most common is that of belief in something that cannot happen to the believer. For example, if a person merely lacked faith in the ministration of angels, they would not believe that angels could appear to anyone, including themselves; a person with faith would believe that angels could appear to anyone, including themselves; but a person professing faith yet possessing unbelief would believe that angels could appear to most people, but they would exclude themselves from the possibility. The reason for this exclusionary clause of unbelief could vary widely: some may simply see themselves as unworthy where others may erroneously expect that such miracles only happen to General Authorities as opposed to lay membership—the common and tragic nature of these and other forms of unbelief is that they are both self imposed. See also the blog post By the Light of Truth under the heading “Hope and Faith.”
  12. It would be the author’s observation that many Latter-day Saints sell their birthright for pottage, or their tokens for money, by denying themselves the baptism by fire that is received by priesthood injunction by the laying on of hands—the spiritual and effectual aspect of that ordinance pending the removal of enmity between the candidate and God (see the blog post Do You Sell Your Tokens for Money?; See also James 4:4). If this enmity was honestly, fully, and freely removed (sacrificed) by the prospective saint, the requirements for having his or her calling and election being made sure would quickly be met.
  13. It is often considered that enduring to the end means to hold out faithful to the end of one’s life, but is this notion correct? The Greek word for “end” used in the New Testament where this phrase is found (Matthew 13:13; 24:13) is τέλος (telos “consummation”), which means “end goal” or “purpose.” Accordingly, the end to which a saint must endure is that point at which a specified degree of testing has been completed, the degree needed to obtain the promise of eternal life.a For some this may be at the end of mortality or perhaps beyond, but scripturally it has always been before ‘the end’ of mortal probation (see the blog post Classic Truth: Accepted of the Lord).
    (a. “There are no more conditions to be met by the obedient person” [Bruce R. McConkie quoted in the blog post Classic Truth: Accepted of the Lord])
  14. When one becomes more and more acquainted with the voice of the spirit, when one begins to recognize the voice of the good shepherd, the scriptures say that he is himself being called by the name of the shepherd (Alma 5:38), which is to culminate in being called up in the first resurrection (Mosiah 26:24-25), which is the resurrection of the bodies Celestial, which are quickened by a fulness of the Celestial for they were quickened by a part of that same glory in mortality (D&C 88:29, emphasis added).
  15. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3, emphasis added; see also 2 Nephi 4:35; D&C 46:30; 88:64-65).
  16. See Alma 12:9-10.

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