In the last two parts of this series, we used the prophecy given by Christ in 3rd Nephi and a prophecy by Moroni in conjunction with the grafting in of the branches scenario described in the parable contained in Jacob to show the three part sequence of events-
1- The Gentiles received the fulness of the Gospel at the time the fullness of the priesthood was revealed at the special conference at the Morley Farm which brought in the fulness of the Gentiles as prophesied by Moroni when he visited Joseph Smith.
Shortly after that, they stumbled and rejected the fulness of the priesthood and the fullness of the gospel bringing the times of the Gentiles to an end as was prophesied by Christ.
2- God remembers his covenant with the House of Israel and takes the gospel from the Gentiles to the House of Israel. Section 110 documents the restoration of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham and the restoration of the keys of the gathering of Israel. This was all prophesied by Christ when he said God would remember his covenant with Abraham and the house of Israel.
3- Eventually, the Marvelous Work begins and the servants return with the priesthood keys again. At that time, a portion of the Gentiles Repent
Dual Fulfillment of Prophecy
One of the things one needs to know about prophecy is that virtually all prophesies have a dual fulfillment- A shadow fulfillment and a literal fulfillment. (Types and Shadows)
The scenario of the gentiles first getting the gospel followed by the house of Israel getting the gospel takes place both in the 2nd watch and also the 3rd watch.
The difference is that in the 2nd watch the gentiles and the house of Israel both stumble after getting it. In the 3rd watch there is a righteous remnant in both groups that repent and receives the fulness.
A great key that is given having to do with this prophecy is in understanding the following distinction:
In the 2nd watch the gentiles get the gospel delivered to them in WORD.
In the 3rd watch they get the gospel delivered in WORD and in POWER and in VERY
The word power is pretty much self explanatory.
Although there were a few brief glimpses of partial power during the LDS restoration movement, there is a stark difference between those events and many of the amazing miracles and the gospel power that took place in the Book of Mormon and New Testament churches. The LDS restoration movement that took place four generations ago was not a work of POWER.
The word DEED is worthy of evaluating in closer scrutiny as well.
Lets check out the 1828 Websters-
1. That which is done, acted or effected; an act; a fact; a word of extensive application, including whatever is done, good or bad, great or small.
And Joseph said to them, what deed is this which ye have done? Gen. x1iv.
We receive the due reward of our deeds. Luke xxv.
2. Exploit; achievement; illustrious act.
Whose deeds some nobler poem shall adorn.
3. Power of action; agency.
With will and deed created free.
4. A writing containing some contract or agreement, and the evidence of its execution; particularly, an instrument on paper or parchment, conveying real estate to a purchaser or donee. This instrument must be executed, and the execution attested, in the manner prescribed by law.
As you can see, the final great work is very different from the laying of the foundation of the great work in that it comes forth not only in word, but also in POWER and DEED.
Let us now take a look at 1st Nephi 14.
The majority of the time, the Book of Mormon skips right over the LDS foundation movement when the gentiles stumbled and goes right to the Marvelous Work and a Wonder in the 3rd watch-
1 And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks
2 And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.
Did you catch that?
“THAT DAY” that is being spoken of is the Marvelous Work and a Wonder in the 3rd Watch. How do we know? Because the Marvelous Work is the time when the Lamb of God shall manifest himself to the Gentiles, not only in WORD, but also in POWER and VERY DEED!
Four generations ago the restored church was offered the fulness of the gospel but they only received it in word, they, as a collective group, could not receive it in power and in deed.
They could only embrace it in word and with words.
This is why the Lord chastened the Saints and warned them that they would remain under condemnation until they remembered the New and Everlasting Covenant, the Book of Mormon and the revelations received by Joseph Smith…”not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—”
Lip service doesn’t cut it.
Stating in a temple ceremony that you are willing to consecrate everything is not the same as consecrating everything!
Our generation is currently living during the time when we only have the WORDS in scripture that describe the fullness of the gospel and we use words to give lip service about our willingness to live it!
We don’t have POWER. The fulness of the gospel is not being manifest among us in VERY DEED.
We are the ones that need to have our stumbling blocks removed!
Our stumbling blocks will be taken away when the Marvelous Work is ushered in IF WE ARE AMONG THE RIGHTEOUS PORTION OF THE GENTILES AND HOUSE OF ISRAEL THAT REPENT!
We are informed that the one mighty and strong is characterized as one who does much good not only in WORD but also in DEED… even in POWER by doing MIGHTY WORKS.
“And there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren.” 2nd ne 3:24
Clearly the restoration being spoken of in the above verses is a future restoration.
Ether chapter five speaks of the “three witnesses” and yet it is clearly speaking about the testimony of the witnesses during the marvelous work in the 3rd watch because the testimony of the three witnesses and the work comes forth in POWER, not just in WORD!
1 And now I, Moroni, have written the words which were commanded me, according to my memory; and I have told you the things which I have sealed up; therefore touch them not in order that ye may translate; for that thing is forbidden you, except by and by it shall be wisdom in God.
2 And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work;
3 And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true.
4 And in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three, and this work, in the which shall be shown forth the power of God and also his word, of which the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost bear record—and all this shall stand as a testimony against the world at the last day.
5 And if it so be that they repent and come unto the Father in the name of Jesus, they shall be received into the kingdom of God.
6 And now, if I have no authority for these things, judge ye; for ye shall know that I have authority when ye shall see me, and we shall stand before God at the last day. Amen.
The first ministry of Joseph Smith was to bring forth the word and lay the foundation for when the work of the Lord would come forth in power. His second commission with be a time of power.
The gentiles stumbled during the laying of the foundation of the great work and then God remembered the covenant he had with the house of Israel.
Ok now, lets bring this thing full circle and get back to our mysterious character that we began this series with, James Jesse Strang.
It is a shocking fact that many and according to some, the vast majority of the leaders of the church in Nauvoo initially chose to follow this new convert to Mormonism that was virtually unknown in the church in Nauvoo.. He joined the church in about February of 1844, the same year Joseph was martyred..
How likely is it that Joseph Smith would commission a brand new member of the Church to be his successor?
Strang reigned for six years as the crowned “king” of an ecclesiastical monarchy that he established on Beaver Island in the U.S. state of Michigan. Building an organization that eventually rivaled Young’s in Utah, Strang gained nearly 12,000 adherents prior to his murder in 1856, which brought down his kingdom and all but extinguished his sect.
In addition to his ecclesiastical calling, Strang served one full term and part of a second as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, and assisted in the organization of Manitou County. He was also at various times an attorney, educator, temperance lecturer, newspaper editor, Baptist minister, correspondent for the New York Tribune, and amateur scientist. (excerpt taken from wiki)
As previously mentioned, some historians claim that more saints in Nauvoo followed Strang than Brigham young.
It is, in my opinion, even more significant to note that very possibly a greater majority of the original foundational Saints from the Kirtland era followed Strang than Brigham Young.
In addition to the entire remaining members of the Smith Family, including apostle William Smith, people like William Marks, George Miller, William E. McLellin, William Cowdery, George Adams, Martin Harris, Jared Carter, John E Page, Ezra Thayer chose to follow Strang.
About 150 famous people who lived beside Joseph Smith during the early Kirtland years, chose to follow Strang. These people personally knew Joseph Smith and the revelations he brought forth much better than the new converts coming form foreign lands. They chose to follow James Strang instead of Brigham Young and the 12..
The Significance of James Strang
Obviously, the significance of the impact of James Strang and how so many of the gentiles resonated with him over the quorum of the 12 is simply an indicator of how the Gentiles and the House of Israel parted ways during the general time frame that the Gentiles who had rejected the fullness, were were now taking to the preparatory gospel to the House of Israel.
Regarding Strang’s succession claims, one only need read the letter from Joseph Smith to Strang to see that it makes no claims regarding priesthood succession.
It said nothing about handing the keys of the kingdom over to a new president of the church.
It was simply a response to James Strang’s request to plant a stake of Zion in Wisconsin.
At best, Strang was called to be the president of a stake of Zion… and not even the center stake.
Technically, from a doctrinal point of view, it seems impossible to me, to plant a legitimate stake of Zion somewhere in Gods vineyard until after the center of Zion has been established or is at least in the process of being established with an organized church there that is attempting consecration.
In short, you cannot be establishing new stakes of Zion when the Saints had been rejected as a Church and failed to establish Zion.
Kirtland was never referred to as a stake of Zion until AFTER the Saints began settling in Jackson County and the land was dedicated, even though Kirtland was established first.
After revealing Jackson County as the center place of Zion and Kirtland as the latter day Jerusalem that was to be a stake of Zion, the Lord later revealed that no additional stakes would actually be valid until AFTER the pure in heart return to claim their inheritances and build up the waste places of the center stake of Zion.
Only after there is no more room in the center stake of Zion will the Lord appoint new stakes.
“Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered. They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion—
And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled.
And, behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place appointed than that which I have appointed, for the work of the gathering of my saints—
Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.” (section 101)
That is why the Lord referred to Nauvoo as the cornerstone of Zion but made it perfectly clear that the Saints were on probation and that Zion could not proceed forth from the designated cornerstone of Zion and usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times until the saints repented of their abominations and the Nauvoo Temple was completed.
That makes the establishing of additional “stakes” outside the boundaries of Zion, after the Jackson period, somewhat problematic to me.
It also makes the calling of James Strang to establish a new stake somewhat problematic to begin with. The same goes for Lyman Wight.
Secondly, we must keep in mind that the Lord had already fulfilled the succession prophecy in section 43 and replaced Joseph Smith with his brother Hyrum as his successor to be the prophet seer and revelator of the church.
See section 124 and the Nauvoo discourse provided in previous posts wherein Joseph announced that Hyrum was now the sole prophet of the church and that Joseph would not prophesy any more.
That makes the petition from Strang to Joseph somewhat irrelevant without the intervention or endorsement of Hyrum.
The replacement of Joseph with Hyrum as the prophet seer and revelator of the church and Joseph’s own admission in a general conference that he would not prophesy anymore, is not only validated by historical data, additionally, Joseph acknowledges in the letter to Strang that after his personal inclination to reject the request by Strang, it was actually Hyrum who overruled his rejection of the request and said that Strang should be allowed to plant a stake in Zion.
Clearly Hyrum was attempting to act as the Presiding Officer of the Church per his calling in section 124.
The Strang letter provides yet another witness that the succession prophecy in section 43:3-4 was fulfilled by the replacement of Joseph Smith with Hyrum Smith. Yet the murder of Hyrum along with Joseph created a huge dilemma. ( I might interject here that Isaiah provided commentary regarding this time period “…the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity..” 2 Ne. 27: 5)
Despite the dichotomies created by this event, most historians seem to agree that the letter of appointment does appear to be authentic as far as being signed by Joseph Smith.
For that reason, I believe the serious seeker of truth must take the letter seriously enough to study and ponder its contents to see what was going on in the mind of the folks and for providing greater context for the events of this time period.
Nevertheless, the church was in a state of complete apostasy before the Saints ever got to Nauvoo.
The Lord had informed the Saints that the fullness of the priesthood had been lost and that the church would be rejected with their dead if they failed to repent, refuse to be moved out of their place and complete the temple.
Most scholars concur that the letter appears to be authentic. And I don’t doubt it.
It probably was written by Joseph and it is consistent with the following prophecy from Joseph-
“I prophecy that the day will come when you will say Oh that we had given heed… the people will not hearken nor hear and bondage, death and destruction are close at our heels. The kingdom will not be broken up but we shall be scattered and driven, gathered again and then dispersed , reestablished & driven abroad and so on until the Ancient of days shall sit and the kingdom and power thereof shall be given to the Saints and they shall possess it forever and
ever…” (words of Joseph pg 67)
Joseph prophesied that before the kingdom would be given to the Saints, they would first be scattered, driven, gathered again, reestablished, etc.
Is that not exactly what happened to the Latter day Saints following the succession crisis?
Were they not scattered seven different ways and eventually establishing wards and branches in all the kingdoms of the earth according to the prophecy of Moses?
(The above graphic of the seven main factions of the Latter day Saints that scattered in different directions at the time of the succession crisis is provided by wikipedia. I simply numbered them to illustrate how it seems to match the prophecy of Moses. If I were creating the chart, I would be tempted to count the Strangites and the RLDS church as on group and I would insert the Lyman Wight group.)
After giving the prophecy Joseph then helped the saints to fulfill the prophecy of Moses and to flee seven different ways by commissioning multiple people to lead the Saints.
The Saints did flee and scatter with a little help from Joseph.
The purpose of providing information about James Strang and the huge role he played in leading away the majority of the remaining gentiles is obviously not to imply that I believe that he was the legitimate successor of Joseph Smith.
Clearly he was not.
When we study the lives and events surrounding people like David Whitmer and James Strang in light of prophecy, several things begin to materialized-
- The gentiles received and rejected the fullness of the gospel between June of 1831 and late 1834
- The saints were rejected as a church with their dead in Nauvoo for failing to complete the temple.
- The restoration of the gospel of Abraham and the keys to gather Israel marked the time that God remembered his covenant with the House of Israel and began grafting in the those branches into the mother tree. That tribal organization, the preparatory gospel and the Aaronic priesthood was to remain and play an important part when God remembered his covenant with Abraham and the House of Israel and in the ushering in of the Marvelous Work
- The converts coming to Nauvoo and later to Utah from foreign lands are referred to as the House of Israel in the Book of Mormon, not as Gentiles.
- The sanitized version of the LDS church history has largely been manipulated to down play how many of the Nauvoo Saints chose to not follow Brigham Young and the quorum of the 12.
- The vast majority of the early American Gentile converts to Mormonism did not stay with the body of saints that went to Utah. The Utah Saints were mainly composed of illiterate farmers and laborers from Great Britain.
Although many of us that think we are gentiles may be surprised to find out that we are of the House of Israel and visa versa. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter because the Book of Mormon informs us that there will be some from both groups who repent and receive the greater things.
Nevertheless, it does provide something interesting to consider.
In my personal case, my father was a descendant of Brigham Young through his mother, who would be defined as a gentile according to my interpretation of the Book of Mormon. And yet others on his father’s side came to America from foreign lands after 1836 as a result of the missionary effort.
My mother on the other hand comes from Edward Bunker who would probably be classified as a gentile, but she also is a descendant of from Miles Romney. He and his wife Elizabeth heard Orson Hyde preaching on a street corner in 1837 and were baptized in 1839. They left England in 1841 to join the Saints in Nauvoo.
The family left England in 1841 to gather with the Saints in Nauvoo.
It appears that the Romneys would be classified as House of Israel.
So what would the Book of Mormon classify me as, a Gentile or House of Israel?
It is interesting to note that all religious denominations of Judaism agree that a person may be a Jew either by birth based on Leviticus 24:10. A Jew or member of the House of Israel is a person born to a Jewish mother. (or who is a convert to Judaism)
Happily, the book of Mormon informs us that there will be some among both the Gentiles and the House of Israel that repent when the Marvelous Work begins in the 3rd watch.
The only thing that matters is whether we are ready to repent and accept the fullness of the gospel when the second great work takes place.
To be continued