I believe most people who have studied the life of Joseph Smith assume that either he was a true prophet, or a false prophet, period.
It is a very black or white issue for them.
They believe he was either virtually always inspired and acting prophetically whenever he gave a high profile doctrinal sermon or revelation OR he was virtually never inspired when giving a doctrinal sermon or presenting a revelation.
That view seems logical to most people.
Latter day saints have been brain washed into a system of prophet-worship and indoctrinated into the doctrine of infallibility.
Believers feel safe in believing EVERYTHING he said.
Conversely, those who reject the LDS restoration feel safe in rejecting EVERYTHING he said if they can find just one doctrine he taught that appears to be false or one thing he did that appeared to be out of character for a holy prophet of God.
This all or nothing belief takes the need for personal revelation and discernment out of the equation.
It feels so much safer to believe that the Lord’s anointed servant will never make a mistake and that all we need to do is mindlessly “follow the prophet” like dumb sheep instead of actually thinking things through, studying them out in the scriptures and praying about them for personal revelation on every given topic.
Brigham Young once said, (I am paraphrasing), that anyone who blindly followed a prophet was not worthy of the celestial kingdom even if they were valiantly following a true prophet.
The scriptures make it clear that having oil in our lamps (the Holy Spirit) is what enables the wise virgins into the marriage feast, not blind obedience.
Only those who take responsibility for treasuring up the word of God and taking the Holy Spirit for their guide (which is to receive personal revelation) will receive the gift of eternal life in the highest kingdom of God.
I believe that the doctrine of blindly following a true prophet is a very dangerous and un-scriptural way of thinking. It is a false premise and a slippery slope.
I believe the all or nothing belief system is just exactly how old Scratch wants people to think because that way of thinking prevents both believers and non-believers from entering into the straight and narrow path.
Joseph Smith entered the following statement into his journal
“This morning . . . I visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that ‘a prophet is always a prophet’; but I told them that a prophet is a prophet only when he was acting as such” (Joseph Smith,_History of the Church, 5:265).
We have reviewed countless other supporting scriptures and inspired statements related to this topic on other posts but don’t have the time to beat a dead horse right now… there is too much other stuff that we need to cover in this series. Suffice it to say, prophets are mortal men who sometimes provide true messages from God, sometimes share their fallible opinions and yes, as documented in the scriptures, they sometimes offer false revelations.
God sometimes uses them to test the Saints, to see if the Saints will stay true to God and the commandments and truths that God has previously taught or whether they can be deceived by worshiping a wayward messenger.
“…if thou art not aware thou wilt fall.”
I began this series by providing the following quotation from section 3
I then provided several definitions including the following one.
AWA’RE, a. [See Ware and Wary.]
Watchful; vigilant; guarded; but more strictly in modern usage, apprised; expecting an event from information, or probability; as, the general was aware of the enemy’s designs.
I then pointed out that I believe the doctrine of awareness pertains to both outward events such as the events of the third watch (which my three watches blog is about) and it also pertains to the inward events that take place in our mind and our hearts. (which my onewhoiswatching blog attempts to address from time to time)
In this series we are going to dissect section 3 of the D&C to get some context for an amazing event in LDS church history having to do with a high profile prophet of God and his tragic, but prophesied departure from being in a state of spiritual awareness.
Before tackling section 3, let me share a few things that have really helped me in my journey to better understand the doctrine of awareness.
One of the profound teachers of our day is a fellow by the name of Eckhart Tolle
You may be familiar with his best selling book, “A New Earth- Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose” in which he contends that humanity is ready for a transformation of consciousness.
Oprah Winfrey became so enamored with the teachings of Eckhart Tolle that she began promoting him and his work a few years ago and they have attracted millions of followers. In essence, some people feel that she and he are starting a new church/religion.
Unfortunately, Eckhart Tolle doesn’t appear to appreciate the significance of the atonement and the literal Godhood of Christ and yet he builds many of his teachings largely around many of the things Christ taught.
Because Eckhart appears to reject the deity of Christ and the atonement, evangelicals have become violently opposed to his teachings and to the church that he and Oprah seem to be establishing.
My personal philosophy is that I try to adhere to the admonition of Paul and I try to “prove all things and hold fast to that with is good.”
Translation: Even though I see some very serious deficiencies in what Eckhart Tolle and Oprah are teaching and promoting, I can still appreciate some of the profundities that they are sharing.
I have four very close friends who have all told me within the last month that the teachings of Eckhart Tolle have profoundly changed their lives for the better.
They have all said that once they begin to understand how mind chatter works and how the ego adversely influences our lives by painting inaccurate mental images, they can never think in the same destructive way again without catching themselves and their destructive egoic thought patterns.
The comedian, Jim Carey is one of Eckarts enthusiastic and passionate followers. In this short youtube video, he briefly shares his perceptions of Eckhart Tolle and his teachings-
In another youtube video Carrey shared his experience of getting a glimpse of what awareness feels like-
“I woke up and I suddenly got it… I understood about how thought was an illusory thing and how thought is responsible for most of the suffering we experience and then I suddenly felt as if I was looking at these thoughts from another perspective and suddenly I was thrown into this amazing feeling of freedom from myself from my problems.
I saw that I was bigger than what I do and from my body and from everyone.. I was no longer a fragment of the universe.. I was the universe.. and ever since that day I’ve been trying to get back there. It comes and it goes… its like riding a wave, sometimes I an on and sometimes I’m off but at least I know where I want to go and I want to take as many people with me as I can because the feeling is amazing..”
I have listed below a few quotes about awareness by Eckhart Toll
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”
“Awareness is the power that is concealed within the present moment.”
“The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking, no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist.”
“As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.”
“It is when we are trapped in incessant streams of compulsive thinking that the universe really disintegrates for us, and we lose the ability to sense the interconnectedness of all that exists.”
“Once you have had a glimpse of awareness or Presence, you know it firsthand. It is no longer just a concept in your mind.”
“If you are in a state of intense presence you are free of thought, yet highly alert. If your conscious attention sinks below a certain level, thought rushes in, the mental noise returns, stillness is lost, you’re back in time.”
“thinking without awareness is the main dilemma of human existence”
“some people never forget the first time they disidentified from their thoughts and thus briedly experienced the shift in identity from being the content of their mind to being the awareness in the background”
“The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking no longer ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern”
“The good news is: If you can recognize illusion as illusion, it dissolves. The recognition of illusion is also its ending”
― Eckhart Tolle
If you take the time to listen to or read some of Eckarts stuff about “awareness” and “awakening”, you will see how many of the associated topics that he addresses are also addressed in scripture.’
For instance, he identifies ego as being the condition of perceived separateness that clouds our ability to enter into an enlightened state of awareness.
Is that not closely related to what the Book of Mormon and other scriptures address time and time again as the natural man and the sin of pride?
Is that not closely related to what the New Testament and other scripture address as the state of the natural man?
Ego results in pride, separateness and class distinction instead of the Zion principles of humility, unity, equality and oneness.
Ego produces ( or IS) mental noise that prevents the stillness.
The Lord admonishes us to “be still and Know that I am God”.
One of the things I hope to accomplish in this series is to further expose and thus dissolve the illusion that results in prophet worship.
The following graphic illustrates how correlated Mormons prioritize doctrinal authority or truth.
The above graphic illustrates the fact that most members of the corporate church use the correlated teachings of the current and modern presidents of the church as the highest level of authority followed by the teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith. After that, they accept the scriptures in the four standard works. In there minds they believe they also receive some degree of personal revelation from the promptings of the Holy Spirit however, they would never question the correlated teachings and therefore rarely find a need to pray about doctrine.
What this means is that if the teachings of the current correlated lesson manuals contradict the teachings of Joseph Smith or the scriptures, they discard the teachings of Joseph Smith and the Scriptures and follow the current correlated teachings of the modern presidents of the church.
This constitutes taking the scriptures lightly and results in being condemned (See Section 84:54)
Conversely the following graphic illustrates how the Lord expects us to discern and prioritized truth. Our center and foundational method of identifying truth is thru the Word of God which comes in two different forms-
a) The Written words of Christ and his servants as contained in the scriptures
b) Personal Revelation from the Holy Ghost
Every other source of doctrinal information must be tested against this foundation and discarded if it fails the test.
Anyone claiming to get personal revelation who does not seriously study and search the written word of God and whose personal revelation contradicts the written word of God is deceived. Anyone who does search the scriptures but fails to received personal revelation will fall short of celestial law. The two must work together synergistically.
PMA vs Life Changing Knowledge vs The Rebirth
I have come to the conclusion that there is a huge difference between some of the motivational “feel good” stuff that is taught and the life changing concepts that others are teaching.
And yet, even the enlightened information dealing with our “state of awareness” that many of the great self help gurus and some of their followers have experienced is still quite different from the spiritual awareness spoken of by the Lord.
Regardless of whether your self help philosophies come from Zig Ziggler, Steven Covey, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robins, Deepak
Chopra, Eckhart Tolle or Buda himself, your inner awakening and level of awareness will be terrestrial at best until you become spiritually born again.
There simply is no substitute for the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the spiritual rebirth that takes place via the baptism of water, fire and Holy Ghost. (Which is not currently available at this time… but will be in the near future)
As we study section 3 we need to see the relationship between awareness vs. ego. We need to appreciate how ego leads to pride boasting and destructive mind noise. All of these things disintegrate when spiritual awareness takes place.
Another fascinating author that brings much to the study of this topic is Max Skousen.
Years ago I read many of his books including “a Blessing Hitherto Unknown” (part one and two).
While I disagree with some of his ultimate conclusions, I highly recommend his books. They will challenge the way you interpret many passages in the scriptures and hopefully motivate you to dig a little deeper into the deeper doctrines of the kingdom. (thank you for reminding me of his work Ryan)
He compares the tree of knowledge to the Tree of Life concluding that the one leads to death and the other to life.
My perspective if the the Tree of Knowledge represents a temporary phase and that it can lead to life or death depending on the choices we make.
I don’t believe the tree of Knowledge is categorically evil, it actually enabled Adam and his posterity to avoid living forever in their sins.
We will discuss this in more detail later in this series.
My interpretation of section three of the D&C is no doubt going to offend some people’s sensitivities if they are not familiar with the fact that prophets are fallible human beings and further, if they are not familiar with the atonement statute and the intercessory offering that Joseph Smith and several of his brethren made in behalf of the WHOLE WORLD.
Let me state up front that I believe Joseph Smith became sanctified and had his calling and election made sure in or before 1833.
He is clearly one of the greatest prophets that ever lived and he is going to return to the earth and complete the work the Lord has given him to do in the third watch..
Therefore, as I present my interpretation of section three and some corresponding events that took place in Joseph’s life, please don’t think I am condemning him from an eternal perspective.
On the contrary, I want to understand section 3 and the doctrine of awareness and its application in the life of Joseph Smith because the Lord made this revelation public for the purpose of teaching the Saints about how God’s plan works, Joseph’s role in the restoration and also to teach us about ourselves.
This study is more about us than about Joseph.
He simply played a grand part in this probation that required him to fall just as Adam was required to fall.
Believe it or not, the Lord used the life of Joseph Smith as a quasi-allegorical template for teaching each of us about the human condition and our own struggle to enter into and maintain a state of spiritual awareness.
If you are not familiar with the atonement statute and how it relates to the life of Joseph Smith, you may want to read the following articles
The Atonement Statute
Another powerful reference to the atonement statute is provided in section 84 and points out that verse 57 speaks about how the church was under condemnation until they remember the NEW COVENANT, “even the book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them”
The keywords “new covenant” in verse 57 links up with the keywords “the covenant” in verse 48 which the “Father has renewed and conferred upon you” speaking to the seven elders who had gathered together in prayer to petition the Lord.
In that passage the Lord makes an observation that is perhaps one of the greatest references to the atonement statute and the doctrine of the three watches.
The Lord continues-
“..which is confirmed upon you for your own sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world.”
Have you ever heard anything like that before?
Can you ever remember the Lord telling any of the prophets or apostles in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon that the father was renewing and conferring the covenant upon them for the sake of the whole world?
Do you believe what the passage is saying?
Do you believe that somehow these seven servants were receiving the renewal and confirming of their covenant with the Father for YOUR SAKE and the sake of the WHOLE WORLD?
Born again evangelicals would probably feel those passages are blasphemous because they don’t think that a prophets role is to do anything beyond delivering a message from God.
They don’t think that any human being can take upon themselves a covenant in behalf of other people or provide an intercessory atonement.
I believe the key word phrases in verses 58 and 47-48 continue to lead us to other verses in section 84 which are very instructive.
What is the NEW COVENANT that God has just renewed and confirmed upon the seven elders?
Look at how verse 42 links up with verse 48 via the keyword “confirm”
“And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you.”
The priesthood that was confirmed upon the seven that day is the same thing as the covenant that was confirmed upon the seven that day.
COVENANT = PRIESTHOOD
The “NEW COVENANT” – “OATH AND COVENANT OF THE PRIESTHOOD”
The keywords in sections 58, 47-48, and 42 lead us to the key words describing the OATH AND COVENANT OF THE PRIESTHOOD as described in verses 33-41
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.
Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.
41 But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.
As you can see, once you receive one or both of the first two earthly patriarchal priesthoods and magnified them thru faith, the father enters into covenant with you.
This brings about the renewing of your body.
That is what was being spoken of later on in verse 48 when the Lord spoke of the Father teaching them of the covenant which was RENEWED and CONFIRMED upon these seven individuals.
In other words, you become renewed into a new creation. You experience the spiritual rebirth. You become spiritually born again.
Once you are taught the covenant by the Father and have been reborn, God cannot break the covenant with you, only you can break the covenant.
The ultimate goal of awareness is to lead us to a contrite heart and broken spirit through the re-birthing process of the spirit
Having laid a foundation for the topic of awareness and the role of Joseph Smith, in part three of this series we will finally get down to dissecting section 3.
I had meant to do it in this part but realized that I needed to provide greater foundation before showing the prophecy regarding the fall of one of the greatest prophets that ever lived