Saturday, November 3, 2012

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Fulness of the Gospel

Studies on various principles of the Gospel of
Jesus Christ

Joseph Warren Grammer

All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2010 by
Joseph Warren Grammer

Copies of these studies CAN be made by any means
so long as no one but the author claims authorship
and those copies are not sold for monetary gain.
All rights reserved. Exodus 20:15, 17.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Most of my writings offered herein consists of various studies and papers produced upon diverse subject matter, mostly for the Latter-day Saint (Mormon). They embrace subjects concerning where the reader’s faith lies in relation to Jesus Christ and His gospel of liberty and agency (free will) for all mankind.

It is my hope that these studies will provide a little substance upon which the reader can mentally and spiritually chew. Isaiah wrote: “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.” (Isa. 28:9); and the Apostle Paul said: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14). These studies are presented to help the reader put on their thinking cap and reason with the Holy Spirit as their guide, contemplating a fuller commitment of his or her life to Jesus Christ.

It will be noted that the studies are not presented necessarily in any particular order. So feel free to pick and choose which ones you wish to consider first.

And as you consider some of the subjects presented, take a look at this very short story entitled, the “Sunday School Picnic,” by the late Bob Benson, Sr. Though actually an ordained elder, Bob Benson was best known as a lay preacher at retreats and other gatherings. Bob was well known for his ability to communicate the deepest truths of the gospel in simple, family-oriented ways. Benson was an author having penned many successful titles, among them being, Laughter in the Walls, from which this insightful little gem is taken. I believe it has something harmonious to offer relevant to the other subjects discussed below.
— Joseph Grammer

Sunday School Picnic
by Bob Benson

Do you remember when they had old-fashioned Sunday school picnics? It was before air-conditioning. They said, “We’ll meet at Sycamore Lodge in Shelby Park at 4:30 Saturday. You bring your supper and we’ll furnish the tea.”

But you came home at the last minute and when you got ready to pack your lunch, all you could find in the refrigerator was one dried-up piece of baloney and just enough mustard in the bottom of the jar so that you got it all over your knuckles trying to get to it. And there were just two stale pieces of bread. So, you made your baloney sandwich and wrapped it in some brown bag and went to the picnic.

When it came time to eat, you sat at the end of a table and spread out your sandwich. But the folks next to you - the lady was a good cook and she had worked all day and she had fried chicken, baked beans and potato salad and homemade rolls and sliced tomatoes and pickles and olives and celery and topped it off with two big homemade chocolate pies. And they spread it all out beside you. And there you were with your baloney sandwich.

But they said to you, “”Why don’t we put it all together?” “No, I couldn’t do that, I just couldn’t even think of it,” you murmured, embarrassed.

“Oh, come on! There’s plenty of chicken and plenty of pie, and plenty of everything - and we just love baloney sandwiches. Let’s just put it all together.” And so you did and there you sat - eating like a king when you came like a pauper.

And I get to thinking. I think of me “sharing in the very being of God.” When I think of how little I bring, and how much He brings and that He invites me to ‘share’, I know I should be shouting from the housetops but I am so filled with awe and wonder that I can hardly be heard.

I know you don’t have enough love and faith, or grace, or mercy or wisdom. But He has. He has all those things in abundance and says, “Let’s just put it all together. Everything I possess is available to you. Everything I am and can be to a person, I will be to you.”

When I think about it like that, it really amuses me to see somebody running along through life hanging on to their dumb bag with that stale baloney sandwich saying, “God’s not going to get my sandwich! No siree, this is mine!” Did you ever see anybody like that? So needy - just about half-starved to death, hanging on for dear life?

It’s not that He needs your sandwich. The fact is,

you need His chicken.

A Short History of God’s People
By Joseph Warren Grammer

From the very beginning, in the pre-earth life, there was a plan. That plan involved the principle of freedom— freedom of thought and action. With that freedom, though, came the obligation of being responsible for the decisions made. Lucifer’s plan was to force all to his way of thinking, but the Savior’s plan was to allow all the freedom to choose their destinies.

Because of the opposing ideologies between the two plans, there was a war in heaven. Lucifer and his followers were cast out, and we came here to earth to work out our salvation according to the dictates of our own individual conscience. The plan of God also includes the principle of being tried and tempted in all things that we might grow through opposition, experiencing the bitter with the sweet, the light with the darkness, by being free to make choices and being responsible for those made. So God allowed Satan, who wanted to destroy our liberty in the first place, to come with his angels and throw opposition in our way that we might exercise our agency and choose whom we will serve, God or the devil. As God said, “... we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:25.) And even though most of the opposition and war that Satan wages is uncomfortable and stressful, it is still part of the divine plan of a wise and loving Father in Heaven.

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The war that began in heaven is not yet over. The conflict continues on the battlefield of mortality. And one of Lucifer’s primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of earthly governments.”(The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner, p. 3.) And so it is, and so it goes on. We and God’s Church are the enemy of Lucifer. And we must not forget that. Because of this continuing war, the Church of God has been under attack from the very beginning of mortal history.

Of course most of us know that opposition started in the Garden of Eden, but the resulting fall was a necessity if we were to be born into mortality and be proven to see if we will do all things whatsoever God commands. “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25), so the scripture says. For many of us that joy is hard to obtain, but nevertheless, that’s the purpose of the fall; which fall brought upon us a physical and spiritual death—the spiritual death being the deficiency which prevents us from entering Father’s presence.

The great plan of salvation, that helps us overcome this deficiency, is called the atonement of Jesus Christ; and that plan is contingent upon our faith in Jesus, repentance from all sin, baptism of water, and of fire and the Holy Ghost. But even though this salvation is open to all people, the tribes of Israel have been considered the lawful heirs of salvation. The others, not of the tribes of Israel, are heirs of salvation by way of adoption.

The plan of the gospel was with Adam and Eve; it was with Noah, with Abraham, and available at the time of Moses. However, because of the deficiencies of the Old Testament, many believe the gospel didn’t exist until Jesus came to declare it. But we know that Lehi and his people had the gospel, for the Book of Mormon so testifies, and that was 600 years before Christ. It was available at the time of the Prophets Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others if the people would have repented and received it.

Adam and his children had the great plan of salvation, but from the beginning we had opposition. The gospel of salvation was so rejected in the beginning by God’s people that He saved only eight souls on the ark during the great flood. Through Noah’s sons we have the beginnings of the three principle races of people upon the earth: Shem, the father of God’s chosen people, from which Abraham and the Israelites were to come; Japheth, whose descendants are the Gentiles; and Ham, from whom sprung the Canaanites or black race.

The tower of Babel is a time when Satan deceived the people, so the Lord confounded their language and dispersed them throughout the world (saving the brother of Jared and his people to a promised land – the Americas).

Also, at this time, came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with his twelve sons, which eventually becoming known as the twelve tribes. Jacob and his very large family moved to Egypt to wait out the famine. Eventually, though, Jacob’s large posterity became slaves to the Pharaohs of Egypt.

The real reason the tribes of Israel became slaves in Egypt is because they rejected the gospel of their father, Jacob, and tried to kill their younger brother Joseph. Over the many years as the Israelites prospered in Egypt and became numerous, they also fell to the temptations of Satan and began taking upon themselves the false traditions of the Egyptians. Because of this false ideology, God allowed them to be placed into bondage by the Egyptians for hundreds of years, until Moses was eventually sent to deliver them. And what happened after being miraculously delivered by God from Egyptian slavery? They rejected God again in favor of the enticings of the evil one. (D&C 84:23-27.)

And so it went down through the history of Israel. When they gave into Satan’s seductive ways for worldly influence and acceptance, they also rebelled against their God. The Lord would warn them to repent, but when Israel would not turn back to Him He sent their enemies to punish and enslave them. Such was the case when the King of Assyria took the northern ten kingdoms of Israel captive, about 721 B.C., and later when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and took the remaining of Judah captive, 586 B.C.

As a matter of fact, the Book of Mormon states that at the time Lehi was prophesying in Jerusalem, there were many prophets in the land. (1 Ne. 1:4.) With a little study I found that there were at least ten prophets calling Judah to repentance that were contemporary with Lehi. They were Nahum, Lehi, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Urijah, Ezekiel, Obadiah, Daniel, Baruch, and probably more.

While in Babylon, Judah partook of many of the Babylonian ways, took Babylonian wives, mixed their race, and changed laws and ordinances. The were eventually released from captivity, but the corrupt influence of Babylon had a strong foothold, and by the time that John the Baptist came on the scene leading the way for the Christ, Judah had totally apostatized from the gospel that they had originally received centuries before.

The dispensation of the gospel that Jesus came to institute was to restore the original order and gospel teachings, but the Jews were so corrupt by then that they rejected Him and hung Him on a cross to die. Because the Jews rejected the gospel of Christ, He had Paul and others take the gospel to the Gentiles. (Actually, most of those Gentiles were not of the seed of Japheth, as many suppose, but were actually of the blood of Israel that had been taken captive many hundreds of years before; who , after being released form Assyrian bondage, some migrated into the regions in which Paul traveled. Not being among the Jews of Jerusalem, they had lost their identity and unknown as Israelites, but considered Gentiles.) This is where the parables of the wild olive-trees and Lord of the vineyard come into play. (See Jacob 5 and D&C 101:44-62.) The tame olive trees (House of Israel) would not bear good fruit, so the wild olive trees, the Gentiles, are grafted in. To understand the last part of these parables we will have to take into consideration what is to transpire just before the Lord’s second coming.

The war in heaven continued. Now what did the Gentiles do with the gospel of Christ? They too gave into worldly enticing and trickery of the devil. They killed the Holy Apostles, changed the ordinances, and broke the covenants as did both Israel and Judah. It was, indeed, the darkest hour for what was called Christianity. There were persecutions, tortures, wars, rampant immorality, greed, treachery, and all in the hypocritical name of Christianity. Because of the spiritual decaying condition of the Gentiles, the western world plummeted into a period of history known as the Dark Ages. It was, indeed, a period of spiritual darkness and depravity.

Eventually it was time for the Lord to start stirring people with discontent because of their situations in religion and life in general. Enlightened people start asking questions and seeking answers to the problem of uncomfortable conditions. He started enlightening the minds of people to understand the things of God, religion, science, art, music, exploration, etc. This period of time became known as the age of enlightenment and discovery. Drastic advances and improvements began to take place. People became discontent with the Catholic Church, and a Reformation occurred. Great discoveries and explorations took place. The sciences and arts changed, and there were great advancements in every field. It was a time when God starting preparing a people for the restoration of the gospel. The hearts of man had to be conditioned so they would desire freedom and liberty. Thus was born the American Revolution. Now it was time for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a land that boasted of a spirit freedom and of religious liberty. The U. S. of A. was just the place for it.

Now let’s switch for a moment to the early people of the new world—the Americas. The posterity of Jared and his people, true to form, rebelled against God and was eventually destroyed by their enemies. And what about Lehi and his people?

We know that it was at the time that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and took Judah captive, about 600 B.C. according to the Book of Mormon, that Lehi brought his people over to the promised land. At that time the fulness of the gospel had been taken from Judah; however, it continued through Nephi where there was a restoration of that fulness in the new world.

But what happened right at the beginning of the story of Lehi and his bringing his family away from the corrupt church of his day? His eldest sons, Laman and Lemuel, rebelled. We know that the descendants of Laman and Lemuel became known as the Lamanites, and the followers of Nephi became known as the Nephites. And of course we know that off and on there were other kinds of ites, but they are inconsequential for now. Like their early ancestors, the Israelites and Judahites before them, the Nephites, the supposed good guys, kept rebelling. And when they did, God would send their enemies, the Lamanites, to punish and enslave them. Back and forth the Nephites went, righteous and prospering in the Lord one moment, rebellious and depraved the next.

It was about 200 years after Christ restored the gospel to the Nephites that they started being influenced by the host of Satan again. They became proud, rebellious, and immoral. God, once again, sent their enemies, the Lamanites, against them. This war continued until about 421 A.D. when the last of the Nephite prophets, Moroni, sealed up his record and buried it in a hill for future discovery by the young Joseph Smith. Thus, the war in heaven also continued among the Nephites.

As we contemplate the various dispensations of the gospel of Jesus Christ in past history, and what God’s chosen people did with the wonderful knowledge and blessings they were given, what makes any of us so bold as to say we are more righteous than they? Are we not told in scriptures that in the last days we will be as wicked as the people were during the days of Noah, and as they were at Sodom and Gomorrah? (JST–Matt. 1:41, 24:44; Jer. 23:13; Zeph. 2:9; 2 Ne. 23:19.)

A very important scripture grossly overlooked by members of the LDS church is 3 Nephi 23:1-3. Not only was the resurrected Lord speaking here to the Nephites, but he was also speaking to us, latter-day Ephraim, the Gentiles.

“AND now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles. And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.” (3 Ne. 23:1-3.)

In this scripture we are commanded by the Lord to study the words of Isaiah. We are not simply told that it’s a good idea to read Isaiah, but COMMANDED to SEARCH the words of Isaiah. And again, we are commanded not simply to search the words of Isaiah a little here and a little there, but we are COMMANDED to SEARCH the words of Isaiah DILIGENTLY. Isaiah is the ONLY prophet the Lord commanded us to search, and also the only one of whom He mentioned by name. We might ask, For what are we to search? He want’s us to get the message that is contained in Isaiah, and to accomplish that we must seriously apply ourselves “diligently.”

Now, to whom was Isaiah speaking? As verse two states, He is speaking to the House of Israel of the last days, and also to the Gentiles. We are of the house of Israel, and we are also the Gentiles mentioned in the Book of Mormon as I point out in my study entitled, The Fulness – Part 2. I go into a little more detail there, but for now, read the title page of the Book of Mormon where it says that that book is to “come forth in due time by way of the Gentiles,” and D&C 20:9 where it says that the Book of Mormon contains the “fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.” The Book of Mormon came by way of us, and it is for us, the Gentiles of the latter-days.

And what is the message contained in Isaiah that our Savior wants us to receive? It is the message that, “all things that he spake have been and shall be.” What does that mean? It simply means that history repeats itself: what has happened in the past is destined to repeat itself in the future. It’s called a type-and-shadow. What has already occurred is a type and foreshadowing of a similar occurrence in the future. We are now in that future, and our resurrected Lord wants us to know what happened to rebellious Israel in the past so we can recognize the signs of that apostasy in the future. And by recognition of the signs, we are forewarned and able to prepare spiritually and temporally for that which is destined to happen again, and for the ensuing calamities related to that falling away.

In verse five of this same twenty-third chapter, the Lord continued by saying, “...Search the prophets, for may there be that testify of these things.” Not only does He command us to search Isaiah diligently, now He tells us to SEARCH THE PROPHETS, because they also teach and warn of the same things. So we are commanded to go beyond Isaiah and study such prophets as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Amos, Zechariah, and the like.

These verses we just examined in Third Nephi are a direct commandment from the Lord, Himself. No one, not even a true and living Prophet of God can rescind that commandment, but a true and living Prophet of God would teach and encourage us to follow that commandment. But are we being so taught? Are we, the latter-day Gentile Israelites, diligently searching the words of Isaiah as Jesus commanded? A few might be personally, but NO! – Not as a church. Consequently, they will not be able to recognize the signs of the times, of which our “prophets” should be warning us, and, therefore, not be prepared for the fulfilment of those prophetic events.

I submit that history is, indeed, already starting to repeat itself. Concerning this subject, I would like to quote from Elder H. Verlan Andersen’s book, The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil. In this insightful book he wrote:

“Religious history testifies that, with the single exception of the inhabitants of the City of Enoch, no people to whom the gospel has been given have remained faithful to their covenants for more than a few generations. Time after time the Lord has established his church among a group who have lived his commandments for a few years and then fallen away thus bringing upon themselves his judgments. This cycle of human folly which so many prophets have noted, has repeated itself with such consistent regularity that any group which finds itself to be the favored recipients of the gospel would do well to assume that their own apostasy is certain and the only question about it is how long it will take.
“Christ, who as governor of the world, has the painful duty of punishing transgression, has spoken of the infidelity of the House of Israel and the frequency with which they have rejected him. Just before he made his appearance to those righteous Nephites who survived the terrible disaster inflicted upon their nation, he uttered these words of anguish: ‘O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you. And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; ... how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.’ (3 Nephi 10:4-5)
“To the Jews the Lord said: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how oft would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ (Matt. 23:37)
“The fact that the Lord has found it necessary to restore his gospel so many times is in itself evidence of the regularity with which apostasy has occurred because the only thing which will cause the destruction of his Church is the wickedness of its members. As the angel told Alma who had been trying to destroy the Lord’s work among the Nephites: ‘Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord has said: ‘This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.’ (Mosiah 27:13)
“The prophet, Mormon, whose labor as a historian gave him the opportunity to observe the frequency of the righteousness - wickedness - punishment cycle, spoke of it as though it were a law of life which operates as a certain consequence of a universal human weakness. His analysis of apostasy and its causes should interest us deeply: ‘And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him. Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold and silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies ... yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, .. and this because of their ease and exceedingly great prosperity. And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him. O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil and devilish and how quick to do iniquity and how slow to do good, are the children of men...’ (Helaman. 12:1-4)
“Do the words of Mormon quoted above have application today? If ‘ease’ and ‘exceedingly great prosperity’ are certain to cause people to ‘forget the Lord their God,’ then the Church is in deep trouble because seldom, if ever, has any group been as prosperous as it is today. Its beginnings were humble enough. Starting in 1830 with an initial membership of six, the Church was persecuted, its property destroyed and confiscated, its leaders slain, and the people finally driven into a forbidding wilderness before they could find a measure of peace. But all that has now changed. After 140 years of growth, membership numbers in the millions, persecution has long vanished, and instead of ostracism, members are, for the most part accepted and respected.
“These conditions in prior dispensations have been sure signs of weakened faith. To fail to consider the possibility that the members of the Church are again ‘falling away’ would be to ignore one of the most thoroughly documented lessons of history. Especially is this true in light of the fact that the cultural, political, and educational life of Church members has become so deeply and thoroughly involved with that of non-members that they are being overwhelmingly influenced by the ‘ways of the world.’ Through newspapers and magazines, motion pictures and television, schools and lecture halls, and a thoroughly integrated economic system, Church members come into close and continuous contact with those not of their faith.
“Some may assume that a ‘Gentile apostasy’ in the latter days cannot occur because Christ’s Church is here to stay this time. They may assume that widespread departure from the gospel principles by Church members is contrary to prophecy. While the scriptures do assure us that the Church will continue to exist and be divinely led by prophets of the Lord right up until his Second Coming, they do not state that all, or even a majority of its members will follow those prophets. On the contrary they foretell extensive, and in some cases, almost total defection from true principles. For example, we noted in the Lord’s prophecy that only one-half of the small group he calls ‘virgins’ will avoid being deceived and destroyed. Let us consider other scriptures which discuss this problem.” (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, 1972, Ch. 18, pp. 178-191.)

We have treated the restored gospel of Christ much as our ancestors before us treated the gospel, but we refuse to admit it because it makes us look like bad children of a loving Father. It has always been that way. It is easy to believe someone else can go wrong, but not accept the fact that we can be wrong. It’s much like the proud parent who refuses to accept the fact that their beloved child has gone astray in life. To acknowledge such a thing would leave the family with a blight that would be shameful, embarrassing, and difficult to eradicate. So the parent adamantly denies the charges against that child by wearing moral blinders. Such an attitude is not honest nor does it help that wayward child repent and grow.

In like manner, many of us, because of pride, wear spiritual blinders. Those of us who do so reject spiritual growth and forfeit eternal progression, unless we recognize and acknowledge our weaknesses, repent, and turn towards the true light of Christ. Choosing to stay blind to truth because it’s uncomfortable, or for any other reason, keeps us in spiritual darkness with no hope for salvation. Those who surrender to the intimidation and disapproval of the “mainstream” are no different than God’s earlier people who rejected Him because of fear, pride, greed, and worldly influences.
Agency and the Glory of God
by Joseph Warren Grammer

In the fourth chapter of Abraham we find a record of the creation of the world, just as we do in Genesis Chapter 1. However, in Abraham 5 and Genesis 2 we find another creation; so what is the difference between the two? The first was a spiritual creation (Abr. 5:4-5; Gen. 2:4-5), while the second was a temporal creation. But let’s start from the beginning. That beginning will take us back to the very creation of man—that is, to our creation in the pre-earth life where we dwelt with God our Heavenly Father as His spiritual offspring, beings of light, and organized intelligences.

When man was spiritually created, he was given the right to make choices. That right, known as agency, is also granted to him here upon the earth. It is the right to be free to choose. God said, “... in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency.” (Moses 7:32.) This statement does not mean that it was first in the Garden that man received his agency, for all spirits in Heaven had their agency, and that agency was from the beginning. Here in Moses 7:32, God is just reiterating the fact that from the beginning of mortality man was also granted agency.

Intelligence and Light and Truth Is Agency
In the beginning, or pre-earth existence, we were created by God and were known as His spirit children. He said to the prophet Enoch, “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them ...” (Moses 7:32.) So God created man and gave him knowledge. In some manner, currently unknown to mortals, God organized a substance called intelligence (Abr. 3:22), and out of it created His spirit children. From the Doctrine and Covenants we learn, among other things, some very important points in relation to our creation and agency. The Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” (D&C 93:29.)

Here we learn that intelligence is the light of truth and cannot be created or made. So when man was created he was given intelligence or, in other words, he was given truth, which is light. This intelligence, or the light of truth, has always existed and will always exist. It cannot be made or created but only organized.

Now let’s go on and read a couple more verses from this section: “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.” (D&C 93:30-31.)

Here we find that truth and intelligence is agency. We now find that all truth and intelligence, or light, are independent to act for themselves. We also find that without this light, truth and intelligence, we could not exist. With this existence man has agency which gives him the capacity to act and be independent. Agency, it appears from the foregoing, is coeternal with our spiritual and intellectual makeup and cannot be separated.

This then is the beginning existence of man when he was created and given the ability to be free and independent. (D&C 104:17; 2 Ne. 2:26.) He was given his agency to make choices about the light of truth that is in him. The scripture goes on to say, “... and here is the condemnation of man; because ... they receive not the light.” It could also be said, however: “Here is the glory of man, because he receives the light.”

Glory Is Light and Truth
Skipping down to verse 36 it states, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” Here we find that God’s glory consists of intelligence, which is light and truth. We have learned also that truth and intelligence are agency. Therefore, we come to understand that, since glory is intelligence, light and truth, it also consists of agency. That light and glory which is emitted from a perfected intelligence is truth and agency—a light so refined that it glows and becomes His glory and He is made glorious. God is praised and exalted, and His splendid and radiant magnificence is due to perfected intelligence, truth, and agency.

Verse 39 says, “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth ...” Since light and truth are agency, as just discussed, then by taking away light and truth he also takes away our agency. We find that the “wicked one,” Satan, can indeed take away light and truth by telling us lies and by deceptions. By believing his lies we relinquish our freedom to exercise our agency, and we subject ourselves to his will and become slaves. Or, to put it another way, by believing his treachery, we give power to him to take away our liberty.

By being deceived into believing and accepting Satan’s principles, or false doctrine, we indeed lose some truth, or light. The process might be likened to a vacuum: when there is emptiness, something must fill it. The more darkness we accept, the more light we lose. The more we accept light, the less darkness is in us. It is either one or the other. The Lord said, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24.) Therefore, the more we allow ourselves to yield to Satan’s deceptive ways, the more we lose light and truth, but the more we personally yield to God’s light, the more light and truth we are capable of receiving.

To become glorious, as the Father and the Son are glorious, we must do as they have done. We must learn truth, not falsehoods. We must be willing to live God’s laws, not Satan’s. We must make wise choices with the light that is in us by carefully guarding our God-given agency. Our future salvation and glory are dependent upon how we exercise our agency, use our intelligence in choosing truth and light, and decide whom we will follow.

Heavenly Conflict Over Agency
Sometime after the creation of man in the pre-earth life a council was held in heaven, and God stood among “the intelligences that were organized before the world was” created. There was one of “them that was like unto God” who said, “... we will make an earth whereon these [intelligences] may dwell.” (Abr. 3:22-24.)

What was the reason for an earth? One reason was so man could be proven. The scriptures state the following: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:25.) The earth, therefore, was to be a proving ground for God’s children. It was to be this way so that we, and not only God, could see how well we would use our agency and what type of choices we would make. The creation of the earth was so important and needed that “all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:7.)

Because all of Heavenly Father’s children except Jesus would make choices that would keep them from God’s eternal presence, someone had to provide a plan of salvation. This was necessary to give His children an opportunity to enter into His presence when they were finished with their proving ground on earth. “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here Am I, send me....”

At this time another also wanted to have that privilege. “... And another answered and said: Here am I, send me....” (Abr. 3:27.) We do not know how many others might have offered their services, but we do know of two offers and the resulting conflict that followed the second one.

This second intelligence was Lucifer, who “was from the beginning,” and was “an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God.” (Moses 4:1; D&C 76:25.) This angel, Lucifer, was called “a son of the morning.” (D&C 76:26; Isa.14:12.) From this, could we speculate that there was more than one son of the morning, since it says “a” son of the morning, instead of, “the” son of the morning?

We also find that “the devil was before Adam” (D&C 29:36), or as it may sound: Lucifer was spiritually created before Adam was spiritually created. Whatever the case, it seems that Lucifer had influence, and he said, “... Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it....” (Moses 4:1.)

The Lord tells us that by Lucifer’s plan, the devil “sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him.” (Moses 4:3.) Lucifer planned to accomplish this by not giving man a chance to exercise his agency in making choices. Man would be forced into submission, whether he wanted to submit or not. This is not God’s way. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “We deem it a just principle, and it is one the force of which we believe ought to be duly considered by every individual, that all men are created equal, and that all have the privilege of thinking for themselves upon all matters relative to conscience. Consequently, then, we are not disposed, had we the power, to deprive any one of exercising that free independence of mind which heaven has so graciously bestowed upon the human family as one of its choicest gifts ...” (TPJS, p. 49.)

Lucifer Sought That Which Was Evil
Not only did Lucifer want total power and control over the glorious agency of God’s spirit children, but he wanted God’s honor, power, and glory also. Nephi tells us that Satan “sought that, which was evil before God.” (2 Ne. 2:17.) What was that evil? The scriptures tell us what it was: Lucifer wanted to be the “Son,” and he wanted God’s “honor,” which is God’s “power.” (Moses 4:1-3; D&C 29:36.) By so doing, Satan “sought to take the kingdom of our God and His Christ.” (D&C 76:28.) The Devil also said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isa. 14:13-14.)

However, his plan was rejected because of his pride and disrespect for the glorious aspect of man’s agency. God said, “But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, Thy will be done....” (Moses 4:2.) His Beloved Son wanted His Father’s will to prevail, which included respect for the agency of man. The Son also displayed a respect for the Father’s position, meekly submitting Himself to the Father’s will, and saying, “the glory be thine forever.” This was in sharp contrast to Lucifer’s plan that was to take the power and honor of God and disenfranchise man of his agency and future light and glory. So God said, “... I will send the first.” (Abr. 3:27.) Because of this decision, the scriptures tell us that, “Satan, that old serpent, even the devil” rebelled against God and the Only Begotten Son. (D&C 76:25-28; Moses 4:3.)

War in Heaven
A conflict of principles developed between Lucifer and his followers and Jehovah and His faithful supporters. Heavenly Father told His spirit children that if they remained faithful in their pre-earth existence they would receive glory and be “added upon.” Abraham records this account in the following way, saying, “And they who keep their first estate, shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate....” (Abr. 3:26.)

The second intelligence, Lucifer, “was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.” (Abr. 3:28.) This angel in authority, and a son of the morning, must have had great influence because “a third part of the host of heaven turned he away from” God, and “his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.” (D&C 29:36; Revelation 12:4.) Because of his rebellion and influence, there was a war in heaven. “... Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, ... And prevailed not;...” (Rev. 12:7-8.)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie helps explain what type of war it was that raged in the heavens. In his monumental work, The Millennial Messiah, he illustrates:

“That war was a war of words; it was a conflict of ideologies; it was a rebellion against God and His laws. Lucifer sought to dethrone God, to sit himself on the divine throne, and to save all men without reference to their works. He sought to deny men their agency so they could not sin. He offered a mortal life of carnality and sensuality, of evil and crime and murder, following which all men would be saved.
“And so, in the courts of heaven, waged the war of wars. Christ and Michael and a mighty host of noble and great spirits preached the gospel of God and exhorted their brethren to follow the Father. Lucifer and his lieutenants preached another gospel, a gospel of fear and hate and lasciviousness and compulsion. They sought salvation without keeping the commandments, without overcoming the world, without choosing between opposites.” (The Millennial Messiah, pp. 666-67.)

That war of words, and conflict of ideologies, raged in heaven and still rages in the philosophies of the world today. It is raging for the purpose of destroying man’s intelligence and agency, and his future light and glory. President David O. McKay said in general conference, April 1942, “An attempt to rob man of his free agency caused dissension even in heaven ... To deprive an intelligent human being of his free agency is to commit the crime of the ages.” Then President McKay went on to say, “So fundamental in man’s eternal progress is his inherent right to choose, that the Lord would defend it even at the price of war. Without freedom of thought, freedom of choice, freedom of action within lawful bounds, man cannot progress. The Lord recognized this ... Men have sought for it, fought for it, have died for it.” (CR, April 1942, pp. 72-73.)

We see, then, that the war in heaven was not over money; it was not over the pros and cons of abortion, drugs, or homosexuality; it was not over the mode of baptism; it was not over the Book of Mormon being the word of God or not, or if Joseph Smith is a prophet; it was not over which church is right, or even the sacred atonement of Christ. It was over agency: the right and freedom to exercise that agency and to be accountable for the choices thus made.

Lucifer and His Angels Cast Out
The scriptures tell us that Lucifer, “having sought that which was evil before God,” became “that great dragon,” and “as lightning,” had “fallen from heaven” and was “cast out into the earth.” (2 Ne. 2:17; Rev. 12:9; Luke 10:18; Isa. 14:12.) This rebelling angel, therefore, “was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son” by the power of the “Only Begotten.” (D&C 76:25; Moses 4:3.) “He became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, ... And was called Perdition ... he was Lucifer, ... that old serpent, called the Devil ... which deceiveth the whole world ...” (Moses 4:4; D&C 76:26; Rev. 12:9.) President Alvin R. Dyer, a former member of the First Presidency, stated in his book, The Meaning of Truth, that there were no neutrals in that conflict. He wrote: “Some have said that there were neutral spirits in the pre-mortal state ... there were no neutrals in that estate of existence, all sustained one position or the other. Some were occupied with complete rebellion, and became sons of perdition. As such, they were not permitted to be born into the probation of mortality.” (The Meaning of Truth, p. 57.)

As the story continues we find that, “at that day, many followed after him”; that “a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from [God] because of their agency”; that “his angels were cast out with him, ... And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels.” (Abr. 3:28; D&C 29:36-37; Rev. 12:9.) Why were they turned away and cast out? It was because of their agency. They were free to make a choice, and their choice was to be on the side of good or the side of evil. There was no other choice to make.

Creation and Agency
Progression into the second estate hinged upon how well one kept his first estate. Everyone here upon earth, the second estate, apparently kept a measure of faithfulness to God’s plan while in the first estate. God, then, gave man commandments to see if he would keep his second estate. Men therefore, were to be proven to see if they “will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:25-26.) Man was not to be forced to keep commandments, he was to exercise his agency and choose to keep them
Agency is so important to God that, when He placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, the first thing He did, after giving Adam the breath of life, was to give him a choice to make. Let’s briefly go through the scenario and refresh our memories.

To start with, we will read a statement by President David O. McKay, who told us that agency is the second greatest gift of God to man. In a Conference address in 1966, he said, “Efforts are being made to deprive man of his free agency, to steal from the individual his liberty; and we must never forget that next to life itself, free agency is the greatest gift of God to man.” (CR, October 1966, p. 5.)

We find that after placing the plants and animals on the earth, “the Gods formed man.” (Gen. 2:7; Abr. 5:7.) Next we learn that God commanded Adam, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.” (Gen 2:9-17; Moses 3:16-17; Abr. 5:9-13.) It was not until after the tree was introduced to Adam that Eve was brought onto the scene. (Gen. 2:21-23; Moses 3:21-23; Abr. 5:14-17.) The first thing God did was to give Adam life, then God gave Adam a commandment so he could make choices, exercising agency. This was done even before Adam and Eve were told to multiply and replenish the earth. That’s how important agency is to our Heavenly Father.

Atonement and Agency
In the foregoing quote by David O. McKay, we must realize that he did not say, “agency is the greatest gift of God to man,” except for the resurrection or the atonement of Christ. He said that “next to life itself, free agency IS the greatest gift of God to man.”

First comes life, then agency. Agency is a more important gift than the resurrection of man, the atonement of Christ, or exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. If this were not so, then God would have permitted Lucifer’s plan of force to control our Father’s spirit children. He would have forced them to go to earth, take a body, become resurrected, and be saved without any choice or responsibility of their own—a plan that was, of course, Lucifer’s great lie from the beginning.

When analyzed, this concept—the belief that agency is a more important gift than the atonement of Christ—can become a challenging notion to the belief system of many of us. However, to our wise and Eternal Father, the right to choose is more important than these other blessings. It is more important, even if it means one third of His Children will be cast out of Heaven and not have a body, or if many of us on earth, through choices of our own, will end up as Telestial beings or a son of perdition. Agency is also more important than the establishment of the Church, for without agency and freedom we would not be free to practice our religion. It may be a hard theory for many to appreciate; yet, as needful as is the resurrection, as sublime as the love and sacrifice of Jesus, as glorious as will be exaltation, nevertheless, agency is still the greater principle and greater blessing.

War Upon the Saints
Among all of the commandments given to Israel, of course, God gave them the first and second greatest commandments: to love God and their neighbor as themselves. Moses records: “And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father ...” (Moses 7:33.)

However, Moses goes on in the same verse and says that, “they are without affection and they hate their own blood.” This happened because Satan was “to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto” the voice of the Lord. (Moses 4:4.) Indeed, that great dragon “deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 12:9), even from the beginning unto this very day
It is clear when the scriptures state that “power was given [Satan] over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations,” and that “it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” (Rev. 13:7; Isa. 14:12.) “Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.” (D&C 76:29.) President Benson said the war that was fought in Heaven is now upon the earth, and it is still a war over agency. In an address delivered at Brigham Young University in 1986, he said, “The war that began in heaven is not yet over. The conflict continues on the battlefield of mortality. And one of Lucifer’s primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of earthly governments. Proof of this is found in the long history of humanity.” (The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner, p. 3.)

Why is it necessary for such conflicts or war to occur? The Lord has explained it, yet it is hard for many to comprehend. To really grasp the full importance of it, one needs to have the Holy Spirit as his or her guide. The Lord proclaimed, “I ... have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.” (D&C 104:17.) But, in another place He said, “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—” (D&C 29:39.) From his book, The Millennial Messiah, Elder McConkie presents some explanation into Satan’s offer of forced salvation in these words: “His offer was a philosophical impossibility. There must needs be an opposition in all things. Unless there are opposites, there is nothing. There can be no light without darkness, no heat without cold, no virtue without vice, no good without evil, no salvation without damnation.” (The Millennial Messiah, p. 667.)

Yes, Satan is subtle. He tried to destroy our agency in the pre-earth life and is trying to do it here. Latter-day Saints are most vulnerable. They are finding it challenging to make choices that will protect their free agency, and the rights of others. Satan’s influence is powerful, but no more powerful than we choose to let it.

When Lucifer wants to mislead he uses his greatest tool, which tool is, of course, deception. He lulls people away with a sense of security in their sins—sins that most do not recognize as sins. Nephi also warned us in these words: “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” (2 Ne. 28:21.)

Difference Between Freedom and Rights
It will be necessary to mention that the term “free agency” is not used in the scriptural standard works of the LDS Church. Agency is not free. A price was paid in the pre-earth life and a war in Heaven was fought over this sacred principle. A bloody revolution raged in the land of America for the establishment of a free environment where man’s agency could be exercised without restraint. Throughout history, many such wars and revolutions have been for the establishment and protection of this God-given principle. And there is still a price that will have to be paid by almost all of us, if we are to retain this Godly blessing.

Free agency does not automatically mean the right. Some have difficulty understanding the difference between the word “right” and the word “freedom.” Perhaps it could be explained by simply saying that, “We might have the freedom to take a life, but we do not have the right to do so.” Life is fragile and a free gift, and no one has the right to take it from another person, or for a person to take it from himself without God’s sanction.

In that same light, agency is a free gift, and the freedom to exercise that agency is a cherished possession. No one has a right to take that agency, or the freedom to exercise that agency, from another; nor does one have the right to put his agency, or that freedom, in the hands of another. Man is solely responsible for his own agency and no one else’s. Lucifer would have it otherwise. That was his proposal in the pre-earth life and the reason he was cast out of Heaven. In his farewell counsel to his son, Jacob, father Lehi said, “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Ne. 2:27.)

Various Intelligence
During communing with God, Abraham learned something of the spirits of man. He was informed that there are three types of spirits, or intelligences:

19. And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are TWO spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be ANOTHER more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.
22. Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23. And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. (Abraham, 3:19, 22-23.)

First Abraham mentions two types of spirits, one spirit was more intelligent than the other. Then he learned that there was a third type of spirit which was more intelligent than the first two. From an understanding of Abraham’s writings, we learn that there are three types of spirits upon the earth; there being three levels of intelligence, one higher than the other.

From what we learned above, intelligence, which is truth and light, is inseparably connected with agency. So we have three degrees of spirits upon the earth that respond to truth and light, and the spirit of liberty, in various ways. The capacity of one group of spirits to accept truth and light, and that of agency, greatly differs one from the other.

I am sure many of us have heard someone refer to another person as being very intelligent because that person knows a lot about thus and so. Perhaps we could put things in their proper perspective. Just because someone has much book learning or a lot of college degree initials behind their name, that does not necessarily mean they are very intelligent. True intelligence should be measured by how much light and truth one can comprehend, and how they understand free agency and honor that God-given right. A person may be educated, learned in the ways of the world, and even considered intellectual, but fall short in understanding the ways of God. If one cannot truly comprehend real truth and light as it comes from God, then that person cannot truly be considered very intelligent. Truth and light IS intelligence; and truth, light, and agency is inseparably connected to intelligence. Perhaps the words of the Apostle Paul can be applied here when he was speaking of those who are, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7.)

Currently, a great number of Gentiles are being brought into the LDS Church. The full gospel of Christ is only for Ephraim, the nations of true Israel, and the Gentiles who will believe. As the missionaries go out to preach, they are willing to baptize any and all who accept their teachings. And since the correct gospel is not truly understood by most members of the Church today, what is taught by modern-day missionaries is rather enticing to many Gentiles who normally would not accept the true restored light of the truth. Although the true gospel is to be taken to every nation, it is only intended for the gathering out of scattered Israel from those nations. Consequently, a time will come when there will have to be a separating of the sheep FROM the goats and the wheat FROM the tares—separating the different intelligences. In other words, a cleansing is coming; there will have to be a setting in order of the House of God (D&C 85:7; D&C 112:23-26.)

Yet in all this difference, God does not infringe upon anyone’s right to make a choice. He does not force. As Abraham said, God only proves them: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:25.)

How does God prove us? He gives us choices, and then gives us the privilege of being responsible for those choices. An individual’s capacity to recognize and accept truth and light can be determined by how he understands and honors the agency of man. Does he allow them the freedom of conscience, or does he try to force compliance. The Prophet Joseph Smith once said, “God would not exert any compulsory means, and the devil could not ... all was voluntary.” (TPJS, p. 187.) Man is to be free to exercise his agency and be “accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” (D&C 101:77-80.) Agency is part of man’s intelligence, his light and eternal glory.

Now the Lord grants unto us leaders and teachers in all walks of life—government, church, school, business, etc.—that are relevant to our personal desires. When we are spiritually minded, He sends leaders and teachers that inspire and lead righteously. When we are carnal minded, He ALLOWS leaders and teachers to take us off onto forbidden paths. God will “send [us] strong delusion, that [we] should believe a lie” (2 Thes. 2:11) if we choose wickedness over righteousness, or man’s counsel over that of God’s. Part of the problem or delusion is: if we are carnal and worldly minded we often do not recognize that fact, nor do we recognize, because of our spiritual blindness, when those leaders we have might be leading us astray.

Two years after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, there was a revelation given to Apostle Orson Hyde at Nauvoo, Illinois, in April of 1846. Among other things, the Spirit moved upon Elder Hyde and he wrote:

3. Evil men, ambitious of power, must needs arise among you, and they shall be led by their own self-will and not by me. Yet they are instruments in my hands, and are permitted to try my people, and to collect from among them those who are not the elect, and such as are unworthy of eternal life.
4. Grieve NOT after them, neither mourn nor be alarmed.
5. My people know my voice and also the voice of my spirit, and a stranger they will not follow:
6. Therefore such as follow strangers are not my people. (Millennial Star, 7:10, May 15, 1846, pp. 157-58: Unpublished Revelations, 1:65, pp. 104-05.)

In this revelation to one of the Lord’s apostles we are told that there will be “evil men” in power that will be permitted to “try” God’s people; but, those who are truly of God will not follow after the wicked because God’s people know His voice and the voice of His Spirit. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27.) Just because we have a leader or teacher that proclaims thus and so, it does not mean that “thus and so” is God’s will. We must realize, there is a difference between what God wants and what He will allow. Because of agency, the Lord allows us what WE want, whatever the consequences, which may not necessarily be what He desires.

Truth Shall Make You Free
Yes, His sheep do hear His voice and follow Him. In the Gospel of John we can hear the voice of the Master, who said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32.) Now what did Jesus mean when He said that truth shall make us free? And for what purpose are we to be free? With this scripture in mind, let’s do a little exploring.

To truly understand this scripture, we must go back to the beginning of creation and ask: “Why did God put man on this earth? It was obviously for a reason, and that reason was to have earthly experiences where we could learn to make free choices based upon our own spiritual inclinations. For man to have free choice it was necessary for him to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Now what is meant by free choice is that man is to be free to choose for himself what he desires, not what someone else believes is best for him.

Yes it is true that the Creator told Adam not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, yet it was necessary that Adam do so for the eternal progression of his posterity. If God told Adam to partake of that tree, then God would be responsible for the death of Adam. The Creator would have then been an unjust God, having been responsible for bringing death upon Adam for no reason at all. But Father is a just God, and He had to give Adam a commandment which, if broken, would bring death. Adam, himself, had to make the choice to obey or not to obey.

At this time, Adam and Eve had no contrasts in their lives. Living in eternal light and goodness, they did not know the dark nor understand evil. Now Satan, that old serpent, told Eve that if she partook of that tree: “your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5.) This was a true statement designed to tempt Eve to transgress God’s command. The part that Satan was to play was known beforehand by God, and this is why a Savior was prepared before the foundation of the earth, to save Adam and his posterity from their sins. Not knowing the mind of God, Satan did just what was necessary for Adam and Eve to have their eyes opened so they could receive further light and knowledge, improve their intelligence, and further their eternal progression.

Partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil causes all of us to have our eyes opened to truth. It is only after partaking of that tree that we are able to receive from the tree of life. Remember, Adam and Eve were forbidden and prevented from partaking of the tree of life until they had repented and chose to become worthy by way of righteousness over disobedience. They had to understand the contrast between the light and the dark, the good and the bad. They needed to experience the bitter before they could appreciate the sweet love of God and make a choice to accept the grace and atonement of Christ. Only then would they be worthy of partaking of the tree of life.

Without Adam’s transgression, we would have no comparisons—we would have no options for choice. To become as God, knowing good and evil, being full of light and truth, and finally partake of the tree of life, it is necessary, as stated, that we first partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, our learning is to be a positive experience.

Now God expects us to make mistakes. But this does not mean that we are to go looking for trouble, there is plenty of that without looking for it. Our errors in life are not to be stumbling blocks where we keep going back over-and-over again wallowing in our old sins, or go around feeling sorry for ourselves. When trouble comes we are to use wisdom, move on, make the best of the experience. Our frailties are to be as stepping stones helping us ascend to a higher state of being. From our bitter experience we are to use our agency and make wise choices, choosing righteousness and Jesus Christ as our only way to truth and light. We must be free to make our choices, not somebody else’s. Only then can we fulfil the measure of OUR creation, instead of someone else’s creation.

There is no growth from not making mistakes in life, but there are those who refuse to learn truth because truth might upset their lifestyle. It disturbs their peace. However, peace at the cost of liberty is unacceptable to God, and man in general. Down through the ages man has given up temporary peace for the cause of liberty. Remember, we learned that truth, light, and intelligence is agency, and they are independent to act for themselves. Only through the understanding of truth comes true freedom and peace. When we purposely choose to ignore truth and light for the sake of comfort and peace, we exhibit a cowardly nature. We remain a slave to fear. Someone once said, “None are so enslaved than those who know not of their bondage.” By refusing to learn important truths and closing our eyes and ears to the option of receiving light, we are choosing to remain a slave to that which dictates and controls us. That is “selective ignorance”; we are then choosing Lucifer’s plan of control, unrighteous dominion, and oppression.

Without access to truth and light, we cannot receive adequate knowledge sufficient for us to make meaningful and intelligent choices relevant for our upward eternal progression. To have access to truth and light we must be free to inquire and act for ourselves. When we are not free to act for ourselves, our search for truth is thwarted; we then fall under the authoritarian hands of those who will try to dictate their philosophies. Allowing a person or an organization, such as a government, church, school, or society at large, to restrict what we can or cannot do, say, read, or even believe, we allow them to be our slave master. We then remain slaves to whomever or whatever it is that controls our belief system and how we live our lives—staying tied to philosophies and traditions that may not foster growth unto godhood.

God wants us to experience the bad along with the good so that we can recognize the difference and make righteous choices from the experience gained. He wants us to know the truth of all things. We then become free from ignorance, false philosophies, and those who would control our thinking, actions, belief systems, and way of life. We are then free to choose God’s way over that of man’s way. Having thus increased our intelligence, learning the truth about good and evil, the difference between light and dark, we are at liberty, with our own free will, to choose Jesus Christ as our only salvation, or not choose Him. Of course, since there are differences in intelligences, and as to how people perceive truth, not all will choose to be free or make the same choices. Even with the option of becoming a free agent unto themselves, many will still choose to remain ignorant to truth and slaves to the will of others.

It’s Our Choice
As we consider the subject at hand, we find that the Orson Hyde quote above is in strict harmony with what the Lord said through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; ...” (D&C 88:40.) And these thoughts help us understand more fully the Lord’s statement when He said, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the same that came unto mine own, and mine own received me not. I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” (D&C 6:21.) But later He said, “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.” (D&C 88:67.)

Many true followers of Jesus Christ have found the key to opening the doors of peace, spiritual growth, and true freedom. That key, surprisingly, comes from choosing to relinquish their will to the will of the Father in total obedience and meekness. In so doing they are letting the righteous pleasure of the Father be predominant in their lives. When we submit to the Father, exercising our agency and subordinating our will to His as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, then, and only then, can we truly be free, find true peace, and develop the spiritual faith and power necessary to be His sons and daughters and partake of His divine gifts.

Every aspect of our earthly lives is based on our making choices and being responsible for those choices. While in mortality, Jesus chose to finish His Father’s work. That work consists of a plan whereby we may all be saved back into the Father’s Kingdom by acceptance of Christ’s atonement and sacrifice. Lucifer has a counterfeit program of slavery, spiritual deprivation, and idolatry. Agency is a free gift from God. However, the more we deny God’s involvement in our lives, the more we allow Satan control over them; the more we choose to follow the light of Christ the more free we become. Our salvation, therefore, is hinged on our agency and how prudently we exercise it in relation to the light and truth of God’s plan.

Because of their defiance and revolt, and because of their stance due to the conflict in ideologies, there was no “place found any more in heaven” for Satan and his followers. (Rev. 11:8; Jude 1:6.) Thus, one third of the host of Heaven exercised their agency in full view of reality and knew the consequence if they failed. And fail they did! In that pre-mortal existence they had a choice, and so do we on earth. They failed to keep their first estate. Now, will we fail here in our second estate?

How we accept light and truth, how we honor the agency of man, and what we choose, determines if we win or lose.
The First and Greatest Commandment:
An Eye Single to the Glory of God

President Ezra Taft Benson once stated that, “If you desire to help your fellowmen the most, then you must put the first commandment first.” (CR, October 1967, p. 35.) As we comply with President Benson’s advice, we are also following the scriptures that tell us to, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Pro. 3:5-6.)

There are many members of the Church who take their membership casually, and who often give lip service rather than service from the heart. This is partly because all of us are on differing planes of progression. The Lord is usually patient with us as we grow and progress. However, a pure attitude and a single-minded relationship with the Savior are paramount if we want to be a TRUE disciple. President Benson also wrote in an Ensign article:

“In the usual sense of the term, Church membership means that a person has his or her name officially recorded on the membership records of the Church. By that definition, we have more than six million members of the Church.
“But the Lord defines a member of His kingdom in quite a different way. In 1828, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, He said, ‘Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.’ To Him whose Church this is, membership involves far more than simply being a member of record ...
“Therefore, repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior...
“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which sincere and meaningful repentance must be built. If we truly seek to put away sin, we must first look to Him who is the Author of our salvation.” (The Ensign, October 1989, p. 2.)

In first looking to Christ, let’s remember Section 4 in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is a section which all LDS missionaries should be familiar. It lists a series of Christlike attributes which “qualify” them for the work. All these qualities are very important, especially one, and that is the principle of having an “eye single to the glory of God.” (D&C 4:5.)

When we are not singly serving God, we are serving someone else, or some “thing” else. Because of pride, that “someone” is usually ourselves, and that “thing” is often some possession or position. It is interesting to realize that when we serve other entities and not God, it is usually because of some personal selfish reason. That brings us back to pride, which is serving ourselves instead of serving the Lord.

Many Are Called but Few Chosen
The opposite of having an eye single to the glory of God is seeking our own glory. Nephi, when prophesying about the last days, gave us an interesting definition of “priestcrafts.” These are his words: “for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.” (2 Ne. 26:29.) He said that one of the reasons for priestcrafts is to set ourselves up for the purpose of receiving praise.

We cannot serve God and the world, or ourselves, simultaneously. The Master tells us that “No man can serve two masters ... Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation,” and that “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” But He also says, “... if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” (Matt. 6:24; 12:25; James 1:8; Matt. 6:22.) That light is the fulness.

Jesus also said, “I receive not honour from men.” (John 5:41.) While walking the shores of Galilee, the Savior taught, “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” (John 7:18.) One of our biggest challenges is not to seek honor from others. Most of us are familiar with the quote from the Doctrine and Covenants that says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Scripture tells us that, “They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin ...” (D&C 95:5-6.) What is that sin? Let’s read about it. “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men....” (D&C 121:34-35.)

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10.) And the Savior’s example is, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30.) We are instructed by the Lord to turn our thoughts, minds, and service over to Him, and seek for NO honor and glory from the world.

Alma gloried in the Lord’s work and not in himself. He said, “I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me.” (Alma 29:9.) And to his son, Helaman, he said, “Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. (Alma 37:36.) Satan knows that if we seek for the honor of man, we will lose our focus on Christ. This lack of focus is a major reason many are not called to the Lord’s service, and why they do not have the fulness.

The Greatest Commandment
Once there was a Pharisee who tried to trick Jesus by asking, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered him, saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38.)

In Mark we read that a scribe asked Jesus which is the “first commandment of all,” and Jesus responded with, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30.)

Luke records that a certain lawyer tempted Jesus by asking, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” To which Jesus replied, “... Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27.)

This commandment was not new when Jesus lived in mortality. In the Old Testament Jehovah gave ancient Israel a similar commandment. Through Moses He proclaims, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deut. 6:5.)

Taking this one step further, let’s turn to a modern revelation from the Lord. In Section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Prophet Joseph Smith records the word of God: “Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.” (D&C 59:5.)

As we consider these attributes together, we could say that there are five that we must demonstrate to become sanctified by the grace of Christ. We are to serve Him with all of our heart, might, mind, strength, and soul. As we study these five attributes, we find that the definitions of one may be similar to another.

The Hebrew word for heart is lebab (lay-bawb’), meaning courage and understanding; the Greek word is kardia (kar-dee’-ah), meaning feelings, thoughts, and so forth. The Hebrew word for might is me‘od (meh-ode’), which means, diligently, wholly, speedily, and the like. The Greek word for mind is dianoia (dee-an’-oy-ah), meaning deep thought, imagination and understanding. The Greek word for strength is ischus (is-khoos’), meaning forcefulness, might and power. The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh (neh’-fesh), meaning vitality; the Greek word is psuche (psoo-khay’), meaning vitality and life.

Other scriptures also refer to some of these attributes. We can read counsel to missionaries that says, “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.” (D&C 4:2.) And again we read, “Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength.” (D&C 11:20.) And from Nephi we read the following: “And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out. (2 Ne. 25:29.)

There are other scriptures we could quote that contain one or more of these attributes, which time and space do not permit. It is sufficient only to say that God requires us to serve Him with all of our courage, forcefulness, power, strength, understanding, feelings, thoughts, and imagination. We are to serve Him diligently with all of our ability, and do it speedily, or now, with all of our vitality, life, and whole being. That’s pretty comprehensive service for us to consider. And what all of this truly bowels down to is found in the Master’s words when He simply said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15.)

Putting off Ungodliness
Let’s turn our attention to the words of the prophet Moroni as he said, “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness ... and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;... if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.” (Moro. 10:32-33.)

Here we have a commandment. That commandment is to “Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.” We can keep this commandment, for Nephi tells us that God will not give a commandment unless He provides a way for us to keep that commandment. (1 Ne. 3:7.) In verse 32, as we just read, it tells us how to keep that commandment. We are to “deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness,” and “love God with all [our] might, mind and strength.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans and said, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,...” (Rom. 1:18.) The same Paul wrote to Titus and said that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness. (Titus 2:11-12.) The original word for ungodliness is asebeia (as-eb’-I-ah), meaning impiety, irreverent, and wickedness. To deny ungodliness means that we must do just the opposite, that is, accept the virtues of godliness. Many of these virtues we discussed earlier, some of which were found in 2 Peter 1:4-11. Instead of focusing on the negatives of repenting, we focus on integrating into our lives the positive virtues of God. As we discussed earlier concerning faith, when we are doing good, there is no room for evil. The repenting, or doing away with ungodliness, automatically takes care of itself. What is our reward if we do this? Our reward is that we “become sanctified in Christ,” receive a “remission of [our] sins,” and become “holy, without spot.”

Peter said, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” An attribute that we must possess if we are to partake of the “divine nature” of Christ is to possess the characteristic of “godliness.” One way we do this is to deny ourselves all ungodliness. All of this is done by the “grace of God,” as we have learned. Grace is that unearned gift, that which we cannot obtain for ourselves. Before we can claim that grace, though, we must show forth sincere desire and true intent with faith in Christ, that this endowment is of specific worth. Therefore, we deny ourselves all ungodliness, and love God with all of our heart, might, mind, soul and strength. When we do that, we will be true to the first and greatest commandment.

Key to the Treasure
Many of us want to please others and be accepted by them, and the fear of rejection may at times be greater than our love for our Heavenly Father. The Lord, however, expects our thoughts and affections to be upon Him, and on no one else or anything else. To have an eye single to the glory of God is to have a love for God that is greater than any other love.

The first and great commandment teaches, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” So, there is a question that we might ask: What do I love most? Again, Jesus simply said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:21; 3 Ne. 13:21.)

A treasure is simply that which we treasure most. To the extent that we treasure other things, people, or activities more than we treasure our covenants with the Lord and our devotion to Him, to that same degree our hearts will not be upon Him. President Spencer W. Kimball wrote some excellent words regarding this topic: “... we serve whom we love and give first consideration to the object of our affection and desires ... [which] indicates where ... allegiance and loyalty are.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 41.)

In considering these most important thoughts, we must do some personal and honest soul searching. What do we really treasure most in our hearts? In seeking for the answer, we must become aware and consider where we put our energy; how we use our time; what we buy with our money; where we direct our interest, and so forth.

If we focus more on crude and base things, or immoral thoughts and acts, than we do on the pure life and love of Jesus, then we will truly know what we treasure most. If we mostly pursue our houses, cars, boats, or any other personal and material objects, instead of upon that which will never corrupt, even the Kingdom of God, then we will know what our treasure is. If we spend our energy in pursuit of money, sports, pleasure, and entertainment instead of seeking the treasures of eternal life, then we know where our treasure lies. And if we direct more of our interest toward family, friends, and associates than we do toward Him who has all charity, forgiveness, and light we know where our treasure is, and thus our hearts. These things become our gods—our false gods.

As a Man Thinketh
In Proverbs we read, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7.) We do not think with our hearts, we think with our minds. We previously read: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” That means that where our treasure is, there will our “mind” be also. For the most part, we focus our mind on that which we love. By so doing, we choose that which we love. Love is equated with the heart because that is where the feeling is registered, so it is said that man “thinketh in his heart.” In reality we choose our treasure by permitting our minds to think in that direction. We treasure up in our hearts, or our minds, the things most dear to us. They are what motivate us and help us choose where we go, what we receive, and what type of beings we will become.

We often receive things that we do not pray for. Some may wonder why they have received certain troubles in life when they have not desired them, or certain blessings in life when they have not prayed for them. In too many cases the answer is that our thinking may have been focused on that particular thing. In this case, that thing could be a person, place, tangible object, or condition.

Perhaps a personal example can illustrate. I enjoy fine music and, notwithstanding large phonograph and cassette tape collections, many years ago I wanted a compact disc (CD) player. On occasion someone would leave theirs with me, which I used. Many years ago, due to the high cost of one of the finer CD players at the time, I figured that I would not purchase one, at least not for a while. However, I kept the thought of one foremost in my mind. Even though I couldn’t play them on anything, I still purchased a few CD’s with the hope of someday owning a player.

A time came when I had the opportunity to share some of my talents and services with a friend of the family at no cost. The friend, not having discussed the CD player issue with me, and to my utter surprise gave me a player in appreciation for my help. For me, this item was a want and not a need, and I certainly didn’t pray for it. However, the CD player was gratefully accepted, realizing from whom this gracious gift really came.

One day, while I was resting and listening as my new CD player produced lovely music, I wondered why the Lord blessed me with such a temporal gift when I felt I was in need of something more spiritual. Through the Spirit the thought came forcefully to me that it was a desire of the heart. It was where I often and unknowingly focused much of my attention. Although I did not pray for it, having more important needs, that energy still reached up to the heavens and a desire of my heart was realized. In other words, the dominant thought of my mind came to pass.

Now there is no inherent evil in a compact disc player. In this case it was a blessing and perhaps a reward for unselfish service. However, the point to be made here is that we often focus our attention on more than that which is godlike, and we reap the results. When someone is serving a mission for the Lord, and his or her mind is not focused on the work, being on other concerns than God’s, the mission could end as an unfortunate and sad experience. It is the same with marriage, employment, schooling, and other things. If our attention is not focused on the important task and object at hand, unexpected disasters could result.

Sanctify Ourselves
The Lord commands us through the Doctrine and Covenants: “Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him ...” D&C 88:68.) The scriptures say sanctify YOURSELF. We are to sanctify ourselves; no one can do it for us. Sanctify means to consecrate, dedicate, hallow, absolve, cleanse or purify. The scripture also says, “that your minds become single to God.”

In the great intercessory prayer that Jesus offered, He expressed His feelings about His beloved disciples. He prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” (John 17:21.) To be one with Him, we must serve Him. To serve Him is to know Him, as King Benjamin said in his great discourse, “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13.) To increase in the spiritual endowments of God we must be one with the Lord and fully turn to Him.

Heber C. Kimball, speaking of turning to God, once said, “There is no person in this Church who can increase in the knowledge of God, in the spirit of revelation, in the gift of prophecy, in visions or in dreams, unless they cleave unto God with full purpose of heart. By being faithful, though, these gifts will be multiplied unto the Saints.” (JD, 10:245.)

To be sanctified, our purpose must be single with the purpose of the Savior. We must follow Him with full purpose of heart, and without hypocrisy or deception. This should be the single intent of our covenant making and our repenting from ALL sin.

From the scriptures we find that baptism alone will not get us back to the Father. The Lord told William Wines Phelps, “... after thou hast been baptized by water, which if you do with an eye single to my glory, you shall have a remission of your sins and a reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands;...” (D&C 55:1.) Brother Phelps was told that he must be baptized with an eye single to God’s glory BEFORE he was to receive a remission of his sins.

In like manner, being charitable toward our neighbor is still no guarantee of salvation without an eye single to God’s glory. In Section 82 we learn such truths as, “For of him unto whom much is given much is required;...” (v. 3), and “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (v. 10.) In this same section we learn that an early saint was commanded to bind himself by covenant according to the laws of the Lord, to be equal in all things, to improve upon his talents, and to seek the interest of his neighbor. However, there was no guarantee of salvation if all of this was done without “... an eye single to the glory of God.” (D&C 82:15-19.)

In the pre-mortal existence, Lucifer and his angels had a choice, and we also had a choice. We couldn’t have everything, so choices had to be made. Because of their choices, Lucifer’s followers failed to keep their first estate. Now, we don’t need to fail here in our second estate, for the power is in us, along with the gift of grace, not to fail. But, If we do not intentionally stay focused upon God, by default, we will inadvertently become focused upon the adversary’s plan. A house divided against itself cannot stand, nor can we serve two masters at the same time. We can receive Christ by choice, or Satan by default.

Having No Other Gods
Our treasure is what we think about—what we ponder and see in our mind’s eye. It is where we focus our attention with our mind. There are times when we may not even be aware of this focus, thinking that we love God and are mostly serving Him. We can go through religious rituals of “duty,” while, at the same time, desiring something altogether different.

If our outward appearance is contrary to our inner and true focus, we “deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8.) The Apostle Paul said that we are not to be “unequally yoked together,” but, instead, “be of the same mind,” that we become “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” and that we become “like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (2 Cor. 6:14; Rom. 12:16; 1 Cor. 1:10, Philip. 2:2.) These statements cannot only be applied to social relationships but inner, or personal, relationships as well. When our minds are not one with God, and when we divide our loyalties, we cannot have an eye single to His glory. We will be considered “lukewarm.” (Rev. 3:16.)

We condition our minds with what we put into them—with such things as the movies and television we watch, books we read, music we listen to, and people we associate with. All types of input help condition our minds, and we need to be conscious of how we train our thought patterns.

Whatever our treasure is becomes our idol, because it is what we “idolize” most. Some people do not look at it this way though. Many consider an idol to be something such as a golden statue or image that represents a God and is worshiped as divine. However, an idol can be where our attention is focused most of the time. Have we thought, for example, what it means to “idolize” another person? How does that fit in with the first commandment when we venerate, reverence, glorify and even “worship the ground” someone “walks on”? Many of us idolize movie stars, singing stars, athletic stars, political stars, and some of us wrestle other fans for coveted autographs. When such is our central focus, how can we truly be committed to the Lord? Maybe it would be well for us to ponder what it means to be an idolatrous people.

Let’s take for example, the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour ... But on the seventh day ... thou shalt not do any work.....” (See Ex. 20:8-11.) Should we feel that earning a living justifies the means in doing so, such as taking harmful or unfair advantage of our neighbor, or working or having a business open on the Sabbath? Do we treasure money more than treasuring God’s approval for obedience?

I know of a grocery store owner who once said, “If people wouldn’t shop on the Sabbath, I wouldn’t have to stay open.” Now, are his customers making him stay open, or is that his rationalization because he’s afraid of not making money? Doesn’t such Sabbath-breaking show our defiance toward God’s fourth commandment of keeping the Sabbath day holy? To some it may seem that such open and blatant defiance of one of God’s most important commandments shows that such a one covets riches more than he desires to obey the first and great commandment, that of loving God above all else. It might show that he may have a basic moral weakness and should not be trusted in his business dealings. If he will try to cheat God he might try and cheat anyone. As a note, I also know of a grocer, in the same city, who chose not to open on the Sabbath. And I know of many people who have chosen not to work on the Sabbath, and they have been blessed with alternative jobs that offered more than what they might have chosen. I wonder who God might be more pleased with when He has given working man, and the shopping public, the intellect to choose and plan ahead?

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that there may not be a valid reason to work on a Sabbath, such as in hospitals, the feeding of livestock, pulling the proverbial ox out of the mire, and so on, but is all work done on the Sabbath justifiable, or cleverly rationalized because we treasure money more than pleasing God? As a supposed religious nation, have we become rather defiant or lackadaisical when it comes to honoring the Sabbath day to keep it holy? It’s good that God is the judge, and He will consider who receives His fulness.

Of course, we could separately consider all of the Ten Commandments, and how we often treasure our selfishness, pride, jealousies, and wickedness instead of pleasing God. But that could take an entire book of its own, which is not our purpose at this time. Besides, I believe the honest in heart understand the message of this chapter without doing so.

Our Only Treasure
An act is a direct response to thinking, and we become what we mostly think about. When we think worldly thoughts, we become like the world. When we think Godly thoughts, we become more like God. Though we may be in the world, we do not have to be of the world. It is important to put off all ungodliness of mind, all evil or unclean thinking, and even all casual acceptance or tolerance for things that are slightly off color. If we do not, it will inevitably lead to the realization of a worldly mind set. In these latter days the Lord said, “... Go ye out of Babylon;...” (D&C 133:7.) And anciently He said, “... come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4.)

It has been said that: “When you keep THINKING what you are thinking, you will BE what you have always been. And when you DO what you have always done, you will RECEIVE what you have always received.”

Whereas you ARE a certain way because you THINK a certain way, you cannot but RECEIVE the consequences of your actions — be they positive or negative.

Since the Lord said that what you think about most is what you treasure, and what you treasure is where your heart is, then it follows that you cannot help but worship that which you think about most. Mentally dwelling upon or verbally rehearsing the negative conditions in your current or past life is a form of worship. You give it unnecessary energy, and that energy comes back as a self-fulfilled prophecy — a never-ending downward spiral of dreams never realized.

Through Moses the Lord commanded, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3.) So:
—When we set other people up as heroes and choose them before Jesus Christ, we are honoring them more than Jesus, and those heroes become false gods.
—When we allow other activities to take the place of worshiping and praising the only true God, those activities then become false gods.
—When we let the words of any other person take precedent over the whisperings of the Spirit, we are esteeming that person more than God and that other person then becomes a false god.

When one desires to serve and worship the Lord with all his might, mind and strength (Moro. 10:32; D&C 11:20; 33:7; 59:5), and only has an eye single to His glory, then he will have a basis for a belief which eventually leads to the working of great miracles in his life. Jesus is to be our role model and our hero. Only with an eye (mind’s eye) single to the glory of God and not to our own praise, or praise for someone else, can we unselfishly serve Him.

We must have faith and remember that Jesus is the only worthwhile treasure. We are not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. For where our treasures are, there will our hearts be also. If, therefore, our mind’s eye is single to His glory, our whole body shall be full of light. (Matt. 6:19-23.)

When our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, instead of man or the things of this world, when we treasure Him above all, then we will move toward that mighty faith that brings light, which light is the miracle of the fulness of God’s Glory. We shall not be “barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We shall be full of the pure love of Christ, and “partakers of the divine nature,” (2 Pet. 1:4-8) which is the greatest treasure and miracle of all.