Monday, November 2, 2009

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.