Everyone must read the word for themselves. We are all required to let our heart tell us what God’s intention is in providing us with instructions in the scriptures. Recently I was invited to meet with the bishop. He was concerned about my spiritual welfare. In our conversation, we read through scriptures that pointed to the ascension. One particular scripture we looked at was 2 Nephi 31:17-21 and 2 Nephi 32:1-6.
Chapter 31 talks about why Christ was baptized. I stated that I believed that we have the priviledge to have a personal witness of Christ. Bishop thought that such a blessing was not for all, only the special witnesses. I made the argument that verses 17-21 talks about three different stages of a man in the plan of salvation (the gate/ the path/ the way), …and that this was all about the ascension of a man into the presence of Christ (Christ being “The Way”). His argument was that “the way” was not Christ, but a summation of all the instructions were just specified in the prior verses. In other words, the gate, the path and eternal life is all a part of what can be summed up as “the way.” His idea is that baptism is the gate, the path and the way that leads to eternal life.
When you look at this scripture as an individual, stand alone compilation, the bishops argument could be valid, according as it is written. But the scriptures aren’t to be seen as individual concepts. Scriptures were intended to identify truth so that all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole, Christ. You cannot formulate an opinion based on one passage of scripture. Scriptures testify of each other and confirm the mind and will of God. So I pointed to the next passage in chapter 32, where the Nephites could have possibly thought just like the bishop thought.
In chapter 32, the Nephites questioned in their minds what they should do once they have entered in by the way. It seems to me that they really didn’t understand the full concept of what entering in by the way meant, just like our current traditional mentality. If they did understand it, they would know that someone who has entered in by the way, has been clean from the blood and sins of this generation, has been redeemed from the fall, has been brought back into the presence of Christ, and Christ has revealed Himself unto them (Ether 3:13). They have now obtained the first great commandment- the ascension. Now, they are to:
- love their neighbor as themselves (two great commandments)
- teach their brethren (when you are converted, teach your brethren)
- declare my Word (First seek to obtain my Word– obtain Christ, then to declare it)
- bring many souls unto Me (how great your joy when you bring one soul unto me- that’s you, then you can bring many because you know The Way)
If you are thoroughly confused by now, this bulleted list is the second half of the companionship scriptures that point to ascension. We have repeated these scriptures many times before, but never thought of them as Christ instructing us to ascend and receive our calling and election made sure, by literally entering into His presence and receiving a physical visitation. But it is only under such conditions can “all the laws and the prophets” hang upon the two great commandments. The first commandment is your ascension, and the second commandment is you teaching your neighbor to do the same. You cannot teach what you don’t know. We need to return into the presence of Christ before we can teach anyone else how to return. What else is their to do if we have all ascended and been found clean? There is nothing else left. God’s work and glory becomes our work and glory.
Coming back to the Nephites in 2 Nephi 32:1-6, we see the Nephites were not quite sure what they would do once they “…entered in by the way.” Here, the Nephites are told about speaking with the tongue of angels, once they’ve entered in by the way. Does that mean that once you have ascended, you are considered somewhat of an angel? Perhaps it is the ascension into heaven that associates angels with wings. Anyway, going back to chapter 32, we are told that the tongue of angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost (the mind and will of God), and that they speak the words of Christ. I told the bishop that all the words of Christ were intended to produce in all of us an ascension. Then I responded that in verse 4, Nephi expresses why they could not understand about this ascension, it was because they “ask not, neither do ye knock.” I asked the bishop if he remembered that the whole church is under condemnation because we don’t read the scriptures (D&C 84:55)? He said that he did. I told him that Nephi said to the saints of his day the very same thing. After telling the saints why they didn’t understand, Nephi says that once you have seen Christ in the flesh, then He will tell you what you should do (verse 6). I testified to the bishop that I believe in the ascension Nephi is referencing.
The bishops response to me was that Nephi was pointing to the meridian of time when Christ would put on a tabernacle of flesh, and then fulfill the law of Moses, and whatever he tells us thereafter, that is what we need to do. I told him that I could see how he could believe that, but I don’t believe that is what it is saying.
Forever and ever men have interpreted God’s instructions to fit our current standards rather than asking and knocking to know God’s mind and will. It makes sense that if we don’t have the opportunity to ascend, then we can go on doing what we are doing, not having to change much. But… If we do, what then? I told the bishop that he might be able to justify the meaning of this one passage of scripture, to satisfy our traditional idea of simply having a witness of the Holy Ghost and not have a personal visitation of Christ in the flesh. But my question is, what do you do with the rest of the hundreds of scriptures that talk about ascending and a visitation in the flesh:
- The beattitudes
- Jacobs ladder
- Isaiahs ascension
- Elijahs ascension
- The allegory of the olive tree
- Alma 32- Faith that leads to an ascension
- Lehi’s dream
- Nephi’s ascension, etc.
There is no way to justify all of them. The scriptures were intended this way. The message is the same throughout because it is from God. The ascension is being taught to us “as plain as word can be.” The words of Christ were meant to try our faith. We are constantly being invited to partake of the feast of the words of Christ, to hold to the iron rod, to plant the word in our hearts, and to partake of the fruit that, if you partake, ye shall never hunger nor thirst.
The bishop and I parted respectfully. The conversation was a tough conversation, but it was based on trust because both our hearts only desired to know the mind of God. In this condition both come away edified. I felt like our friendship grew because of this conversation.
As a boy, I struggled to find joy in the scriptures. I read by compulsory means of parents, teachers, and myself. I tried hard to love it, even when I did not understand it. Now that I see the Lord trying to provide me with an ascension, the scriptures are constantly on my mind, a prayer is constantly being held throughout the day, my heart is turned to discover the promises made to the fathers, and my heart is being turned to the fathers- them who have completed the ascension. The scriptures are a chore if you don’t know why you read them. But once you know why, it will take over your every thought, you will hunger and thirst after them without compulsory means, and there will be no room for Satan. I believe that the Anti-Nephi-Lehi had the same experience when they had no more desire to do evil, but to do good continually. There was no room in them for Satan because their hearts and minds were the heart and mind of God.