Our modern definitions of faith has turned into the tradition that belief is all we need. We have reduced the necessity of understanding to become secondary, if not eliminated all together. We have mingled philosophies with scripture such that many times we can hardly see the difference between the two. Many times we eliminate scriptures and only discuss the philosophies of men. When we return to the words of Christ, the definitions become clearer, and we can put to rest the false traditions of our fathers and obtain that which God intends to give us.
Joseph Smith stated clearly that three things are necessary in order that any intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation:
- First, the idea that God actually exists
- Second, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes
- Third, an actual knowledge that the course of life which you are pursuing is according to his will
I’ll not address the first or third, but I feel the need to expand on the second. The reason why the whole church has been under condemnation for the last 181 years (Since 1832) is because we have taken lightly the things that we have received (D&C 84:55).
“14. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
How is it then that we are to have faith in something or someone in which we do not know? So, then, faith comes by hearing the word of God (Lectures on Faith 2). The second pre-requisite is that we must have a correct understanding of God’s character, perfections, and attributes. That is the purpose of scripture study- to know the mind and will of God.
If we fail to understand such characters, perfections, and attributes, Joseph Smith says, we cannot exercise faith unto life and salvation. The doctrine of the two gospels states that there is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then… there is everything else. What that means is that everything else can have 90% of the truth, but it is still not the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must have a correct understanding of God’s correct character, perfections, and attributes, in order to exercise faith unto life and salvation.
We know that we obtain such understanding of God’s character, perfections, and attributes line upon line, precept upon precept, when… we study the words of Christ, and as our hearts are softened to the promptings of the Spirit. We also know that light cleaveth to light, and desires more of the same. Conversely, we also understand that we can loose light in like manner, until we know nothing of the mysteries of God, which is called the chains of hell (Alma 12:10-11).
The scriptures are a type and a shadow of what we can expect in our day. Not only do we see that God is unchanging and constant throughout the scriptures, but we can also see how man constantly changes (quite predictably at that). If we recognize the patterns in the scriptures, we can avoid the pitfalls of man and obtain the necessary knowledge of God in order for us to exercise faith unto life and salvation.
One of the patterns that we must recognize is the great lengths that man will go to in order to justify his sins. The Deuteronomists redefined or reformed what they called “religious myths.” They eliminated the possibilities of:
- Heavenly Hosts
- An Ascent through the heavens
- The ability to see God face to face
- The idea that God the Father and the Son were two seperate beings
Such beliefs caused the Deuteronomists to have an unclear understanding of God, thus resulting in the closing of the heavens. They change the record of Moses to justify their condition. Moses’ experience on Mt Sinai was re-written by the Deuteronomists from seeing God face to face, to simply hearing the voice of God.
In the time of Christ, Rabbi’s taught that even if you here the voice of God, the voice is still less reliable than the teachings of the Rabbi, and that the current Rabbi’s teachings outweighed that of the ancient Rabbi’s. Thus, scriptures were changed openly using perceived authority. It is the Rabbi who is the giver (or interpreter) of the laws and only through the law can man receive life and salvation. Other beliefs included the idea that there exists no more real seers that can see into the heavens. Prophets were reduced to “…givers of good council,” as authorized by the Deuteronomists. In this religion there is no room for innovation, new teachings, new writings of books outside of those approved by the Deuteronomists, and no new spiritual manifestations. Angels were reduced to serendipitous events with men of the world, apart from heaven. Those who are converted to the church were given blessings from the church (authority and positions of trust) and were counted as one of their own. Deuteronomy 4 replaces wisdom (revelations) with the law, and reduces historical experiences with the heavens to explainable/logical/rational reasonings, according to their understandings.
The results of such beliefs places the emphasis on an earth-centered idea of God, and not a heaven-centered God. There is no room for seeking angels, ascending into the presence of God, seeing God face-to-face, and the correct understanding of God’s character, perfections, and attributes are lost. There is no need to have accurate scriptures, for they are simply guidelines. It is the Rabbi who holds salvation in his hands. It is the Rabbi’s dictations that are to govern from the heavens. It was the Rabbi’s who crucified Christ.
The ancient Deuteronomists did not know about Joseph Smith. Through the Book of Mormon, we can see that God wants us to connect to the heavens. Right at the outset of the Book of Mormon we find Lehi’s account of his experience with the Hosts of Heaven, Lehi’s ascent, Lehi’s gift to see into the future and prophesy, and Lehi’s seeing the face of God. All throughout the Book of Mormon we see a repititious pattern of Angelic messengers, Seers, visitations of God, ascensions, visions of the heavens (even the cosmos), etc.
It was during Lehi’s time in Jerusalem that the Deuteronomists were gaining power, and probably the very ones who were planning to kill him. It was just after Lehi’s exodus that King Josiah empowered the Deuteronomists (by giving them callings of authority in the church and in the community) and they in turn changed the temple ceremonies into merely sacrificial offerings, to justify their lifestyle. The people were led to believe that the righteousness of their king is what saved them. Their king was their connection to heaven and their intermediary to God. Prior to King Josiah, the temple ceremonies were “complete.” It taught about heavenly hosts, ascension, etc. It was the Deuteronomists that changed it. It was the Deuteronomists, before Lehi left, that coined the law called, “the law of Moses.” During the time of Moses it was not the law of Moses that he taught. It was the Law of Elohim.
If we do not know the words of Christ, we too can suffer from the influence of modern Deuteronomists. They make use of a herd mentality, and prey on ignorance. When their logic is questioned, they use zeal to justify it. They’ll quote stories that support their argument. But… they’ll not open the words of Christ. Your only protection is to know God, personally. Joseph Smith knew God, personally. Therefore he could stand. Abinidai did the same. You can too.
We cannot exercise faith unto life and salvation until we have the correct character, perfections, and attributes of God right- in our minds and our hearts. That must be obtained through the words of Christ, then through the heavenly messengers that we are promised would come, and finally by receiving a personal visitation from Christ himself. That is the pre-requisites that Joseph Smith taught was necessary to exercising proper faith unto life and salvation. Then, we can consider our house as being built upon a rock. Then we can know that our treasures are the kind which moth and rust doth not corrupt, nor thieves break through and take away. Our covenant will not come from a man, but will come directly from Christ and God the Father. Then we can obtain the proper faith unto life and salvation Joseph promises us.