My Redeemer Lives!

Jesus is my Savior. I love Him! I wish to take this opportunity, as we near Easter time, to testify of His reality, His divinity, and His majesty. This article will be unlike others I’ve written in the past. I seek to tell the story of the Son of God using scriptural statements almost exclusively. In doing so, I hope to convey not only the reality of His mission to redeem mankind, but something of my tender feelings for Him and His Gospel.

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Jesus Christ is the “firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created. . . . And he is before all things” (Colossians 1:15-17). “I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn,” He has told us (Doctrine and Covenants 93:21). Our world “was made by him” (John 1:10). In fact, “worlds without number” were created, under the Father’s direction, “by the Son” (Moses 1:33).

Before He came to earth as the Redeemer, He sat “on the right hand of the Father” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:24). He was then known by His prophets and His disciples as Jehovah. The mortal Messiah identified Himself as the great “I am” whom Abraham saw, covenanted with, and worshiped (John 8:56-58). Ancient seers proclaimed of this Jehovah: “[T]he Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22). “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).

Speaking of the Lord’s future ministry on earth, holy prophets foretold: “And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary” (Mosiah 3:8). They emphatically prophesied: “[B]ehold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all – for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people” (Alma 7:7).

The earth was made abundantly aware, centuries before it happened, that “God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people” (Mosiah 15:1). Mankind knew that Jesus’ mortal mother would be named Mary, that He would be born near Jerusalem, and that His earthly name would be Jesus. So many evidences existed before the events occurred that one prophet gushed in gratitude: “[T]he Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them” (Mosiah 3:13).

Jesus did come to earth as promised. He was the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and power” (Acts 10:38). He said of Himself: “[T]he Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. . . . to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2). His ministry and purpose was to free, heal, bless, comfort, and save all those who would believe in Him.

A prophet explained His sacred mission this way: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities . . . the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:11-13).

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Another solemnly witnessed: “[T]he Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases. And he shall cast out devils . . . And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. . . . And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the childrne of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him. And he shall rise the third day from the dead” (Mosiah 3:5-7, 9-10).

A prophetic witness foretold: “And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else” (Alma 11:40).

An ancient convert to the Savior joyfully exclaimed: “For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name” (Alma 19:13).

And again, we read these inspired words about the Savior’s Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice: “And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law [of Moses], every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal. And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety . . . therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the eternal plan of redemption” (Alma 34:14-16).

Christ the Lord came to earth “to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name (Alma 9:27). He was and is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Lord “washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). We are, by lineage, the “children of God” and, thus, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17). It is through the Savior’s grace alone, however, that we may become kings and priests unto God and His Father” (Revelation 1:6). “[T]here shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17).

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For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. [Jesus] came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). We “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of god” and are in need of the Savior’s saving grace (Romans 3:23). Jesus is the Great Physician. Christ is the cure. We are “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned” (John 3:15-18).

Did He not promise: “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47)? He figuratively explained that eternal life comes through Him the same as mortal life is sustained by bread: “I am that bread of life. . . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:48, 51).

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:13-14). “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). If we “believe the gospel and rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ, [we will] be glorified through faith in his name, and . . . through [our] repentance [we] might be saved” (Doctrine and Covenants 3:20). “The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants” (Psalm 34:22).

Jesus came to redeem us and to show us the correct path back to our Heavenly home. He has “set the example” before us (2 Nephi 31:9). “And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me” (2 Nephi 31:10). Jesus always leads from the front. He does not ask anyone to do anything He has not already done. Instead, He simply encourages: “[C]ome, follow me” (Luke 18:22). He invites: “Come unto me all ye ends of the earth” (2 Nephi 26:25). And He promises: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

When you come to Jesus, you can say as did Andrew: “We have found the Messias . . . the Christ” (John 1:41). You can repeat with Philip: “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth” (John 1:45). You can exclaim: “[T]hou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49). “Of a truth [He is] the Son of God” (Mathew 14:33).

Jesus stands in Heaven pleading to the God of all in behalf of those who come to Him, believe in Him, and follow Him: “Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified. Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:4-5).

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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 Nephi 25:29). “Behold, they will crucify [Jesus]; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 25:13).

The Lord came to earth to complete the Atonement that we may believe on His name, be forgiven of our sins, and have eternal life through His mercy. He suffered so much “agony” that He “sweat as it were great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). This suffering “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18).

As gut-wrenching as it is, Jesus testified: “And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works” (3 Nephi 27:14). It was the Savior’s mission to be “betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45), to be crucified wherein He would “bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), and “rise from the dead, with healing in his wings” (2 Nephi 25:13).

Jesus is the Master Healer. By virtue of His Atonement, the Lord can extend mercy, healing, and comfort – both spiritually and physically – to those in need. He vowed: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. . . . Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:18). “Fear not to do good, my sons. . . . fear not, little flock” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33-34). “Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours. . . . if ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:15, 30). “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36).

Sometimes, however, when life beats us down, we do doubt, we do fear, and we stumble greatly. We feel so dejected and overwhelmed that we cry: “O my God, my soul is cast down within me” (Psalm 42:6). Fortunately, the Lord quickly responds: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). “[C]all upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee” (Psalm 50:15). It is in these times that we must apply the counsel: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Often, the hard times we are put through have a divine purpose and are little more than Heaven-devised tests to gauge us, humble us, and mold us into better people. These types of tests are ever present when we are generally good people with sincere hearts. “The Lord trieth the righteous” (Psalm 11:5). “For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Proverbs 3:12). He has said that “whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven” (Doctrine and Covenants 95:1). It’s true that “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peacable fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

 

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The Lord never gives us a trial without a way to come through it strengthened and enriched. Peter testified that “the trial of y our faith [is] much more precious than of gold” (1 Peter 1:7). The “salvation of your souls” is the final reward of faithful endurance in the face of trials (1 Peter 1:9). The Lord prefers those who, like Himself, have been refined by trials. “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).

There are times, of course, that trails and catastrophes strike which are not designed or desired by God. “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Because of our agency and free will, people at times reject God’s laws and do horrific things or have terrible things done to them. During these times of tragedy, heartache, violence, and pain, the Lord understands us perfectly. It is through suffering that “we may be also glorified together” with the Lord (Romans 8:17).

Through His Atonement, “he [took] upon him [our] infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor [us] according to [our] infirmities” (Alma 7:11). To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:9). We must “turn unto the Lord [our] God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Joel 2:13). “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9). “He forgetteth not the cry of the humble” (Psalm 9:12). “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

In sunshine or rain, we should recall that the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5). In mortality, He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). Today, He continues to do good. “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. . . . for he doeth that which is good among the children of men . . . and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female . . . all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:24, 33). Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God” (Moroni 7:12).

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Yes, “God hath power to help” (2 Chronicles 25:8). Because the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7) and “knoweth the thoughts of man (Psalm 94:11), He knows us intimately and perfectly. Everything we do is done “under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God” (Jacob 2:10). The Son taught that “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8). He loves us. And He rewards the faithful. Always. “Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:20).

When we need reminded that he God of Heaven really is on our side, we have His words to comfort us: “Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:37). Because He endured and completed the Atonement, and yet stands fully alive because of the power of the resurrection, He demonstrates His supreme power over all other forces. He “is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness” (Alma 7:14). When we look to Him, he saves us.

I will not forget thee,” He promises. “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16). The crucifixion nail marks are forever etched in His perfect hands and feet. Thousands of people on multiple continents did go “forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come” (3 Nephi 11:15). The Lord retains these marks as a perpetual sign that He was “slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14) and that “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:6). His purpose was “to bring salvation unto men” (2 Nephi 2:3). “[H]e hath given [salvation] free for all men” (2 Nephi 26:27). Yes, “salvation is free” (2 Nephi 2:4)!

We have the assurance of Jesus’ continued assistance because we know that “now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). The Lord was “the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). He confirmed: “I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25). No man, He said, had power to take His life, but “I lay it down of myself . . . and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). He gave His life as “a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

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After three days in the tomb, His immortal spirit joined with His resurrected flesh and He became a resurrected Being. He now has a perfected body of “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). Angels announced His resurrection with the unending declaration: “He is not here: for he is risen” (Matthew 28:6).

Because the Savior “destroyed” death (1 Corinthians 15:26), “the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darknened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death” (Mosiah 16:8). I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death” (Hosea 13:14).

Because the Lord abolished death and appointed a time for resurrection: “The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame. . . . And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God” (Alma 40:23, 25). The loved ones we have loved and lost aren’t not gone for long.

That man is eternal and will continue to live after his mortal body returns to the earth is an incredible truth. But as incredible as it seems, it is true. We may know with a perfect knowledge that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the grave that first Easter Sunday to claim His place as the King of kings. We can be so filled with testimony and truth that we can positively declare: “[I]n my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26). We can know the truth because “[Jesus] manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith” (2 Nephi 26:13). “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).

I give my testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. I know He lives. I know He stands as “the keeper of the gate” to Heaven (2 Nephi 9:41) and that “redemption cometh through Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 16:15). “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God” (Exodus 15:2). “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). “Who is a God like unto [Him], that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? . . . he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion on us” (Micah 7:18).

I know and bear witness that: The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust” (Psalm 18:2). “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25). At that day, not too far distant, “every ear shall heart it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess” that Jesus is the Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:104). The whole earth will know and declare that “the Lord is King for ever and ever” (Psalm 10:16). “For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations” (Psalm 22:28). Humanity will finally acknowledge “the majesty of the name of the Lord” (Micah 5:4).

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Yes, I know that my redeemer lives! My witness is of the Holy Spirit and I can declare it independent of any other source. This knowledge is mine. It fills my soul. It gives me strength. It sustains me. It is “my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption . . . yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God. . . . this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever” (Alma 26:36-37).

To hear beautiful messages about Jesus Christ and His ongoing work of redemption, tune in with me on April 4 and 5 to watch General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Or visit https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/general-conference to explore the Conference archives and watch these inspired addresses at your leisure. They are evidence that God continues to love His children and that He still directs us through prophets as He did in former times.

May the Lord bless you and your family. May you draw closer to Him this Easter and remember to thank your Eternal Father in your prayers for the sacrifice and mercy and love of His Son, the Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Zack Strong,

March 29, 2020

His Servants the Prophets

It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets, but it is a greater thing to believe in the living prophets.” – President Marion G. Romney, “Nurture a Testimony,” General Conference, April, 1953.

From the Garden of Eden to the present, God has spoken to mankind through prophets. Whenever our Eternal Father has something significant to convey to His children, He speaks through prophets. Whenever the Lord wants to establish His Church and expound the points of His Gospel, He does so exclusively through prophets. The intention of this article is to explain the signature role of prophets in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to share my personal witness that the Lord speaks to us today through prophets.

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The Bible uncategorically affirms the importance and necessity of prophets. The prophet Amos recorded this wonderful statement:

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

Amos taught that the Lord speaks through prophets. That is His eternal pattern. He uses mediators to deliver His words, to warn of impending judgments, to instruct, and to officiate in essential saving ordinances and covenants like baptism.

Before we go any farther, let’s define what a prophet is. The word prophet comes from the Greek work meaning spokesman, or one who speaks in behalf of. In this case, prophets speak for God. When a prophet is inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so, his words are the equivalent of God’s own words; they are what the Lord wants people to know at that precise moment and are as equally binding upon the hearers as if God Himself was speaking. A true prophet, therefore, is the Lord’s spokesman or mouthpiece.

The Bible Dictionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives us this insight:

The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will . . . He taught men about God’s character . . . He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of the Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller. In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost.” (Bible Dictionary, Prophet”).

A prophet reveals God to his fellows. He reveals the true character and nature of the Being we worship. He helps us know our Father and His Son Jesus Christ – and really knowing Them is “eternal life” (John 17:3). A prophet, like any true friend, helps bring us to Jesus Christ (though ultimately the individual is responsible for receiving his own personal witness, through the Holy Spirit, of the Lord’s divinity). A prophet is also a seer and a revelator and, when it is the Lord’s will, he can reveal future events and authoritatively warn of coming judgments.

What’s more, a prophet is a legal administrator of the essential saving ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is one who possesses authority from the source of all power and authority – God Himself. God’s authority is called the Holy Priesthood. There is a higher (Melchizedek) and a lower (Aaronic or Levitical) Priesthood, but I will refer to them both in a collective sense.

At any given time, the Lord’s prophet is the man chosen and ordained to exercise all the authorities and powers of the Holy Priesthood for all people on earth. He, and he alone, presides over saving ordinances. He can delegate this power to local authorities such as bishops, elders, and priests, just as Jesus delegated His authority to His apostles, but the ultimate presiding authority resides in the man who at any given time is the president of the Holy Priesthood on earth.

It is through the Priesthood channel that revelation for mankind is given. Private individuals are not entitled to receive revelation for mankind (though they can of course receive personal revelation for themselves and their family); but a prophet can receive universal revelation by virtue of his office. In a helpful sermon on the two lines of communication God uses to speak to mankind, the personal and private lines, President Dallin H. Oaks, one of the Lord’s chosen apostolic witnesses in our day, explained:

The priesthood line is the channel by which God has spoken to His children through the scriptures in times past. And it is this line through which He currently speaks through the teachings and counsel of living prophets and apostles and other inspired leaders. This is the way we receive the required ordinances. This is the way we receive calls to service in His Church. His Church is the way and His priesthood is the power through which we are privileged to participate in those cooperative activities that are essential to accomplishing the Lord’s work. These include preaching the gospel, building temples and chapels, and helping the poor.

In respect to this priesthood line, our belief and practice is similar to the insistence of some Christians that authoritative ordinances (sacraments) are essential and must be performed by one authorized and empowered by Jesus Christ (see John 15:16). We believe the same but of course differ with other Christians on how we trace that authority.

Some members or former members of our church fail to recognize the importance of the priesthood line. They underestimate the importance of the Church and its leaders and its programs. Relying entirely on the personal line, they go their own way, purporting to define doctrine and to direct competing organizations contrary to the teachings of prophet-leaders. In this they mirror the modern hostility to what is disparagingly called “organized religion.” Those who reject the need for organized religion reject the work of the Master, who established His Church and its officers in the meridian of time and who reestablished them in modern times” (President Dallin H. Oaks, “Two Lines of Communication,” General Conference, October, 2010).

There have always been those who reject the prophets and the Lord’s organized Church with its formal officers, leaders, ordinances, and doctrines. Yet, in spite of objections throughout the Protestant world, God has always led His people through prophets. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

It should be understood that there is no salvation without ordinances. Yes, it is Jesus Christ who saves us through the mercy which He is capable of extending because of His atoning sacrifice, but He has appointed a pattern which includes ordinances. The ordinance of baptism, for instance, is so essential that the Lord taught:

Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . .

. . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. . . .

. . . Ye must be born again” (John 3:3, 5, 7).

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This teaching ought to dispel the incorrect notion that salvation can come without ordinances because, naturally, there is no salvation outside of the Kingdom of God. This doctrine should cause us to seriously search for the Lord’s legal administrators endowed with the authority to perform such saving ordinances. Again, common sense dictates that no ordinance is recognized by God unless it is performed by His authentic authority.

There are many who say “Lord, Lord,” but not all are in the path of righteousness (Matthew 7:21). Those who hold the Lord’s legitimate authority are members of His Holy Priesthood. They are legal administrators of salvific Gospel ordinances. And only at their hands can saving ordinances be received. This should cement in our minds forever the necessity of prophets.

Prophets are engaged in the work of salvation. They are the laborers in the vineyard of whom the Lord spoke in His parable in Matthew chapter twenty. As such, they are on the Lord’s errand and must work in the Lord’s approved manner and by His authority. Among other things, prophets, as well as all other Priesthood holders in their various offices, were never intended to labor for money. Their time was to be an offering to God. It was to be selfless service with no monetary or worldly reward; only the reward of helping others, doing the right thing, and serving in the mode of the Savior.

Peter instructed his fellow elders in the Priesthood:

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).

Those in the Church who worked for money (i.e. “filthy lucre”) or who worked to make themselves popular like the Jewish Pharisees, were then, and are today, guilty of priestcraft. Priestcraft is not a word used much among most Christians, but it is a perfect description of Christian churches throughout the world – especially the so-called “mega” churches. Additionally, those who sell saving ordinances, or offer forgiveness, in exchange for money are also guilty of priestcraft and are in direct violation of Peter’s words.

In the book of Acts, the Apostle Philip was ministering to the people in Samaria. A magician named Simon saw Philip’s legitimate miracles, such as casting out evil spirits and healing the sick, and temporarily believed the Gospel message. Some of those who had been previously bewitched by Simon were converted and were baptized. Hearing the good news, Peter and John traveled to Samaria and began conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost on the newly baptized members in the correct “laying on of hands” fashion. We then find this exchange between Simon and Peter:

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

. . . thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

Repent therefore of this, thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:5-23).

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As an interesting note of history, this very Simon, Simon Magus or Simon the Sorcerer, later apostatized and became the founder of Gnosticism. The same sin of which he was guilty, which is thinking that God’s ordinances, blessings, gifts, authority, or power can be bought with money, is rampant in Christendom. Forgiveness, let alone the gift of the Holy Ghost or the Holy Priesthood, cannot be purchased with money. Also, the Holy Ghost cannot be conferred on people in any other manner but through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17).

Similarly, no one can claim, of themselves, the right and authority to preach the Gospel or perform ordinances. No true prophet in history has ever called himself to that position. Not one. Not Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Malachi, Jonah, or Peter. A prophet is, rather, called by revelation from God through approved Priesthood channels or by direct manifestation or visitation of God.

This means that every self-appointed pastor, bishop, priest, evangelist, chaplain, reverend, cleric, or minister who created his own church, who invented his own “ministry,” or who was hired the same as any other worker is, rather than being called by revelation through a Priesthood authority, holds no legitimate authority or calling. While there are numerous sincere pastors who work for money, despite the Bible decrying paid a clergy who labor for “filthy lucre,” ultimately these are not called of God and hold no lawful Priesthood administrative authority.

Furthermore, earning a degree in theology does not qualify one for any ministry or calling in Christ’s legitimate Church. Were any of the Savior’s apostles theologians? Not a one of them. They were fishermen and laborers – average folks from the poorest parts of Palestine. For them, preaching the Gospel was not a profession; it was a sacred calling. They did not choose it; the Lord chose them. He said as much:

I am the vine, ye are the branches. . . .

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:5, 16).

This is the pattern for all time and for all prophets. Not one true prophet or legitimate priest/pastor/bishop calls himself to the work. It has simply never happened. Rather he is chosen, through revelation via the proper channels, by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is ordained to his special calling through the Lord’s Priesthood. In the case of the original twelve apostles, the Lord – the true vine – ordained them. Later, these same apostles, via the same Priesthood authority given to them by Jesus Christ, selected and ordained others to fill vacancies in their quorum.

When the apostles needed to fill the void left by Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and gory suicide, they chose two possible candidates. They then “prayed and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen” (Acts 1:20-26). What were the apostles doing? They were, of course, seeking revelation. They did not merely vote and use their flawed human wisdom to select the next apostle. They understood that the Church of Jesus Christ was not their Church – it was the Lord’s and that the Lord alone has the right to call and appoint its leaders. The same is true in our day.

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Isaiah

Some believe that in order to be a prophet or apostle, one must have lived in the days of Christ and have personally witnessed His resurrection. They quote Acts 1:22 for this false belief. That verse, in part, states that a new apostle had to be taken from among the Christian brethren and must be “ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” To believe that prophets and apostles had to have lived only 2,000 years ago is to misunderstand this verse or to deny other relevant scriptures.

The verse in question simply means that the office of an apostle is to bear witness of Jesus Christ. An apostle’s official capacity is as a special witness of the Savior’s life, resurrection, and divinity. It is His Church, after all. Can individuals learn these glorious truths today? Can we, through the Holy Spirit, gain personal testimonies and witnesses of the Savior just as the early Christians did? Yes, we can!

Peter, who walked and talked with the Savior, gained his personal witness through the Spirit and not because of His firsthand knowledge. He did not gain a witness by literally viewing Jesus with his own eyeballs. Speaking of Peter’s witness, Jesus clarified that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17). And since we can today receive a spiritual confirmation of the truth as easily as the apostles could in Christ’s own day, men can presently be ordained to be legitimate apostolic witnesses.

This notion is further verified by a correct understanding of another verse of scripture. It was in the context of Heavenly revelation to Peter that Jesus said “and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The verse does not refer to Peter as the rock, though Peter was the first president of the Lord’s Church and the man authorized by the Lord to receive revelation for the ancient Saints. Rather, revelation from the Lord is the rock upon which the Church of Jesus Christ must be built. And the apostles were sent out as messengers to declare to the world the truths they had learned through personal revelation.

Dr. Hugh Nibley, a brilliant scriptorian, scholar, and professor who mastered fourteen languages and penned numerous books, spoke of the unique station of prophets, and the general antipathy towards their holy work, in his book The World and the Prophets. He wrote:

A prophet is no ordinary person; he makes no ordinary claim; and he does not ask people to believe him, but to test him. God is not authoritarian: He asks no on to believe; but invites the world, as his prophets do, “Prove me herewith.”

When the Lord was upon his earthly mission, he greatly angered and upset men by forcing them to decide whether he was a true prophet or not . . . The Lord insists that we make up our minds one way or another regarding is calling.

. . . a prophet is a witness, not a reformer. Criticism of the world is always implicit in a prophet’s message of repentance, but he is not sent for the purpose of criticizing the world. Men know the world is wicked, and the wickedest often know it best . . . It was not the Sermon on the Mount that drove men to crucify the Lord. It was not for their moral tirades that the prophets of old and the Apostles were stoned . . .

What, then, did Christ and the Apostles do and say that drove men into paroxysms of rage? They performed tangible miracles such as could not be denied, and they reported what they had seen and heart. That was all. It was as witnesses endowed with power form on high that they earned the hatred of the world, of which John speaks so much: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness” (John 3:11). . . .

And as soon as the Apostles said, “We are his witnesses of these things,” the council of the high priests “were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them (Acts 5:32-33; italics added). Again, we are told that the multitude “were cut to the heart” when Stephen accused them of rejecting what had brought “by the dispensation of angels” (Acts 7:53-54). But the last straw was when he had the effrontery to say, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him” (Acts 7:56-58). If Stephen had spent his life, as innumerable philosophers have, denouncing the vices and follies of the age, he might have died peacefully in bed. But those fatal words, “I see,” were his death warrant. And what did Paul say to make the Jews cry out in utter horror: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live,” as “they . . . cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air?” (Acts 22:22-23). What indeed? These were the unforgivable words that made him unfit to live: “Suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest” (Acts 22:6-8). Paul could have won his audience over by speaking as a scholar, but when he bore witness to what he had seen and heard, he was asking for trouble” (Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 12-15).

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The key thing to draw from this excerpt is that a prophet is a man with personal, firsthand knowledge of God – a bold witness who bears his simple testimony of the truth which he personally knows and which he has had confirmed to him by the Holy Spirit. Prophets do not speak from theoretical knowledge or scholarly learning. Rather, they speak from their firsthand experience with their Savior Jesus Christ.

Oftentimes, prophets have face-to-face or visionary encounters with the Lord, as did Paul, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Enoch, Adam, Jeremiah, and others. They frequently hear the voice of the Lord. They see Him in dreams and manifestations. And, more importantly, they all receive spiritual confirmation of the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. No matter how God is revealed to them, they know of His reality, His divine mission, and of the true points of His Gospel. Their task, when called by the Lord to do so, is to share their witness of Jesus Christ.

The book of Acts gives us a wonderful description of a prophet’s role. Peter testified:

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing. . . .

And we are witnesses of all things which he did. . . .

Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly. . . .

And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

To him give all the prophets witness, that through is name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:38-40, 42-43).

All of the prophets who have ever ministered or who ever will minister have testified of Jesus Christ. At times they referred to Him as Jehovah, the Lord, or the Messiah, but it was the Man Jesus, the Son of the Living God, of whom they preached, taught, and bore special witness. As Dr. Nibley observed above, prophets are so hated precisely because they give personal witness and don’t speak theoretically. They force us to make a judgment, either for or against, regarding the veracity of their testimony. And as the scriptures show, correctly discerning the truth of a prophet’s words and aligning ourselves with them makes all the differences.

Artwork by Alex Levin, Israel.

Jeremiah

The existence of prophets in Old Testament times cannot be disputed. But what of the New Testament era and our own modern day? Some claim that prophets were done away with after the resurrected Christ’s Ascension. This is false. I again cite the scripture: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

The Lord very clearly intended that His Church should be guided, as it always had been in former times, by a duly called prophet wielding Priesthood authority. He also established apostles. The word apostle means “one who is sent” or, in other words, a messenger or emissary. A prophet is an apostle as well, just as an apostle is a prophet, but the prophet at any given time heads the body of apostles and presides in the Lord’s Priesthood.

Before His Atonement, the Lord chose Peter, James, and John to be the governing body within the large quorum of twelve apostles. Peter was the ranking and presiding authority among the apostles, or, in other words, the prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul gave us a glimpse into the structure of the Lord’s Church. He wrote:

[Y]e are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

He again explained:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Yet another time, to a different group of Saints, he likewise testified of the different callings and stations in the Church:

For the body is not one member, but many. . . .

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. . . .

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:14, 18, 28).

Paul is clear – the Lord established a Church with a set hierarchy and a neatly organized structure that includes prophets, apostles, elders, priests, teachers, patriarchs, members with spiritual gifts, and so forth. The presiding authority was Peter and, with him, the apostles.

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If Paul’s writings are not authoritative enough, the record shows that the mortal Messiah plainly called twelve apostles, endowing them with Priesthood authority, and established groups of seventy elders to hold office beneath the apostles (Matthew 10:1; Luke 9:1; Luke 10:1). If apostles and prophets were necessary for the Gospel ministry and for the edifying and perfecting of the members of the Lord’s Church two-thousand years ago, are they not also necessary today?

And if they are no longer necessary, as most Christians now believe, when did this start? Where is the formal revelation abolishing the quorum of twelve apostles set up by Christ? Where is the prophetic declaration announcing that the carefully designed structure of the Lord’s Church no longer applies or has been superseded with a better divinely-approved construct? Surely, if the Lord personally set up a Church with apostles and prophets, He intended the system to continue. It appears obvious on the face of it that without these governing bodies and the Priesthood which gave them authority to minister, heal, preach, baptize, and speak in the Lord’s name, there simply is no Church of Christ.

Since history bears out that the quorum of the twelve apostles did not continue past the First Century after Christ, and since the Catholic Church and Protestant organizations deny that prophets and apostles lead Christ’s Church today, we have to ask why. The scriptures have the answer. The Old and New Testaments both warn of an apostasy. Paul predicted a great “falling away” that would occur (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He warned:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

He spoke of Christian apostates as “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Paul in fact said that this apostasy was already beginning during his day. He wrote to the Galatian Church members: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He also noted:

[A]fter my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

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Lehi preaching in Jerusalem, 600 B.C.

Peter, the chief apostle of his day, also foretold of apostasy:

[T]here were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:1-2).

Finally, the Apostle John castigated false teachers and apostate churches in the book of Revelation, naming many of them. He was also given a revelation that condemned “them which say they are apostles, and are not” (Revelation 2:2).

Other New Testament witnesses, including the Lord Himself who talked about a coming age of false prophets (Matthew 24:24), could be appealed to. Even Old Testament prophets like Isaiah who prophesied of a time when “darkness shall cover the earth” (Isaiah 60:2) and the Lord’s followers would “draw near [to the Lord] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour [Him], but have removed their heart far from [Him]” (Isaiah 29:10, 13), could be noted. However, these are sufficient to show that the Bible foretells, quite unmistakably and frequently, of an apostasy. Those who honestly study the history of Christendom are also struck by the palpable reality of this great apostasy and the many changes made to Christ’s Church structure and to His doctrine.

T. Edgar Lyon wrote of these tragic changes to the Lord’s organization in his book Apostasy to Restoration. I excise a passage about the apostleship and what it meant that the apostles were eventually martyred:

As long as the original apostles of Jesus Christ were alive they gave church-wide supervision to His Church. By the close of the first century, however, there appears to be no apostolic leadership in the church. Furthermore, there is no recorded evidence that any plan had been adopted to perpetuate the apostleship or any other type of general church leadership. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 and 12, stated that the apostles and prophets had been placed in the Church of Jesus Christ by Christ Himself, to be His leaders on earth. When they disappeared, the leadership was gone. Without the authority from Christ to lead His Church, no organization could then rightfully be called the Church of Jesus Christ. That an organization survived, is self evident. That it perpetuated for some years some of the fundamental teachings such as faith in God, immersion baptism and belief in the resurrection of true Christianity, no one can deny. That there were sincere believers and dedicated leaders, history testifies. That they considered themselves to be the Church of Jesus Christ, the members affirmed through their faith and suffering. But that it was Christ’s Church, when it was without divine authority, is not in keeping with early Christian understanding” (T. Edgar Lyon, Apostasy to Restoration, 3).

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As I have been attempting to convey, prophets and apostles are absolutely essential to the Church of Jesus Christ. Without them, there is no Church of Christ. Without the Priesthood authority held by correctly called and appointed leaders, no saving ordinances can be properly and lawfully performed. Without a prophet to receive direction for the entire Church, such as when Peter received the revelation that the Gospel was to be taken to the Gentiles (Acts 10), there could be no Church. Without a prophet to speak in Christ’s name, an organization simply cannot be considered His Church.

It is also crystal clear from any honest reading of history that many innovations were made in Church organization and doctrine that did not harmonize with what the Lord had personally made known and which His apostles had expounded in their ministry. In fact, these changes harmonized with popular paganism at the time, such as Mithraism. A modern prophet of the Lord put it this way:

Notwithstanding, the disciples of Jesus, excepting John the Revelator, suffered ignominious deaths, they sowed the seed of the Gospel among, and conferred the Priesthood upon men, which remained for several generations upon the earth, but the time came when Paganism was engrafted into Christianity, and at last Christianity was converted into Paganism rather than converting the Pagans. And subsequently the Priesthood was taken from among men, this authority was recalled into the heavens, and the world was left without the Priesthood—without the power of God—without the Church and Kingdom of God” (President Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22, 44, February 6, 1881).

As sad as this idea is, and as offensive as it may be to some sincere Christians, it is nevertheless an historically and scripturally substantiated truth. The Great Apostasy did occur and most of the world is still covered by darkness. Key doctrines were changed, such as the mode of baptism, how the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred, the importance of marriage, how Church leaders are called, the nature of God, and so forth. In particular, the Nicene Creed and other church counsels presided over by uninspired men transformed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into a monstrous three-in-one creation not found in the Bible.

On the essential doctrine of the nature of God, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained the apostate idea compare to the scriptural truth:

In the year A.D. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to addressamong other thingsthe growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creedsand others to come over the centuriesdeclared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, immanent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.

We agree with our critics on at least that pointthat such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. With such a confusing definition of God being imposed upon the church, little wonder that a fourth-century monk cried out, “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me, … and I know not whom to adore or to address.” How are we to trust, love, worship, to say nothing of strive to be like, One who is incomprehensible and unknowable? What of Jesus’s prayer to His Father in Heaven that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”?

It is not our purpose to demean any person’s belief nor the doctrine of any religion. We extend to all the same respect for their doctrine that we are asking for ours. (That, too, is an article of our faith.) But if one says we are not Christians because we do not hold a fourth- or fifth-century view of the Godhead, then what of those first Christian Saints, many of whom were eyewitnesses of the living Christ, who did not hold such a view either?

We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings, noting such unequivocal illustrations as the Savior’s great Intercessory Prayer just mentioned, His baptism at the hands of John, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the martyrdom of Stephento name just four” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” General Conference, October, 2007).

I quote this seeming aside for two reasons. First, the fact that the early Christians could not understand the nature of God and had so much contention on the issue illustrates their fallen condition. As sincere as they no doubt were, they lacked prophetic guidance and did not have the benefit of the Priesthood line of communication.

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Second, the confusion regarding the nature of our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ could never have happened in a Church where a living prophet presided and spoke on behalf of the Lord. Again, the fact that this issue literally shattered Christendom into pieces, with each side excommunicating, excoriating, and persecuting the other, demonstrates their lack of prophetic leadership and proves the reality of the Great Apostasy foretold in the New Testament.

The careful Bible reader will readily acknowledge that the Old Testament records numerous periods of time – sometimes spanning hundreds of years apiece – when the Lord’s ancient people devolved into a state of apostasy in which He revoked His Priesthood authority and ceased calling prophets to lead them. After each period of darkness, however, the Lord called new prophets. He always appeared to the first new prophet in a personal visitation to inaugurate the new Gospel dispensation. There are at least six Gospel dispensations recorded in the Bible. The founding prophets of each dispensation are: Adam; Enoch; Noah; Abraham; Moses; and Jesus Christ.

Each of these men is extraordinary, even among prophets. The Lord is the ultimate Prophet. It was He, as Jehovah, who personally called Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses to head up new dispensations. He gave these wonderful men Priesthood authority to officiate in saving ordinances, additional revelations to add to past revelations from former dispensations, and new instructions adapted to their specific circumstances. This is the pattern for opening a new Gospel dispensation. The Lord followed this identical pattern in modern times when He initiated what is the final Gospel dispensation, the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times (Ephesians 1:10).

One of the hopeful messages of the Holy Bible is that the night of dark apostasy long foreseen would be shattered by the revelation of further Gospel light at a future day. The ancient prophet Ezekiel, peering prophetically through time, spoke of a day when the scriptural record of the Jews would be joined with another scriptural record written by Israelites from the tribes of Joseph. Together, these equally true records would constitute the holy scriptures and be “one” in the Lord’s hands:

[T]ake one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:

And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. . . .

Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand” (Ezekiel 37:16-17, 19).

Isaiah referred to a future day in which “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2).

Micah similarly prophesied of the future establishment of the Lord’s Kingdom, or Zion:

[I]n the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.

And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the claw shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2).

Isaiah specifically spoke of the Great Apostasy and followed it up by foretelling of a latter-day Restoration of the Lord’s Church, which he called a “marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14).

Peter spoke of “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).

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The Savior also said that before His Second Coming in glory: “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matthew 17:11).

And, perhaps most convincingly of all, the Apostle John prophesied of an angel who would once more bring the Gospel to mankind:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6).

Isn’t it curious that the Apostle John foretold of a day when there would be a need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be delivered to mankind once again by angels? Most Christians believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been on the earth for two-thousand years and does not stand in need of being restored, yet this contradicts John’s prophesy. There would simply be no need of an angelic minister to give the Gospel to those who already had it. When we factor in the reality of the Great Apostasy, however, we understand the significance of John’s prophesy.

In 1820, almost two-hundred years ago to the month, the prophesied Restoration of the “everlasting gospel” commenced in New York state when a fourteen-year-old man named Joseph Smith went into a small thicket of trees to pray to God to know which of all the competing churches was His one true Church. I invite you to read my article “Joseph Smith – Praise to the Man” for more about this wonderful servant of the Lord. Suffice it to say that because of his simple faith and sincere prayer, he received a divine manifestation of the Father and the Son. Brother Joseph later recounted:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

. . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

. . . I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof”” (Joseph Smith – History 1:16-19).

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This marvelous manifestation, eclipsing even Abraham’s and Moses’ manifestations in its grandeur, inaugurated what we call the Restoration of the Gospel. Joseph Smith was told by the Lord that he was to be an instrument in His hands to bring the truth back to the world. In due time, in direct fulfillment of John’s writings, an angel named Moroni appeared to tutor Joseph Smith in Heavenly things and inform him of the record of the tribes of Joseph which Ezekiel spoke of. With the power of God, Joseph Smith translated this divine record. It is today called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and is used in conjunction with the Bible to bring people to the Savior.

John the Baptist, as well as Peter, James, and John, appeared to Joseph Smith and others to restore the Holy Priesthood. Other angelic ministers, Moses and Elijah to name only two, appeared to give their Priesthood authorities and keys to Joseph Smith. Eventually, the Lord’s house – that is, His holy temple – was built once again. Not surprisingly, the chief of these modern temples sits today in the top of the mountains as foreseen by the Biblical prophets.

On April 6, 1830, the Lord’s Church was formally restored to the earth again as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Saints suffered extreme persecution. They were driven from state to state, murdered by mobs, and had an extermination order placed upon them by Governor Boggs of Missouri. In 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot to death by a ravenous mob while unjustly imprisoned in Illinois. Their spilled blood served as their final testimony of the truthfulness of the Restoration.

Yet, because it was not Joseph Smith’s church, but in actual fact the Church of Jesus Christ, it survived and has flourished and expanded throughout the globe at a miraculous pace. It is still led today by a prophet and a council of twelve apostles. It contains within it not only prophets and apostles, but also the quorums of seventy established by Jesus, the teachers and elders spoken of by Paul, and the gifts, authorities, and powers that always accompany the legitimate Priesthood authority of the Master. On every point of comparison in doctrine, structure, and origin between the Lord’s Church established in the Bible and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is a beautiful harmony that powerfully touches the honest seeker of truth.

To these claims of new revelations, new scripture, new prophets, and a divinely-restored Church of Jesus Christ, the world is emphatically opposed. I bear my personal witness, given to me by the Holy Spirit, however, that it is the truth. These events fulfill the prophecies of Biblical prophets. The Everlasting Gospel has indeed been restored to the earth!

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Whenever the Lord gives new light, Satan intensifies his disinformation campaign. He sends false prophets to oppose the real ones. He disperses false dogmas to compete with revealed truth. He establishes counterfeit priesthoods to the real Priesthood. He erects alluring churches to draw people away from the true Church of Jesus Christ. And he inspires wicked people to persecute the Lord’s prophets.

President Brigham Young, the successor prophet to Joseph Smith, warned of Satan’s counterfeits to the restored Church of Jesus Christ:

If true principles are revealed from heaven to men, and if there are angels, and there is a possibility of their communicating to the human family, always look for an opposite power, an evil power, to give manifestations also: look out for the counterfeit.

There is evil in the world, and there is also good. Was there ever a counterfeit without a true coin? No. Is there communication from God? Yes. From holy angels? Yes; and we have been proclaiming these facts during nearly thirty years. Are there any communications from evil spirits? Yes; and the Devil is making the people believe very strongly in revelations from the spirit world. This is called spiritualism” (President Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, 240, September 1, 1859).

Another modern apostle, the brilliant Bruce R. McConkie, wrote of those who reject the Lord’s light:

In the very nature of things, persecution of true prophets includes the acceptance of false prophets. It is a philosophical impossibility to reject truth without accepting error, to depart from true teachers without cleaving to false ones, to reject the Lord’s ministers without giving allegiance to those who follow the other Master” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 37).

It is the Lord’s modern prophets, however, which Christendom declares “false.” They cite Paul’s warning: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any bother gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). This claim falls flat, however, when you honestly study the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ and that revealed in modern times and realize how stunningly consistent they are. It is also out of harmony with John’s prophesy that an angel will restore the Everlasting Gospel to mankind.

We should at least have one thing clear in our minds: “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). He therefore cannot be the God of the various religions of the world, including Protestantism. For all its merits, two of the fundamental Protestant creeds are: 1) That it doesn’t matter which church a person belongs to because one’s personal relationship with Christ is all that matters; and 2) there can be no prophets or hierarchy because each individual can commune directly with God and needs no mediator. As I have demonstrated earlier, these notions are unBiblical, wrong, and are contradicted by the words of Peter, John, Paul, and other New Testament writers.

The Apostle Paul also noted that universal revelation is not subject to private interpretation. There must be an interpreter who proclaims the will of the Almighty. Imagine if there was no hierarchy and no order. It would be mass confusion with everyone claiming to speak for God, yet offering different interpretations of doctrine and proposing differing policies.

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The current First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles in the visitor center at the Rome, Italy Temple

As He did anciently, God has again called prophets to act as His spokesmen, to teach correct doctrine, to expose falsehoods, to shine light on humanity, and to bring people to Jesus Christ. It is our challenge today to listen to these humble prophets. I say “challenge” because it is generally harder to listen to a living, breathing prophet in your own land than to an ancient Hebrew prophet long since dead. The same Elder McConkie cited above wrote:

The real test of one’s beliefs is not how much he purports to believe of what the dead prophets have said, but what he accepts from the lips of the living oracles of the same God who inspired those of old. Salvation comes through belief in the doctrines taught by the true disciples sent as legal administrators in our day. Needless to say, their teachings conform to those of their ancient fellowservants; in addition, modern disciples have the present power to perform the ordinances of salvation so they will be binding on earth and in heaven” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 27-28.

Ezra Taft Benson, whom I’m fond of quoting in my writings, penned a stirring testimony of the revealed Gospel. As one of the Lord’s modern apostolic witnesses, his words take on added meaning. He declared:

The world has generally revered the ancient dead prophets and rejected the living ones. It was so with Joseph Smith. Truth is often on the scaffold, error on the throne. But time is on the side of truth, for truth is eternal. The message of Mormonism is a world message. It is the truth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a world organization.

The message of Joseph Smith – the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the message of Mormonism – is the most important message in the world. And Joseph Smith the Prophet, who lives today, continues to have an important part in its direction here on earth.

The Church is a world organization – the true Church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in its fulness – and is intended to bless all of our Father’s children. These things I know, and to them I bear humble witness.

God lives, Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world, with his latter-day base of operations here in America, and Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of the living God.

This is my witness and testimony to all the world” (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, 40-41).

Yes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is again on the earth in its bright fulness! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by prophets – men called of God by revelation and anointed via the Holy Priesthood to their positions. These prophets have come from many walks of life, yet they are all selected by the same Lord and they all bear witness of His divinity.

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Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John

One of the Lord’s recent apostles gave us this insight into the type of people called to preside in the Lord’s Church:

What is a living prophet? His age? He may be young or old. He need not wear a tunic nor carry a shepherd’s staff. His physical features are not important. A prophet need not have advanced educational degrees nor come from any special social class. He may be rich or poor. He needs no credentials from men.

What is it, then, that qualifies a man to be a prophet?

Foremost, God must choose him as his prophet! . . . .

A prophet, then, is the authorized representative of the Lord. While the world may not recognize him, the important requirement is that God speaks through him. A prophet is a teacher. He receives revelations from the Lord. These may be new truths or explanations of truths already received.

It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets. Many people do. For some mysterious reason there is an aura of credibility about them. It is not so with the prophet who lives among us, who must meet life’s everyday challenges. But it is a great thing to believe in the living prophets. Our salvation is contingent upon our belief in a living prophet and adherence to his word. He alone has the right to revelation for the whole Church. His words, above those of any other man, ought to be esteemed and considered by the Church as well as by the world. One day this truth will be understood” (Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, “What Is a Living Prophet?Ensign, July, 1973).

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President Russell M. Nelson

The man who has been called today by Jesus Christ to lead His Church and to speak on His behalf is Russell M. Nelson. This great servant of the Almighty was recently called “Moses in a business suit” by University of Virginia religious studies professor Kathleen Flake. He has been called by others a “Renaissance Man.” President Nelson is a ninety-five-year-old man of wisdom, experience, and boundless energy. A father of ten children, a world-renowned heart surgeon, a speaker of six languages, an author, and a world traveler who has met with presidents, popes, and kings, he would be a wonderful choice to head any organization. However, far more importantly than his worldly laurels, he has been called of God and he bears emphatic testimony of our Redeemer Jesus Christ. President Nelson is the man of the hour for the world, the chief apostle, the mortal captain of the Church of Jesus Christ.

I bear testimony that the Lord has called prophets in the modern age. From my head to my feet, I know without a doubt, through the Holy Ghost, that prophets walk the earth today and speak for the Lord! I know President Nelson is an inspired man and that the apostles who serve at his side are special witnesses of Jesus who have been endowed with the Holy Priesthood. It is also my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ will never again fall into apostasy. To bolster this important point, I appeal to a statement by one of the most brilliant of the Lord’s modern prophets:

Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.

An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be. . . .

Now, brethren, these things are true. The Lord is with his people. The cause of righteousness shall prevail. Our cause is just, and the Lord will guide and direct us and bring us off triumphant in the end.

I testify that if we shall look to the First Presidency and follow their counsel and direction, no power on earth can stay or change our course as a church, and as individuals we shall gain peace in this life and be inheritors of eternal glory in the world to come. And I say this to you, my good brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” General Conference, April, 1974).

In an address titled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” Ezra Taft Benson gave us these accompanying truths:

The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore the most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each month in our Church Magazines. Our instructions about what we should do for each six months are found in the General Conference addresses which are printed in the Church magazine.

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Beware of those who would set up the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence. . . .

. . . it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. “Even in the Church,” said President Kimball, “many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterdays prophets and mentally stone the living ones.” (Instructor, 95:527.)

Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or worry about their own affairs. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on. . . .

There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelation of God and reasoning of menbetween the prophet and the professor.”

President Benson also added this wide counsel which each of us should apply to ourselves:

How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness. . . .

If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captainhow close do our lives harmonize with the Lord’s anointedthe living ProphetPresident of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” BYU Address, February 26, 1980).

Each person in the world who hears the proposition that God has again sent prophets to teach and lead mankind must make a decision whether it is true or false. That decision will largely determine his or her standing before God. Remember that prophets, when inspired by the Holy Spirit, speak for God. To reject a true prophet is to reject the true God. To accept a true prophet is to accept the true God.

Every six months, the prophet and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather in what is called General Conference to give talks on Gospel doctrine. They speak of the Lord, His Atonement and resurrection, His divinity and perfection, His right of Kingship over the earth, and the reality that He is returning to His earth sooner than later. They speak of the central importance of families and marriage to our Heavenly Father’s great Plan of Salvation. They speak of specific points of doctrine, whether it be baptism, prayer, scripture study, and so forth. I have never gone away from a Conference without feeling uplifted, strengthened, and more committed to follow Jesus Christ.

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This April 4 and 5 will be the next General Conference of the Savior’s Church. His prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, will preside and address the world. Living apostles will speak and share their testimonies and instruct the humble Saints of God throughout the earth. I invite you, dear reader, to tune in and prayerfully watch the broadcasts. Listen to the Holy Spirit and see what He prompts you to do about the messages. Investigate the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints and read The Book of Mormon. You will be uplifted and inspired if you do so. If you are reading this article after April 4 and 5, fear not, the Church has a massive archive system housing the General Conference addresses of the past fifty years on its website https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/

The Lord Jesus Christ is shining light into the world at an increasing rate. The Devil is also belching out mists of darkness at an unprecedented pace. We must stay close to the Spirit, hold to the commandments, walk on the covenant path the Savior walked, and bind ourselves to God’s will if we are to survive these days. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone – the Lord has given us living prophets to show us the way to our Redeemer.

Jesus is the light and life of the world. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the One who presides over the earth and the One who shows His prophets how to direct mankind for their benefit. If we wish to come to Jesus, we must first come to His prophet, who at this time is President Russell M. Nelson. It is he who holds the keys of presidency in the Holy Priesthood. It is at his authorization that local missionaries and authorities can baptize us into the Lord’s Church, confer upon us the gift of the Holy Ghost, and initiate us into higher saving ordinances – such as the ordinance of eternal marriage – in the Lord’s temples. What a blessing!

I close this article with my witness of Jesus Christ and His servants. Jesus Christ died for our sins. He bled and suffered and died so that you and I could repent, improve, and eventually receive exaltation in our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom. We are the literal sons and daughters of our Eternal Father and Jesus is our Elder Brother and Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. They love us with a familial bond and wish the best for us. They love us more than we can fathom; more than we love ourselves or our dearest relatives. Out of this great love, the Lord has sent prophets into the world in our day. Of this I testify with all my heart and invite you to investigate my claims for yourself.

Go to the Father in prayer and ask Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether or not this is true. If you are humble and prepared to act on any revelation you might receive, you will receive it. And then you will know for yourself, independent of all other sources, and in the face of opposition and mockery, that Jesus lives and that prophets also live and speak in His holy name.

I close with a statement from President Russell M. Nelson, the Lord’s prophet, which I encourage everyone to read and heed:

Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.

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I bless you to raise your voice in testimony, as I do now, that we are engaged in the work of Almighty God! Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church, which He directs through His anointed servants. I so testify, with my expression of love for each of you, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On,” General Conference, April, 2018).

Zack Strong,

March 19, 2020

Silence is Complicity

The Nineteenth Century British philosopher John Stuart Mill, whose socialist political ideology I generally find abhorrent, proved correct the adage that “even a broken clock is right twice a day” when he stated:

Let not anyone pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject” (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address to the University of St. Andrews, February 1, 1867).

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Mill put into words a concept of tremendous relevance to people of all ages; namely, that we have a moral duty to speak out against wrongs regardless of where they are committed, who commits them, or if they impact us directly. To look on as evil is being perpetrated on others is itself evil. Neutrality is a phantom. Indifference is a sin. And silence is complicity.

Each person is born into mortality “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There is no right bestowed by nature without a correlating duty or responsibility being likewise conferred. The right of life, for instance, does not grant us the privilege of living selfishly for ourselves alone with zero regard for the well-being of others in the society. We do in fact have duties and obligations towards others.

We are not our brother’s keeper in the sense that it is our job to take care of everyone in socialist cradle-to-grave fashion. No one owes us a living. No one is obligated to subsidize our existence out of their own pocket. We are not entitled to anything at the expense of others. Simply, it is not the state’s job to provide for you, to give you health care, to educate your children, to give you a house, or to provide “free” services that you could otherwise provide for yourself through your individual industry.

However, we all belong to the same human family and we have an obligation to ensure that our brothers and sisters enjoy an equal chance to live and breathe and work out their lives in the pursuit of happiness, greatness, and salvation. We have a duty to see to it that each member of society is treated fairly, that each is protected in their rights, that each receives the dignity due a son or daughter of God, and that each is equal in the eyes of the law.

It is particularly true that we each have a duty to protect not only our own God-given rights, but the natural rights of all other individuals in the community. To sit silently while your neighbor has his rights violated by the government or the collective community is as if you violated them yourself. While I don’t favor so-called Good Samaritan laws which operate on the principle of compulsion, the example of the Savior Jesus Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan is instructive.

You may recall from your Bible study that the Samaritans were mostly descendants of pagan foreigners deliberately planted in Palestine by the Assyrian conquerors as a way of undermining Israelite societal cohesion and power. Some Samaritans also intermarried with Israelites and worshiped Jehovah, though their claims to religious fellowship were rejected by the supremacist Jews, creating antagonism between the two groups.

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Jesus’ parable begins with an important exchange. The Master asked a lawyer what he believed the most important commandment was. The lawyer responded:

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).

The Lord confirmed his response, to which the lawyer asked the follow-up question: “And who is my neighbour”? (Luke 10:29) Jesus answered with a parable about a man traveling along a dangerous road. The man was attacked, robbed, and left on the brink of death. Along came a Jewish priest who saw the man, crossed to the other side of the path, and continued on his way without helping. Yet another Jewish religionist saw the man, ignored him, and passed by on the other side of the road. However, a Samaritan – one of those whom the Jews hated so badly – came across the wounded man and “had compassion on him.” He dressed his wounds and took him to an inn, pledging to pay for whatever care he needed during his recovery (Luke 10:30-35).

When He finished his story, Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three passersby was a true neighbor to the wounded man. The lawyer responded, of course, that the merciful Samaritan, though a hated foreigner and outcast in the Jewish mind, was the real neighbor to the man in need. The Savior said simply, and perhaps with a bit of a rebuke: “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).

Jesus’ words apply to you and to me. Though we are under no legal obligation to give our neighbors charity, we should nonetheless be charitable. What’s more, we are to protect others from abuse when it is within our power and to help them receive justice when they have been wronged. Society at large – and society is comprised of individuals like you – has a responsibility to ensure that the natural rights of each member are secured and that justice is exacted when violations occur. Otherwise, there is no point in joining together in a community.

As implied by the parable given by our Redeemer, Christians ought to be the first people to stand up against injustice, error, and despotism. The oppressed, abused, and violated should be able to rely on the support of their Christian neighbors. The weak and defenseless should likewise be able to count on the unflinching assistance of the true follower of Jesus Christ.

Oftentimes when people think of that humble Man from Nazareth, they think of a weak or compliant Individual who always turned the other cheek and submitted to evil. But how accurate is this image? Does Christ really expect us to submit to injustice? Does He want us to kow-tow to government regardless of whether the actions of that government are immoral? And, perhaps more poignantly, during His mortal life did He behave in the passive manner that some Christians today believe we should exemplify?

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In an April 1917 sermon, the Christian leader Charles W. Penrose spoke of the Savior’s personality and His stance on resisting evil. He stated:

True, Jesus Christ taught that non-resistance, was right and praiseworthy and a duty under certain circumstances and conditions; but just look at him when he went into the temple, when he made that scourge of thongs, when he turned out the money-changers and kicked over their tables and told them to get out of the house of the Lord! “My house is a house of prayer,” he said, “but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Get out of here! Hear him crying, “Woe unto you Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and then ye make him ten-fold more the child of hell than he was before.” That was the other side of the spirit of Jesus. Jesus was no milksop. He was not to be trampled under foot. He was ready to submit when the time came for his martyrdom, and he was to be nailed on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, but he was ready at any time to stand up for his rights like a man. He is not only called “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” but also “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” and He will be seen to be terrible by and by to his enemies.

Now while we are not particularly required to pattern after the “lion” side of his character unless it becomes necessary, the Lord does not expect us to submit to be trodden under foot by our enemies and never resist. The Lord does not want us to inculcate the spirit of war nor the spirit of bloodshed. In fact he has commanded us not to shed blood, but there are times and seasons, as we can find in the history of the world, in Bible and the Book of Mormon, when it is justified and right and proper and the duty of men to go forth in the defense of their homes and their families and maintain their privileges and rights by force of arms. . . .

. . . Does the Lord permit the shedding of blood and justify it? Yes, sometimes he does. Was not the war of independence of this country justifiable? Were not the rights and privileges of the people of this land trampled under foot, and did they not rise in their might and the God of Battles strengthen their arms and they went forth to victory and brought liberty, not only to themselves and their immediate families, but to hosts of people from down-trodden Europe who are rejoicing today under the Stars and Stripes with liberty of conscience and liberty of speech and liberty of action within proper guidance and direction of righteous law. These principles are to go forth to all flesh. Don’t you forget it. The time will come when they will be carried to all the nations of the earth and they will be delivered from tyrants and oppressors” (President Charles W. Penrose, Conference Report, April, 1917, 19-20).

I love the line “Jesus was no milksop.” Google defines a “milksop” as “a person who is indecisive and lacks courage.” Synonyms include “coward,” “snowflake,” “pansy,” “wimp,” and “weakling.” No, Jesus was no coward. He was not a weakling. He was certainly not politically correct or in need of “safe spaces” like today’s “snowflakes.”

Rather, Jesus was full of passion. After He cleansed the temple the first time, John recorded: “And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17). Jesus was a zealot for righteousness. No one has ever made a firmer stand for truth, justice, and goodness. Our Lord was strong and resolute and fearless in the face of maniacal mobs, the machinations of government leaders, and centuries of stubborn precedent. He brimmed with courage, honor, virtue, leadership, and decisiveness. He was a true man in every good sense of the word.

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We are meant to pattern our life after our Savior. He stood unshakable before vicious detractors and in spite of constant persecution. His principles were constant and immovable. He immediately helped those in need, deliberately violating commonly accepted, albeit utterly incorrect, religious traditions in the process. He bodily hurled the money-changers from the temple more than once. He was a Man of action, a Man of passion, and a Man of perfect honor. If we are to to be like Christ, we must be the same type of individuals.

When we see our fellow men groaning under oppression, what is our reaction? Are we pained? Are we indifferent? Do we yearn to help? Do we sit by and ignore the situation? Our reaction to injustice, atrocities, and evil tells a lot about us. And again I repeat: Silence is complicity.

The fiery freeman Thomas Paine explained that part of our duty as patriots is to defend others, even those we dislike, when we see them suffer injustices and abuse:

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself” (Thomas Paine, Dissertation on First-Principles of Government, 32).

If we do not stand up and challenge wrongs at least verbally when they happen, we enable future wrongs and embolden perpetrators. Those same wrongs may one day knock on our door. And if we have not stood in defense of others and done our utmost to defend them and redress the violations of their Liberty, can we honestly expect them to stand up for us when are on the receiving end of tyranny’s kiss?

For instance, if we, as a society, sit idly by as one segment of the populations butchers babies and murders the unborn, how can we expect others to rush to our aid when we are threatened? Babies are the most defenseless, helpless, and innocent among us. If we can permit them to be slaughtered to the ungodly tune of 70-90 million in the past five decades, we don’t have a prayer of justice prevailing in our land. Infanticide – the negation and violation of the fundamental right of life – is simply unconscionable and incompatible with a moral people and a civil, ordered society.

Yes, even our enemies deserve to have their rights secured and safeguarded. If we do not allow them to speak (excepting those like avowed communists who breathe out threatenings against our Faith, Families, and Freedom and who intend to enslave us under a global dictatorship, thereby forfeiting their rights), we should not expect to be allowed to speak either. Criminals also deserve to be treated with dignity and due process, even though our sense of humanity cannot overrule our sense of justice. If we turn a blind eye and deaf ear to human suffering, how can we escape such suffering ourselves? Eventually, that which we allow to happen to others will happen to us.

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In 2019, one of my favorite guitarists and musicians, Daron Malakian, released a characteristically quirky song for his band Scars on Broadway titled “Angry Guru.” The catchphrase of the track states: “Silence leads to violence.” This is an accurate statement. The silence of good people emboldens criminals, thugs, liars, bullies, and tyrants. Silence leads to deception, coercion, and even genocide. Silence encourages inaction, thereby allowed committed enemies of humanity to do their work with little opposition.

In order for evil to gain a foothold in a society, it requires the silence of the majority. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the famed Russian writer who spent time as a slave in Stalin’s GULAG, later recalled that if the Russian people would have dared to speak out and take a stand against the Bolshevik occupiers, communism could have never conquered and maintained control in Russia. With remorse, he wrote:

And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you’d be cracking the skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the Black Maria sitting out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur – what if it had been driven off or its tires spiked? The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!

If . . . if . . . We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation. We spent ourselves in one unrestrained outburst in 1917, and then we hurried to submit. We submitted with pleasure! . . . We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 13).

The Russian people were the victims of an invasion by a foreign clique of anti-Christ gangsters. These predominately Jewish thugs brutalized their way to power, plundering, torturing, enslaving, raping, and murdering everyone in their way. The only real opposition to their Satanic schemes came in the Russian Civil War that began with the communist coup d’etat in 1917. As soon as the Bolsheviks began to gain ground, the Russian people “hurried to submit” to their iron-fisted rule as they had done under the tsars for centuries. If more than a handful of Russians had spoken out and stood up in defense of their rights, they could have rebuffed and driven out the communist cabal. Tragically, their slavish conditioning was too great and the communists prevailed.

Solzhenitsyn said that the Russian people deserved what they got because of their inaction and silence. Does a silent, and, therefore complicit, nation really deserve the horrors of tyranny? Perhaps so. Alexander Hamilton similarly stated:

Moderation in every nation is a virtue. In weak or young nations, it is often wise to take every chance by patience and address to divert hostility and in this view to hold parley with insult and injury—but to capitulate with oppression, rather to surrender at discretion to it is in any nation that has any power of resistance as foolish as it contemptible. The honor of a nation is its life. Deliberately to abandon it is to commit an act of political suicide . . . The Nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a Master and deserves one” (Alexander Hamilton, Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, February 21, 1797).

A nation not prepared for just war and whose citizens are not prepared to put their own lives on the line to defend their Faith, Families, and Freedom, cannot possibly maintain their civilization. A people so cowed and cowardly that they will sheepishly endure abuses is a people without honor. It is tantamount to national suicide to silently witness evil. Silence is in actual fact complicity.

silence1

I now share a poignant warning from the great Ezra Taft Benson. His words were spoken in 1968, but they’re even more applicable now. He proclaimed:

Great nations are never conquered from outside unless they are rotten inside. Our greatest national problem today is erosion, not the erosion of the soil, but erosion of the national morality – erosion of traditional enforcement of law and order. . . .

Those of us conscious of the seriousness of the situation must act, and act now. It has been said that it takes something spectacular to get folks excited, like a burning house. Nobody notices one that is simply decaying. But in America today we not only have decaying but burning before our very eyes. How much we need hearts today who will respond to the inspiring words of the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier:

““Where’s the manly spirit

Of the true-hearted and the unshackled gone?

Sons of old freemen, do we inherit their name alone?

Is the old Pilgrim spirit quenched within us?

Stoops the proud manhood of our souls so low,

That Mammon’s lure or Party’s wile can win us to silence now?

Now, when our land to ruin’s brink is verging,

In God’s name let us speak while there is time;

Now, when the padlocks for our lips are forging,

Silence is crime”” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Americans Are Destroying America,” General Conference, April, 1968).

What kind of individuals will we be? What kind of society do we want to live in? Do we prefer to live in a spineless nation of people who turn a blind eye to suffering and injustice or do we want to live in a society of stalwart patriots who rush to our aid at the first sign of oppression, harassment, or abuse? Will we be full of valor, virtue, honor, and manliness? Or will we shrink from the fight, stop our ears, cross to the other side of the road, and ignore the plight of our countrymen? The choice is ours, but we already know the outcome if we choose to remain silent like sheep.

We ought to be men and women in the mold of our Master, Jesus Christ. We should help others, show compassion, advocate truth, denounce error, dare to rebuff false teachers and tyrants, and cast the money-changers – both figurative and literal – from our hearts, communities, and nations. In this age of rising oppression, our voices should be raised loud and strong against wickedness and evil.

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We can never be guilty of silence in the face of advancing evil – the stakes are too high. If we are silent, we are complicit. If we close our mouths when others need an advocate, our cries will be met with deafening silence when the jackboot of tyranny forces them from our lips. We cannot afford to be silent. We must speak. We must fight. We must win this war. Failure is not an option. Inaction is unacceptable. And silence is complicity. Be silent no more.

Zack Strong,

March 1, 2020

The Book of Mormon Speaks of Freedom

Freedom is a topic that we all have a pressing need to study and master. The human spirit innately craves Liberty and personal accountability, yet few times in history have people been able to attain and then maintain their rights. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which you can read about in my previous article, is a volume of inspired scripture that speaks first and foremost of the divine mission of Jesus Christ and calls upon all people to worship Him. An important secondary mission of The Book of Mormon, however, is to teach us the correct principles of Liberty, expose Satan’s Freedom-destroying schemes, and show what is required for a people to maintain their God-given rights under a free government.

Captain Moroni13

Because it helps us identify the Devil’s tyrannical tactics and teaches us true principles of self-government, The Book of Mormon is the ultimate handbook of Freedom. While there is not much by way of exposition about the principles of Liberty, we see them in action in the lives and experiences of the Nephite nation. For the first five-hundred years of their history, the Nephites lived under a system of kings. The final king, a God-fearing man named Mosiah, decided to abolish the monarchical system and encouraged the Nephite people to take upon themselves responsibilities, rights, and privileges of self-government.

While contemplating the future of his people, Mosiah made a proclamation wherein he explained the dangers posed by monarchy. The foremost problem he identified was factionalism. Those vying for the position of king could easily divide the nation and cause senseless civil war. What’s more, a wicked king would be unstoppable by any means other than bloodshed. With this context in mind, we read a few lines from Mosiah’s proclamation:

And now let us be wise and look forward to these things, and do that which will make for the peace of this people.

. . . let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our laws; and we will newly arrange the affairs of this people, for we will appoint wise men to be judges, that will judge this people according to the commandments of God.

Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just. . . .

Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you.

For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction! . . . .

And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.

For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareath up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God;

And he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness.

And now behold I say unto you, it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you.

Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.

Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law – to do y our business by the voice of the people.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon them. . . .

And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and inquities they shall be answered upon their own heads. . . .

. . . I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike” (Mosiah 29:10-12, 16-17, 21-27, 30, 32).

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The Nephite kingdom being conferred on Mosiah by his father, King Benjamin

It should be noted before I proceed with my commentary that Mosiah was not merely a king, but also an inspired Christian prophet. The Holy Spirit therefore moved upon him to formulate a new government that was pleasing to the Lord and compatible with His Gospel.

Mosiah was emphatic that men could not be trusted with the power of kingship. He knew that an unstable or immoral king could cause havoc throughout the land. He was worried that a king would amend the good laws that had been handed down for generations, instituting in their place corrupt laws that would permit sin, punish righteousness, and trample individual Liberty.

Instead of monarchy, Mosiah desired that the Nephite people take upon themselves the responsibility for administering the government. He believed that the people should “do [their] business by the voice of the people.” Note that he did not advocate for pure democracy. Rather, he suggested a system of rule of law with judges selected by the people who would enforce the law. It was, thus, a representative government very similar to that set up in the United States under the Constitution. Just as Mosiah said the law had been given to the Nephites’ forefathers by God, so, too, do I witness that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by Almighty God.

In a portion of Mosiah’s declaration that I did not cited, he made it clear that judges who did not judge “according to the law” could be taken and judged by other judged and removed from their posts (Mosiah 29:28-29). He also verified that the judges were accountable “to the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:29). The similarities to the system set forth in the U.S. Constitution are too vivid to ignore.

Just as Mosiah said not to place trust in men but instead to make men accountable to the law, the great Thomas Jefferson advised: “In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution” (Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolutions, draft, 1798).

Thomas Paine was obviously in tune with the same patriotic spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17). In 1776, he explained:

[I]n America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the Crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.

A government of our own is our natural right” (Thomas Paine, Common Sense).

Just as the American Founding Fathers established a government based on the rule of law, individual Liberty, and accountability, so, too, did the Nephites set up a free government in ancient America. When Mosiah presented his plan to the Nephite people, they were thrilled with the prospect of governing themselves. The scripture recounts:

And now it came to pass, after king Mosiah had sent these things forth among the people they were convinced of the truth of his words.

Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.

Therefore, it came to pass that they assembled themselves together in bodies throughout the land, to cast in their voices concerning who should be their judges, to judge them according to the law which had been given; and they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them” (Mosiah 29:37-39).

The Nephites became enamored with the idea of governing themselves and placing this huge responsibility on their own shoulders. They embraced the idea of rule of law and self-governance. The laws that Mosiah gave “were acknowledged by the people; therefore they were obliged to abide by the laws” (Alma 1:1). This is similar to the concept espoused by George Washington when he said:

The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).

The people supported Mosiah’s plan, accepted the laws he proposed, and thus bound themselves to obey the established system of self-rule. As noted, the people were generally ecstatic to have the chance to determine their own futures. Mosiah made it plain that maintaining such a system would require great exertion. Self-government is indeed the most demanding form of government. It requires individuals to be informed, to make decisions, to be accountable, and to live in accordance with moral principles.

In 1938, Elder Albert Bowen, a modern apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of self-government. He said:

Self-government involves self-control, self-discipline, and acceptance of the most unremitting obedience to correct principles. . . .

No other form of government requires so high a degree of individual morality” (Elder Albert E. Bowen, Improvement Era, 1938, 41).

Founding Fathers1

The Founding Fathers of the United States were emphatic in their warnings that only a virtuous people is capable of Freedom. It takes no virtue or excellence to be ruled and enslaved, but it takes a high degree of greatness, personal discipline, and exertion to be free. Because our Founding Fathers’ Freedom philosophy dovetails so nicely with the principles preached by Mosiah and other Book of Mormon figures to be cited later, I present a brief smattering of their thoughts on the connection between morality and Liberty.

My ancestor, Caleb Strong, is one of those forgotten Founding Fathers. He was an intimate associate of John Adams and helped him write the constitution for Massachusetts. He filled many positions during the War for Independence. He attended the Constitutional Convention and was the man who successfully proposed that all money bills originate in the House of Representatives. He served as the first senator from Massachusetts and, later, as governor of that state for eleven years. Mr. Strong made this observation:

Almost every nation, at some period of their existence, have enjoyed the privileges of a free State; but how few have preserved them! – they have been lost by the inconstancy of the citizens, or forfeited by their vices. . . .

. . . Government is necessary, to preserve the public peace, the persons and property of individuals; but our social happiness must chiefly depend upon other causes; upon simplicity and purity of manners; upon the education that we give our children; upon a steady adherence to the customs and institutions of our ancestors; upon the general diffusion of knowledge, and the prevalence of piety and benevolent affections among the people.

Our forms of government, are, doubtless, like all other institutions, imperfect; but they will secure the blessings of freedom to the citizens, and preserve their tranquility, as long as they are virtuous; and no constitution, that has been, or can be formed, will secure those blessings to a depraved and vicious people” (Caleb Strong, speech to the Massachusetts Legislature, January 17, 1806).

John Adams similarly believed:

The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies” (John Adams to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776).

In a more famous quotation, John Adams, then the president, wrote:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (John Adams to the Massachusetts Militia, October 11, 1798).

John Witherspoon, the fiery Revolutionary era minister, gave us this gem:

Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue. On the other hand, when the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigor, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed” (John Witherspoon, “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Man,” May 17, 1776).

Benjamin Franklin also subscribed to this philosophy, writing:

[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters” (Benjamin Franklin to Abbes Chalut and Arnoux, April 17, 1787).

George Washington by Tim Davis

In his Farewell Address, which ought to be required reading in every part of our Republic, President George Washington took up the subject of morality and religion in a free country and proclaimed:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).

Finally, George Washington stated simply but unequivocally: “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society” (George Washington to the Protestant Clergy of Philadelphia, March 3, 1797).

The Founding Fathers believed that the American People could only maintain their hard-won Freedom if they were virtuous and lived in accordance with the laws of God. Anciently, Mosiah believed the same thing and established his system of judges and laws in such a manner that required the Nephite people to be righteous in order for them to work. The Nephites consented to this state of affairs and gladly took upon themselves the burden and blessing of self-government. This history contextualizes the most iconic struggles for Liberty related in The Book of Mormon.

The first struggle came only five years after the system of judges had gone into effect. A man name Amlici, who is described as “being a very cunning man, yea, a wise man as to the wisdom of the world” sought to be king (Alma 2:1). Amlici was an anti-Christian zealot who belonged to a sect called the order of Nehors which attempted to impose itself upon the rest of society. We read in the record that Christians and all who loved their Liberty were alarmed at Amlici’s desire to become a king. They knew that “according to their law” all such matters “must be established by the voice of the people” and that “if it were possible that Amlici should gain the voice of the people, he, being a wicked man, would deprive them of their rights and privileges of the church; for it was his intent to destroy the church of God” (Alma 2:3-4).

As time went on, Amlici successfully courted a large number of people “and they began to endeavor to establish Amlici to be a king over the people” (Alma 2:2). Whether they joined him because they were not accustomed to their newfound Freedom, or because they found self-government too demanding, or whether they were also opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ and wanted the strong arm of government to suppress it, Amlici’s followers became so numerous that they forced a vote to decide whether or not their government would be abolished.

We read what happened next:

And it came to pass that the people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute and wonderful contentions one with another.

And thus they did assemble themselves together to cast in their voices concerning the matter; and they were laid before the judges.

And it came to pass that the voice of the people came against Amlici, that he was not made king over the people.

Now this did cause much joy in the hearts of those who were against him; but Amlici did stir up those who were in his favor to anger against those who were not in his favor.

And it came to pass that they gathered themselves together, and did consecrate Amlici to be their king.

Now when Amlici was made king over them he commanded them that they should take up arms against their brethren; and this he did that he might subject them to him” (Alma 2:5-10).

Amlici’s rebellion fulfilled Mosiah’s earlier warnings to a T. Recall that Mosiah warned that “ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.” The Nephites were compelled to fight a sanguinary civil war all because one very wicked man sought for power over his countrymen and sought to dictate how they should live worship.

The Book of Mormon16

Amlici’s forces, being outnumbered by those who desired Freedom, were quickly defeated. However, Amlici ran to the Nephites’ rivals, the Lamanites, for assistance. The Lamanites routinely watched and waited for opportunities to subjugate the Nephites. A civil war was the perfect opportunity to strike. They joined forces with Amlici and the remainder of his men and waged war against the Nephites.

The Book of Mormon recounts that the ensuing battle was fierce but that “the Nephites being strengthened by the hand of the Lord, having prayed mightily to him that he would deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, therefore the Lord did hear their cries, and did strengthen them, and the Lamanites and the Amlicites did fall before them” (Alma 2:28).

After the brief but devastating war, the Nephites went back to the work of self-government. Their peace did not last long, however, because there are always those who seek for power over others.

Eighteen years after the “reign of judges” began, we learn of a great warrior named Captain Moroni. Moroni appeared on the scene at a time when the fledgling Nephite republic was again beginning to fracture. A segment of society, led by those of high birth who thought themselves above their fellows, wanted to revert back to the rule of kings. This faction was referred to as “king-men.” The opposing faction took upon themselves the name “freemen” and was determined to maintain their system of self-government at all costs.

This war of ideas came at a precarious time. It came as the aforementioned Lamanites, were again mobilizing for war. The Lamanites were encouraged, as before, by Nephite dissenters. In particular, a group calling themselves Zoramites “began to mix with the Lamanites and to stir them up also to anger” so much so that they “began to make preparations for war” (Alma 35:10-11). The anger stemmed from a difference in religion, the Zoramites and Lamanites denying the Christian Gospel preached by Nephite prophets, but was ultimately aimed at subjugating the independent Nephites once and for all.

At age twenty-five, Captain Moroni was appointed as head of the Nephite army. Moroni, a brilliant tactician and a man inspired by Almighty God, won the initial battles against the Lamanite-Zoramite armies and the latter retreated to regroup and devise a new strategy. During this tense period of war preparations, and as Captain Moroni was occupied fortifying the land in anticipation of the coming onslaught, the seditious king-men seized their chance.

The king-men were led by a singularly devious man named Amalickiah. Amalickiah, as Amlici before him, hated the Gospel of Jesus Christ and wanted to destroy the Church of Christ. He also lusted for power and wanted to eviscerate the Nephites’ Freedom. The Book of Mormon speaks of him and his followers in this way:

And it came to pass that as many as would not hearken to the words of Helaman [the prophet] and his brethren were gathered together against their brethren.

And now behold, they were exceedingly wroth, insomuch that they were determined to slay them.

Now the leader of those who were wroth against their brethren was a large and a strong man; and his name was Amalickiah.

And Amalickiah was desirous to be a king; and those people who were wroth were also desirous that he should be their king; and they were the greater part of them the lower judges of the land, and they were desirous for power.

And they had been led by the flatteries of Amalickiah, that if they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people. . . .

Yea, we see that Amalickiah, because he was a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land for the righteous’ sake” (Alma 46:1-5, 10).

Captain Moroni12

Amalickiah and his elitist, anti-Christian hordes rose up to challenge the Nephites. They openly sought to destroy the government, impose a monarchy over the land, and sweep away the Christians. Captain Moroni, a Christian and a fierce Freedom Fighter, would have none of it. The sacred record tells us:

And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.

And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it – In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children – and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily to his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land. . . .

And he said: Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions.

And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing . . . and crying with a loud voice, saying:

Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God” (Alma 46:11-13, 18-21).

Moroni ordered that his Title of Liberty be published throughout all the land. With the stirring slogan “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children,” Captain Moroni rallied the Nephites against Amalickiah. He inspired them to stand up and be counted. He roused them to rise in defense of their Faith, Families, and Freedom.

Captain Moroni4

When Captain Moroni had rallied the people to his standard, he marched against Amalickiah to put an end to his machinations. When they saw Moroni coming, many of Amalickiah’s people became “doubtful concerning the justice of the cause in which they had undertaken” (Alma 46:29). Amalickiah, fearing capture, took a small group of followers, including his brother Ammoron, and fled to the Lamanites. Moroni sent his men to apprehend Amalickiah because “he knew that he would stir up the Lamanites to anger against them and cause them to come to battle against them; and this he knew that Amalickiah would do that he might obtain his purposes” (Alma 46:30).

Unfortunately, Amalickiah escaped. Most of his followers, however, were captured. We read:

And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.

And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites” (Alma 46:35-36).

The immediate threat of civil war was eliminated. However, as Moroni predicted, and in a fascinating story of trickery and treachery that I will not recount here, Amalickiah gained control over the Lamanite army, had his men murder the Lamanite king, and installed himself as monarch. His first command as king, unsurprisingly, was to launch a war of subjugation against the Nephites.

The Book of Mormon gives us this interesting passage about the interim period before the war began in earnest and about the type of man and leader Captain Moroni was:

Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God. . . .

And thus he was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians.

And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.

Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even tot he shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.

And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land. . . .

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:7, 10-15, 17).

Captain Moroni exemplified what it means to be a patriot. He was the ultimate freeman. He has an honored place in the Freedom Fighter Hall of Fame. His Herculean struggle for his people earned him eternal glory. And he was the epitome of the “Christian soldier” marching “with the cross of Jesus” (Hymn No. 246, “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

We have an analog to Captain Moroni in our own history. General George Washington was such a man of similar stature. He was also a strong and mighty individual, a man with a brilliant mind, a patriot who worked for the welfare of his country, and a deeply devout Christian. Just as Moroni bowed himself to the earth and supplicated the Lord for assistance, General Washington relied upon the Lord during the Revolution. At the outset of that struggle, he wrote:

No Man has a more perfect Reliance on the all-wise, and powerful dispensations of the Supreme Being than I have nor thinks his aid more necessary” (George Washington to William Gordon, May 13, 1776).

Captain Moroni16

The righteous portion of the Nephites were well-grounded in just principles. They knew that conquest was wrong. They knew that the Lord only supports taking the sword in self-defense and to fulfill His divine purposes. Similarly, early Americans abhorred aggressive war and only shouldered their muskets when the British monarchists came to disarm and enslave them. Thomas Jefferson observed:

If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest” (Thomas Jefferson to William Short, July 28, 1791).

The Americans’ War for Independence was a defensive action against modern-day king-men. Our People, like the Nephites, fought a war for their very survival. We had General Washington and the Nephites had Captain Moroni. And as the Nephites rent their coats as a token that they would serve God and thereby receive His protection, so, too, did modern Americans declare their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” When you recognize the parallels between ancient and recent history, and recognize that we are today passing through a similar period of division centering on religion and Liberty, The Book of Mormon becomes all the more relevant and useful.

We return to Captain Moroni’s story. Eventually, King Amalickiah’s Lamanite forces invaded Nephite territory. Moroni had cleverly fortified every city throughout the land (the ruins of those impressive forts can be found throughout the heartland of America) and the initial thrusts were repulsed. Amalickiah “was exceedingly wroth, and he did curse God, and also Moroni, swearing with an oath that he would drink his blood” (Alma 49:27). Amalickiah restrategized and, approximately five years later, personally led a new invasion.

This invasion happened as yet another group of Nephites attempted to break away and the society was rife with division. The Book of Mormon gives a commentary about those who caused the new contentions:

Therefore, those who were desirous that the law should be altered were angry with [the newly-elected chief judge Pahoran], and desired that he should no longer be chief judge over the land; therefore there arose a warm dispute concerning the matter. . . .

And it came to pass that those who were desirous that Pahoran should be dethroned from the judgment-seat were called king-men, for they were desirous that the law should be altered in a manner to overthrow the free government and to establish a king over the land.

And those who were desirous that Pahoran should remain chief judge over the land took upon them the name of freemen; and thus was the division among them, for the freemen had sworn or covenanted to maintain their rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government.

And it came to pass that this matter of their contention was settled by the voice of the people. And it came to pass that the voice of the people came in favor of the freemen, and Pahoran retained the judgment-seat, which caused much rejoicing among the brethren of Pahoran and also many of the people of liberty, who also put the king-men to silence, that they durst not oppose but were obliged to maintain the cause of freedom.

Now those who were in favor of kings were those of high birth, and they sought to be kinds; and they were supported by those who sought power and authority over the people” (Alma 51:4-8).

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This division and infighting happened at the exact time that Amalickiah attacked. So bitter were the king-men that they had been thwarted yet again by the freemen that when they knew the Lamanites had invaded “they refused to take up arms, for they were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with the people of liberty, that they would not take up arms to defend their country” (Alma 51:13).

We read that when Captain Moroni was apprised of the king-men’s sedition, he was “exceedingly wroth because of the stubbornness of those people whom he had labored with so much diligence to preserve; yea, he was exceedingly wroth; his soul was filled with anger against them” (Alma 51:14). Moroni was forced to withdraw his troops from their defensive positions to deal with the king-men problem first. The record states that “he sent a petition, with the voice of the people, unto the governor of the land” requesting power “to compel those dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death” (Alma 51:15).

The Book of Mormon attests that Moroni was so concerned because such sedition “had been hitherto a cause of all their destruction” (Alma 51:16). The Captain’s petition was granted and he “commanded that his army should go against those king-men, to pull down their pride and their nobility and level them with the earth, or they should take up arms and support the cause of liberty” (Alma 51:17).

The same king-men who refused to lift their weapons to defend their country nevertheless drew the sword to fight against their countrymen. Moroni’s disciplined men were victorious, however, and the king-men were killed, imprisoned, or “compelled to hoist the title of liberty upon their towers, and in their cities, and to take up arms in defence of their country” (Alma 51:20). Though he did not entirely wipe out the monarchical ideology, Moroni successfully destroyed the king-men as an organization. “[T]hey were brought down to humble themselves like unto their brethren, and to fight valiantly for their freedom from bondage” (Alma 51:21).

During the chaos, Amalickiah was able to capture a number of Nephite cities. He would have continued cutting his way through the land, but a commander named Teancum was dispatched to stop him, which he successfully did because his men were “great warriors; for every man of Teancum did exceed the Lamanites in their strength and in their skill of war” (Alma 51:31). Being repulsed after a hard day of fighting, Amalickiah camped for the night. Teancum, however, wanted to end the war as quickly as possible. He crept into the Lamanite camp, found Amalickiah as he slept, and “put a javelin to his heart,” thus ending Amalickiah’s evil reign (Alma 51:33-36).

The war did not end as Teancum had hoped, however. Amalickiah’s brother Ammoron ascended to the throne and intensified the conflagration, besieging all parts of the land. The war raged for years with both victories and setbacks for the Nephites. I leave you to read about the specific battles and strategy in the book of Alma in The Book of Mormon. I jump to the concluding episode of the war.

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Though the king-men were no longer called by that name, enough people maintained the elitist philosophy to be a major impediment to the war effort. Near the end of the war, Moroni and other commanders stopped receiving sufficient supplies of men and food. Moroni began to suspect that a faction existed within the government which sought their defeat. “Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country” (Alma 59:13). He wrote a bristling epistle that everyone should read in full. I draw a few noteworthy excerpts from its contents – lines which equally apply to those traitors who infest our own government today.

Speaking to the “the chief judge and the governor over the land, and also to all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war,” Moroni chided:

Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you? Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your brethren –

Yea, even they who have looked up to you for protection, yeah, have placed you in a situation that ye might have succored them. . . .

. . . many have fought and bled out their lives because of their great desires which they had for the welfare of this people; yea, and this they have done when they were about to perish with hunger, because of your exceedingly great neglect towards them.

. . . ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance; yea, for known unto God were all their cries, and all their sufferings. . . .

. . . had it not been for the war which broke out among ourselves; yea, were it not for these king-men, who caused so much bloodshed among ourselves; yea, at the time we were contending among ourselves, if we had united our strength as we hitherto have done; yea, had it not been for the desire of power and authority which those king-men had over us; had they been true tot he cause of our freedom, and united with us, and gone forth against our enemies, instead of taking up their swords against us, which was the cause of so much bloodshed among ourselves; yea, if we had gone forth against them in the strength of the Lord, we should have dispersed our enemies. . . .

But behold, now the Lamanites are coming upon us, taking possession of our lands, and they are murdering our people with the sword, yea, our women and our children, and also carrying them away captive, causing them that they should suffer all manner of afflictions, and this because of the great wickedness of those who are seeking for power and authority, yea, even those king-men.

But why should I say much concerning this matter? For we know not but what ye yourselves are seeking for authority. We know not but what ye are also traitors to your country. . . .

Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.

And now, except ye do repent of that which ye have done, and begin to be up and doing . . . behold it will be expedient that we content no more with the Lamanites until we have first cleansed our inward vessel, yea, even the great head of our government.

And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom. . . .

. . . I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct.

Yea, behold I do not fear your power nor your authority, but it is my God whom I fear; and it is according to his commandments that I do take my sword to defend the cause of my country, and it is because of your iniquity that we have suffered so much loss.

Behold it is time, yea, the time is now at hand, that except ye do bestir yourselves in the defence of your country and your little ones, the sword of justice doth hang over you. . . .

Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country” (Alma 60:1, 7-10, 16-18, 23-25, 27-29, 36).

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Captain Moroni was a man of such integrity, sincerity, and passion that he would move Heaven and earth to fulfill his covenants, defend his country, and secure his people’s Freedom. He knew that there is a price to be paid for Liberty and that everyone must pay it. He further understood that a divided nation is easily conquered, but a united one is difficult to destroy. He chided the government for its neglect and singled out those whose desire was power as traitors to their country. As patriots in all ages have done, he put his own neck on the line in denouncing tyrants and advocating Freedom. He was willing to challenge even his own government when that government was wrong. Such was the integrity of Captain Moroni.

In response to Moroni’s epistle, the chief judge Pahoran responded that he stood firmly with the freemen but that a faction had “risen up in rebellion against me, and also those of my people who are freemen” (Alma 61:3). It was this group of power-hungry autocrats who took over the capital, drove the legitimate government out, and stopped the supply of provisions to Moroni’s armies. They went so far as to appoint a king and entered into an alliance with the Lamanites. Part of Pahoran’s letter to Moroni reads:

I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free. . . .

Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God” (Alma 61:9, 14).

Upon receiving news of the insurrection and Pahoran’s continued faithfulness, Captain Moroni took a part of his army and marched to Pahoran. Together, they put down the rebellion in the capital and then turned their sights toward the Lamanite invaders. With the cancer of rebellion finally in remission and the Nephites unified under Captain Moroni’s banner, the Nephites swept the Lamanites before them. They drove the Lamanites, led by King Ammoron, to the edge of their land and prepared for a final fight.

At this juncture, Teancum again appears in the story. Recall that Teancum had previously snuck into the Lamanite camp and killed Amalickiah. As the Lamanites camped, Teancum attempted a repeat of his earlier feat. This time, however, Ammoron was able to alert his guards before dying. The Lamanite guards chased Teancum and killed him, ending the life of one of the greatest Nephite Freedom Fighters.

We are told that when Moroni and the other commanders learned of his death, “they were exceedingly sorrowful” (Alma 62:37). The Book of Mormon pays great tribute to this warrior. Teancum’s memorial is one that I have always striven for. On my tombstone, I hope it is said of me what was written and said of Teancum:

[B]ehold, he had been a man who had fought valiantly for his country, yea, a true friend to liberty” (Alma 62:37).

The day following Teancum’s tragic death, Captain Moroni’s armies drove the Lamanites out of their land, ending that phase of senseless war. Once the fortifications had been built up again, Moroni resigned his post and retired to his home, much the same way George Washington resigned his generalship after the War for Independence and took his rest at Mount Vernon.

The times of war and struggle recorded in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ give us clear examples of what Freedom is, what it takes to maintain, and what type of threats we should be on guard against. In the first place, we learn that a free government is one in which the “voice of the people” is prominent. However, unlike a pure democracy where the mob rules, a truly free government is based on the rule of law. Nephite law was originally revealed from God and accorded with the commandments. The government was not a theocracy, but the laws were just and inspired.

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Similarly, the U.S. Constitution is an inspired document that promotes the power of the People tempered by just laws. It is part of my religion that the Lord established the Constitution. In modern times, our Lord has referred to “the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77).

In a parallel to Mosiah’s wish that the Nephites practice self-government so that every the people’s sins may “be answered upon their own heads,” the Lord further stated that He established the U.S. Constitution so that every person may act “according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78).

The Savior continued by saying that “it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:79-80).

Elsewhere, the Lord has revealed:

And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting the principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:5).

Finally, the Lord has said, regarding government, that “whatsoever is more or less” than the holy principles of the Constitution “cometh of evil” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:5-7).

The Nephite example captures these principles and shows them in action. The Nephite people lived under an inspired system of self-rule that involved just laws which protected individual Liberty. The society consented to follow these laws and maintain their collective privileges and individual rights. They understood that the individual is accountable to God for his behavior and must shoulder the responsibility of exercising his moral agency correctly.

We also see that judges, comparable to elected representatives today, were appointed not to dictate, but to enforce the law. They were strictly accountable to the voting public and could be removed from their posts if they failed to uphold the law. Even this removal process was not a knee-jerk thing, but a procedure codified in the law similar the way modern impeachments are heavily regulated and should never be based on majority ire.

As Nephite history shows, when a small group of people try to exercise their power to overrule the accepted law in order force their point of view or lifestyle on the majority, contention and warfare often result. We also see that when people become detached from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and consumed with anger toward that which is good, even the results of a popular election can’t stop their agitation. People in this situation are prone to violence – even civil war. Nothing but the firmness of freemen can stop king-men, insurrectionists, and revolutionaries from destroying the Liberty of a nation. At times, good men who love Liberty and who cherish peace must fight to maintain them and to defend their families.

The salient points to understand from the history of Nephite government, then, are these: That ordered Liberty is the ideal; that Liberty and law go hand in hand; that political power springs from the People; that government representatives are accountable to the public; that the People are accountable to God for their actions in relation to government; and that self-rule is vastly superior to monarchy.

Furthermore, in the example of the power-hungry king-men, we see that lust for control leads to bitterness, treason, contention, and bloodshed. We see that evil yet persuasive men like Amlici and Amalickiah have the power to upend society, overthrow governments, and destroy Liberty unless the People are vigilant and humble themselves before God, relying upon His deliverance. We also learn that tyrants motivated by a lust for power are inherently weaker than people motivated by their love of God, Freedom, and country.

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And in the story of Captain Moroni and the freemen, we see the qualities a free people must possess. First, we note that the greatest Freedom Fighters and patriots are those who bow the knee to the King of kings, Jesus Christ. Next, we learn that unity is key to any endeavor. A unified society can do great things, but a divided nation is bound to fail. Third, we see that a real leader, a man like Moroni, is one that is full of passion and sincerity, a person who drives on toward his goal regardless of opposition, and a selfless servant who willingly gives his time, talents, and everything he possesses to noble causes, such as the cause of Freedom.

In our day of rampant confusion where personal Liberty is on the wane and the forces of Satanic communism are on the rise, which I discuss at length in my upcoming article “The Book of Mormon Speaks of Conspiracy,” the lessons contained in the pages of The Book of Mormon are absolutely priceless. We can gain badly needed wisdom from Mosiah, courage from the freemen, and inspiration from Captain Moroni, Teancum, and Pahoran. We can be motivated by knowing that another free people who lived on this American continent went through the same struggles we’re passing through today and that they prevailed with the Lord’s help. The Book of Mormon lets us know that we are not alone in our quest for Liberty, that Freedom is worth fighting for, and that every sacrifice for our Faith, Families, and Freedom is not only worth it, but is needed and remembered.

Finally, The Book of Mormon informs those of us who inhabit the same land that the Nephites inhabited, this Promised Land of America, this shining city on a hill, the future Zion of God, that we are under special obligations. If we meet our obligations faithfully, we have special promises extended to us. An ancient prophet, speaking to you and me, told us that America is a covenant land – a special land blessed above all others. He spoke of this land as “the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.” He then explained:

And he had sworn in his wrath . . . that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.

And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.

For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.

And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.

Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written” (Ether 2:7-12).

From this passage, we learn that America is a Promised Land – a covenant land. The covenant is that those who live in America will serve Jesus Christ or they will be destroyed. If they serve the Lord, He has promised that we will “be free from bondage, and captivity, and from all other nations under heaven.” Almighty God has decreed that America shall be inhabited by a righteous, Christian people and no other.

The prophet Nephi, the namesake of the Nephite nation, saw a vision of the discovery and founding of America by a Christian people that carried the Bible with them. He saw that they would fight and win a war for their Independence. He prophesied that they would gain the land for their inheritance because they would humble themselves before their Maker. And, because of their humility, the Lord would prosper and protect them, saving them from all hostile nations. Nephi wrote:

And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

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And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone forth out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.

And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?

And I said unto him: I know not.

And he said: . . . The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord which he hath made unto the house of Israel . . . wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 13:14-19).

The Lord has presided over the history of America from the beginning. It was He who brought the Nephites here and it was He who brought our own forefathers to this land. It was the Lord who protected and delivered the Americans out of Europe’s iron grip. His miraculous power was on display to such a high degree during the War for Independence that George Washington was compelled to write:

The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations” (George Washington to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778).

America is the Lord’s base of operations. It is His land. He protects it. And He requires that those who are privileged to live here worship Him. When we do, His power is poured out in our behalf.

Another Nephite prophet named Jacob similarly prophesied about this special land. His prophecies deal specifically with our day. He foretold:

But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land.

And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.

And I will fortify this land against all other nations.

And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.

For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words” (2 Nephi 10:10-14).

As before, we see that America is a covenant land where the people are expected to serve Jesus Christ, the rightful King of America. If they do, they will be blessed and protected against all other nations. Anyone who attempts to establish a king over this land and thereby abolish the system of Freedom and self-rule established by the Lord via the Constitution “shall perish.” We have a great need as Americans to internalize these promises and humble ourselves before the Redeemer.

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The Bible contains similar promises of a general nature. In the Old Testament, we read:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Isaiah also told the House of Israel that if they repent and become obedient to God’s laws, they will “eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19). Also, if they repent and “put away the evil” from among them, the Lord “will restore [their] judges as at first, and [their] counsellors as at the beginning” (Isaiah 1:16, 26). These promises are only made to the penitent, however, just as the promises in The Book of Mormon are extended only to the righteous.

Lastly, the Bible tells us that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). And so it is.

The Book of Mormon is immeasurably valuable for many reasons, not least of which is that it speaks of Freedom. It shows us what Freedom is and how to maintain it. It gives us examples of correct principles in action. It shows the innate power possessed by the People and the frailty of tyrants. It inspires us to rely upon the Lord and go forward in His power to defend our Faith, Families, and Freedom. Because of its poignant examples, such as the story of Captain Moroni and the Nephite freemen, The Book of Mormon is the ultimate handbook of Freedom.

This sacred volume of scripture also is important to Americans because it speaks specifically to them. It informs them of the covenant they are under by virtue of living in this land. It tells them that they must repent and worship the Lord Jesus Christ. It states rather clearly that the Lord is the King of America and that His law is our legitimate law.

Dear reader, The Book of Mormon is the word of the Lord equal to the Bible. These two divine witnesses belong together. They confirm each other. They both fervently testify of Jesus Christ. Together, they abolish false doctrines, dispel myths, and confirm the truth. And as one they prove that only a righteous and virtuous people, a people that trusts in the Lord, and people that humbles itself, is capable of the Freedom and blessing of self-government.

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Let us raise our own Title of Liberty in our own lives and wherever we have influence. Let us rise in defense of our Faith, Families, and Freedom. Let us exalt God, our Freedom, and the Constitution. Men, be men. Step forward to safeguard your wives and children, your families, and your homes. We are under unrelenting attack we need all hands on deck. Do your duty, stand firm, submit to the Lord’s laws, uphold the Constitution He established, and then trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to defend our land against tyrants.

May the Lord bless you, my fellow patriot. May all who come to the Lord in sincerity be electrified and given the power to stand firm through tribulation. May the Lord bless all those who faithfully share the thrilling stories found in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. May Almighty God prosper people like Darin Southam who are attempting to inspire freemen everywhere through the remarkable history of Captain Moroni. And may we live so that it may be one day said of us that we were true friends to Liberty. I close with my testimony, which I have from the Holy Ghost and cannot deny, that The Book of Mormon is true and that it speaks of Freedom.

Zack Strong,

February 27, 2020

The Book of Mormon Speaks of Christ

Many people have heard of The Book of Mormon, but most do not know what it is or what it says. At best, most folks have heard negative rumors about it from their pastor, the internet, or popular culture. Yet, they have never taken the time to study its words and learn for themselves what it says. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I maintain that The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is an inspired book of scripture to be read alongside the Bible. It is a holy book that speaks of Jesus Christ and encourages us to look to Him alone for salvation. I devote this article to bearing my personal testimony of The Book of Mormon’s witness of Jesus Christ.

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Before discussing The Book of Mormon, let’s talk about the Bible. What is the Bible? The name “Bible” comes from the Latin word biblia, and its Greek counterpart, meaning “the books.” It is a collection of writings by inspired prophets and apostles throughout the ages of time. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called “Mormons,” believe that the Bible is God’s word and that it testifies of our Savior Jesus Christ.

In 2007, President M. Russell Ballard, one of the ranking leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a talk titled “The Miracle of the Holy Bible.” He cleared up some of the misconceptions about our beliefs when he explained:

It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all, it is a wonderful miracle that we have the account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus, which was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we may have it today.

It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior.

The Holy Bible is well named. It is holy because it teaches truth, holy because it warms us with its spirit, holy because it teaches us to know God and understand His dealings with men, and holy because it testifies throughout its pages of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .

How grateful we should be for the Holy Bible. In it we learn not only of the life and teachings and doctrines of Christ, we learn of His Church and of His priesthood and of the organization which He established and named the Church of Jesus Christ in those former days. We believe in that Church, and we believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that same Church, restored to earth, complete, with the same organization and the same priesthood.

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Without the Bible, we would not know of His Church then, nor would we have the fulness of His gospel now.

I love the Bible, its teachings, its lessons, and its spirit. I love the Old Testament’s compelling, profound stories and its great prophets testifying of the coming of Christ. I love the New Testament’s apostolic travels and miracles and the letters of Paul. Most of all, I love its eyewitness accounts of the words and the example and the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. I love the perspective and peace that come from reading the Bible.

Brothers and sisters, I am sure many of you have had the experience of hearing people say that “Mormons are not Christians because they have their own Bible, the Book of Mormon.” To anyone harboring this misconception, we say that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and the author of our salvation and that we believe, revere, and love the Holy Bible. We do have additional sacred scripture, including the Book of Mormon, but it supports the Bible, never substituting for it. . . .

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). We love the Bible and other scriptures. That may be surprising to some who may not be aware of our belief in the Bible as the revealed word of God. It is one of the pillars of our faith, a powerful witness of the Savior and of Christ’s ongoing influence in the lives of those who worship and follow Him.” (President M. Russell Ballard, “The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” General Conference, April, 2007).

The Bible is, above all else, an inspired witness of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in and witness of Jesus Christ and, therefore, also believe in, read, and testify of the Bible. No one should ever hold the misconception that we are not Christians or that we don’t cherish the Bible. The very name of our Church proclaims to the world that we believe in Jesus Christ!

Latter-day Saints earnestly believe in the Bible’s prophecies. For instance, we take it seriously when Amos declared: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). This clearly shows the need for prophets and continuing revelation. This is further bolstered by other Biblical passages that we hold dear; namely, Paul’s statements that “God hath set . . . in the church” both “apostles” and “prophets” (1 Corinthians 12:28) and that the Lord’s Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20).

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Where are the Christian denominations today claiming prophets and apostles as both the Old and New Testaments obviously require? If you believe the Bible is the word of God, you must also believe that the Lord calls men as prophets and apostles, organizes them according to a very specific format and structure (Ephesians 4:11-16; Matthew 16:18-19; Luke 6:13; Luke 10:1; Acts 1:24-25), and that He leads them through revelation suited to their situation.

We testify that the Lord has given mankind prophets once again in our day, beginning in 1820 with Joseph Smith whom I testify was a true prophet in the mode of Moses, Elijah, Peter, Abraham, and the others. If it is true that “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8) as the Apostle Paul taught, then we should look for Him to direct his Church today through prophets as He did anciently. For Bible-believing Christians, there’s simply no dismissing the well-established principle of the Lord’s people receiving revelation through prophets called by Him.

We proclaim to the world that the Lord is good, that He loves all people everywhere, and that He graciously reveals His word to people throughout the earth whenever they are receptive enough to receive it. Whereas the Bible is a record of God’s dealings with the House of Israel in the Old World, The Book of Mormon is a record of God’s dealings with two peoples, including Israelites, who inhabited the ancient American continent.

These two civilizations were blessed with prophets who taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first group, the Jaredites, left the Old World at the time the Lord confounded the languages at the Tower of Babel. They were led by prophets to the American continent where they established an ancient Christian society. Over time, they devolved into wickedness, murdered the prophets, and harbored Satanic secret societies which led the people into a civil war that ended in their total annihilation. Around the time of their tragic fall, the Lord brought another people into this land – the Nephites.

The majority of The Book of Mormon concerns the Nephites and their usually hostile brothers, the Lamanites. The Nephites were Israelites of the tribe of Manasseh. They were named after Nephi, the son of a Hebrew prophet named Lehi. Lehi, a lineal descendant of Joseph of Egypt, preached in Jerusalem at the same time the great prophet Jeremiah was preaching – that is, around 600 B.C. The Israelites at Jerusalem rejected Jeremiah’s words and threw him into prison. Jeremiah received a revelation in which the Lord attested to the fact that He had sent many prophets to Israel:

Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them:

Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers” (Jeremiah 7:25).

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The Hebrews not only rejected Jeremiah, they also rejected Lehi’s warnings and sought to kill him. The Lord warned Lehi to flee out of the land and subsequently led his family into the Americas through Nephi’s instrumentality.

Nephi was a humble man who became a great prophet of the Lord. He spent his life teaching his people about Jesus Christ and prophesying that He would come to redeem all who would believe on His name. Nephi wrote: “[M]y soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ” (2 Nephi 11:4). Nephi particularly loved citing the words of Isaiah which also foretold of the coming Messiah and many of his writings were explanations of Isaiah’s earlier prophecies.

Nephi bore frequent and powerful testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. He once stated:

I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved. . . .

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. . . .

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. . . .

. . . the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.

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 Nephi 25:20, 23, 25, 28-29).

Nephi was emphatic – we are saved by Christ! His is the only name through which salvation comes. It is His grace that rescues us from sin. We are to talk, preach, and prophesy of Him and teach our children to look to Him. Nephi believed in the Son of God and He wanted us to also “bow down before him” in humble discipleship.

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Another time, Nephi taught:

And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;

And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith” (2 Nephi 26:12-13).

In what is perhaps my favorite declaration from The Book of Mormon, Nephi issued this challenge to all who would read his words:

And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal. . . .

. . . be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.

And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jews, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye – for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things” (2 Nephi 31:4, 9-11).

Nephi was not the only ancient American seer to speak of Christ. All the prophets recorded in The Book of Mormon record taught of Jesus and encouraged all to have faith in Him. Jacob, Nephi’s younger brother, gave us these words:

And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come.

Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest. . . .

Wherefore, we would to God that we could persuade all men not to rebel against God, to provoke him to anger, but that all men would believe in Christ” (Jacob 1:7-8).

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Jacob loved to teach about the most important moment to ever play out on earth – the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement of Jesus Christ includes not only His suffering for our sins in Gethsemane and His crucifixion on the cross, but His resurrection and conquest of death and hell. Because of the Lord’s resurrection and Atonement, we, too, will rise from the grave and receive resurrected and immortal bodies before the Judgment Day. In a rousing sermon, Jacob taught of these great truths and the central role the Savior’s Atonement plays:

Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he [Jesus] shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came . . . for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.

For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.

Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement. . . .

O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. . . .

O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell. . . .

And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave. . . .

And it shall come to pass that when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment. . . .

. . . behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever. . . .

And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before h im at the great and judgment day.

And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. . . .

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

And whoso knocketh, to him will he open” (2 Nephi 9:5-8, 10-11, 15, 18, 21-23, 41-42).

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The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the central feature of His Gospel. Everything else is a mere appendage to that glorious event. All men, no matter how wicked or flawed, will be resurrected because of the Lord’s mercy. Those who receive greater reward, however, will be those who, having the opportunity, embraced the doctrines of the Lord, believed on the name of Jesus Christ, entered into His covenants via the straight and narrow path, and endured to the end of their mortal lives in faithfulness.

These truths are taught many times and in many ways throughout the entirety of The Book of Mormon. Lehi, Nephi’s and Jacob’s father, gave this witness of the Redeemer:

Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. . . .

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon. . . .

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh . . . 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 Nephi 2:6-7, 25-27).

Hundreds of years after Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob, a king named Benjamin delivered a sermon which shows how thoroughly and inexorably Christian The Book of Mormon is. After having been instructed by an angel, he taught his people these glorious truths about the Messiah’s life and ministry:

[The Lord] shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.

And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.

And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world. . . .

For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.

But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 3:5-12).

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What a marvelous testimony of Christ! King Benjamin was emphatic – salvation is only in Christ. Only by faith on His name, repentance, and obedience to His commands can we be saved. Saving those who trust in His name is the Lord’s eternal purpose. It is the reason He suffered so much agony. He loved us and therefore He laid down His life for us that we, through “faith on the Lord Jesus Christ,” can be saved.

Later still in the book’s timeline, a missionary named Amulek could be found teaching the same doctrine of Christ. In one instance, he explained the Savior’s impending Atonement and mankind’s future Resurrection:

And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. . . .

The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit” (Alma 11:40, 43-44).

Another time, Amulek shared this sweet testimony:

Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and . . . he shall atone for the sins of the world. . . .

And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law [of Moses], every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety. . . .

. . . now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34:8, 14-16, 31).

All who believe in Jesus Christ can call unto Him and immediately begin their path to Him and Heavenly Father. His mercy can cover our sins, rescue us from the grasp of hell, and fully redeem us. We simply have to have faith in the Savior and bring our lives into harmony with His Gospel.

Perhaps even more powerfully than Amulek, Alma, the Nephite prophet in Amulek’s day, conveyed the magnitude and scope of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He taught that the Savior not only died for our sins, but that He felt our sickness and pain, heartache and sorrow, regret and bitterness. Through His mercy, we can be healed, uplifted, comforted in our depression and grief, and saved from every dark and evil thought and feeling and physical ailment. Alma proclaimed:

[B]ehold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all – for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people. . . .

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that he word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me” (Alma 7:7, 11-13).

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Jesus the Christ not only died a cruel death on the cross, but He bled at every pore because the agony and weight of our collective sins, pains, brokenheartedness, disappointment, bitterness, and sicknesses (Luke 22:44). The Jews in Jerusalem did not sufficiently appreciate or comprehend the act being performed in the Garden of Gethsemane by their Lord and Redeemer. Yet, across an ocean in ancient America the Nephites had been taught plainly of the Savior’s Atonement.

About six years prior to the Lord’s birth in the Holy Land, a Lamanite prophet named Samuel prophesied of many events connected with the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ. At the time, the Nephites were falling into unrighteousness. Samuel warned the people and focused his teachings on Christ:

[N]othing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, who surely shall come into the world, and shall suffer many things and shall be slain for his people. . . .

And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life. . . .

And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits. . . .

For behold, he surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth him and becometh expedient that he dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord” (Helaman 13:6; 14:8, 13, 15-17).

From Samuel’s day until the death and resurrection of Christ in Palestine, the prophets continued to preach of the imminent Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many unique signs were given to the people of the Americas, including major geological upheaval and the destruction of many wicked cities at the time of the Lord’s death on the cross. According to Samuel, these signs were given “to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men – And this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved” (Helaman 14:28-29).

These events bring us up to the crowning moment in The Book of Mormon. After the resurrected Lord’s Ascension in Israel, He appeared to other peoples throughout the world. If you search, you can find fascinating secular records of His appearances in many lands. The Book of Mormon record, however, is the clearest of them all and is of divine origin.

Six-hundred years previous to this event, Nephi foretold of the Lord’s appearance. He wrote that “after Christ shall have arisen from the dead he shall show himself unto you, my children, and my beloved brethren; and the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law which ye shall do” (2 Nephi 26:1). Other prophets had periodically repeated this promise. Shortly after the Ascension, the prophecy was fulfilled in dramatic, miraculous fashion.

We read of the moment of the Lord’s appearance to the Nephites in this passage:

And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven. . . .

And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:

Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name – hear ye him.

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And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.

And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.

And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension in to heaven.

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:

Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.

And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:

Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him” (3 Nephi 11:3, 6-17).

What a remarkable event! This group of some 2,500 Nephites had the privilege of seeing the Lord, hearing His voice, and handling His perfected, glorified, resurrected body of flesh and bone just as the apostles had done in the Holy Land (Luke 24:36-43). They knew for themselves, as we must come to know for ourselves, that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of mankind!

Jesus taught the Nephites many things during His visit, including the Sermon on the Mount with a few clarifications. He told the people: “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed” (3 Nephi 18:21). He chose twelve apostles, organized them, and gave them Priesthood authority to administer sacraments and ordinances just as He had done during His mortal ministry. He commanded everyone to “diligently” study Isaiah’s prophecies, “for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1). He healed the sick, blind, and maim as He had done in Palestine. He blessed the little children and angels came down out of Heaven and ministered to them. And He even touched upon events that would happen during our time – the time preceding His Second Coming. Truly, the appearance of the Son of God was the crowning event recorded in The Book of Mormon and stands as additional proof that this book bears witness of Him and Him alone.

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After the Savior’s visit to the Nephites here in America, the people established a Zion-like society. For a little shy of two-hundred years, the people lived in harmony and peace. We read:

[T]here were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.

And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. . . .

And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God” (4 Nephi 1:2-3, 15-17).

Sadly, the people of the land enjoyed peace, prosperity, and ease for so long that they became prideful, began to wear “costly apparel, and all manner of pearls, and of the fine things of the world,” “began to be divided into classes,” “began to build up churches unto themselves,” and “began to deny the true church of Christ” (4 Nephi 1:24-26). Like our own day, there were “many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel” (4 Nephi 1:27).

Eventually, a secret society was formed by those who opposed the Church and Gospel of Jesus Christ. The people’s general wickedness and the ruthlessness of this secret cabal led the people into a frenzied war of rampant destruction. Women and children were sacrificed to pagan gods. Cities were burned with fire. Women were ravaged and mutilated. By 400 A.D., the followers of Christ and anyone who claimed the name “Nephitehad been exterminated throughout ancient America and the only inhabitants left were those who disbelieved in the former Nephite traditions. These unbelieving peoples eventually split into warring factions and, lacking the light of Christ, devolved into nomadic, warlike, and hostile tribes. It would be another 1200 years before Christians began to inhabit America once more.

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In every event and story of The Book of Mormon, whether tragic or uplifting, the inspired writings are focused on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lord of lords, the true Messiah. In total, there are almost 4,000 references to Jesus Christ in The Book of Mormon! This dwarfs even the New Testament’s multitudinous references to the Savior. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is the most Christ-centered book in existence. One cannot read in its pages without encountering fervent testimonies of the Lord, stories of extreme faith in the Redeemer, and sermons on Christian doctrine. The stories of deep-felt conversion, missionary adventures, and wars won through faith in Christ are, simply, thrilling!

I repeat: Nothing is more well-established than that The Book of Mormon speaks of Christ. Because of this fact, when we read the book with a sincere heart, it touches and moves us. The current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, whom I testify really is a prophet of Almighty God, recently gave a sermon on The Book of Mormon. He witnessed:

Something powerful happens when a child of God seeks to know more about Him and His Beloved Son. Nowhere are those truths taught more clearly and powerfully than in the Book of Mormon. . . .

The Book of Mormon provides the fullest and most authoritative understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere. It teaches what it really means to be born again. From the Book of Mormon we learn about the gathering of scattered Israel. We know why we are here on earth. These and other truths are more powerfully and persuasively taught in the Book of Mormon than in any other book. The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period. . . .

When I think of the Book of Mormon, I think of the word power. The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, and cheer our souls. . . .

I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal and living Son of our living God. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, our great Exemplar, and our Advocate with the Father. He was the promised Messiah, the mortal Messiah, and will be the millennial Messiah. I testify with my whole soul that in a most miraculous and singular way, the Book of Mormon teaches us of Jesus Christ and His gospel” (President Russell M. Nelson, “The Book of Mormon – What Would Your Life Be Like Without It?” General Conference, October, 2017).

The Book of Mormon, in companionship with the Holy Bible, a witness of our living Lord! These two books of scripture dash to pieces false doctrine, rebut anti-Christian philosophies, and strengthen faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. The Book of Mormon writers possessed a version of Old Testament prophecies. They knew that one day these words would go to all mankind. The prophet Mormon, the chief compiler and namesake of The Book of Mormon record, wrote that the intent of the book is to confirm the Bible’s witness of Jesus! In fact, his witness of the Bible’s authenticity was part of his final testimony. The last words Mormon wrote were these:

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Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up. . . .

And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world. . . .

Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews. . . .

For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if ye believe that ye will believe this also. . . .

. . . and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen” (Mormon 7:5, 7-10).

Mormon knew that The Book of Mormon was written “for the intent that ye may believe [the Bible].” And if you believe the Bible’s witness of Christ, it is only logical “that ye will believe [The Book of Mormon] also” because both books bear solemn witness of the Savior, preach the same doctrine, and declare the same essential truths.

President Russell M. Nelson explained how these two great books of scripture compliment one another and work together. He said:

The Bible and the Book of Mormon are both witnesses of Jesus Christ. They teach that He is the Son of God, that He lived an exemplary life, that He atoned for all mankind, that He died upon the cross and rose again as the resurrected Lord. They teach that He is the Savior of the world.

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Scriptural witnesses authenticate each other. This concept was explained long ago when a prophet wrote that the Book of Mormon was “written for the intent that ye may believe [the Bible]; and if ye believe [the Bible] ye will believe [the Book of Mormon] also.” Each book refers to the other. Each book stands as evidence that God lives and speaks to His children by revelation to His prophets.

Love for the Book of Mormon expands one’s love for the Bible and vice versa. Scriptures of the Restoration do not compete with the Bible; they complement the Bible. We are indebted to martyrs who gave their lives so that we could have the Bible. It establishes the everlasting nature of the gospel and of the plan of happiness. The Book of Mormon restores and underscores biblical doctrines such as tithing, the temple, the Sabbath day, and the priesthood” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Scriptural Witnesses,” General Conference, October, 2007).

The Book of Mormon does not replace, but bolsters the Bible! In our day of so much criticism and skepticism, it is refreshing to know that the Lord has given us a second major witness that the Bible’s declarations about Him and His work are indeed true and relevant! Even Nephi, all those ages ago, knew that modern man would have both Bible and The Book of Mormon. He recorded the words of the Lord directed to those who scoff at The Book of Mormon and rejected it because they already have a Bible and erroneously believe there can be no more revelation:

And because my words shall hiss forth – many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. . . .

Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. . . .

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. . . .

For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it. . . .

. . . and my word also shall be fathered in one” (2 Nephi 29:3, 6, 7-10, 12, 14).

It has always puzzled me why Christians try to limit the Lord and tell Him, in essence, that He can’t say more than He already has. Not only is this a feeble attempt to limit the Lord’s power, but it also makes the Bible’s declarations about the need for prophets and continuing revelation null and void. Furthermore, I’ve always wondered why my fellow Christians are not excited for more revelation from Heaven. Why wouldn’t you want to hear more instruction from the Master? Why wouldn’t you want additional light and knowledge to support and clarify what the Bible teaches? Why wouldn’t you want an extra witness to support and verify what the Old and New Testament seers said? Why don’t you want more of the words of Jesus?

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President Gordon B. Hinckley, a former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once spoke to those not of our faith:

[W]e say in a spirit of love, bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it. This invitation I extend to men and women everywhere with my solemn testimony that this work is true, for I know the truth of it by the power of the Holy Ghost” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith,” General Conference, October, 2002).

To those who may be skeptical, set aside your skepticism for a moment and do what the Lord anciently instructed: “Come and see” (John 1:39). Come and see what the Lord has revealed in our day. Come and see what rich treasures of knowledge The Book of Mormon has to offer. Come and see what modern prophets are saying today. Ignore the lies and distortions that dissenters on the internet say about our Church and come and see for yourself.

I guarantee when you humbly search in The Book of Mormon and pray to God for wisdom as the Apostle James taught (James 1:5-6), that new light will shine into your life. Your understanding of the Bible will grow Your soul will be refreshed. Your testimony of the Savior will deepen and strengthen. Your knowledge of your relationship with your Eternal Father will expand. And your happiness will increase.

If my guarantee is not enough, then hear the words of the final prophet to write in The Book of Mormon. He was a man named Moroni. He issued this divine promise:

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).

This promise works. I have tried it. It works! If you ask Heavenly Father, in the name of Christ, and you are truly sincere and prepared to follow whatever answer you receive from the Holy Spirit, then you will receive a confirmation in your soul that The Book of Mormon is a true book.

I have received this witness. I know it is true. I know it through the power of the Holy Ghost. I know it was translated, not written, by Joseph Smith. I know that it speaks of a real people whom the resurrected Lord truly visited. I know it was compiled by prophets of Jesus Christ who spoke the truth. And I know and testify that this sacred book has shaped, directed, and improved my life in innumerable ways.

The Book of Mormon is such a powerful book for two primary reasons: 1) Because it speak of Jesus Christ; and 2) because it is true. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is a true witness of the Savior. It confirms the Bible’s witness of the divinity of Jesus. It confirms the Abrahamic covenants made with the House of Israel. It confirms that we will all be resurrected and stand before God at the Judgment Day. It confirms that Jesus worked out the Atonement and died for our sins and that we must look to Him only for salvation. Yes, The Book of Mormon speaks of Christ!

It is only fitting that we end with a declaration made in The Book of Mormon by a holy prophet. They are words to live by. They rivet our focus on the Savior and encourage us to look to Him. We must all eventually come to know and accept that: “[T]here is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness” (Alma 38:9).

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I share this testimony with you – that Jesus Christ lives and that The Book of Mormon is a true witness to His divinity – in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Zack Strong,

January 13, 2020

Joseph Smith – Praise to the Man

One of the most influential figures in world history began his early life as an unassuming, unlearned farm boy from upper state New York. Born on December 23, 1805, Joseph Smith, Jr. was the fourth of eleven children born to Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith. America at the time was abuzz with religious revival. The Smith family was a mixture of Methodists and Presbyterians. They attended revival meetings and church services when they could, but their primary devotions were in their home as a family. This blend of influences filled the young Joseph with a desire to find the Lord’s one true Church – a quest that would lead him to transform the world.

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As a fourteen year old boy, Joseph Smith found himself seeking advice from pastors, pondering the Gospel, and reading from the Holy Bible. He was particularly confused at the stark differences in doctrine held by all the various sects claiming to be Christian. He recalled the scenes of confusion which resulted from these irreconcilable differences:

[A]scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions” (Joseph Smith History 1:6).

Joseph wondered how he could ever learn the truth by consulting the Bible since every religious group had a different interpretation of that holy book. He observed that “the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” (Joseph Smith History 1:12).

It was during this time of confusion in 1820 that Joseph Smith came across a passage of scripture that left a profound impression on his mind and led him on a course that not only changed his life, but which continues to shape our world today. Joseph Smith was reading in the book of James when this passage lept off the page:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

The young Joseph recounted how deeply this inspired counsel affected him:

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know. . . .

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt” (Joseph Smith History 1:12-14).

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Can you see the simple faith of a humble boy reflected in these words? Joseph was a sincere person. He merely wanted to know what God wished him to do. It was his faith that if he obeyed the words of scripture and prayed in sincerity of soul, God would lead him as the Apostle James had testified He would. Joseph was therefore determined to pray and then follow any answer received because he knew that God would not lie.

Perhaps the most extraordinary event of Joseph Smith’s life occurred when he “retired to the woods” to pray to his Maker. Joseph recounted his sacred experience thus:

It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for midst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:14-17)

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What the young Joseph Smith experienced that spring day in a grove of trees is referred to as a theophany, or an appearance of God to man. The Bible records numerous theophanies, from Moses’ experiences seeing and speaking with Jehovah (Exodus 3:4-6; Exodus 19:19-20) to Abraham’s first vision of God (Genesis 18:1-3) to Jacob’s famous wrestle (Genesis 32:27-30) to Isaiah’s vision of the Lord on His throne (Isaiah 6:1) and so forth. At times, these sacred experiences were given to older men and at times they were granted to humble youths like Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4, 10, 21). The Lord even appeared to the wicked Saul who, because of this divine experience, converted to the truth and became one of the greatest Christian missionaries in history (Acts 9:3-7). Throughout time, theophanies routinely preceded and heralded the opening of a new prophetic era and the calling of an individual as a holy prophet of the Lord. And so it was in 1820 with the young Joseph Smith.

After God the Father addressed Joseph and announced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Joseph asked the question that had burdened his soul. He wrote:

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time” (Joseph Smith History 1:18-20).

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On another occasion, Joseph Smith recorded the instructions he had been given by the Lord in this way:

I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church and kingdom: and was expressly commanded “to go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known unto me” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 4, 536, March 1, 1842).

After the glorious appearance of the Father and the Son, Joseph waited eagerly for the further light and knowledge he had been promised. He waited for three years. While engaged in prayer one night in 1823, he was finally granted additional light. Joseph wrote of this experience and of others that followed:

On the evening on the 21st of September, A.D. 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of Scripture, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room, indeed the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire; the appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body; in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the Millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation.

I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me; I was also told where were deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgment of the records of the ancient Prophets that had existed on this continent. The angel appeared to me three times the same night and unfolded the same things. After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22nd of September, A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands. . . .

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In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian Era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His resurrection; that He planted the Gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings, as were enjoyed on the eastern continent, that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions, that the last of their prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgment of their prophecies, history, &c, and to hide it up in the earth, and that it should come forth and be united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 4, 536-537, March 1, 1842).

The angel that appeared in 1823 was named Moroni and was the last prophet of the Nephites, the ancient American inhabitants described above. In approximately 420 A.D., Moroni buried a sacred record of God’s dealings with the Nephites and other ancient American peoples in a small hill in present day New York. Joseph Smith was entrusted with this record for the purpose of translating it into English so that its doctrines could be “united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days.” The translated record came to be known as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, named after the Nephite warrior-prophet Mormon who served as the chief compiler and editor of the ancient record.

The Book of Mormon is an authentic book of holy Christian scripture similar to the Bible. It is a second witness to the world that the Bible’s testimony of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ is accurate and truthful. The Book of Mormon is the “stick of Joseph” that Ezekiel foresaw would be joined with the “stick of Judah” to form “one stick” in the hand of God (Ezekiel 37:15-19). It is the “book” seen by Isaiah that the learned cannot read, but which one “that is not learned” should read and cause to spring forth “a marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:10-14). This divine record supports, and at times clarifies, Biblical doctrines regarding the House of Israel, the covenants of God, the ordinances of baptism and of receiving the Holy Spirit, prayer, and, of course, the all-important Atonement of the Savior. The Book of Mormon is, at its core, a beautiful and uncompromising witness of Jesus Christ.

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In one place, the prophet Nephi bore fervent witness, almost six hundred years before His birth, of Jesus Christ. He witnessed:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. . . .

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 Nephi 25:26, 29).

Jacob, Nephi’s brother and fellow servant of God, also witnessed of the Messiah and His Gospel:

[B]ehold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God. . . .

O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell. . . .

And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 9:18-19, 21-23).

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Another prophet named Alma also testified of the Son of God’s then forthcoming Atonement and the marvelous blessing it would be for mankind:

[B]ehold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all – for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people. . . .

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me” (Alma 7:7, 11-13).

The inspired Amaleki gave us these encouraging words:

I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).

Finally, in the closing pages of the record, the prophet Moroni, the same who appeared to Joseph Smith, issued a challenge and a promise to anyone who would read the record:

I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye should ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).

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“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” – John 8:12

These are the sort of passionate testimonies, doctrines, and promises that fill The Book of Mormon record. On nearly ever page of this sacred text there are references to Jesus Christ. The ancient Nephite prophets pleaded with their people, and with those of us they knew would one day read their record, to have faith on the name of Jesus, rely on His redeeming power, and join themselves to His Church. We could know with certainty the identity of that Church if we would simply pray, as James also instructed, and as the young Joseph Smith did in 1820.

Dear reader, please understand that Joseph Smith did not invent or write this volume of scripture; he translated The Book of Mormon through the power of God for the sole purpose of building up the Lord’s Church in the last days and bringing people to Jesus Christ. Please also know that I have a burning testimony of the truthfulness of that holy book. It leads me to believe in Christ, to follow Him, and to do good. It gives me knowledge that is sweet to my soul and which enlightens my understanding of life. And, most importantly, I have tested Moroni’s challenge by reading, pondering, and sincerely praying about The Book of Mormon. In response to my prayers, the Holy Spirit has touched my heart and affirmed in an unmistakable manner the divinity of that book. I love The Book of Mormon!

I also love the man who was the instrument in the Lord’s hands in bringing The Book of Mormon to light, Joseph Smith. His story no doubt sounds extraordinary – perhaps unbelievable – to someone hearing it for the first time. Joseph Smith acknowledged this when he said:

I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 6, 317, April 7, 1844).

Even though it is sounds unbelievable, it is true! And Joseph Smith suffered a life of defamation, brutalization, and persecution culminating in the murder of himself and his brother Hyrum because he stood firm in his testimony of what he had experienced and of what God had revealed to him. I have often pondered the mobbing and persecutions he and his family went through and have asked myself this question: “Would a man really suffer all of this for a lie?” The answer is a resounding “No!”Such a legacy of staunch belief in the face of bitter persecution is surely striking to even the most hardened skeptic.

One particular moment that touches my heart and demonstrates the greatness of Joseph Smith occurred when Joseph Smith and several of his fellow Latter-day Saints were betrayed by one of their own and illegally arrested by a militia and thrown into the ironically named Liberty Jail. For six months, they endured hunger and exposure and were subjected to ridicule while being denied due process under the law. Parley P. Pratt, one of those unjustly imprisoned alongside Joseph Smith, recorded that “in one of those tedious nights” in the jail, “we had listened for hours to the obscene jests, the horrid oaths, the dreadful blasphemies and filthy language of our guards . . . as they recounted to each other their deeds of rapine, murder, robbery, etc., which they had committed among the “Mormons” while at Far West and vicinity. They even boasted of defiling by force wives, daughters and virgins, and of shooting or dashing out the brains of men, women and children.” Pratt then described what happened next:

I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified, and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards; but had said nothing to Joseph, or any one else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words:

SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!

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He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards.

I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended on a breath, in the Courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri.”

What a powerful testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith! And lest skeptics think this is an isolated incident, it wasn’t. Frequently, assassins who came with the Devilish intent of murdering the Prophet were so captivated and swayed by his “unruffled” presence in the face of danger – his profound “dignity and majesty” – that they ended up having dinner with him instead. The descriptions of those who met with Joseph Smith, friend and foe alike, are quite remarkable and I recommend the reader search them out in books such as They Knew the Prophet: Personal Accounts From Over 100 People Who Knew Joseph Smith by Hyrum Andrus.

Joseph Smith’s character was such that he could not be swayed from his beliefs by unjust imprisonment, mobbing, or the assassin’s gun. He made this remark about those who persecuted him and tried to coerce him to deny what he had really seen, heard, and experienced:

It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy? . . . .

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Joseph Smith being tarred and feathered March 24, 1832

I soon found . . . that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me. . . .

I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (Joseph Smith History 1:20, 22, 24-25).

Again I ask: What would a man suffer for a lie? If Joseph Smith was lying about his experiences, as detractors then and now claim, would he have maintained his lie in the face of mobbing, being tarred and feathered, being beaten, being poisoned, being arrested and tried forty-eight times (and acquitted all forty-eight), being threatened with death, being kidnapped and unjustly imprisoned for six months in the ironically named Liberty Jail, being betrayed and hunted by former friends, watching his followers murdered and driven from state to state, and, finally, in the face of certain slaughter by a vicious mob alongside his beloved brother Hyrum? I submit that a liar, a self-aggrandizer, a fraud, a charlatan, and a false prophet would not suffer so excruciatingly for a lie. Rather, logic dictates that, as a minimum, Joseph Smith truly believed what he said; namely, that God had appeared to him and called him as a prophet to restore the Lord’s Church.

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Millions of people from all across the globe have stepped forward to testify that they know, through the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was no liar. From Fiji to Brazil to Russia to Japan, millions have witnessed that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of Almighty God, that he in fact saw God and His Son, that They commanded him to restore the Savior’s Church in its fullness, that he was empowered to translate a sacred record of a Christian people living in ancient America, that the Lord’s Priesthood authority was given anew to him through heavenly messengers, and that from his day to the present there has been an unbroken line of prophets and apostles testifying to the world of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. I include myself among those who so testify of Joseph Smith and the Savior Jesus Christ whom he loved, served, and gave his life for.

Because of Joseph Smith’s testimony, thousands of people left their homes and homelands, forsook their belongings, and faced persecution to gather with the Saints of God. They contributed their meager earthly means to help build up The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When Joseph was murdered, his influence continued to rally the Saints who proceeded to march across the plains to an uninhabited land and build up a Christian society.

Joseph Smith’s life and prophetic witness have changed and directed my own life to an enormous degree. Without exaggeration, I am who I am because of Jesus and Joseph. Because Brother Joseph restored Christ’s Church, and because the Holy Spirit has confirmed to my soul the divinity of that Church, I went to Russia for two years, struggling to learn the language and enduring arrest by the FSB and hatred by the people, to preach “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Because Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon, and because I have zealously studied that book and taken its warnings to heart, I have chosen my career field and daily raise my voice against the forces of evil and conspiracy facing us. Because Joseph Smith received revelations relative to politics and government, I revere the U.S. Constitution as inspired and ran for Congress in 2014.

The revelations and teachings delivered by and through Joseph Smith have informed my principles in everything from voting and politics to health habits to my views on marriage and family to my entertainment habits and beyond. It is impossible for me to worship Jesus Christ without acknowledging Joseph Smith as His Prophet in these final days before His return in glory. My sentiments echo those of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle of the Savior, who explained:

We bear testimony of Christ, and we do it with all the fervor and conviction and power of our whole soul, striving and laboring to do it by the power of the Holy Ghost; and as our voices echo and reecho the eternal verity that Christ is the Lord, we say also that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, a legal administrator who had power from God—keys and authority—so that he could bind on earth and have it sealed eternally in the heavens. Here, we say, is Joseph Smith, a revealer of the knowledge of Christ and of salvation for our day. We link the words together in one great testimony of eternal truth; and the reason we have power to bear witness of Christ, through whom salvation comes, is that Joseph Smith, the prophet and seer of the Lord for our day and in our day, has received eternal truth, has borne witness, has given revelation, has laid the foundation.

Brigham Young once said, “I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 458); and that is as it ought to be, because salvation is in Christ and salvation is available because Joseph Smith revealed Christ to the world. The world either accepts that witness and believes in the Lord’s prophets or goes its way and at its peril loses the hope of eternal salvation. One must believe in Adam and Christ, if living in that day; or in Abraham and Christ, if living in that day; or in Moses and Christ if living then; or, in our day, in Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, crying “Hosanna” and “Hallelujah” and “Praise the Lord” whenever their names are mentioned by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Joseph Smith: A Revealer of Christ,” BYU Devotional, September 3, 1978).

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Another time, Elder McConkie gave additional reasons why Latter-day Saints feel to cry hallelujah every time we think of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In his powerful sermon “Joseph Smith – The Mighty Prophet of the Restoration,” Elder McConkie stated:

His numerous revelations, given in the name of the Lord, set forth the wonders of eternity and the glories of the gospel as plainly and persuasively as do those of the apostles and prophets of old.

Here is a man who has given to our present world more holy scripture than any single prophet who ever lived; indeed, he has preserved for us more of the mind and will and voice of the Lord than the total of the dozen most prolific prophetic penmen of the past. . . .

Here is a man who, like the Master, whose servant he was, cast out devils and healed the sick. . . .

Here is a man whose greatness lies in the fact that he was a witness of that same Lord for whom his fellow prophets in days long past had laid down their lives. . . .

Here is a man who was a prophet in the full and complete and literal sense of the word, as all who hearken to the voice of the Spirit shall know. . . .

Here are the words of Deity, spoken to Joseph Smith, by which all men can judge the state of their own spiritual development:

““The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;

““While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.” (D&C 122:1–2.)

All men may well ask themselves where they stand with reference to Joseph Smith and his divine mission. Do they inquire after his name and seek that salvation found only in the gospel of Christ as revealed to his latter-day prophet, or do they deride and despise the Lord’s living oracles and say that God no longer speaks to men in the way he did anciently? The great question which all men in our day must answerand that at the peril of their own salvationis: Was Joseph Smith called of God? . . . .

We link the names of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith in our testimonies. And we now testify, as God is our witness, that Joseph Smith is his prophet, and we do it in the blessed name of Him who is Lord of all and of whom we and all the prophets testify, who is Jesus Christ” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Joseph Smith – The Mighty Prophet of the Restoration,” General Conference, April, 1976).

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Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s martyrdom at Carthage Jail

Surely Joseph Smith was no common man and no common prophet. He was one of the greatest men to ever live and one the greatest prophets to ever wear the inspired mantle of “prophet, seer, and revelator.” His testimony, works, and life are of such magnitude and stature that they cannot be ignored or trivialized, but must be reckoned with and accounted for by all intelligent people. Ultimately, there are only two alternatives – either Satan inspired Joseph Smith or God called and empowered him. There is no middle ground. And I testify that our Lord and Savior chose Joseph Smith to push forward His eternal work in these last days and that it was Satan who inspired a fiendish mob to murder the Prophet in cold blood just as he inspired the mobs of the past to do to ancient prophets of Christ.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred moments after his brother Hyrum was gunned down in front of him, John Taylor, who was with Joseph at the time and was himself severely injured in the hail of bullets, wrote this stirring commemoration:

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the fit and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and a name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).

It is no small thing to claim a man stands next to the Savior only in greatness, yet John Taylor, a spiritual giant in his own right who was to later become the third prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, did just that. He bore his witness. And I confirm his witness with my own. Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God, is the restorer of the Savior’s Church, Priesthood, and laws – a Church, Priesthood, and laws that had been corrupted or lost in the Great Apostasy, or, rather, in the “falling away” prophesied by New Testament apostles and Old Testament prophets alike (2 Thessalonians 2:3; Galatians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:18; 2 Timothy 3:2-5; 2 Peter 2:1; Isaiah 29:10, 13; Isaiah 60:2; Amos 8:11-12). Through repenting and entering into the ordinances officiated by the Priesthood, and living with faith in the Redeemer, we access the Atonement of Jesus Christ and are saved. The modern world, though most don’t realize it, owes much to Joseph Smith and his faithfulness in the face of adversity.

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Joseph Smith’s death mask

In 1883, the distinguished statesman Josiah Quincy, who met the Prophet Joseph Smith forty-three days before his martyrdom, gave an intriguing memorial to this great man. He was not a follower of the Prophet and had nothing to gain from making this statement, yet he wrote:

It is by no means improbable that some future text-book, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a questions something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet. And the reply, absurd as it doubtless seems to most men now living, may be an obvious commonplace to their descendants. History deals in surprises and paradoxes quite as startling as this. The man who established a religion in this age of free debate, who was and is today accepted by hundreds of thousands as a direct emissary from the Most High,—such a rare human being is not to be disposed of by pelting his memory with unsavory epithets . . . Fanatics and impostors are living and dying every day, and their memory is buried with them; but the wonderful influence which this founder of a religion exerted and still exerts throws him into relief before us, not as a rogue to be criminated, but as a phenomenon to be explained. The most vital questions Americans are asking each other to-day have to do with this man and what he has left us(Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past, 376-377).

In partial fulfillment of Mr. Quincy’s prediction, in 2015 the Smithsonian Magazine ranked Joseph Smith the #1 most influential American in itsReligious Figures” category and Brigham Young, Brother Smith’s immediate successor, was ranked #3. In addition, The Book of Mormon, perhaps the crowning work put forward by Joseph Smith who translated it with God’s power, was recently ranked through a Library of Congress poll as the fourth most influential piece of American literature. Whether people like it or not, Joseph Smith is one of the most influential figures in recent world history and is widely regarding as a pivotal figure. Indeed, few people in any age of history have accomplished what he did during his short thirty-eight years of life, nor have they exerted such a powerful influence over millions across the world nearly two centuries after their death as Joseph Smith does at present.

Though it is inexplicable to some, I can explain the “phenomenon” of Joseph Smith and the millions who follow him quite easily. Simply, his testimony is true! He was and is a real prophet of God. He really did see with his own eyes the Father and the Savior. They did in reality command him to restore the Lord’s Church with its Priesthood and saving ordinances. He really did translate an ancient record, delivered to him by an angel, that bears witness of Jesus Christ’s dealings with the inhabitants of ancient America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in actuality the Kingdom of God on the earth. And the Holy Spirit, the Testator of all truth, has borne witness to millions that these things are true. I know this is true and I would give my life before recanting.

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Dear reader, after the story of the humble Man from Nazareth who walked on water, raised the dead, suffered and died for the sins of the world, and rose from the grave thus abolishing death and conquering the Devil, the story of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Lord’s Church is the greatest story in the world. And it is so very great because it is so very true!

Joseph’s story is the ultimate confirmation of Jesus’ story. Joseph is His prophet. Joseph’s testimony is the supreme reaffirmation of the ancient apostles’ testimonies of their Lord and should be welcomed and received by all who willingly take upon them the name of Christ. Jesus taught that to know God and His Son is eternal life (John 17:3), and Joseph taught the world the true nature of the Godhead and helped us truly know who They are and what They stand for. Joseph clarified the true points of the Redeemer’s doctrine, thus settling centuries of schismatic Bible-bashing with “thus saith the Lord” revelations that are sweet to the soul and enlightening to the mind.

I thank my Eternal Father for sending Joseph to testify of Jesus. I thank the Lord for not forsaking this generation, but for calling a prophet in our day to bear witness of His holy name. My soul is filled with gratitude to know that I live in a day when literal prophets walk the earth and in an age that has the witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I love to hear and sing the words of a powerful hymn extolling his name:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!

Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.

Blessed to open the last dispensation,

Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

Praise to his mem’ry, he died as a martyr;

Honored and blest be his ever great name!

Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,

Plead unto heav’n while the earth lauds his fame.

Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!

Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.

Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;

Death cannot conquer the hero again” (“Praise to the Man,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hymn No. 27).

It is fitting that we end with a few words from the Prophet’s own mouth about our Savior, for he lived to bring people to Christ. I extract the quotes from the third chapter of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. The Prophet testified:

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

I believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that He died for the sins of all men, who in Adam had fallen.”

Salvation could not come to the world without the mediation of Jesus Christ.”

God . . . prepared a sacrifice in the gift of His own Son, who should be sent in due time to prepare a way, or open a door through which man might enter into the Lord’s presence, whence he had been cast out for disobedience. From time to time these glad tidings were sounded in the ears of men in different ages of the world down to the time of Messiah’s coming.”

Who, among all the Saints in these last days, can consider himself as good as our Lord? Who is as perfect? Who is as pure? Who is as holy as He was? Are they to be found? He never transgressed or broke a commandment or law of heaven—no deceit was in His mouth, neither was guile found in His heart. . . . Where is one like Christ? He cannot be found on earth.”

[T]hose who keep the sayings of Jesus and obey His teachings have not only a promise of a resurrection from the dead, but an assurance of being admitted into His glorious kingdom; for, He Himself says, ‘Where I am there also shall my servant be’ [John 12:26].”

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”

It fills me with a uniquely peculiar sense of euphoria to read, speak, and think about the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Spirit testifies to me of his prophetic call as a servant of the Lord. I know he was a good man because his fruit is sweet to my soul and his teachings illuminate my mind. I know he stands as the preeminent prophet of our time because the Holy Ghost has so whispered to me. I know that when the Lord returns surrounded by His Saints, Joseph Smith, the American Prophet, the Prophet of the Restoration, will be on His right hand.

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In sincerity I say that I can approach the “throne of grace” more boldly because I know the name Joseph Smith (Hebrews 4:15-16). I am a better man for having learned of the Prophet and his humble life and immense sacrifices. I wish all could likewise know the name Joseph Smith, read his story, imbibe his testimony, and join in the same great cause of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I testify of these things and invite all to “come and see” and learn the truth for themselves (John 1:39).

When I am called by the trump of the archangel and weighed in the balance, you will all know me then” (Joseph Smith, King Follett Discourse, April 7, 1844).

Zack Strong,

December 23, 2019

I invite you to also watch the film Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xVw6PsSinI&t=2453s

Truth Offends the Ignorant and Guilty

A truth I learned as a boy from reading the holy scriptures is that “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” (1 Nephi 16:2). I also learned that “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Yet, society at large does not hold these or any truths to be sacred. Few things are as despised and abused in our Marxist-inspired culture as truth. So universally hated and feared is truth that we have collectively conceded that “telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” I submit to you, however, that there are only two groups of people who hate, conceal, or reject truth – the ignorant and the malicious or guilty.

Truth is ennobling. Truth is liberating. Truth is power! In my article “What is Truth?” I observed:

Truth is a knowledge of things as they really are now and in eternity. Truth is eternal. Truth emanates from God. Truth can be learned only through the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Truth will triumph over all lies in the end. And because it reigns eternally victorious over all error and centers in Jesus Christ, the truth shall make us free.”

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Let’s be clear – truth is not subjective. The very definition and nature of truth suggests something that is unchanging and unalterable. Truth does not change. Truth cannot change. The great religious giant Spencer W. Kimball once delivered an address entitled “Absolute Truth.” In it, he gave us these wise words:

There are absolute truths and relative truths. The rules of dietetics have changed many times in my lifetime. Many scientific findings have changed from year to year. The scientists taught for decades that the world was once a nebulous, molten mass cast off from the sun, and later many scientists said it once was a whirl of dust which solidified. There are many ideas advanced to the world that have been changed to meet the needs of the truth as it has been discovered. There are relative truths, and there are also absolute truths which are the same yesterday, today, and forever—never changing. These absolute truths are not altered by the opinions of men. As science has expanded our understanding of the physical world, certain accepted ideas of science have had to be abandoned in the interest of truth. Some of these seeming truths were stoutly maintained for centuries. The sincere searching of science often rests only on the threshold of truth, whereas revealed facts give us certain absolute truths as a beginning point so we may come to understand the nature of man and the purpose of his life.

The earth is spherical. If all the four billion people in the world think it flat, they are in error. That is an absolute truth, and all the arguing in the world will not change it. Weights will not suspend themselves in the air, but when released will fall earthward. The law of gravity is an absolute truth. It never varies. Greater laws can overcome lesser ones, but that does not change their undeniable truth. . . .

If men are really humble, they will realize that they discover, but do not create, truth. . . .

If I can only make clear this one thing, it will give us a basis on which to build. Man cannot discover God or his ways by mere mental processes. One must be governed by the laws which control the realm into which he is delving. . . .

. . . I repeat, these are not matters of opinion. They are absolute truths. These truths are available to every soul” (President Spencer W. Kimball, “Absolute Truth,” BYU Address, September 6, 1977).

Truth is simply the reality of things as they are – not as we wish them to be. Truth does not bend to our will – it is eternally self-existent and independent. Popular opinion has zero bearing on truth. All of humanity could gather and vote to abolish gravity and yet gravity would remain. The majority might dismiss the divinity of Jesus Christ, but Jesus is still the Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of this earth, the Redeemer of mankind, the King of king and Lord of lords. Truth does not need your consent or society’s approval to exist.

Truth is one of the major active ingredients in the only remedy that can cure our society. But a remedy is only effective if we properly diagnose the problem, if we take it in time, and if the mixture is correct. Yet, year after year I see a growing antipathy toward truth. Reality has been dismissed. Black is called white, darkness is called light, hate is called love, permissiveness is called tolerance, and lies are called truth. We have wholly disregarded Isaiah’s ancient warning:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

The religious leader and former judge Dallin H. Oaks made a keen observation about the current trends in our society:

Evil that used to be localized and covered like a boil is now legalized and paraded like a banner. The most fundamental roots and bulwarks of civilization are questioned or attacked. Nations disavow their religious heritage. Marriage and family responsibilities are discarded as impediments to personal indulgence. The movies and magazines and television that shape our attitudes are filled with stories or images that portray the children of God as predatory beasts or, at best, as trivial creations pursuing little more than personal pleasure. And too many of us accept this as entertainment.

The men and women who made epic sacrifices to combat evil regimes in the past were shaped by values that are disappearing from our public teaching. The good, the true, and the beautiful are being replaced by the no-good, the “whatever,” and the valueless fodder of personal whim. Not surprisingly, many of our youth and adults are caught up in pornography, pagan piercing of body parts, self-serving pleasure pursuits, dishonest behavior, revealing attire, foul language, and degrading sexual indulgence.

An increasing number of opinion leaders and followers deny the existence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and revere only the gods of secularism. Many in positions of power and influence deny the right and wrong defined by divine decree. Even among those who profess to believe in right and wrong, there are “them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isa. 5:20; 2 Ne. 15:20). Many also deny individual responsibility and practice dependence on others, seeking, like the foolish virgins, to live on borrowed substance and borrowed light.

All of this is grievous in the sight of our Heavenly Father, who loves all of His children and forbids every practice that keeps any from returning to His presence” (President Dallin H. Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming,” General Conference, April, 2004).

Without question, evil is masquerading as good these days and the enemy of all mankind is persuading us to adopt practices and principles which have proven the downfall of empires and peoples in times past. For instance, transgenderism and homosexuality – two twin mental and spiritual disorders – are being promoted by the Establishment press, Hollywood, and complicit academia as “normal,” “natural,” and “healthy” while heterosexuals are labeled as “abnormal,” “unloving,” and “bigoted.” Drag queens are infiltrating our schools and libraries, holding reading times with students and having children sit on their laps. Society denies the reality that there are only two genders and instead allows people to choose from an ever-expanding smorgasbord of identities ranging from “non-binary” to “pangender” to “gender fluid” to “two-spirit” to “questioning.” And so forth.

Remember, truth cuts the guilty to their core. They inwardly know they’re living a lie, but they don’t want to give up the fantasy. They prefer a comfortable lie to an uncomfortable truth. And truths which, if acknowledged, would force them to change their minds or behavior, are the worst. To indulge their fantasies and neuroses without feeling the sting of guilt, deluded people shout down, cover up, and censor those speaking truth.

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One such example prompted me to write this article. Yesterday, I attempted to share an article from Conservative Media on Facebook. The article is titled “FBI: Over 5 Times More Killed with Knives than Rifles.” The article in part stated:

FBI crime stats for 2018 show over five times as many people were killed with knives and/or other cutting instruments than were killed with rifles.

The FBI data shows a total 1,515 deaths by knives and/or other cutting instruments vs. 297 deaths by rifle in 2018. . . .

Ironically, over 100 more people were killed with hammers and clubs than were killed with rifles in 2018.

It must be noted that the category of rifle includes all kinds of rifles, not just bolt action or semiautomatic, not just pump or lever action. So the gap between knife homicides and rifle homicides or hammer/club homicides and rifle homicides would be even larger if contrasted only with semiautomatic rifles, versus rifles of all kinds.”

These facts, these statistics, these truths, forcefully refute the false narrative that America is plagued by gun violence, that rifles (including assault rifles) are a danger to society, and that gun control is a necessary solution. Apart from socialist-controlled cities like Chicago and Detroit which implement strict gun control laws that disarm and make defenseless ordinary citizens, the United States has virtually no problem with gun violence and ranks as one of the safest nations on earth. In actual point of fact, far more people are killed by knives than by those oh-so-scary “assault weapons.” This is the reality – your daily dose of distortions from the media be damned.

Obviously, the Elite and those mind-addled dupes who promote their anti-Freedom, anti-Constitution, anti-America agenda can’t allow the reality to be known. They can’t afford for people to know the truth that America is a great nation, that we are generally safe, and that guns protect us, save lives, and deter crime and tyranny. So what do they do? They do what they do best – censor the truth, demonize truth-sharers, and spin lies to warp minds. When I attempted to share Conservative Media’s article, Facebook gave me an error message which stated: “Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.”

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Abusive? This is what the truth is to socialists, progressives, and liberals – “abusive.” The Social Justice Warriors and cultural Marxists can’t allow truth to spread. Truth destroys their agenda which is based on lies. So they go out of their way to flag the truth as “abusive,” “offensive,” and “against community standards.” But let’s be honest: Truth is only “abusive” and “offensive” to an ignorant or malicious person.

In this case, there are no doubt some deluded, emotion-driven, bleeding-heart types who legitimately think that either the FBI’s statistics are wrong or that Conservative Media made up the story, and that perpetuating the “lie” would endanger more people. However, in order to fall into this category, you have to almost be willfully, intentionally ignorant and fully out of touch with reality. You can’t claim the appellation “intelligent” if you believe guns are a problem or that gun control would save lives. More likely, the people who reported this fact-based article as “abusive” have malicious intent against our Freedom and desire the triumph of their Marxist ideology over traditional Americanism.

Another example of truth-hating that has dominated the news lately is the story of the Swedish socialist Greta Thunberg and her cacophony of global warming lies. In case you were fortunate enough to miss it, the sixteen-year-old George-Soros-approved socialist Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg, who might have literal mental problems, went viral after sobbing and ranting at a U.N. climate change summit about how her generation has been “betrayed,” how the world will end because of global warming, and how the rising generation will seek vengeance. In her talk vaguely addressed to world leaders (or, truthfully, to capitalists and anyone with sense to oppose communism), she ranted:

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! . . . .

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.

“We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

I’m not exactly sure who is dying because of fictitious “global warming” or how any sane and honest person can claim we’re beginning a “mass extinction” because Americans like to drive SUVs, yet that’s what this little socialist soldier claimed.

It’s the same communist clap-trap, only this time with an indoctrinated, enraged teenager as the poster child. In my books A Century of Red and Red Gadiantons, I made it clear that the environmentalist movement is a communist creation. I call it “green communism.” The end goal of the radical environmentalist movement is two-fold: 1) to get the nations of the world so hysterical with fear that they’ll give up their national sovereignty to the United Nations and allow the U.N. to redistribute the wealth of the West to third world nations (i.e. to local yes-men and despots); and 2) to initiate the world into pagan earth-worship.

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No matter how many Greta Thunbergs the Elite push forward to tug on our heartstrings, propaganda and hysteria can’t change facts. Whipping yourself into an emotional frenzy and lying about the so-called threat of climate change does not make it reality. The fact is man-made global warming is a myth. We are now at twenty straight years of global cooling – not warming.

For generations the climatologists have been wrong. First they predicted an ice age before the year 2000, then they latched onto the global warming myth, and now they have employed vague language like “climate change” to confuse people and promote their lies. Competent scientists have refuted the myth of man-made global warming. Literally tens of thousands of scientists have signed petitions disputing the mainstream claims – destroying the myth of a scientific “consensus.” And does no one remember the major “climate gate” scandal where it was revealed that the United Nations was forging the numbers to make it appear that the globe is cooling when in fact the data tell us that the globe is cooling?

It’s time, ladies and gentlemen, to speak out and refute lies and mental illness when they’re shoved down our throats as “truth” and “reality.” It’s time to admit that truth trumps people’s feelings. Should we lose our country or our Liberty because a sixteen-year-old girl cries and yells on national TV about something that isn’t even true? Should we lose our God-given rights and Constitution because some disaffected and delusional leftists think facts and statistics are “abusive”? When will we say enough is enough? When will we ditch faux “tolerance” and instead promote truth over error?

We have an uphill battle ahead of us. The path will be long and difficult because we’ve tolerated the lies for so long they now weigh us down. But the truth is worth the struggle. In one of my favorite single declarations ever made, Thomas Jefferson stated:

[P]olitics, like religion, hold up the torches of martyrdom to the reformers of error” (Thomas Jefferson to James Ogilvie, August 4, 1811).

We must be the Reformers of Error for our generation. If we who know the truth, whether it be about religion, politics, economics, or what have you, do not step forward and give the truth voice, who will? Our enemies are doing everything they can to burn us. They’re attacking us with the fury of Jesuit Inquisitions. But stand firm – the truth is on your side. And know that if our enemies figuratively burn you for telling the truth, you’re in good company – the company of patriots and prophets, reformers and Freedom Fighters.

The ultimate act of truth-suppression known to humanity occurred when the Jews murdered our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our Lord testified: “[Y]e seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God” (John 8:40).” The hard-hearted Pharisees, Sadducees, and their fanatical followers hated the truth so badly that they arrested, falsely accused, and cruelly killed the very Son of God, the Messiah, the Redeemer of mankind.

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The Savior gave us a key to discern whether or not we love truth. He said:

For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:20-21).

Light is knowledge and truth. The Lord is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). God is also the “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13; Doctrine and Covenants 93:9, 11). During His perfect life and ministry, the Lord’s light shone so brightly that it illuminated the darkness that consumed the Kabbalistic Jewish rulers. These demagogues were frequently baffled and overpowered by the Savior’s light, wisdom, and truth. They could not continue leading the Jews down their darkened path as blind guides while the Savior’s light beamed for all to see. Therefore, the Jewish leaders conspired to kill Jesus and did just that when the Savior’s mission – His Atonement – was complete.

Today, there are those in our midst who behave like the Pharisaical Jews and wish to silence those whose light exposes their lies, conspiracies, and wickedness. Those who knowingly and intentionally conceal truth have firmly established themselves in Satan’s camp. What the Lord explained to the Jews applies with equal force to liars and malicious individuals today:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. . . .

He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:44-45, 47).

Honest and sincere people, when they hear the truth presented to them in its purity, believe. Those who are not honest in heart reject the truth when they hear it. It is the same in religion as it is in politics. Again I cited Jefferson:

[P]olitics, like religion, hold up the torches of martyrdom to the reformers of error.”

We have a choice to make. We must decide whether we’ll side with truth no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular it may be or whether we’ll shield our egos and fantasies with convenient lies. There is no middle ground between truth and error, fact and falsity, light and darkness. If one is sincere but ignorant, that can easily be corrected. There is nothing shameful about not knowing something that no one has ever told you before. However, once truth is presented to us, then we have a moral obligation to accept or reject it. And this choice shows us who we really are and where we really stand.

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There has never been a time when Christians and patriots weren’t persecuted and hated. It’s part of the burden of discipleship and patriotism. But if we love our Faith, our Families, and our Freedom, we must shoulder the burden and manfully do our duty. God will support those who love truth more than ignorance, truth more than popularity, and truth more than convenience. Stand for truth, my fellow countryman! Stand and be counted!

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” – Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1, December, 1776

Zack Strong,

October 2, 2019

My Witness of Christ

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16).

My faith in, and personal witness of, the divinity of the Savior Jesus Christ is the central plank in my life’s creed. More than any other thing, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has informed my principles, my politics, and the most decisive decisions of my life. I see and judge all things through the Gospel lens. It is no exaggeration to say that I am who I am primarily because of the pure and simple doctrines of the Son of God. I ask your indulgence as I share my personal feelings about my Savior and His Gospel and the profound influence they have been in my life.

At the outset, I want the reader to know that I do not bear testimony simply of things I have read in a book, that I heard a pastor preach, or that my parents taught me. My testimony does not come from intellectual reasoning alone. Rather, I can stand before the world and declare that my witness comes from the Holy Spirit. It is a personal and private witness that I have independent of every other person on earth. I gained this knowledge through the Spirit after sincere searching, study, fasting, and prayer.

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I have always believed in Jesus Christ from the time I was a child and heard my parents teach of Him. However, mere belief – as important as belief is – is not equal to knowledge. A person can read something in a book and believe it. He may hear a professor lecture on a topic and have faith that he has just heard the truth. However, only the knowledge imparted to one’s spirit by the Holy Ghost can rightly be called a witness or a testimony. Therefore, when I bear my testimony or witness of Jesus Christ and the points of His doctrine, please know that I am speaking not from my secular learning or out of mere hope, but from the spiritual confirmations that have been whispered to my soul on numerous occasions by the Holy Ghost.

Of the many things I can bear witness of, I first testify of the reality and existence of God the Father. He lives and governs in the Heavens. He is the literal Father of Jesus Christ. He is also the literal Father of our spirits. We are His literal sons and daughters. We lived with Him before it was our appointed time to come to earth to be tested for our faithfulness to His teachings.

In our glorious pre-earth home, we learned of our Father, walked with Him, talked with Him, felt of His love, experienced His embrace, and enjoyed His divine presence. There we learned of His Plan for our progression. Like any good father, our Eternal Father wants us to become like Him and to possess everything He possesses. The Apostle Paul affirmed this truth when he taught:

“The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17).

If we follow the steps outlined in the Gospel of the Son of God, we can become the “heirs of God” and receive the fulness of His blessings and glory and exaltation alongside our Savior Jesus Christ.

In the pre-mortal state of existence, we were taught the particulars of our Father’s Plan, called alternatively the Plan of Salvation or the Plan of Happiness, including the need for a Savior to redeem us from our inevitable failures. The scriptures attest that we “shouted for joy” at the prospect of coming to earth to prove ourselves and, through our faithfulness, qualify to enjoy eternal life with our Father (Job 38:7). I testify and affirm that I know we lived before and that we will live still after the death of our mortal bodies. So emphatically do I know the reality of our pre-earth existence that I wrote an entire book – The Lineage of the Gods – to witness of it and to teach the plain truth.

Lucifer was also in the beginning. The Bible confirms that he was there when the Father presented His Plan to His children. Lucifer thought he knew better and proposed an amended version of the Plan – a version which denied our right of individual agency and accountability but which, he claimed, would lead to the salvation of every soul. Through his plan, Lucifer intended to became the Savior and turn everyone’s hearts toward him. He secretly wanted to “exalt [his] throne above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:13) and claim the position of Deity.

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Angels do not have wings, but it is a good image of Lucifer’s defeat nonetheless

Naturally, Lucifer’s self-serving and Freedom-destroying plan was rejected by our Father. Upon being rejected, Lucifer rallied his supporters and rebelled against the Father. John stated that this caused “war in heaven” (Revelation 12:7). One-third of Heavenly Father’s children sided with Lucifer while two-thirds rejected the Adversary’s plan and sided with Jesus Christ and their Eternal Father (Revelation 12:4).

You and I were among the two-thirds who originally chose the Lord and rejected Satan. Now we are here on earth, with our memories of those earlier times deliberately veiled, to prove whether we will again choose the Father’s Plan for our eternal happiness. The great quest of life is to again learn about the Father’s Plan, as well as Lucifer’s plan which is embodied in communism, and to choose the correct path. This quest is difficult because Satan hates us and is waging relentless war against us (Revelation 12:17). However difficult to follow, the only correct path is that which leads back to the Father through our Mediator Jesus Christ.

I testify that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Anointed and Chosen One. Before His mortal birth, He was Jehovah of the Old Testament. When He was born of Mary, He became known as Jesus. He is the literal Son of God in both body and spirit. While fully human as to His flesh, He was also fully God. Because of this, He was and is the only One empowered to fulfill the Father’s Plan.

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The Lord fulfilled the Plan of Salvation by sacrificing Himself to appease the demands of eternal justice and broken laws. Because He was the only sinless One, He stood outside the grasp of justice and the curse of broken laws. The sacrifice of His guiltless blood appeased justice and gives the Lord the power to extend mercy and grace to those who believe in His name, repent of their sins, become baptized and receive the Holy Ghost, and who follow His commandments with sincere heart to the end of their lives. The Savior’s sacrifice is called the Atonement which means that by His blood and mercy we are again made one with God.

Elder Richard G. Scott, a modern apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, eloquently explained the necessity of Jesus’ Atonement:

“Each of us makes mistakes in life. They result in broken eternal laws. Justice is that part of Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness that maintains order. It is like gravity to a rock climber, ever present. It is a friend if eternal laws are observed. It responds to your detriment if they are ignored. Justice guarantees that you will receive the blessings you earn for obeying the laws of God. Justice also requires that every broken law be satisfied. When you obey the laws of God, you are blessed, but there is no additional credit earned that can be saved to satisfy the laws that you break. If not resolved, broken laws can cause your life to be miserable and would keep you from returning to God. Only the life, teachings, and particularly the Atonement of Jesus Christ can release you from this otherwise impossible predicament.

“The demands of justice for broken law can be satisfied through mercy, earned by your continual repentance and obedience to the laws of God . . . The Redeemer can settle your individual account with justice and grant forgiveness through the merciful path of your repentance. Through the Atonement you can live in a world where justice assures that you will retain what you earn by obedience. Through His mercy you can resolve the consequences of broken laws” (Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness,” General Conference, October, 2006).

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The scriptures amply attest that Jesus Christ is the only One through whom we may receive forgiveness of sins and return back to our Father one day. The Atonement not only secures the salvation of those who repent and follow Christ, but it offers the Savior’s help, mercy, love, and blessing in times of need, distress, depression, sickness, and persecution. Paul gave one of my favorite statements when he insisted:

“For we have not an high priest [Jesus] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrew 4:15-16).

The ancient prophet Alma likewise testified of “the throne of grace.” Said he:

“[B]ehold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all – for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people. . . .

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

“Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of the people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me” (Alma 7:7, 11-13).

While working out the Atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Savior took upon Himself the terrible weight of guilt felt by those who sin. What’s more, He took upon Himself the physical and mental pains, anguish, and suffering we experience through sickness, abuse, accidents, etc. He felt our heartbreak, feelings of loss, depression, confusion, anger, and betrayal. He felt everything horrible you have ever experience or will ever experience. He not only felt and experienced that all that you have experienced, but all that everyone has experienced or caused others to suffer. There is nothing you have ever felt that He doesn’t fully understand from His own personal experience. The Spirit intellectually comprehends everything, but the Savior voluntarily took upon Him all our physical suffering so that He could actually comprehend it and therefore know how to alleviate our pain and mend our broken hearts, minds, and bodies. He truly is the Great Physician.

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It is this same Jesus who is the Lord of lords and King of kings. It is He whose name we must take upon ourselves. It is He in whose holy name we pray. It is He who calls us to Him and offers His mercy on terms of repentance and faithful obedience. It is Jesus Christ who will soon return to earth to cleanse the earth, heal the persecuted, and claim His right to rule. Though I do not and cannot comprehend the depths of suffering He endured in Gethsemane and on the cross in order to be able to offer me His forgiveness, mercy, and love, I thank Him for His gift! I know He is the Son of God, the Redeemer of Mankind, and the only One before Whom I will bow and worship.

I also testify of the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost. Each member of the Godhead – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is a separate and individual Being. These three souls are united in their efforts, desires, and goals. Their great work is to help us return to Them and to become like Them. This would be impossible without the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Ghost who confirms truth to our minds and hearts. Without His confirming whisperings, we could know nothing of God or the Savior. All revelation comes through the workings of the Spirit. When a person testifies that they know Jesus is the Redeemer, they can only do so after having the Holy Ghost testify this same verity to them.

The priceless and incomparable blessing of the companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost comes to us only after we have been baptized into the Lord’s Church and have had authorized Priesthood holders place their hands upon our head and direct us to receive the Holy Ghost. This gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the chief blessings in mortality. It is this member of the Godhead who teaches us of Christ, gives us a testimony, guides us through life’s dark times, sanctifies us from sin, and prepares us to return to our Father in Heaven. I testify that, though I have at times ignored His soft voice, the Holy Spirit is a reality – a real Being whose sole mission is to testify of the Father and Son and bring us to Them.

I further give my witness of the divine origins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This organization is the Lord’s true Church established again in our present day. The Savior established His Church when He was upon the earth and directed Peter, James, John, and His apostles to spread it to the world. This they faithfully did. However, both the historical and scriptural records are painfully clear that the Lord’s Church, after just a couple generations, went astray and ceased to bear the divine stamp of approval.

The New Testament is full of warnings about impending apostasy. Paul warned that there would be a “falling away” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4). Peter, the Lord’s chief apostle, testified that there would be “false teachers” in the Church which would preach “damnable heresies” and lead the Saints into error (2 Peter 2:1-3). Even in Old Testament times prophets foresaw the future and noted that there would a mass apostasy from the truth. Amos, for instance, prophesied:

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:

“And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).

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The martyrdom of Peter

The apostasy happened as predicted. The wayward Christians “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). The Lord’s apostles were tragically martyred, ending the chain of Priesthood authority needed to perform vital saving ordinances like baptism. The lack of authorized prophets ended the flow of formal revelation between the resurrected Redeemer and His Church.

As unbelief and false ideologies ensnared the Saints and the prophets were killed one-by-one, the Lord’s Church ceased to exist. Because there were no prophets to speak in the name of the Lord and expound correct doctrine, the Lord’s simple teachings became confused, perverted, and mixed with pagan traditions. All of these things made necessary a full restoration of the Priesthood, prophets, and the organization of the true Church.

From the beginning of man, whenever the Lord has had dealings with us, He has operated through prophets. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Lord called a man to be a prophet when He saw the time was right to restore His Church. The young man whom He called was named Joseph Smith. This humble Christian was searching for the true Church when he took the advice found in James 1:5 and prayed to know the answer to his problem.

The Father of us all responded to Joseph Smith in a powerful, unprecedented manner. The Father, accompanied by the Son of God and the palpable power of the Holy Ghost, appeared to the fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith as he knelt in humble prayer in a now sacred grove of trees in New York state. Joseph Smith asked the Heavenly Beings which church He should join. The Savior answered that Joseph should join none of them because they had all perverted His Gospel. Joseph was informed that he was to be the instrument in the Lord’s hands to restore His ancient Church, complete with its powers and Priesthoods and doctrines.

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Throughout the years, a large number of skeptics have mocked Joseph Smith for his account of this monumental vision. They have mocked him for claiming to be a prophet called of the Almighty to establish a Church and bring forth scripture and declare doctrine and prophesy with the authoritative words “thus saith the Lord. . .” Yet, notwithstanding the skeptics and all their spurious, hate-filled books and films and pamphlets attempting to demonstrate that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a liar, the Spirit confirms the truth to honest truth-seekers. And the truth is, as confirmed to my soul, that Brother Joseph was a good man, a man chosen of the Lord, a prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ. I honor and revere his name and happily bear witness of his calling as prophet of God and restorer of Christ’s Church.

The Prophet Joseph Smith defended himself and his vision of God the Father and His Son in these words:

“I soon found . . . that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me. . . .

“However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

“So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (Joseph Smith History 1:22, 24-25).

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Watch a film about Joseph Smith’s remarkable life and mission here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xVw6PsSinI&t=2476s

What integrity and sincerity! I find in Joseph Smith a pure heart and noble motives. The Savior told us to judge a man by his fruit. If we apply this to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we must judge that he was a true Christian who did good, served his fellow man, promoted goodness and righteousness, condemned evil and spoke against corruption, and spent his short life bearing witness of truth.

Joseph’s sincerity is not to be doubted for, in the final equation, he refused to recant his testimony and was murdered alongside his brother for it. No man would suffer so much and give so much for a lie. There are much easier ways to become rich, famous, and powerful, if that was truly his intention. Yet, I declare my witness that Joseph Smith was a thoroughly good man who did more to uplift and elevate humanity than any man since Jesus Christ. Much of his work is embodied in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which, through God’s Priesthood authority bestowed upon his head by the hands of angels and resurrected beings, he restored to the world.

Apart from a life of Christian service and love, the Prophet Joseph Smith left us tangible proof of his divine call to be a prophet and restore the Savior’s Church. He left us The Book of Mormon. Most people who reject and condemn The Book of Mormon do so without ever having seriously examined the book and without having sincerely prayed about its authenticity. The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture similar to the Bible. It does not replace or do away with the Bible and it certainly doesn’t contradict the Bible when the Bible is properly interpreted and understood. Together with the Bible, The Book of Mormon bears witness of Jesus Christ and confirms His true doctrines. The two witnesses have become “one” in the Lord’s hand, as Ezekiel foresaw (Ezekiel 37:16-19).

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See Ezekiel 37:16-19

Whereas the Bible is a collection of writings and revelations from Hebrew prophets living in the Old World, The Book of Mormon is a compilation of writings made by ancient Israelite prophets living in America. They lived on this very land, a land which the Lord has declared to be a Promised Land “choice above all others” (Ether 2:10). It was America that was the location of the Garden of Eden and many other historical events. It is a chosen and special land that has been inhabited for millennia by peoples specifically brought here by the hand of God. These ancient peoples had prophets and were led by the voice of Jehovah Himself. The culminating event among one of these peoples – the Nephite people – was a visitation by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ after His Ascension in the Holy Land.

A 1960 publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says this of The Book of Mormon:

“The Book of Mormon tells the same truths about God and His work that are told in the Bible, though in many cases in a more simple and plain way. . . .

“Jesus is the central figure of both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Everything was written to emphasize His mission as Redeemer and Savior of the world. While the Nephites were camped at the Red Sea, three days’ journey from Jerusalem, Nephi saw in vision many of the great events that would happen down to our own time. Most importantly, however, was his vision of Jesus. Nephi saw Him as a babe in Mary’s arms. He saw Him as a man baptized by John in the Jordan River. Nephi saw Jesus with the twelve apostles going among the people healing their sick and ministering comfort and consolation to all alike. Finally, Nephi saw Jesus crucified on the cross for the sins of all men. All this happened in Palestine just as Nephi saw it in vision six hundred years earlier.

“The Book of Mormon picks up the message and story of Jesus right where the Bible ends. It tells of His visits to America after his resurrection in Jerusalem. It tells how Jesus organized His Church among the Nephites with apostles at the head just as He had done in Palestine. To the Nephites He proclaimed the same principles of salvation, faith, repentance and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins as they are taught in the New Testament. He blessed little children and said they need no baptism because they are innocent and already free from sin. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon foretells the coming of Christ in the last days to reign personally upon the earth.

“The great message of the Book of Mormon, then, is the same as that of the Bible; that Jesus lives and is the author of salvation to all who will believe and follow Him” (M. Lynn Bennion and J.A. Washburn, History of the Restored Church, 18-19).

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The Book of Mormon is, without any question, my favorite book. I have learned more from this one 500-page volume of scripture than all the other books I have ever read combined. There is a true power in The Book of Mormon. The Spirit resides in its sacred pages. It testifies of Christ at nearly every turn. It refers to the wondrous Atonement dozens of times and explains its doctrine in a pure and simple manner. It explains the nature of man’s Fall, the necessity of a Savior, the reality of the Savior Jesus Christ, the truthfulness of the Atonement, and testifies that salvation only comes through the Lamb of God.

A particularly powerful passage from The Book of Mormon expels any thought that the book is not a Christian book. The ancient prophet Nephi proclaimed:

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

“Wherefore, we speak concerning the law [of Moses] that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.

“. . . the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.

“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 Nephi 25:26-29).

Yes, Jesus is the Christ! The Book of Mormon brings people to Christ. It points its readers’ minds and hearts to the Redeemer. It encourages us to keep the commandments, to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name, to meet together to worship the Lord, to love God and our fellow man, to sustain the Bible as God’s word, to sustain the prophets which the Lord sends among us, to gain a personal witness of truth for ourselves rather than relying upon the words of men, and a thousand other useful and correct things. I love The Book of Mormon!

If The Book of Mormon is not true, then everything I have testified of is a lie. But The Book of Mormon is true. I know this because the Spirit has confirmed it to my mind, heart, and spirit on numerous occasions. I can stand before the world and declare the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, the integrity of the Prophet Joseph Smith who translated it from an ancient record, and the importance of the book’s message.

One of the most important messages of The Book of Mormon is to warn us of Satanic threats to Freedom. My second book, Red Gadiantons, is partially devoted to explaining these prophetic warnings of secret conspiracies that anciently existed and which the past prophets saw would exist in our day and threaten the overthrow of the world. Elder Hans Verlan Andersen, a past General Authority of my Church, stated:

“It appears that one of the main purposes of the Lord in giving us the Book of Mormon was to warn us against destroying ourselves through the adoption of Satan’s form of government. Two mighty civilizations were destroyed on this land choice above all other lands and the cause of destruction was the same in each case – the corruption of the government by wickedness” (Hans Verlan Andersen, Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen, 64).

In modern times, prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have warned that the ancient record is true – a Satanic conspiracy bent on mankind’s destruction does exist. They have identified this Satanic conspiracy as communism. Much of my life’s work has been devoted to fighting communism for this very purpose. More to the point, when I was twelve years old I received a personal witness from the Holy Ghost that communism was not dead and the Soviet Union never collapsed, as the world assumed, and that communism remained the greatest threat to the world.

That knowledge fired my soul and I have worked endlessly to open people’s eyes to the truth I learned through the Spirit and have confirmed by thorough research and my experience living in Russia as a missionary. It is not merely a point of speculation, but a part of my actual knowledge that communism is the wickedest and most powerful enemy facing mankind and that it will consume us if we do not actively oppose it.

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Captain Moroni waving his Title of Liberty

The Book of Mormon not only discusses the workings and goals of Satan’s secret conspiracies, but provides a vibrant account of the antidote to its spiritual and political poison. My hero from The Book of Mormon is a great warrior called Captain Moroni. Moroni single-handedly saved his nation from defeat and subjugation in a series of bloody wars. It was this great man who rallied his people. He did so with a slogan he called the Title of Liberty. It read: “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children” (Alma 46:12).

This Title of Liberty was hoisted upon every tower and loudly proclaimed throughout the land. Captain Moroni and his army fought valiantly to secure the Freedom of their people. They fought to defend the free government God had given to them and the right of the people, under that government, to make their laws and select their own leaders. It is a free government supported and defended by a righteous, Christian populace that has the power to thwart the machinations of evil individuals like modern communists.

The account of Captain Moroni and his fellow Freedom Fighters is inspiring. I draw tremendous strength from it. One of Moroni’s most trusted generals was a man named Teancum. One day, I wish it will be said of me what it was said of him upon his gut-wrenching death: “[H]e had been a man who had fought valiantly for his country, yea, a true friend to liberty” (Alma 62:37). It has always been one of my highest aspirations to be like the Nephite Freedom Fighters Captain Moroni, Teancum, Lehi, and Lachoneus. I intend to do my utmost to see that the flame of Freedom is never extinguished and that my own countrymen look to God, their religion, their Freedom, their peace, their wives, and their children and do whatever it takes to preserve them.

I bear my witness of Freedom. It is an eternal principle. The Lord is more interested in extending the blessings of Freedom than any mortal who ever lived. His Atonement and sacrifice for us is the ultimate defense of Freedom. It represents Freedom from the grave, Freedom from sin when we repent, Freedom from despair as we turn our hearts, and so forth. As Paul told us, we have “been called unto liberty.” Because of this, we ought to “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Galatians 5:1, 13). Freedom – the most precious word in the English language!

To ensure Freedom in these last days of turmoil when Satan rages upon the earth making war against the Saints, the Lord inspired a group of men to establish a free country and Constitution. I bear my witness that the Founding Fathers of the United States were humble men of faith and goodness, that they were inspired by the Almighty to break away from tyrannical Britain and establish a free Republic, and that the Holy Spirit rested upon them and inspired them in crafting the Constitution. I revere the Constitution and consider it equally valid as any declaration of holy scripture. It is part of my religion. The principles of Liberty are part and parcel of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

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In modern revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord declared that He inspired the Constitution. He specifically commanded His followers to importune for a redress of their grievances through the appointed Constitutional method, or:

“According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

“That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

“Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-80).

The Lord Himself established the Constitution. He did it to ensure the Freedom of “all flesh.” He wants us to be free and to be accountable for our own choices. The Constitution, when correctly administered and interpreted, provides exactly this. So correct and important are the provisions of the U.S. Constitution that the Lord also revealed that anything “more or less” than them “cometh of evil.” Specifically, He revealed:

“And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

“Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

“And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:5-7).

If at times I seem fanatically devoted to the Constitution and the men who crafted it, it is because it is part of my religion. I can witness of the truthfulness of the Constitution’s principles and of the integrity of the Founding Fathers as strongly and confidently as I can witness that Jesus is the Christ. I will die before I recant that testimony. As I live, it is true. And I will spend my days promoting the principles of the Lord’s Constitution, come what may.

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President Russell M. Nelson

Though I brushed upon it earlier, I want to stress that I have an emphatic, burning testimony that there are literal, living prophets in our midst today – men like Moses, Abraham, Elijah, and Peter who receive revelation for mankind in the name of the Lord and who hold the same Priesthood authority to direct the affairs of the Savior’s Church in our day. The most powerful witness I have ever received from the Holy Spirit in fact is the witness that prophets again walk the earth. I witness and testify that this is true.

At the present time, the man called of Christ to be the earthly president of His Church, and the man who holds the office of prophet, seer, and revelator for the world, is Russell M. Nelson. The Spirit reconfirms the truth that we have a living prophet whenever I hear him speak. I am so incredibly grateful to know – and I again declare that I know it with all my soul – that there is a prophet on earth. He is a man I can look to for sure guidance, wisdom, and inspired counsel. He is the Lord’s mouthpiece on earth – our captain and president. The entire world would benefit immeasurably from knowing and heeding the words of the Lord’s modern prophets, including President Russell M. Nelson.

I close my witness by repeating my unshakeable testimony of Jesus Christ. In Him all my faith and hope center. He is the Son of God. He lives as a perfected, resurrected, exalted Being of flesh and bone. He offered His own blood for a sacrifice in order to appease justice and grant you and me a chance to repent. This Atonement is the greatest event ever to transpire on this or any other world created by the hand of our Master. Through repentance and obedience to the laws and ordinances of His Gospel, we can receive His mercy and forgiveness, our wounds can be healed, our hearts can be changed, our families can be strengthened, and our world can be transformed.

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By calling upon our Heavenly Father in Christ’s holy name, we can receive answers to our most pressing prayers and perplexing questions. Yes, we can even receive a firm personal witness through the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Messiah! With this witness etched in your soul, nothing can ever come between you and the Savior. I love Him and testify of Him and His present work to gather, save, and free mankind, in His sacred name. Amen.

Zack Strong,

August 4, 2019.

Click the following link to watch a well-made series about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bible-videos/videos?lang=eng