Love is Love . . . Except When It’s Lust

Now that Sodom and Gomorrah Remembrance Month is in our rearview mirror, let’s talk. You were no doubt inundated on social media and TV with pro-LGBT messages like “love is love,” “love has no gender,” and “love only knows equality.” We’ve been force fed “gay pride” and “gay rights” at every turn. Everything has been bathed in rainbow colors. The queer flag has been raised across the world at U.S. embassies. This homosexual agenda is Satanic, dangerous to society, and based on numerous lies. I want to speak about the biggest of those lies today. 

People who are afflicted by homosexuality, and their vocal cheerleaders in the press and online, are laboring under a sinister delusion. They believe that homosexual lust is “love.” It’s not. It never will be. In fact, it’s impossible for homosexual lust to ever be love. You heard me correctly: There was never a homosexual who possessed true romantic love towards another homosexual – only lust.

Jesus with the woman caught in adultery

This is so for several reasons. The easiest reason to explain is that the Apostle John said that “God is love.” God is love and He has forbidden homosexuality. It is therefore a contradiction to suppose that so-called homosexual “love” comes from or is recognized by the One who is love and who also forbade homosexuality. This is basic logic. 

But if two plus two doesn’t equal four for some of you, looking at John’s teaching in context might do the trick. He explained further what love is and where it comes from: 

“[E]very spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 

“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 

“They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 

“We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. 

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:3-11). 

Love is a gift of God. Love is linked to righteousness. Love is exemplified by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Those who are born of God, or reborn through Christ, are those who become filled with pure love. 

Those who accept Jesus Christ hear God and know the spirit of truth. Or, at least, they should be able to recognize error. Christian disciples are called to “love one another” in the same way that God loves us. Those who don’t love in this way don’t truly know God, and don’t truly love, because this type of love is God and comes from Him. So, John said, “herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 

The word “propitiation” means to appease God. Christ’s “propitiation for our sins” appeases the eternal demands of justice that come upon all of us because we have all sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23). In return, the Son of God requires certain things of us. We can’t appease, please, or satisfy God, therefore, without following His Son Jesus Christ and living according to His teachings. 

The Lord frankly and openly taught how to receive His and our Heavenly Father’s incredible love and what it means to honestly love God: 

“If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . 

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . 

“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. 

“He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me” (John 14:15, 21, 23-24). 

According to Jesus, true love equals obedience to God’s laws. It means honoring His teachings, keeping His commandments, and following Him down the pathway of righteousness. Only those who “keep my words,” or who sincerely try to do so, will “be loved of the Father, and I will love him.” Those who do not do the will of Christ and keep His commandments have no such promise and walk in darkness. 

Again, Christ is the exemplification of love. And what did Christ do? He said: “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). He later testified: “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). 

Jesus with the woman at the well

If we want to always have the spirit and presence of God, we must likewise do those things that please Him. We must do the will of the Father, which is revealed in the teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ. Long before the Son of God came into mortality, He had revealed to His ancient prophets the truth that keeping the commandments is central to the Gospel Plan. “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Of those commandments that we are duty-bound to keep, the mortal Messiah listed two as cardinal: 

“Thou shalt the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy cmind. 

“This is the first and great commandment. 

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). 

Loving God is the first and highest commandment of them all. As we’ve seen, we can’t please God without following His Son Jesus Christ and following His commandments. The second great commandment is to love others – to love them in the pure and undefiled way Christ loves us. This is the type of crystalline love that led the Lord to voluntarily sacrifice Himself in Gethsemane and on the Cross. The Savior proclaimed: 

“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” (John 3:16-17). 

God is our Father. He doesn’t want to condemn us. He doesn’t want to punish us. He doesn’t want to lose us to that malevolent being who tempts us to follow a darker, lower, meaner path. Rather, He sent His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to light the world with love and to show us a higher and holier way of living. He sent His son to atone for our sins, die on the Cross, and rise from the grave to prepare the path so that we who are not as perfect as He was could one day, through obedience, become “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). 

Jesus does not give us commandments and rules in order to restrict us from having a good time, to oppress us, or to make us miserable. Quite the contrary. He said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). As the only perfect Person to ever walk this earth, He knows what He’s talking about. 

A righteous life is an abundant life. It is a lifestyle that merits the unsurpassed love of God. It is a lifestyle that allows Heavenly light to penetrate the darkness of this world and illuminate our souls. It is a life of peace, comfort, and joy (John 13:17; John 14:18, 27). It is a life that allows the Redeemer to redeem and the Savior to save. He doesn’t require perfection before He showers us with love and spiritual gifts, but He requires our hearts and minds and our sincerest efforts to go about doing good (Acts 10:38). Loving God and loving our neighbors is fundamental to this process of Christian living.

Let’s now consider three specific reasons why homosexuality is a counterfeit of true love. 

Firstly, since the beginning of time, the Lord has defined the proper relationship between men and women. He set gender roles and sexual boundaries. He told Adam and Eve, and, by extension, all of us: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). It was a command, therefore, for men and women to enter into the marriage covenant and “multiply.” Marriage was essential to God’s Plan and the essential part of marriage was procreation and childbearing. 

How do humans multiply? We multiple through sexual intercourse. It only works when a man and a woman are joined together as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Men and women are spiritually designed to fit together. We are anatomically designed to fit together, too. This is for the purpose of fulfilling the command to multiply and replenish the earth and to solidify unity between the sexes. Procreation simply doesn’t work if two women or two men try it. Homosexual sex, then, is an unnatural aberration that fulfills no purpose other than lust. Thus, fulfilling the Lord’s command to multiply is something only heterosexuals are naturally capable of doing. Remember, keeping the commandments is a prerequisite to pleasing God, following His Son, and truly loving. 

Secondly, the gift of sex was given to humankind with special rules. It was only to be used between men and women and only within the confines of the marriage covenant. Anciently, the Lord told His people: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). Homosexuality was considered such an abomination, in fact, that it merited the death penalty (Leviticus 20:13). That penalty was dropped by the Lord when He came and established His Church and introduced a higher law, but He and His apostles continued to preach against homosexuality and all other forms of sexual impurity. 

Additionally, pre-marital sex was strictly forbidden. It was called in both the Old and New Testaments “fornication.” The Apostle Paul taught that “this is the will of God . . . that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Under God’s law, there is no provision for homosexual marriage. Thus, all homosexual liaisons are, by definition, fornication and forbidden. 

Extra-marital sex has also been forbidden by the Lord throughout history. It is known as “adultery.” The Apostle Paul admonished: 

“Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. . . .  

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness. . . . 

“. . . of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. . . . 

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:16-24). 

Many people throughout time have disregarded these laws, choosing to follow after forbidden lusts instead. We rationalize and justify our lust and our violations of divine law by calling it “love” or by trivializing sex as a base bodily function. “Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness” (Proverbs 30:20). But we can’t merely wish away God’s laws or the consequences of immorality. “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverb 6:27). 

Taken as a whole, these rules regulating sex can be called the law of chastity. There are only two sins that are greater than breaking the law of chastity; namely, denying the witness of the Holy Spirit after receiving it and murder. The Lord takes sexual impurity very seriously. He condemns and forbids everything from homosexuality to fornication to pornography to rape and beyond. All of these have, as at their core, some form of lust or selfishness. 

Thirdly, some people say “God made me this way” and embrace the illicit desires they have, branding them as “love” to ease their consciences. Let me tell you a truth: God did not make you that way. He did not create you gay. He did not put lust in your heart. He did not implant in you a desire to abandon the path of marriage and procreation. To do so would be to violate His own laws and to contradict the teachings of His Son and prophets. The Apostle James clearly taught: 

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:13-14). 

I repeat: God doesn’t make people gay. God does not tempt anyone to do evil. God does not entice anyone to fornicate or commit adultery. It’s contrary to His holy nature, His mercy, and His love. As James said, these forbidden desires are born of lust and are evil. 

But let’s pretend God does create some people gay at birth, even though He absolutely does not. Nevertheless, the commandment to repent, change, and be reborn still applies! It applies to every person on earth regardless of their challenges and inclinations. It applies to people who have problems with thievery, lying, gossiping, substance abuse, pornography, gambling, fornication, adultery, violence, pride, anger, arrogance, impatience, ingratitude, ad infinitum. Jesus called the adulterers, prostitutes, demoniacs, and handicapped to follow Him with as much fervor as He called those with less visible problems, such as the learned Pharisees, to follow Him. He’s the Master Healer and He knows how to heal and mend hearts and lives. 

Jesus powerfully and plainly taught Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Could it be any clearer? 

We’re not enough by ourselves. We need Jesus. Our natures are fallen and corrupted. We all sin and do things that we regret or that harm others. It comes with the territory here on planet earth. But we don’t need to let our lusts, our failings, our weaknesses, our sins, or our past define us. We’re better than that. We’re the children of our Heavenly Father! 

Think of it – the King of the universe is our Father! The Creator of worlds without number – the One who walks on water, raises the dead, and calms the raging sea with a single word – is His Son who stands with open arms to receive, lift, and heal all who come to Him regardless of what they were or did in the past. Our Heavenly Father wants to give us everything He has and to see us follow His Son in becoming like Him (Romans 8:16-17; John 10:34). We belong to the family of God Almighty. Shouldn’t that fact alone inspire us to do better and be better?  

Our mission as fallen and sinful individuals is to not embrace the low path, but to throw off our old habits and desires and embrace the higher and holier standard revealed by the Redeemer Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how far you’ve fallen; you can be redeemed! It doesn’t matter how frequently you’ve sinned or screwed up; you can be saved! 

Just as Joseph in Egypt literally ran from sexual temptation when it literally pulled on him, so, too, does the Lord expect us to remember our legs and flee from the snare of sin (Genesis 39:7-21). Paul urged: 

“Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 

“For ye are abought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). 

As difficult as it may be, our path is clear – we must flee fornication. It doesn’t matter if it is homosexual or heterosexual fornication. It’s wrong either way. It’s lust in both cases; not love. In fact, we are to flee all sin, all error, and all unrighteousness. 

The prodigal son returns

When we slip and fall, there’s a way back. Some mistakes are bigger than others, but all mistakes take us away from God and cause us to lose a measure of His holy light. Repentance is the remedy. To repent simply means to turn away from something. Those with gambling problems must turn away from gambling. Those with anger issues must learn patience. Those with pride must learn humility. And those with sexual problems of all kinds must turn away from them – both in deed and in thought. 

Russell M. Nelson, a powerful Christian leader and example for all believers today, recently gave us these encouraging words about repentance: 

“Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

“Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day. 

“When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy—the joy of redemption in Him. When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ! 

“Brethren, we need to do better and be better because we are in a battle. The battle with sin is real. The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord. He is arming his minions with potent weapons to keep us from partaking of the joy and love of the Lord. 

“Repentance is the key to avoiding misery inflicted by traps of the adversary. The Lord does not expect perfection from us at this point in our eternal progression. But He does expect us to become increasingly pure. Daily repentance is the pathway to purity, and purity brings power. Personal purity can make us powerful tools in the hands of God. Our repentance—our purity—will empower us to help in the gathering of Israel.” 

How many of us need daily repentance? All of us need it! And the greater our sins, the more we need the healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes we think we have sinned too much, moved too far away, done too many terrible things, to receive the Lord’s forgiveness and healing. I seem to have missed the line in the Bible where it says the Lord won’t heal and embrace those who come to Him. Instead, I remember His words which say: 

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

I also recall the words of Paul which urge us to boldly approach the Lord so that His grace can heal us: 

“For we have not an high priest 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” (Hebrews 4:15-16). 

Jesus understands. Jesus knows how difficult it is. And He has mercy on those who sincerely approach Him confessing their sins, acknowledging their weaknesses, and laying all their burdens on Him. He wants nothing more than for the prodigal son to return home. He stands ready to receive all who come to Him with open arms. He will give rest to all who believe on His name. 

A modern disciple of the Lord, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, gave additional encouragement to those who feel lost or who feel weighed down by their sins. He said

“[H]owever late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines. 

“Whether you are not yet of our faith or were with us once and have not remained, there is nothing in either case that you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. “Come boldly [to] the throne of grace,” and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast “without money and without price” at the table of the Lord. . . . 

“So if you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. Don’t delay. It’s getting late.” 

It’s getting late, dear reader. Each of us needs to be better. Each of us needs to wake up to the reality that lust is not love, wickedness is not happiness, and a life without Jesus Christ is incomplete. Whether your sin is homosexual or heterosexual sexual immorality, you need repentance either way. 

The fact that “Pride” month is now over can serve as a metaphor. If you’ve suffered from homosexual desires, or if you’ve even acted on your lusts, it was in the past. Today is a new day. Time isn’t over yet. You can change. You can repent. You can turn from darkness to light, from the Adversary to the Lord, from lust to love. Jesus stands with open arms to receive you. He promises cleansing and healing. He promises peace and happiness. He promises eternal rewards, light, and love. Don’t delay. Turn to the Savior Jesus Christ and experience the majesty of God’s perfect love. 

Zack Strong, 

July 1, 2021 

God’s Majesty

Praise ye the Lord. . . . Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. . . . Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.” – Psalm 150:1,2,6.

As I drove in my car this morning, I listened to a wonderful album by Nashville Tribute Band called “Redeemer.” As I enjoyed melodic messages about Jesus Christ, I pondered what word I’d use, if I only had one, to describe my Savior. What I came up with is the word majesty. Jesus was and is a majestic Man and I want to devote a few lines to His praise.

I turn to a dictionary definition of “majesty” and “majestic.” Webster’s 1828 dictionary tells us that majesty is:

“Greatness of appearance; dignity; grandeur; dignity of aspect or manner; the quality or state of a person or thing which inspires awe or reverence in the beholder; applied with peculiar propriety to God and his works.”

And majestic is described as:

“August; having dignity of person or appearance; grand; princely. The prince was majestic in person and appearance. . . . Splendid; grand. . . . Elevated; lofty. . . . Stately; becoming majesty; as a majestic air or walk.”

As I consider the life and character of Jesus the Christ, I’m more and more struck with how awesome He is! I’m in total awe of His attributes, His power, His teachings, His compassion, and His reactions to hostile and difficult situations. The older I grow and the more experience I gain, some of it good and some of it heart-wrenching or challenging, I realize how incredible, miraculous, and singularly amazing Jesus Christ was.

It takes an extraordinary person to behave with composure, self-control, and honor in the face of a frothing crowd that wants to murder you. It takes effulgent compassion to heal an injury on one who is in the process of unjustly arresting you in what you know will lead to a bogus trial and your eventual murder by crucifixion. It requires total conviction and courage to march into the most sacred building on earth, bodily cast out wrongdoers, and publicly castigate the religious authorities and onlookers alike for their transgressions. And it takes pure power to raise a man from the dead, successfully order demons to depart, and instantly calm turbulent waters with a mere word.

More than His multitude of miracles, Jesus’ attributes fill me with still greater admiration. This humble Man from Nazareth was a man’s Man, in the most dignified sense of the term. He was a masculine, strong, bold, honorable, upright, hard-working, down-to-earth, powerful individual. He was a leader. He stood against injustice, denounced evil, rejected the wrong, and always pursued truth and right.

He wasn’t pushy, but He held His ground and wouldn’t compromise. He didn’t mince words, yet He wasn’t arrogant. He was meek, yet He controlled Himself and His native honor called forth the respect and love of men and women from all walks of life. He was and is the type of Man who makes honest people instinctively stand up straighter, square their shoulders, and fill with resolve to do better and be better while at the same time feeling the urge to drop to their knees in reverence and thanksgiving. Every admirable, manly, and noble characteristic found its perfection in Him.

Jesus has been described by seers and inspired poets for millennia. I cite but a few of their descriptions of His glorious attributes. Isaiah said that “the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory” (Isaiah 60:19). Nehemiah called him “our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God” (Nehemiah 9:32). Jeremiah gave a beautiful description when He said:

“Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:

“Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name,

“Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. . . .

“And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror” (Jeremiah 32:17-19, 21).

Finally, the Psalmist gave us line upon line of resplendent praise, including the following:

“The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself. . . .

“The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea” (Psalm 93:1, 4).

“Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 103:8).

“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.

“The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:8-9).

“O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).

“The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty” (Psalm 29:4).

“The Lord is King for ever and ever” (Psalm 10:16).

I can’t add much except my personal witness of His reality, His divinity, and His majesty! His grandeur is unsurpassed. His mercy is unequaled. And His beauty is unmatched. Everything about the Lord is pleasant, refreshing, and invigorating. Like the Psalmist, we should lift our voices Heavenward and sing His praises for having delivered us from the hell of sin and sorrow. His mercy is over all the earth and all who will may come to Him in sincerity and He will lock them in an embrace that will cleanse their souls and purge their hearts of worldliness. Yes, the Lord is good to all!

I close with my sure declaration that Jesus Christ not only lived, but lives; that He’s the Anointed of God, the Ruler of Heaven and earth, and the King of kings. I love Him. I’m awestruck by His greatness and even more overawed by His unfailing goodness. He’s a majestic Man. His majesty and magnificence surpass all and I feel in my heart to proclaim: “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things” (Psalm 72:18).

Zack Strong,

June 18, 2021

Victory Day

Traditionally, VE Day means Victory in Europe Day and refers to the end of the horrific Second World War. Today, I use VE Day to mean Victory on Easter Day. Easter is all about victory! Victory over death. Victory over sin. Victory over hell, the Devil, and misery. Jesus Christ is the Victor and it is to Him I pay tribute and give my eternal love, loyalty, and thanks.

Two thousand years ago, the Son of God was arrested, illicitly tried, spit on, abused, tortured, and cruelly crucified in front of a jeering mob on a forlorn hill outside of old Jerusalem. This Holy Man, called Jesus of Nazareth, suffered excruciatingly while those of His own people – those He had loved and served so diligently – mocked Him and exuded demonic hatred and malice for no reason. His pain, however, was not merely physical, but profoundly spiritual.

It was not only Jesus’ wrists, hands, and feet that were pierced, but His noble spirit had been pierced the night before this public humiliation and veritable ritual murder. It was in the tranquil Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus worked out the Atonement that allows me and you to lay our burdens and sins upon Him and become redeemed. There, Jesus suffered a private torment surpassing anything the Jews or Romans could have inflicted upon Him. It was while prostrate in that Garden of Glory that Jesus literally bled from every pore of His body because His anguish was so awful for the sins of mankind.

Despite the immense pain which required God the Father to send an angel to comfort His suffering Son during this most pivotal moment of eternity, Jesus endured, pushed forward, and conquered! He did what He tells us to do – He gave His heart and soul. He poured Himself out to His Father and our God, offering His sinless soul as an offering for our .

For some reason we don’t yet understand, blood – the life force of mortality – is required to ratify a sacrifice. To voluntarily spill His blood and give His life as the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus went from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross. There, on Golgotha, the Savior completed His work and fulfilled His Father’s Plan of Salvation. There on the Cross of Completion the Lord cried in anguish, but also with finality and exultation: “Father, it is finished, thy will is done” (Matthew 27:50, Joseph Smith Translation).

At that moment, Jesus was dead, yet He was never more alive. His spirit, freed from its suffering tabernacle of clay, simply transitioned from mortality to immortality; from the cruel earth to the paradise of the spirit world. There He reclaimed His spot as the Lord of Hosts. There He marshaled His forces to preach the Gospel to the spirits in prison. There He continued His work of salvation and prepared for the next act – placing the capstone on His perfect performance by rising from the grave in great glory.

It was in the early hours of Sunday morning, the Friday afternoon after He voluntarily gave His life for us on the Cross, that the Savior formally finished His Atonement and forever abolished death. Jesus, who is the Life and Light of the world, offered eternal life to each of us with the glorious hope of a future day of rest from earthly cares and pains, happiness with our families, and salvation in Heaven. Angels appeared to declare that He had fulfilled His promises; that He truly was the Master of Heaven and earth with power to save. It was a day unlike any other; a day that changed everything!

The empty tomb is the Tomb of Triumphant. The empty tomb is the ultimate symbol of Christ. Christians often remember the cruel Cross on Calvary. While it is essential to recall this event and to always keep in mind the suffering our Lord endured for us, it is more joyful and appropriate to remember the empty tomb and what it signifies. That tomb told the world that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer, the Savior, the All-Powerful Lord of the elements and of eternity. Let’s remember all that Christ has done for us and give Him particular thanks on this glorious Victory Day.

On an Easter morning many years ago, a modern prophet of the Lord gave this witness of the miracle of Christ’s Easter Victory. He proclaimed:

“There is one grand key in this vast divine program, and that is the redemption of mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .

“This is Easter morning. This is the Lord’s day, when we celebrate the greatest victory of all time, the victory over death.

“Those who hated Jesus thought they had put an end to Him forever when the cruel spikes pierced His quivering flesh and the cross was raised on Calvary. But this was the Son of God, with whose power they did not reckon. Through His death came the Resurrection and the assurance of eternal life. . . .

“Whenever the cold hand of death strikes, there shines through the gloom and the darkness of that hour the triumphant figure of the Lord Jesus Christ, He, the Son of God, who by his matchless and eternal power overcame death. He is the Redeemer of the world. He gave His life for each of us. He took it up again and became the firstfruits of them that slept. He, as King of Kings, stands triumphant above all other kings. He, as the Omnipotent One, stands above all rulers. He is our comfort, our only true comfort, when the dark shroud of earthly night closes about us as the spirit departs the human form.

“Towering above all mankind stands Jesus the Christ, the King of glory, the unblemished Messiah, the Lord Emmanuel. In the hour of deepest sorrow we draw hope and peace and certitude from the words of the angel that Easter morning, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matt. 28:6). . . .

“He is our King, our Lord, our Master, the living Christ, who stands on the right hand of His Father. He lives! He lives, resplendent and wonderful, the living Son of the living God. Of this we bear solemn testimony this day of rejoicing, this Easter morning, when we commemorate the miracle of the empty tomb” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, “This Glorious Easter Morn,” General Conference, April, 1996).

I add my testimony to President Hinckley’s. Death is nothing. The Devil is nothing. They have no power over us because we are Christ’s and Christ is King – the Triumphant Victor. Life is endless and eternal because of our Eternal God, Jesus Christ, who is the Life and Light of all. I know without any doubt that life goes on and that Jesus the Christ, the Redeemer of the world, lives!

What greatest message can we give to the world than that Jesus, the very same who was crucified in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, lives at this very moment? If He lives, then He was and is truly the Savior He said He was. And as that living Savior, He has the power to help us and save us even now. As one man of God said of our Redeemer:

“He is so accessible. I bear witness that He is alive right now. Jesus is saving and helping and healing and forgiving right now. He is quick to forgive and slow to anger. He is mighty to save” (Elder Kyle S. McKay, “There Must Needs Be a Christ,” BYU Devotional, March 23, 2021).

And so He is. Jesus is the One who saves, who purifies, who rescues, who heals, who changes us into better men and women, and who promises us eternal life with Him and our Father if we but turn to Him and give Him our heart. This Victory on Easter Day, let’s remember the redeeming power of Jesus Christ and the grace He so freely offers each of us. Yes, let’s remember the abundant life He offers us and has the power to offer us because He redeemed us in the Garden of Glory, died for us on Cross of Completion, and gave us unending hope by raising from the Tomb of Triumph.

As the Lord’s prophet on earth, President Russell M. Nelson, said this morning in a worldwide message about the Savior:

“No other message is more vital to our happiness now and forever. No other message is more filled with hope. No other message can eliminate contention in our society. Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of all belief and the conduit of divine power” (President Russell M. Nelson, General Conference, April 4, 2021).

Amen to that testimony. It is true. It’s all true. And because it’s true, each of us can cry in our hearts, in our prayers, and boldly before the world:

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . .

“. . . thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57).

Zack Strong,

April 4, 2021

Confidence: The Fruit of Knowledge

With confident soul he stood, hour after hour,

Thy return never doubting to see;

No sneers of tyrant, that faith could o’erpower,

Or shake his assurance in thee!”

William Peter, “Damon and Pythias”

Earlier, I saw a picture with the caption: “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” My immediate reaction was: “Have a knowledge of the truth and your voice won’t shake.” As I thought about it, I became even more convinced that this is true. Knowledge yields the fruit of confidence, boldness, and decisiveness. When we truly know something, not merely think it or believe it, we stand unshaken before the scoffing, antagonism, and threats of the bewildered world.

When the Lord Jesus Christ stood before the enraged Jewish rulers who wanted to murder Him for His teachings, He stood His ground and stated:

“[N]ow ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God. . . .

“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 it not” (John 8:40, 44-45).

The Lord stood with boldness before the homicidal political rulers of His day because He knew the truth. He didn’t merely believe or hope that what He was saying was accurate. His knowledge was of God. His knowledge made Him unshakable and unruffled in every situation.

We sometimes forget that though He was the very Son of God, Jesus still had to learn obedience, suffer temptation, and grow from grace to grace as any other person. He was not born perfect, He was “made perfect” (Hebrews 5:8-9). Because of His perfect fidelity and honor, He grew more rapidly than normal people and came into possession of all truth and knowledge, leaving Him firm and steadfast and in a unique position in the human race.

It was this Son made perfect who shared His knowledge and helped all around Him rise to a greater stature one step at a time. Integral in this process of ascending to Heaven is truth. The Lord proclaimed: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). He could say this with perfect surety because He was and is the truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

All those who come to Jesus and learn of Him – that is, who learn the truth – become unshaken and immovable. Our voice won’t shake when we proclaim the truth, because we know it in every fiber of our being and feel it in the marrow of our bones. The Apostle Paul, who heard the resurrected Lord and talked with Him face to face and knew that He lived and stood supreme over death and hell, boldly stood before judges, jailers, kings, and mobs, proclaiming the truth he had received from the Lord of all truth. This supreme confidence is reflected in numerous passages of Paul’s writings, such as the following:

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. . . .

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair. . . .

“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

“Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus. . . .

“For which cause we faint not” (2 Corinthians 4:6, 8, 13-14, 16).

Because Paul had his own personal experience, ratified repeatedly by the Holy Spirit which impresses truth on our hearts, he was able to promptly teach truth and commend others to the Redeemer. I particularly love this encouragement found in his epistle to his fellow Hebrews:

“For we have not an high priest 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” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

The children of God were never intended to fearfully cower before their Savior, nor were they supposed to kowtow with their eyes averted when they approached their Lord. Rather, we’re meant to “come boldly” to our Savior. But this boldness is much more difficult to come by if we don’t have a firm knowledge of the One we’re approaching.

Truth is a knowledge of things as they really are. Possessing truth, then, is to have knowledge. When we have knowledge, we can’t simultaneously have doubt. Knowledge and doubt are incompatible. If we truly know a thing, we can have full confidence in it at all times and in all situations. And if we have knowledge and confidence, we can’t fear or quake in speaking what we know.

To deny or fearfully stay silent on what we know is to deny ourselves, because truth, when acquired spiritually, becomes part of us – woven into our very sinews. Boldly telling the truth when we have a sincere knowledge is easy because it’s who we are. Our voice should never shake when speaking truth because it’s a mere expression of our inner selves.

To know something is true but to shrink from saying it is cowardly and shameful. I excuse the telling of sacred manifestations or higher truth because sometimes it’s not wise to cast your pearls before swine. But in a general sense, when it’s time to tell the truth, we either do it or we blot our soul, stifle our spiritual growth, and mark ourselves as liars and hypocrites.

When we have firsthand, personal knowledge of the truth – a witness born of the Spirit – we can stand before the world like Peter and boldly proclaim: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). To so stand may earn us the displeasure of the mob, the hatred of our community, the abandonment of friends and kin, bodily harm, or even the sacrifice of our life, but what else can we do except stand if we’re filled with the knowledge of truth?

When people turn against us for doing and saying what’s right, regardless of peer pressure and the prevailing attitude of society, we should remember that the very Son of God was hated, persecuted, hunted, and slaughtered in a public spectacle for telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. His apostles were likewise driven, exiled, and hunted. Paul once lamented: “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Telling the truth comes with a price; but it also comes with eternal rewards that liars and cowards will never receive.

We should be so filled with conviction and the fire of truth that we can enthusiastically repeat the words of the hymn:

“Oh say, what is truth? ‘Tis the fairest gem,

That the riches of worlds can produce. . . .

“Yes, say, what is truth? ‘Tis the brightest prize

To which mortals or Gods can aspire. . . .

“Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,

For the limits of time it steps o’er.

Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,

Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,

Eternal, unchanged, evermore” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hymn No. 272).

Let’s tether ourselves to truth. Let’s boldly speak of things as they really are and never quiver when opposed by offended, ignorant, or violent individuals, mobs, or governments. Their protests mean nothing in the eternal scheme of things. But our fidelity to the truth which has been imprinted on our soul by the caresses of the Holy Spirit produces rewards that last forever. Or, as Paul said: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward” (Hebrews 10:35).

The scripture tells us that “the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). The Holy Book also tells us that Jesus is the “Lion of the tribe of Juda” (Revelation 5:5). Let’s be righteous. Let’s be like our King, the Lion of righteousness! Let’s proclaim the truth – His eternal truth – with no hint of wavering or doubt in our voices. Fear is for the faithless; those filled with truth can speak with calm certainty because they know. So, let’s faithfully stand like Peter, like Paul, and like our beloved Messiah, and log our names in the book of life.

Zack Strong,

March 21, 2021

Santa Claus Knows We’re All God’s Children

Christmas is a season of light and love. It is a time of rejoicing and happiness. It is a time to gather with family and create rich memories that you will carry with you to the end of your life. This Christmas, I call upon everyone to remember who they are – children of our Father in Heaven – and to reject the perverse attempts to cancel Christmas, extinguish the Christmas spirit, and keep families apart. Instead, gather with your family, worship the Savior Jesus Christ, and celebrate this holiest of holidays with a heart full of gratitude and joy.

In Gene Autry’s original version of the now classic Christmas song “Here Comes Santa Claus,” we find these piercingly true declarations:

“Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane

He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, he loves you just the same

Santa Claus knows we’re all God’s children, that makes everything right

So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer, ‘cause Santa Claus comes tonight

“Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane

He’ll come around when chimes ring out that it’s Christmas morn’ again

Peace on Earth will come to all if we just follow the light

So let’s give thanks to the lord above, ‘cause Santa Claus comes tonight.”

Dear reader, you are a son or daughter of God! He is the literal Father of your immortal spirit. You are His literal child and He loves you more than you have the capacity to comprehend. Your true origin – your real home – is Heaven. Your destiny, if you follow the laws and principles our Father has revealed through His Son, our Redeemer, is to return to live in eternal joy with our earthly and Heavenly family. Doesn’t this knowledge “make everything right”?

In my book The Lineage of the Gods, which discusses in great detail our Parent-child relationship with God and the incredible potential we all have as children of the Most High, I wrote:

“It is an incredible thing to realize whose children we are. This is life-changing knowledge! To know that we are literal spirit children of the literal living God should cause a paradigm shift in every mind. It should humble us and also give us confidence to know that we have some portion of divinity within us; that we are as eternal as God; that we have an inherent intelligence within us that can expand and grow indefinitely. . . .

“When we see our fellow man, we see a glimmer of God. When we deal with our brothers or sisters, we are dealing with beings endowed with godly potential. It is an incredible and humbling thing to realize we are associating with heirs of Heaven – and that we ourselves have a largely untouched reserve of divine potential inherent in ourselves. . . .

“Each of us has an untapped reservoir of divinity within us. We are all – even the very weakest and most vicious among us – potential heirs of Almighty God. Our spirits are as immortal and eternal as the Spirit of God. We have a portion of His character, attributes, and potential inside us because we are His immortal spirit children.”

Embracing the reality that we are the children of God should make everything right. It certainly puts life, our trials, and our choices, in proper eternal perspective. This sublime knowledge inspires us to do better and be better. It encourage us to treat others with more respect. It helps us please God rather than man. It propel us toward truth even if that truth is unpopular – such as the truth that we are the children of God with unimaginable potential for growth. It urges us to get on our knees and communicate with our Father in Heaven and pour out our soul to Him in prayer.

Prayer can change people. In fact, it can change nations and, ultimately, the world. This is because prayer reminds us who we are and what our true standing is before Heaven. Know that you are a son or daughter of God and that He loves you perfectly. Speak with Him heart to heart and person to person. He’s your Father; He will listen; He will respond. Develop that personal Parent-child bond and learn to rely on Him, trust Him, and follow His compassionate counsel.

We often say that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” This is true. Christmas is a time to remember and praise the Great Immanuel. And what did Jesus teach us? Among other things, the Lord came to earth in order to reveal the unequaled love of God. The Savior said:

“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” (John 3:16-17).

Jesus’ mission was to offer salvation to mankind, to be the Lamb sacrificed for the remission of sins, and to lift the children of God up to Heaven. He was and is the Light of the world and came to shine His brightness into the darkest corners of the earth. He came to “heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). During His ministry, Jesus revealed truth, because the truth sets us free – truth such as knowing our genuine Parentage. In the end, our Savior came to share God’s profound love with the all His children.

The holy scriptures are full of affirmations of God’s love for us. In a passage that applies well to Christmastime, the Apostle John taught:

“God is love. . . .

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. . . .

“. . . God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. . . .

“We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:8-10, 16, 19).

God our Father is the personification of love. And His Son, our Redeemer, equally exemplifies this eternal love. Together, the Father and Son, and the Holy Spirit which manifests Them to us, have given the world the ultimate gift of love in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Savior’s Atonement redeems us from death and hell. It offers us the ultimate hope of eternal peace and joy. It provides a refuge from the torment of guilt and regret. It offers us cool water and relaxing shade on a scorching hot day. It warms us when all is cold and dark.

In a vision of “the tree of life,” an ancient prophet was asked by an angel if he knew the symbolic meaning of tree. The prophet responded:

“Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.”

The angel confirmed the interpretation and added emphatically:

“Yea, and the most joyous to the soul” (1 Nephi 11:22-23).

God’s love is the most joyous and desirable thing to the human soul. It is the antidote to fear and loneliness, depression and pain. The Savior’s love, mercy, and grace have the capacity to transform the world into paradise. God first loved us and when we show Him love in return by following His Son, the Lord has promised “my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

It is because the Lord loves us, heals us, and saves us, that the Apostle Paul declared:

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

“Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

“May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Dear reader, the Apostle Paul knew of God’s love for His children and that it “passeth knowledge” and fills our hearts. John the Beloved witnessed of this profound love as well. Ancient prophets in all ages have spoken of this love. And I also testify that our Father and His Son love us! I have felt Their love. I know the peace and buoyancy it brings. I know that “God so loved the world. . .” is not just wishful thinking, but the only reality that matters.

It is my fervent Christmas wish that you remember who you are, remember you are a child of God, and remember that He loves you and sent His Beloved Son, the perfect babe of Bethlehem, to reveal His love, set you free from worry, sin, and sorrow, and lead the way back to our Heavenly Home. Unto us was a Savior truly born, who is Christ the Lord. Through Him we access the love of God our Father. In Him culminates all good, all happiness, all love.

“Peace on Earth will come to all if we just follow the light.” The Light is Jesus Christ. He is the reason for the season. His birth marked the beginning of the end for Satan’s rule on earth. When the Lord died and then rose from the grave, He forever shattered the powers of darkness. The Lord’s light is stronger than anything the Adversary possesses. His love is the most joyous to the soul, heals the brokenhearted, obliterates fear, has the power to transform our dark winters into bright ones, and frees all captives now and forever.

Give thanks to the Lord above this Christmas. Talk to your Father and express your gratitude for His Christmas gifts to you – foremost among which is His Son, Jesus Christ. Thank Him for His love and share this love with others. And remember who you are – a known and loved child of God. Merry Christmas!

Zack Strong,

December 24, 2020

Saved by Christ

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

One of the enduring controversies in Christendom is whether man is saved by faith or works. This article is a modest contribution to my fellow Christians’ understanding – a testimony that we are saved neither by faith nor works, but by the redemptive power and mercy of the Savior Jesus Christ

The controversy stems from the seeming contradictions that riddle the Bible, as well as the divergent ways various Biblical passages have been translated and passed down by the 40,000 competing Christian denominations in the world. For instance, the Apostle Paul taught that “not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13) and, then, a few verses later, concluded that “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). A different time, Paul noted that we are “justified by his grace” (Titus 3:7) while immediately thereafter urging believers to “be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8). If you take one of these four statements out of context, it can appear to justify either of the two opposing schools of thought. 

The Apostle James added to the debate when he taught “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Indeed, he rhetorically asked “was not Abraham our father justified by works. . .?” James 2:21). Then he followed this with the idea that “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). If you were to look only at James’ writings, you might be led to adopt the “we are saved by works” point of view. 

Let’s add two additional insights to the mix. In Acts, it is explained that “by him [Jesus] all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). And, finally, the Lord Himself taught: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). 

Again, if you were to take one verse out of context, such as that from Acts, you may think that faith alone saves, whereas a different verse leads to a different conclusion. Contrary positions are easy to find when we narrowly focus on some aspects of the Gospel to the exclusion of others of equally validity. What this means, then, is that we must come to comprehend the Gospel Plan in its entirety, checking one verse against another, and making sure there is no disharmony. True principles always harmonize with each other. When you find principles that do not, either they are not true, or your understanding is flawed. This is why it is so crucial to take these matters to God in prayer, relying on the Holy Spirit to confirm the reality to you. 

On close inspection, we find that the various passages cited are not contradictions at all. Rather, the error lies in uninspired interpretations of these correct teachings, and a failure to place these declarations in the broader context of the Gospel Plan of Salvation. James was correct that faith means nothing without accompanying works. Paul was likewise accurate that only grace saves us. And the Lord, of course, spoke the truth when He said that you must believe (i.e. have faith) and be baptized (i.e. do the works) in order to be saved. 

These ideas are reconciled when we remember that it is not the faith or the works, not the belief or the law, not our hope or our deeds, which save us, but, rather, Jesus Christ. I started this piece with what is perhaps my favorite statement made by the Apostle Paul: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). It is Christ’s grace, His never-ending mercy, which saves us. Knowing this should embolden us to come to Him as our sole hope for salvation in our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom. 

We may conceptualize this all-important principle like this: Sinful individuals are held captive by justice and cannot free themselves. Justice demands a price for their liberation. But inasmuch as they are in spiritual prison, they cannot pay the price. Jesus Christ, however, did not sin and stands in a position to free, or save, us by offering to pay the price justice demands. With the voluntary sacrifice of His sinless blood – the unassailable honor and perfect virtue of God poured out in compassion on behalf of those who could not save themselves – Jesus appeased the demands of justice. 

The Redeemer’s sacrifice, known as the Atonement, served as a ransom for the captives. It opened the prison gates and gave the captives a chance, if they so choose, to claim their Freedom by walking through the unlocked door. His gift of Freedom, or salvation, from spiritual death placed the Lord in a position to mediate between the sinner and justice. As the Mediator, He sets the conditions whereby His voluntary gift may be received and applied. 

As our Savior, the Son of God has laid out requirements. We freely receive salvation when fulfill the terms and conditions set by Him. For instance, He has commanded us to love God, love our fellow man as ourselves, be meek, have faith in Him, do good to others, pray for our enemies, forgive all who trespass against us, be married according to His law, repent of our sins, be baptized, and, covering all the bases, to keep His commandments. We cannot claim the gift of salvation unless we do these things which our Savior, Mediator, our Redeemer requires. 

As should be obvious, it’s not a matter of picking one or the other, but of doing both. We must have faith and works because the One who ransomed and saved us and who alone can set the terms of repentance, forgiveness, and salvation, has commanded it. It is not faith which saves, but the object of faith – Jesus Christ – which saves. It is not our works that redeem us, but we cannot please and honestly follow the One who does unless we do the works He has required and entered into the ordinances He has ordained. 

In the narrow sense that we are fulfilling the requirements set by our Redeemer, we may perhaps say that we are saved by works, ordinances, or the law. And in the specific sense that the Master said, “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36), we may perhaps say that “only” faith redeems us. But He that gave the law and enjoined us to believe in Him is truly the One who saves. His blood, His mercy, His grace, and not any good deed or particle of faith of our own, cleanses, frees, and saves us. 

The Apostle Paul explained: 

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past” (Romans 3:23-25). 

The Lord Himself put it even simpler. He combined faith and works together when He said: 

“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. . . . 

“He that believeth on him is not condemned. . . . 

“. . . he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John3:16, 18, 21). 

Note that we don’t secure salvation by simply saying, “I believe!” Faith alone does not save us. We must believe in Jesus Christ, yes, but we must also do truth, keep the commandments, and perform good deeds. Faith without works surely is dead. 

Earlier in the above discourse, Jesus made clear that: “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Evidently, words and theoretical faith are not enough. There must be works. We must enter into sacred ordinances, like baptism, or we cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. There is no salvation without both works and faith in the Savior Jesus Christ. 

It is perhaps beneficial to define “faith.” The 1835 Lectures on Faith gives my favorite rendering. It says that faith “the principle of action in all intelligent beings” (Lectures on Faith, 1:9). Faith is a verb. It is an action word. At its core, it denotes action. This being true, it is impossible to claim to have faith while not producing good works. When the Lord tells us to believe and exercise faith, He is telling us to do something more than merely trust in Him. He is telling us to follow Him and do those things that He does. 

After all, “every tree is known by his own fruit” (Luke 6:44) and “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (1 Corinthians 3:8). We are known by our deeds and will ultimately be judged for them, not for our level of lifeless faith. 

Those filled with living faith in the Savior Jesus Christ, by default, yield certain distinguishing fruits, or works. Paul expounded: 

“[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 

“Meekness, temperance. . .” (Galatians 5:22-23). 

Those who walk in the faith of Christ love others, are happy, promote harmony, are patient and calm, do good and are good, exercise trust in the Lord, are humble, and have self-control, among other desirable qualities. The Lord also taught: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). To love is certainly a course of constant action and not mere hope, faith, or intellectual longing. 

The Redeemer instructed those of us who take upon ourselves His holy name: 

“Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe for the very works’ sake. 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also. . . . 

“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:11-12, 15). 

Who can read this instruction from the lips of the Lord and not be convinced that works are every bit as necessary as faith? To love the Lord, by His own definition, is to keep the commandments and do the same works He did in His mortal ministry. Truly, faith is a principle of action, and without action, there is no faith. 

Coming at this from a different angle, Jesus also taught that salvation comes only to those who know the Father and the Son (John 17:3). Can you know God except through some exertion on your part? James taught that to gain knowledge, we must ask of God; that is, we must pray (James 1:5). Prayer is an intensive process, as is the fasting that so often accompanies it. Reading the holy scriptures, which is one of the most basic ways we learn of God and His will, is also an action. Our Lord is the perfect example of how much effort goes into prayer, fasting, and spiritual discovering. To know Him and the Father, we cannot neglect to do those same things He did as He walked the streets of Palestine two thousand years ago. 

Though it’s a tall order, He intends us to follow in His path. He taught: 

“I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done. . . . 

“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:15, 17). 

In one of His greatest sermons, the humble Man of Nazareth spoke repeatedly of the need for works to accompany our faith. Said He: 

“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life. . . . 

“. . . This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. . . . 

“. . . I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that beliveth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:27, 29, 35). 

Herein Jesus used the words “believe,” “come,” and “work” interchangeably. The work of God, and, hence, our work, is to believe in Christ. To believe in Christ is to come to Him. To come to Christ means to follow Him, do His works, keep His commandments, exercise faith in His atoning power, and to become gradually more like Him. You simply cannot believe without ding the works of Him in whom you believe. If so, your faith is hollow and lifeless.

To recapitulate what we’ve covered thus far, there is no choice between faith and works; only between following Jesus Christ or not following Him. Those who believe in Him, faithfully do the works He did. Faith itself is a principle of action and cannot be divorced from works. Faith is always demonstrated through works and a willingness to enter into the Lord’s ordinances, keep His commandments, and walk in His paths. When we exercise faith in this manner, the Lord pours out His mercy and redeems us. 

I now appeal to a secondary witness besides the Bible. As imperative and powerful as the Bible’s witness of Jesus Christ is, it is foolish to think God has not furnished the world with a multiplicity of witnesses to the fact that salvation rests only in His Son Jesus Christ. Indeed, if the Bible is true, which it is, then there must be additional scripture and ongoing revelation. 

Did not Peter testify:  

“God is no respecter of persons: 

“But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). 

Did not Paul say: 

“[T]here is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lor over al is rich unto all that cal upon him” (Romans 10:12). 

Do not we read: 

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 

“And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18; Joel 2:28). 

And did not the prophet pledge: 

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

In numerous places in the Old Testament, we learn that there were many prophets, some unidentified, sent by God to warn and teach Israel at various times. Their warnings are not recorded in the present Bible. Many of their teachings have been lost. Yet, their words were inspired by God as much as any preserved in the Holy Bible. The Lord always has and always will speak to man through prophets. Their words, when inspired, have and always will constitute scripture. It is of the utmost importance that we seek out all that which has been inspired by Heaven and incorporate it into our belief in the Savior for, as noted earlier, true principles are always in harmony one with another regardless of their source. 

Concerning the host of prophets sent by God at various times, 2 Kings 17:3 states:  

“[T]he Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” 

2 Chronicles 36:15-16 also explains: 

“And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place; 

“But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his word, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” 

Around 600 B.C., at the time the prophet Jeremiah was preaching, the Lord sent a man named Lehi to prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the tribes. Jeremiah wrote that the Lord was continuously sending prophets like himself and Lehi to wicked 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” (Jeremiah 7:25). 

Like Jeremiah, Lehi was rejected and the Jews tried to kill him. Being warned by the Lord, Lehi took his family and fled into the south wilderness. Through the instrumentality of his son Nephi, who became a prophet as like his father, Lehi’s family and the family of another Israelite named Ishmael, built a ship and crossed the ocean, landing in the Americas. The family eventually split into two groups, one led by righteous Nephi, and the other by his unbelieving brother Laman. 

The Nephite people, as they called themselves, were a Christian society of Israelites scattered to the Americas by the Lord. From 600 B.C. to almost 400 A.D., they flourished. Tragically, they eventually rebelled against the Lord and were destroyed by the Lamanites. Per the ancient custom of many cultures, the Nephite prophets recorded a cursory history of their people, and also many of their sacred teachings about Jesus Christ, in a metallic book. 

This book is the “stick of Joseph” seen by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:15-19). The “stick of Judah” seen by the same prophet became the Bible. Ezekiel prophesied that the “stick of Joseph” was to join the “stick of Judah” and be “one” in God’s hands (Ezekiel 37:19). Together, the two Israelite records would confound false doctrines and establish the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, the Redeemer of mankind. 

The “stick of Joseph,” or, rather, the Nephite record, was compiled chiefly by a prophet named Mormon, and by his son Moroni. As his people was destroyed, Moroni buried the record in the earth to come forth in the due time of the Lord. That time was 1830. In that year, a young man named Joseph Smith was led to and translated by the power of God the ancient record. In its translated form, the “stick of Joseph” has taken on the name The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Together with the Bible, it bears witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ and urges all to come to Him for salvation. 

The Book of Mormon, which I testify from the bottom of my soul is a true book given by inspiration, enlightens the understanding, teaches of God, increases our faith in Jesus Christ, contains precious gems of doctrine and wisdom, and is as indispensable as the Bible in fortifying our faith in the Savior. Among other things, it helps clarify, in unmistakable terms, the “faith vs works” controversy. 

For instance, The Book of Mormon explains: 

“[T]here 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, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled. 

“For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments. 

“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 25:20, 23-26, 29). 

In this powerful passage, Nephi clearly taught that we are saved by Jesus Christ and by Him alone. It is Him whom we must worship, serve, follow, testify of, and believe in. Nor our faith or works, but His “grace” saves us, “after all we can do.” In the vernacular of the time when Joseph Smith translated the record, the word “after” could mean “notwithstanding.” Thus, the correct understanding is that we are saved by the Lord’s grace, notwithstanding all we can do. 

Yet, we must still keep the commandments and observe the laws and ordinances of God – baptism, giving tithes, helping the needy, observing the Sabbath day, and so forth. But these laws are, in a sense, dead to us. Without the Lord’s grace and power, these works and observances are lifeless and vain. Rather, true spiritual life comes through Christ’s mercy when we “bow down before him, and worship him will all [our] might, mind, and strength, and [our] whole soul.” 

The prophet-historian Mormon gave us valuable insight when he took to task those who tried to baptize little children, supposing that they were sinful and would be lost without baptism. His explanation tells us much about the interplay of faith and works: 

“Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. 

“And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption. . . . 

“For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing – 

“But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works. . . . 

“And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; 

“And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of hearth; and because of meekness and lowliness of heat cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God” (Moroni 8:19-20, 22-23, 25-26). 

From this example, we can see that it is Christ’s mercy, not “dead works,” that save us. Yet, we can also see that when we have vibrant faith in the Savior, we do certain things, such as keeping the commandments, be baptized, repenting, being diligent to prayer, and enduring in faith until the end of our lives. To put our trust in works alone is the same as denying Christ’s mercy and Atonement. Redemption only comes by submitting to God’s will and, thereby, being covered by the Savior’s grace. 

The life of the Nephite prophet named Alma also exemplified the correct habits of faith and works, as well as the process of receiving grace and transforming from a fallen man to a redeemed son of God. Alma, like Paul, actively attempted to destroy the Lord’s Church. As he was going about secretly with a band of followers to spread dissent, an angel appeared, rebuking him. Alma was so shocked and overcome by the realization that he had fought against God that he fell into a lifeless stupor for three agonizing days. He later spoke of his experience and what finally saved him: 

“I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. 

“. . . I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. 

“Yea, I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. . . . 

“. . . while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. 

“Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. 

“And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. 

“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:12-14, 17-20) 

In another testimony of this same life-altering event, Alma noted: 

“[A]nd never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, did I receive a remission of my sins. But behold, I did cry unto him and I did find peace to my soul. 

“. . . there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Jesus Christ” (Alma 38:8-9). 

Alma’s redemption did not come by works, for he had been a wicked man. Neither did it come through faith, though he exercised at least a particle of faith when he cried in the anguish of his sufferings to Christ. Rather, it was the mercy, grace, and compassion of Jesus Christ alone which pulled Alma out of the pit of despair. Only Jesus can save. Only His mercy can heal us. Only His grace, which He can freely share to the penitent because of the Atonement which He worked out in Gethsemane and on the Cross, has the power to rescue us from our fallen state. 

It is instructive to note that immediately after his life-changing experience with the Lord’s abundant goodness, Alma and his fellow ex-apostate companions, went about “zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them” (Mosiah 27:35). We are given to understand that these men became “instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer” (Mosiah 27:36). 

Jesus’ titles Savior and Redeemer perhaps carry the most meaning. Above all, He lives to save and redeem us from our fallen natures, our sins, and the grasp of justice. The Book of Mormon explains: 

“And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, 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, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption. . . . 

“. . . behold, 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 34:14-16, 31). 

The Lord suffered beyond the power of words to describe so that you and I do not have to, if we will repent. His mercy can cover our weaknesses, blot our sins, and lift us out of the pit. We may be rebellious like Paul or Alma, yet, as in the case of these two stalwart disciples, if we are sincere, we may be forgiven and redeemed quickly. 

A modern apostle of the Lord, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, gave this thought about repentance, which hits upon both faith and works and the willingness of our Savior to quickly help us on our feet and give us a clean bill of spiritual health: 

“You can change anything you want to change, and you can do it very fast. That’s another satanic suckerpunch—that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, “I’ll change”—and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend—indeed you had better spend—the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as for Alma and the sons of Mosiah. Even if you have serious amends to make, it is not likely that you would qualify for the term, “the vilest of sinners,” which is the phrase Mormon uses in describing these young men. Yet as Alma recounts his own experience in the thirty-sixth chapter of the book that bears his name, his repentance appears to have been as instantaneous as it was stunning. 

“Do not misunderstand. Repentance is not easy or painless or convenient. It is a bitter cup from Hell. But only Satan, who dwells there, would have you think that a necessary and required acknowledgment is more distasteful than permanent residence. Only he would say, “You can’t change. You won’t change. It’s too long and too hard to change. Give up. Give in. Don’t repent. You are just the way you are.” That, my friends, is a lie born of desperation. Don’t fall for it” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” BYU Address, March 18, 1980). 

The works we do to prove the permanence of our repentance, and the sincerity of our souls, as indispensable as they are, still do not save us. Even the faith we exercise to call upon the Lord for mercy, doesn’t do the trick. The Lord’s redeeming blood saves us. When He knows that we repent “and mean it,” then His mercy is extended. He takes us by the hand and lifts us up. If we then prove our repentance by its permanence and continue our lives in faithful service, the Savior will carry us back to the Father’s Kingdom. 

To stand blameless before God, we must have both faith and works. If we have faith in His Son, we will do the works He did. And if we keep His commandments and believe in Him, the “bowels of mercy” will redeem us. By Christ Jesus we are saved. His holy blood has atoned for all who will humble themselves, walk in His straight and narrow path, do His works, love as He loves, and trust in His promise and power to save. 

I end with a passage from The Book of Mormon that speaks of my Savior and with a brief personal witness. The prophet-king Benjamin affirmed the following doctrine: 

“And moreover, I say unto you, that there 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. 

“. . . men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ. . . . 

“And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. 

“And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17-18, 20-21). 

I know that the Bible and Book of Mormon are true books given of God. I know that Jesus Christ is our Lord, Redeemer, and Advocate with the Father. I know that He requires us to have faith in Him and to follow Him in doing His works. And I know that those who follow the Savior will be saved by Him for, notwithstanding all we can do, if we repent and have faith on His name, we are saved by Christ. 

September 27, 2020 

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

Captain Moroni17

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.

The Book of Mormon32

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).

Captain Moroni18

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.

Constitution7

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.

Captain Moroni15

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.

The Book of Mormon19

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.

The Book of Mormon11

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.

Captain Moroni1

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